IntroductionPost Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental condition that is associated with traumatic events and experiences. PTSD in social work involves practicing as a professional within the affected communities and mobilizing the necessary resources to create effective programs that respond to the needs of the target population (National Association of Social Workers, 2016). PTSD social work is an important requirement in the US population because of the increasing number of people affected by traumatic events and the need to address mental health issues. PTSD can affect anyone after exposure to a traumatic event or experiences including childhood abuse, domestic violence and combat deployments among military officers (Medline Plus, 2009).

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Currently, effective delivery of services to PTSD victims is affected by the lack of knowledge and skills among professionals on how to deal with the problem and lack of enough resources. PTSD social work is mainly meant to address the issue of delivery of mental health care services to those affected by PTSD (Zoroya, 2011). This report provides details on the requirements and issues in a career in PTSD social work and is intended for both students and parents of those wishing to pursue the career path. The report covers education and skills requirements, social and legal issues, earnings and benefits, and job potential and security. The report is based on research from healthcare organizations, public health institutions, and individuals’ contributions on the subject.

Collected Data, Section I: Components of the Profession
PTSD social workers must meet educational and licensing requirements for their practice. Practicing as a professional social worker requires a doctoral degree in the field of psychology. Those with the qualification are eligible for independent practice in social work (Hanvey & Philpot, 2002). Those with master’s degree and bachelor’s degree can practice with patients with PTSD but must be supervised by a professional with a doctorate in the field of psychology. There are professional regulations in the US that require students pursuing a career related to PTSD to pursue education, skills, and training in one or more of these treatment modalities: psychotherapy, cognitive processing therapy, and prolonged exposure therapy (Hanvey & Philpot, 2002).

The career path in PTSD social work starts with practicing under supervision in controlled facilities like hospitals and graduating to supervisory and administration level in which an individual can start a private practice (Hanvey & Philpot, 2002). Those with bachelor’s degrees can find employment in health care facilities where they gain skills in practice. Healthcare facilities hire the bachelor’s degree holders to assist in specific areas, such as counseling. Professionals with a Ph.D. and the relevant skills in practice qualify for many roles in the field. The future demands in social work may require PTSD social workers to have knowledge about the medication used to treat PTSD symptoms. Although a social worker may not be involved in prescribing medication, they should be familiar with ongoing medication, their negative effects and assist the patient in administering the treatments (Dolgoff, Loewenberg & Harrington, 2009).

Collected Data, Section II: Social and Legal Status
A successful career in PTSD social work requires extensive skills in dealing with the affected communities and ethical requirements. Apart from having knowledge about traumatic stress, professionals must be sensitive to unique needs of each patient. For instance, the PTSD social worker should be able to explain what their clients are experiencing, help patients on coping strategies and prevent negative perceptions of intrusion into personal life (Department of VA, 2016). Each client has unique requirements as some may like to discuss issues on their traumatic experiences while others would be affected by the memories. The practice of social work requires extensive knowledge of human development, human behavior, socioeconomic and cultural institutions and the impact of the interaction of these factors to the welfare of their patients (Beder, 2012). The ethical requirements include confidentiality and cultural sensitivity towards the clients (Dolgoff, Loewenberg & Harrington, 2009).

There are licensing requirements for practicing PTSD social workers although the requirements vary slightly between states in the US. The general requirement is licensing before practice. The license is meant to ensure the professional has all the required knowledge and skills. The license generally requires an individual to complete a professional examination and practice under supervision. Those under supervision can work in various clinical facilities that serve the veterans, child abuse victims, domestic violence victims or other categories of people affected by traumatic events. Also, most jurisdictions require PTSD social workers to undergo continuous education programs to update their knowledge and skills (Beder, 2012). Those in practice are required to complete a given number of activities and lessons related to the field, each year.

Collected Data, Section III: Earning and Benefits Potential
A Mental Health Counselor earns an average of $39,119 per year in the United States, but those with a specialization skill associated with trauma earn higher (PayScale, 2016). Therefore, PTSD social work earns more than the average mental health counselor because of the specialization in dealing with PTSD victims. The profession is also associated with a bonus of up to $1,697 per year. Also, the salary may depend on the experience of the mental health professional. The average salary for entry level to five years is between $35,000 and $40,000 while that of those with an experience of 20 years or more is above $45,000 per year (PayScale, 2016). The retirement benefits and bonuses for mental healthcare professionals depend on their organizations and where they are practicing. PTSD social workers can work as civilians or as members of unique organizations like the military (Beder, 2012).

Collected Data, Section IV: Job Potential and Security
The demand for PTSD social workers is on the rise because of several factors including increasing number of veterans and military officers deployed in conflict zones and improved general awareness about mental health issues in the society (National Association of Social Workers, 2016). PTSD is common among soldiers returning from combat operations, and this is demonstrated by the rising number of combat veterans in need of mental health services in the United States. Data from the Department of Veteran Affairs shows that tens of thousands of combat veterans with PTSD have been flooding VA healthcare facilities and straining the available resources (Zoroya, 2011). The high number of combat veterans with PTSD is contributed by the recent deployments to combat missions. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that about 11% and 20% of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans, respectively, are affected by PTSD (Medline Plus, 2009). Apart from veterans, there is a general increase in demand for mental healthcare services in the US because of public awareness. Currently, PTSD affects about 7.7 million adult Americans, and the total number of those affected could be higher since the mental disorder can affect individuals at any age (Medline Plus, 2009). It is clear that the demand for PTSD social workers is going to increase with time, and therefore job availability, competitiveness and job security is high in the PTSD social work profession.

The career in PTSD social work is associated with a burnout that can affect the length of career among those in active practice. PTSD social workers interact with survivors of traumatic events and may be required to have frequent contact with people who are still highly affected by their traumatic experiences. Studies show that professional workers dealing with PTSD victims can develop signs and symptoms that mirror those of their clients (Department of VA, 2016). Those who witness traumatic events in others on a regular basis are likely to suffer from intrusive symptoms, anxiety and other issues that may affect their profession. Therefore, although PTSD social work is associated with high job availability, those practicing are at risk for burnout.

  • Beder, J. (2012). Advances in Social Work Practice with the Military. Routledge.
  • Department of VA. (2016). PTSD: National Center for PTSD. Retrieved 27 January 2016 from
  • Dolgoff, R., Loewenberg, F. & Harrington, D. (2009). Ethical decisions for social work practice. Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.
  • Medline Plus. (2009). PTSD: A Growing Epidemic. NIH Medline Plus, 4(1), 1-14. Retrieved 27 January 2016 from
  • National Association of Social Workers. (2016). Social Work and Service Members: Joining Forces to Support Veterans and Military Families. Retrieved 27 January 2016 from
  • National Association of Social Workers. (2016). Social Work and Service Members: Joining Forces to Support Veterans and Military Families. Retrieved 27 January 2016 from
  • PayScale. (2016). Mental Health Counselor Salary (United States). Retrieved 27 January 2016 from
  • Zoroya, G. (2011). Rise in PTSD cases from two wars strains resources. USA Today. Retrieved 27 January 2016 from