19 November 2014

Career Opportunities Through Geriatric Social Work

For most people, when you say “social worker” you think of someone working with children and families — your first thought might even be an incorrect image of an overworked caseworker removing children from their homes and placing them in foster care. 

However, there is a much wider range of opportunity for social workers outside of the realm of children and families. In fact, social workers are committed to helping all people in need. They help people at all ages and stages of life access the services and tools they need to thrive and live healthy lives. Yet there is one population in dire need of help, and a shortage of qualified workers could mean that many people do not gain access to the services that they need.
Careers in Geriatric Social Work

As the population ages, seniors have a greater need than ever for help managing the social, financial, and health issues that come with old age. Whether it’s someone facing a chronic disease who needs daily medical care, or someone facing the isolation that can come from the loss of family and friends over time, the range of services required by older adults is vast, and there’s a great need for social workers trained in gerontology and aging issues. Add in trends such as the increase in elder abuse and the desire of many people to “age in place” rather than in assisted living or nursing care facilities, and the need for qualified social workers becomes even more apparent.

So how do you get involved in geriatric social work? The first step is understanding what social workers do.

Geriatric Social Work Overview

Geriatric or gerontological social workers are focused on meeting the physical and social needs of older adults. They can be found in a wide variety of settings, such as hospitals, state agencies, service and referral agencies (i.e., agencies on aging), rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and private practice.

Depending on the agency and the specialty of the social worker, some of the services that one might provide include:

·       Referral to necessary services, including health care, financial advice and assistance, and legal services.
·       Functional evaluations to determine eligibility for services.
·       Mental health evaluation and counseling.
·       Discharge planning after hospitalizations.
·       Support and advocacy in matters of health, money, and social lives. For example, social workers are trained to identify signs of elder abuse and take action when necessary. 

Social workers often work closely with other professionals, including health care providers, attorneys, and financial advisors, as well as families, to ensure that older adults are well-cared for and have everything they need.

Becoming a Geriatric Social Worker

At minimum, to begin a career in geriatric social work you need to earn at least a bachelor’s degree, in a field such as social work, psychology, or gerontology. In some cases, nurses have moved into social work roles as well. However, every state requires social workers to be licensed, and that means earning a master’s in human services or social work and passing the licensing exam. In addition, to be eligible to take the social work examination, you generally need to complete a minimum number of supervised practicum hours; in most states, the minimum is 3,000 hours, but the specifics vary. 

In any case, you will be expected to have specialized knowledge of the issues that affect older adults, including mental and physical health issues. You will generally complete coursework not only related to working with the elderly themselves, but also in social policies and current issues relating to older people, ethics, and gerontological research.

Career Opportunities

The number of people age 65 or older is expected to reach 72 million by the year 2030, comprising 20 percent of the U.S. population. This means that going forward, there will be a wide array of opportunities for gerontological social workers. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistic predicts demand to increase by 19 percent, which is faster than average. 

Salaries vary for jobs in this field. The BLS reports a median annual salary of about $44,000, with the highest earners topping out at around $57,000 per year. Earning potential varies according to the employer, region, and level of experience, with those working in private practice or for private agencies earning the most.

Geriatric social work is a rewarding and growing field. If you have the urge to help, but aren’t sure you want to work with children, you have other options — and senior citizens need your help.

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17 November 2014

5 Things You Must Do to Work in Government

Working for the government has several advantages over private sector employment. From opportunities for growth, advancement, and job security, to competitive salary and benefits, working in the public sector is an ideal way to build a satisfying career while also making a difference in the lives of others. And considering that more than 80 percent of all government jobs are located outside of Washington, D.C., there’s a reasonably good chance that you can find a government job wherever
Finding Government Jobs
you happen to live.

However, just because there are plenty of government jobs, that doesn’t mean that they are easy to get. Landing a position in the public sector is slightly more complicated than landing one in the private sector, as the requirements tend to be a be more stringent, and there is a bit more red tape to cut through. You can improve your chances, though, and help streamline the process by taking certain steps ahead of time.

1. Keep a Spotless Reputation

Clearly, most people don’t deliberately cultivate a poor reputation. However, when you want to work for the government, how you conduct yourself before you’re hired can make a significant difference in whether you’re hired or not. Some positions require extensive background checks, and unfortunately, your wild “party days” during college could come back to haunt you. That doesn’t mean you need to be a stick in the mud, but as you make decisions, consider how the fallout during a background check. If you think you might be embarrassed or that it could hurt your chances, don’t do it.

2. Earn Your Degree

Most well-paying government positions require applicants to hold at least a bachelor’s degree. In most cases, though, a master’s degree will move you higher up the list. Government leaders — city managers, agency directors, and the like — need the skills in decision-making, communication, leadership, and problem-solving provided by degrees like a Master of Public Administration. With such a degree, you stand a better chance of landing your perfect governmental position.

3. Develop an Appropriate Resume

It might sound bureaucratic, but when you apply for a government job, your standard chronologically formatted resume isn’t going to get you interviews, especially when you are applying for federal jobs. Applicants generally have to include additional information on their resumes, particularly if you have ever held a position within the government before. In addition, this is one area in which creativity doesn’t really count, at least when it comes to your resume. Your best bet is to visit a site like USAjobs.gov, the central hiring database for government jobs, and use the tools there to format your resume properly.

4. Become an Intern

It might seem unfair, but many government agencies and departments rely heavily on their internship programs to find new employees, hiring primarily from the pool of successful interns rather than seeking outside applicants. This means that you may never have the chance to even apply for certain positions, or at the very least, face fierce competition from those who have direct experience. This is just one reason that you should seek internship opportunities in the public sector. Not only do you gain a competitive advantage when it comes to employment, you also gain insights into the inner
workings of a department or agency that you may not otherwise have. In addition, you can begin building your network, which is a vital component to success in any field.

5. Develop In-Demand Skills

It’s not difficult to determine what the federal government’s priorities are. Just pay attention to the news and follow the development of government programs and initiatives. For example, current government priorities fall within the realm of health care, education, cybersecurity, and the Middle East. Therefore, applicants with experience within those areas have a better chance of standing out in a crowded talent pool. Consider studying a second language, particularly one in high demand, such as Arabic or Farsi, and building your expertise in a specific area. Look for skills that will allow you to stand out and help you do your job better. 

Of course, even if you do all of these things, landing that plum assignment can still be challenging. Above all, you need to be persistent and patient. The hiring process can be slow, particularly with federal jobs, and it might be three months or more before you hear back on an application. However, when you have the right skills and a commitment to public service, you shouldn’t have any trouble landing a government job.

14 November 2014

Thesis, Capstone, Dissertation: What's the Difference?

After several years of attending classes, writing papers, and taking tests, you might think that your work is done and you can waltz out of college with a degree. That may be true in some cases, but many programs have one more requirement for students who want to earn their degrees: A final project. 

Every program and school has their own specific parameters, but the final project usually falls into one of three categories: A thesis, a capstone, or a dissertation. Which type of project you’ll be required to complete varies depending on your college program and what type of degree you’re seeking. However, understanding the difference between them will help you to plan ahead to ensure that your final project is the best it can possibly be.

1. Thesis

research for a thesis
In the past, the thesis paper was the most common type of project completed by both undergraduate and graduate students as a final requirement for graduation. At the undergraduate level, these intensive research papers were often offered as either an option for students who wanted to get a head start on graduate-level research or a requirement for graduating with honors in their major. 

In the simplest terms, a thesis paper is an academic research paper built around a strong thesis statement. Depending on the subject, the thesis either is a new interpretation of existing research on the subject, or based on original research conducted by the student combined with existing knowledge in the field. For example, an undergraduate media studies student may choose to research the portrayal of a certain demographic on television, and conduct a content analysis of several programs to compare the current state of television to existing conclusions. 

The purpose of a thesis paper is to provide an opportunity for students to apply the knowledge they have gained in their college coursework while simultaneously expanding their knowledge via research. It’s not a “typical” research paper; it’s much longer, for starters, with specific formatting requirements. In addition, students are generally required to present and defend their research to a thesis committee, who may ask for revisions before accepting and grading the project.

2. Capstone

A capstone project shares many characteristics with thesis papers, in that it’s a large-scale project in which a student can demonstrate his or her knowledge and apply what’s been learned in class. However, capstone projects are more than just a paper, although they usually include a written component. 

In most programs, the capstone project requires students, working either individually or in a group, to complete a “real-world” project involving an actual product, service, or client. For example, a capstone project may involve developing new software or communication tools to improve client processes. In addition to developing and implementing a solution, capstone projects usually involve developing a thesis statement, conducting research, and reporting on the results of the project in a written form as well as a presentation.

3. Dissertation

research for a dissertation
While thesis and capstone projects are usually reserved for undergraduate and graduate levels, doctoral candidates often must complete a dissertation in order to earn their degrees. A dissertation is the most rigorous type of academic research. While a thesis or capstone relies on the application of existing research, a dissertation requires highly focused and original research and application. For example, a student seeking a doctoral degree in educational leadership might conduct an action-based study, examining an existing practice to identify potential areas for change, and then testing a proposed solution to those issues. However, the most important point is that rather than reinterpreting or applying existing research and theories, a dissertation is a new addition to the canon of research on the topic. 

Because dissertations are expected to represent the pinnacle of academic excellence, they generally take several years to complete (as opposed to the one to three semesters needed for a capstone or thesis) and there is a high level of guidance at every step. In most cases, dissertations are reviewed and approved by committees, who are involved with the projects at every point. However, in addition to earning a doctoral degree because of the project, most students are able to publish their research, adding an additional credential to their CV.

Completing a final project is an important part of concluding any type of academic program. Look into your program’s requirements well in advance, so you’re prepared with a proposed topic and plan when it comes time to complete your research project. You might even find that your final project to be among the highlights of your academic career.

12 November 2014

Do More than Teach with a Master's in Special Education

Most people who pursue a master’s in special education do so with the intent of becoming a special education teacher. After all, most states require such educators to have completed, at minimum, a special education training program if a master’s degree isn’t required. 

However, earning such a degree presents a number of opportunities outside the classroom as well. Law enforcement, health care, social services, and the media are all in need of experienced professionals with a background in special education. 

Not convinced? Check out some of the doors that your special education credential can open up.

Social Services Providers

When children are hospitalized due to illness or injury, their medical team relies upon social services coordinators to help the patient and his or her family access necessary programs and services, and to
help them provide the best possible care to their young patients. With your degree in special education, you can help determine patient eligibility for extra services, advocate for patients’ educational needs, and help coordinate treatment plans. A special education program also helps prepare you for certification as a Child Life Specialist, a health care professional who helps children and families as they deal with illness, injury, disability, and hospitalization. 

Depending on the agency or organization, a social services provider earns an average of around $40,000 per year, with those who earn the Certified Child Life Specialist credential among the top earners overall.

Writer and Tester

In order for children to receive special education services, in most cases they must undergo a series of diagnostic tests designed to pinpoint the issue and identify appropriate measures. The tests are usually administered by trained professionals with a background in special education who can effectively interpret the results and make appropriate recommendations.

Not only do special education professionals deliver exams, they also help create them. Using their in-depth knowledge and experience, they devise exams that are both effective and developmentally appropriate. Special education experts are also in demand as writers of textbooks, and training and informational materials. In most cases, these roles also require some degree of classroom experience in addition to a degree, but the earning potential is competitive. A full time writer, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, earns about $50,000 per year. However, many special education teachers provide writing, editing, and testing services on a freelance basis, earning a steady income in addition to their full time jobs.


For people with physical, emotional, and learning disabilities, a rehabilitation counselor can mean the difference between being able to care for themselves and relying on others for everything. If you hold a special education degree, you may be able to work as a rehab counselor, helping children and teens with disabilities develop strategies for managing everyday life or participate in certain activities. 

You might find these positions in schools, where you would work with a single student or a small group in a classroom, at a rehabilitation center, or in private practice. Private practice usually requires that you obtain a license, which may require additional education and training. Demand for rehabilitation counselors is expected to grow by 20 percent within the next decade, but salaries are still on the lower end of the spectrum, averaging in the low to mid $30s. Counselors in private practice tend to earn substantially more money each year.

Law Enforcement

It might seem strange that you can use your special education degree in the law enforcement field, but it’s true. Correctional facilities often hire people with a background in special education to teach or provide rehabilitation services to inmates. Studies show that more than a third of all inmates in juvenile correctional facilities received special education services at some point prior to incarceration, and the law requires that children with disabilities continue to receive those services while they are in detention. 

This is an extremely challenging, yet rewarding specialization, with above average earning potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average salaries for a corrections officer is about $48,000 per year, with the region, level of security, and level of education all factors in actual salaries.

Earning a special education master’s degree does not mean that you are limited to working in schools. From hospitals to jails to your own private practice, a special education degree is a versatile credential that offers a wealth of career opportunities.


11 November 2014

Change Your Major - Or Change Your School? How to Decide

We’re a few months into the new school year, and it’s official: You hate it. You would rather have dental surgery every day than spend one more minute on campus. The worst part? You have no idea what went wrong. On paper, everything seemed perfect.

At this point, you may be thinking about packing it in. Maybe you’ve thought about transferring to another school and starting over. But before you make a life-changing decision — and take on all of the stress and expense that goes with it — take a few moments to determine the real source of the issue.

The Problem Is Your Major

When you applied to college, you may or may not have had a clear vision of what you wanted to do with your life. Either way, you were most likely encouraged to choose a major, with the caveat that you could change it later on if you wanted.

Well, “later” has finally arrived, and you are miserable. You might be blaming your unhappiness on other factors, such as the other people on campus, your housing situation, the cafeteria food, but the fact is, if you hate what you are studying for 30-40 hours a week or more, it’s going to cloud your perception of everything else. Before you check out though, ask yourself these questions:

Why did I choose my major? If you only chose your major because you had to pick something, because you were pressured by your parents, or because you heard that you can earn a huge salary in that field, there’s a good chance that you will hate it. 

Do I like this subject? First things first: Every major is going to require coursework that you will find boring or pointless. It’s inevitable. But if you discover after a few classes that every class is dull, and that you just aren’t interested in learning more about the subject, a major change is in order. Consider this: Do you want to spend the rest of your life, or at least the next few decades, focused on that subject?

How are you performing? If your grades stink, you might be in the wrong place. Of course, poor performance could be due to lack of interest and effort, but if you are really trying and still can’t seem to catch up or grasp the information, you might be happier in another program. 

There is nothing wrong with changing your major; in fact, most college students change their program of study at least three times. If you’re truly unhappy, think about whether it’s due to your studies, and make the necessary change.

The Problem is Your School

Sometimes, the problem runs deeper than your coursework and you need to make a bigger change. Transferring to a new school is a big decision, but in some cases, it is the better one. If any of these apply to you, then a change of scenery may be in order.

You can’t study what you want. If you’ve decided that a change of major is in order, but your current school doesn’t offer what you want, you may need to transfer. Even if you have taken classes in a wide range of subjects without any clear focus, most colleges will allow you to transfer the credits you already have so you don’t have to start from scratch.

You can’t afford your school. Even if you love your school, if the bills are piling up and you are facing a mountain of debt after graduation, you might want to think about transferring somewhere more affordable. 

You’ve tried fixing issues and you’re still miserable. Sometimes, campus life just isn’t a good fit. If you’ve tried everything — and we mean everything — to be happy on campus, such as moving to a new dorm or off campus, joining different activities, and talking with your advisors and residence life staff, and it still hasn’t worked, transferring may be the right choice. There are times when you simply can’t fit a square peg into a round hole, and the sooner you acknowledge that, the better.

One of the best parts about going to college these days is that nothing is set in stone. It’s a time for exploration, experimentation, and self-discovery. So don’t avoid the hard questions when you are unhappy, and make all the changes you need to get where you want to be.

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