Social Work Careers
As the pace of the world increases due to advances in technology and globalization, it is inevitable that the problems we face as individuals and as a society will continue to evolve and become more complex. Our world needs dedicated, passionate and career-oriented social workers to help us with these problems.
Becoming a social worker offers you the opportunity to pursue many different career paths, from direct clinical practice to administration and advocacy roles in the government and non-profit organizations. Social workers are even found in many corporate settings where they craft corporate social responsibility programs and community engagement as well as help employees with workplace challenges.
Keep in mind that requirements to become a social worker vary by state and that some specific jobs require candidates to have a Master of Social Work (MSW). Though you do not always need a bachelor’s degree in social work, having one first can qualify you for an advanced standing MSW program, in which you can earn your MSW in one year. Due to advances in web 2.0 technologies, there are even excellent options for pursuing your MSW online, such as the University of Southern California’s MSW@USC: an innovative Masters in Social work delivered online.
Even if your intended career in social work does not require an MSW, obtaining an advanced degree gives you a competitive edge. With an MSW, you will have more options in the job market because your skills and expertise will be much more advanced.
While there are many social work careers to choose from, the following examples will give you an idea of how diverse the profession is.
Child, family and school social workers work with children and families who are struggling with social and psychological issues at school, in the home or in their communities. Social workers in these environments interact with a wide variety of issues related to children, families and school life. These types of social workers could find employment in foster care agencies, government programs and schools.
Medical social workers assist individuals and families who are dealing with an illness or health-related issue. They help clients and their families navigate a range of issues, including coping, counseling, referrals and health education. Similarly, public health social workers assist communities dealing with illnesses and complications related to community disasters or widespread sickness. Both of these kinds of social workers provide many different types of services to their clients in order to help them cope and improve their well-being.
Mental health and substance abuse social workers work with individuals, groups, families and couples to provide treatment for mental illness and substance abuse. Treatment can involve intense therapy and counseling. Many jobs in this branch of social work require an MSW.
Military social workers help service members and their families with the challenges of military life. This may include treating veterans for post-traumatic stress, helping a family cope with a loved one’s deployment and coping with injuries related to the service. This branch of social work is especially important and in demand at this time in our country’s history, with many military personnel and their families seeking assistance during or after their service. Most military social workers have an MSW.
Community social workers improve conditions and provide resources for particular communities. A community social worker will often focus on community organization and development, planning, administration and social action to improve conditions within their communities. These types of social workers often work with large groups of people, as opposed to other types of social work where one more often works with individuals, families or small groups.
Social work administrators, researchers, planners and policymakers belong to another group of social workers. They often hold administrative roles and do not work directly with the individuals or groups they are aiming to help. They may lead a team of social workers, conduct research, draft policy, raise funds or write grants. Often social workers who work in these areas once worked as another kind of social worker, and they now use their expertise to improve the field and advocate for change.
Social Work Career Settings
Someone considering becoming a social worker should think about what kinds of populations they would like to work with. Depending on the type of social work you would like to practice, your typical client could be quite varied. Children, older adults, victims of abuse, veterans and recovering addicts are among the different types of clients that you could encounter in your social work career. Social workers work with disadvantaged populations and that could apply to many different groups of people and communities.
Just as the different types of social work and clients are diverse, so are the kinds of organizations, agencies and institutions that employ social workers. Social workers could be employed by:
Social work provides truly diverse and exciting employment opportunities. Earning a Master of Social Work will help open doors to even more opportunities in the field and help you to earn a higher salary. If you are interested in furthering your education or changing careers to work in the field of social work for the first time, earning your master’s can help you to develop your skills and gain the experience necessary to move forward in your career.