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How to Find Social Work Jobs for Students

Starting out in the mental health social work fields can be difficult.  There are many entry level positions out there.  Any of these can provide you very different experiences.  How do you know which one is for you?  As a student or recent graduate looking for a job in the mental health field, you will likely begin searching social work jobs for students or some variation through the internet.

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The results you find will likely be very overwhelming!

Lucky for you, we have already completed the research!  This list of 5 social work jobs for students will give you a glimpse into the advanced practice career field.  This is not an exhaustive list, however.  They are predominantly mental health jobs for beginners.

In my experience, all of these positions would likely provide you a fantastic start to grow in your career.  You may not always have a choice in which social work job you are offered.  However, there are many paths of travel to your goals!

Social work jobs for students and beginners have the potential to create a solid foundation for you to expand your skillset as a mental health clinician.

So, keep in mind what that career goals are!

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Do not get discouraged that you’re not able to jump right in as a primary treatment provider.  Whether you are a BSW or MSW student, these social work jobs for beginners will expand upon your education and promote the person-centered and strength’s focused approaches needed as an advanced clinician.

You might even find that one job gives you an edge over other applicants due to a specific niche skill learned.

To help you see these social work jobs for students, we have used Indeed.com to reference wages and some job duties.  This will help you, as the job searcher to see specific qualifications for these positions.

Also keep in mind that any of these positions may be posted with slightly different titles.  Pay attention to the job duties listed to see where it may fall on this list.  They are all social work jobs for beginners.  So, the criteria should generally show that.

Mental Health Worker

A mental health worker is an amazing social work job for students.  Regardless of the specific placement, there are common job duties are performed.

Mental health workers are the boots-on-the-ground for their facilities.

You are tasked with caring for each individual patient through their individualized treatment plan.

That is a lot of responsibility!

The pay also is not too bad considering the education and experience needed.  Indeed reports that the average mental health worker takes home about $16.86/hour.  That pays much better than the job I worked in college.

As you will be tasked with supporting the treatment plan, you will also then be working hand-in-hand with doctors and clinicians. 

This will provide you significant opportunity to put your education to work.  The clinical staff will learn to trust you and your judgment,.  You likely can gain more responsibility and opportunities to develop your clinical skills.

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The education that you are receiving is paramount.  It can help you evaluate and analyze mental health conditions.  Where else will you have such an opportunity to learn hands on and network for a clinical position after graduation?

AFC Direct Care Staff

Like many social work jobs for beginners, the experience is what you make it.  So, focus on the path to your goal!  Adult Foster Cares are critical for supporting the independence and welfare of many adults with disabilities.

As you are entering the mental health social work field, it is critical to assume the strength’s perspective ingrained in the field.  That means that you must focus on how someone’s current skills can help them grow in self-sufficiency.

In an Adult Foster Care, you are front and center to promote independent living skills through each resident’s strengths.

Additionally, part of the direct care job in an AFC is to maintain the home.  That is through laundry, dishes, cooking, passing medications, and even toileting if needed.

These tasks certainly are not the glamorous part of the job.  With an average wage of $11.27/hour, it takes tremendous love for the people and cause to fulfill.

There is no better place to create significant relationships with these adults to foster their growth.

In the AFC, there are treatment plan goals and objectives to support growth and independence.

Your role is central to carrying out the treatment plan.  There also may be some challenging behaviors within the home, which require a behavioral support plan.

Enter B.F. Skinner!

With your help, these behavioral support plans and other methods of skill acquisition are up to you to carryout.  If you believe there is a flaw in the treatment plan or behavioral support plan, you should make a recommendation!

After all, you are building upon your education to become a clinician one day.  Earn your experience anywhere you can!

Community Living Supports

If you like the idea of being a direct care staff, but you want to coach more in the community, this job is for you!  Community living supports work with individuals with an intellectual disabilities or mental illness promoting independent living skills.

These independent living skills can be learning to ride the bus, cook, shop, budget, and anything in-between.  You must exhibit patience in helping your clients learn.

Any social work jobs for students will need to include a flexible schedule.  Often you are able to work with your assigned person or family and determine hours that work best for each party.

Is there a better perk than to make your own schedule?

Indeed lists this job with variable requirements.  In my home state of Michigan, this job generally requires a high school diploma and less than one year experience working with intellectual disabilities or mental illness.

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However, requirements also can include a bachelor degree with pay up to $20/hour.

Community living support staff have a very specific role in the treatment plan.  Skill deficits or barriers to your client’s independence are identified.  You will be tasked with coaching and habilitating the skill to a functional level.

Peer Support Specialists and Recovery Coaches

Have you had past experiences with mental illness or substance abuse treatment?  Well, you can make a career on your struggles and triumphs!  Social work jobs for students generally have no practical experience.  Well, as a Peer Support Specialist, you’ve already earned your experience!

If you have struggled with either, you can put these hard times to work.

In this role, you will use your experiences to empower those you work with.  You will be supporting skill development in tandem with clinical staff.  There is nearly no other social work job for beginners that places you within the multidisciplinary team of clinicians.

Your recovery likely has been dependent upon very specific coping skills and lifestyle changes that you’ve learned.  To support others’ recovery, your role as a peer is to help instill those same lifestyle management techniques.

Your perspective is much more profound having been in the position of those you’re serving, which also derails societal stigma. 

Indeed reports that the average wage for this role is $14.49/ hour.  The education for a peer support usually does not require more than a high school diploma.  However, there are many who have more advanced degrees.

Youth or Mental Health Advocate

Does the role of a peer support sound amazing?  You don’t have any personal experience receiving services?  That’s ok!

An advocate for youth or mental health services is someone who understands the system and can help another navigate and make the best treatment choices for themselves.

At some level, this role is similar to case management.  Your primary function is to link, advocate, and support.  With your newfound knowledge of the mental health system and available resources, becoming an advocate is one of the best social work jobs for students.

Your advocacy does not have to stay at the interpersonal level.  There are advocates who also promote legislation and work in politics.  Those positions may be more difficult to ascertain as a student of social work.  But, they are available!

Indeed reports that mental health advocates earn on average $16.86/ hour.  The education is also variable.  Depending on the agency and the specific tasks of your job, it may require a high school diploma through a master’s degree.

It is definitely worth a look!

Social Work Jobs for Students Can Serve a Huge Purpose

Social work jobs for students can be very difficult to find.  Entering the field can be difficult if you don’t have a solid foundation to build upon.  These 5 social work jobs certainly are not all that’s available.

I highly encourage you to look online and research.  You may well find a fantastic opportunity.

Whether you are getting your BSW, MSW, or other social services degree, it is critical to build up your skillset finding entry level work.  You will have opportunities to network and simply build the language needed to show you’re “one of them”.

Finding social work jobs for beginners does not have to be tedious.  It just has to require your diligence in entering the field and willingness to accept a role that you can build upon.

What are your experiences working in entry level positions?  Did you have trouble finding any social work jobs for students in school?  We would love to hear about your experiences!  While you’re at it, join our newsletter to stay in touch!

And if you find yourself not having much luck even getting in front of an employer for an interview, consider your resume and cover letter!  Do they need an update?  These are essential components to any application.  Let me help you optimize your strengths and cater them to the field of social work!


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Ben Barrett

First, thank you for reading The How to Social Worker- my alter ego.  My name is Ben Barrett and am a clinical social worker and addictions counselor. My personal experiences with mental health have shaped my professional perspective. Through my struggles both personally and professionally, I hope you can improve your own quality of life.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Social workers are so undervalued. I work with these awesome professionals every day. Internships, I’ve found have been key to getting a jump start in the job market. Nice comprehensive article.

    1. Hi Quijuana,

      Thanks for your comment! And I couldn’t agree more. Social workers are undervalued. The field is continually pushed to do more with less, which is a great way for interns to get experience- agencies get to see your work ethic before they begin to pay you. They are helpful all around.

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