CPS social workers are employed by their state's Department of Child Protective Services to help protect and assist abused, neglected or abandoned children and their families. These professionals accomplish this by performing home visits to investigate allegations of abuse or neglect, working with families to help them obtain needed services and, in some cases, removing children from unsafe homes and placing them with temporary or permanent foster families. Becoming an effective CPS social worker requires specific education, training and personal qualities.
Types of Degrees
CPS social workers may earn three different social work degrees. A bachelor's degree in social work is the basic education needed to become an entry-level CPS worker, although some agencies may accept bachelor's degrees in closely related areas, such as psychology or sociology. If your degree is in a field other than social work, you will usually need complete a certain number of credits of criminal justice, psychology and human services coursework. Many CPS social workers choose to earn a master's degree in social work, commonly referred to as the MSW. This degree allows prospective candidates to practice at higher, more independent levels and with less supervision.
Duration and Coursework
The bachelor's degree in social work is a four-year course of study if completed on a full-time basis. In most schools, you will focus on liberal arts and preparatory courses for the first two years of study, followed by two years of intensive social work coursework. Social work courses usually include human behavior in the social environment, social work policy and practice and research. You will also need to complete a supervised, semester-long internship. In some cases, if you earn a bachelor's degree in social work, you can apply to accelerated MSW programs, which usually require one year of additional study. In general, the MSW program requires two years of full-time study, with more advanced coursework on similar topics to the bachelor's degree program and two supervised internships.
While CPS social work can be rewarding, it isn't always easy, and you need to have the right personality for the job. Prospective CPS social workers need to be aware of the inherent difficulties of the field to make sure it's the right career choice. CPS social workers often investigate violent or dangerous situations, so they need to have a good sense of personal boundaries and be able to determine when a situation requires calling for assistance, like law enforcement. They also work long hours and are often in the field, so they need to have excellent coping mechanisms and stress-management skills. CPS social workers should be compassionate, able to relate well with people from diverse backgrounds and enjoy helping people in need.
The average starting salary for CPS social workers varies by state, level of experience and time on the job. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, child and family social workers earned an average yearly salary of $40,210 as of May 2010. The federal government implemented a student loan forgiveness program for social workers known as the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007. Social workers employed in public agencies, such as CPS, may be eligible to apply for student loan forgiveness after a certain number of years of service. The conditions vary based on individual circumstances and you will need to check with your loan provider for specific information about this program.
- NYC Administration for Children's Services: Become a Child Protective Specialist
- NYU Silver School of Social Work: Bachelor of Science
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Social Workers: Pay
- National Association of Social Workers: Loan Forgiveness for Social Workers in the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007
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