Can I Work in a Nursing Home with a Social Work Degree?

Social workers look out for people’s health in all the “behind-the scenes” ways. They ensure people have access to mental healthcare, for example, when it’s needed. They advocate for people who need treatment in other facilities. They work with the doctors, nurses, and other nursing home staff to make sure all patients have what they need when they need it. They also keep in contact with families and support them with their stressors and troubles regarding their loved ones.

The Law

As shown by the Social Work Policy Institute, federal law 42 CFR 483.15 requires that there be at least one qualified social worker in a nursing home per every 120 beds. So, not only is it possible to work in a nursing home as a social worker, but it is, in most cases, also required. The social workers so employed must have either a bachelor’s degree in an applicable field or have “similar professional qualifications.”

The law, however, does not cover facilities with fewer than 120 beds. These facilities are required to provide social services, but they are not required to have a fully qualified social worker on hand. Many such facilities do have a social worker on-site, though. People with social work degrees from an accredited institution of higher learning should research the facilities where they plan to apply and be sure their qualifications are up-to-snuff.

The Nationwide Employment Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 16-percent growth rate in social worker jobs until 2026. This growth rate is a great deal higher than the median growth rate of jobs throughout the United States. The median annual salary for such social workers is $47,980.

The United States Census Bureau shows that fully 20 percent of the population will be 65 years of age or older by 2030. In 2010, the percentage of people over 65 was only 13 percent. By 2050, fully 88.5 million people of a projected population of 439 million will be over 65, and nearly 20 million of those will be over 85.

All of this points to continued, nearly exponential job growth in the field of social work at nursing homes over the next 30-plus years.

What Are the Specific Qualifications?

Most social workers can get the jobs they seek with, as mentioned, a bachelor’s degree. Clinical social workers in nursing homes must have a master’s degree from a university that has a regionally accredited social work program. As part of their post-graduate education, students must complete internships in their chosen specialty field. Clinical candidates for positions in nursing homes must also be licensed by any state in which they apply for jobs, which is a separate process from getting a degree. These candidates should research the specific requirements for each state before applying.

Related Resource: Top 10 Affordable Master of Social Work Online (MSW) Degrees

Being a social worker in a nursing home can be a challenging and rewarding career. There are more than a combined 700 accredited colleges and universities that provide undergraduate and graduate programs to budding social workers in the U.S. Job growth is robust, too, and provides great opportunities to anyone who wants to put in the work.