Have you just graduated with a degree in social work or you are considering enrolling for a bachelors or masters degree in this field? Choosing the right career path can be confusing especially if you do not know what to expect after finishing your studies. But the good news is that a social work degree is one of the marketable degrees in the US. Additionally, you do not have to confine yourself to one specific job. There is a range of career options you can choose from depending on your interests, qualifications, and personal goals.
In order to be certified as a social worker, you have to comply with the certification requirements of your state. Most social workers obtain a bachelor of social work degree (BSW) or a masters in social work (MSW). These qualifications can be obtained in class or online depending on your learning preferences. Usually, the more qualifications and certifications a social worker has, the more responsibilities they have. Some social workers might need to further their studies to perform certain kinds of jobs, for example, anyone looking to work as a clinical social worker must obtain certification because their work might involve diagnosing patients or prescribing treatment options.
What do social workers do?
Social work generally involves working with children and adults to access social welfare programs so as to improve their lives and well-being. Usually, social workers collaborate with government and non-governmental organizations to provide solutions and address emergencies in respect of people in vulnerable situations. Their work can also involve working with individuals, families, or communities at large. The nature of the work may include working with foster homes, persons dealing with mental health issues or other medical issues, or families with problematic children or parents.
Where can you work with a social work degree?
Social workers work in different settings. Some of them work in schools while others work in hospitals. Social workers also work in government agencies, private firms, and non-governmental organizations as well as their own consultancy firms. Social workers, especially those with many years of experience, may also get involved in policy-making on issues affecting vulnerable groups both in the US or at the international level.
Career Options for Social Workers
If you are considering a career in social work, here is a selection of some of the jobs you can do with your BSW or MSW degree. With a BSW, you can start with entry-level positions and internships, while those with MSWs can access more advanced positions.
Child welfare is one of the most common jobs which social workers do, perhaps because it does not require any licenses. Also known as a child welfare worker, your role may involve working for a government or non-governmental agency to protect the rights of children from abuse. Your duties may involve monitoring the treatment of foster children, reporting on child abuse cases, or helping families cope with problematic children. Child welfare jobs may only require a year or so of experience and while you may start with a low salary, this may increase with your years of experience.
School and Career Counselor
School districts in the US usually hire social workers to help students with their social, academic, and development issues. Usually, professionals with MSWs are hired and may be required to also hold a license in some states.
Social or Human Service Assistant
If you enjoy working with communities, you may find a career in social and human services fulfilling. Your job will involve assisting social workers who work with the elderly or children and adults who are homeless. To be a social and human service assistant, you only need a high school diploma or an associate degree. The good news is that you can obtain this in social work schools in the US.
Health Care Social Worker or Educator
Do you see yourself in a career that involves health research? Being a health educator is your best bet when choosing a career in social work. As part of your social work schooling, you may have to obtain a certification for health education as a specialty. Health educators find positions in schools, health facilities, government agencies and NGOs.
Mental Health Social Worker
Mental health is increasingly becoming one of the areas of focus for most individuals, families and even schools. If you hold an MSW and have a license, working as a mental health social worker can be a fulfilling career path. With such specialization, you can work in a school, hospital or a mental health facility and help people cope with behavior, emotions, and mental issues.
Community Service Manager
If you have acquired several years of experience and hold a masters degree in social work, or you have a license and certification in other related specialties like public health, you could also consider a career as a social and community service manager. In your role, you will work with government, NGOs, and communities to design and manage programs addressed towards serving identified needs. You may have to consider taking courses on grant management and administration to boost your skill set. The good news is that some online social work degrees also offer these complementary courses to make students more marketable.
Clinical Social Worker
With your social work degree, you can choose a career in a clinical setting. If you do, you will be required to obtain a license from your state. This may require at least two years of work experience, preferably in a clinical environment. Clinical social workers provide therapy and may work with individuals or families on issues affecting them, including finding housing if they are homeless or coping with our recovery from mental health-related issues.
Social Work Case Manager
As a social worker, you may also find a career in case management interesting. If you enjoy dealing with operations instead of individualised therapy, working as a case manager for a government agency or an NGO can be a good start.
Finding a job in the social work space can be confusing but if you know where your interests lie you can tailor your education to a path you want. The key lies in improving your skill set, which could be as easy as obtaining masters in social work online or applying for certification in order to stay ahead of the competition.