Careers in Social Work

A career in social work is ideal for those who are interested in promoting a community’s social well-being or for someone who has a desire to work in populations with high-need individuals. Social workers have a purpose behind their work, and often find a high degree of satisfaction with their chosen profession. There are many options within the social work arena; depending on interest and education level, a social worker can find him or herself in an amazing variety of occupations.

The Master of Social Work

For most positions in a social work, candidates must have at least a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. Students of all ages are interested in a career as a social worker, and many who enter into a master’s degree program for social work are entering with a bachelor’s degree from a related field such as sociology, psychology, education and political science. Many candidates who are interested in a career in social work have enough dedication and commitment to complete the required coursework and internship ahead of the average time of four years. Some complete both the internship and the class work within two years of full time study; this requires extremely focused dedication.

Most programs that lead to a Master of Social Work degree allow students the option of choosing a track, or specialization to pursue. Such tracks can include clinical practice, direct counseling work with clients, or any number of specific specializations including school social work, community organizing, political advocacy, human services management and policy analysis.

Roles of the Social Worker

Case managers most work as liaisons in the health care or human service fields, between the direct-care professionals service consumers. The goal of the case manager is to assist in the development of a service plan for the consumer, and ensure that the consumer receives the services in the most efficient and consistent way possible. Case managers typically work with the elderly, recovering substance abusers, hospice patients, chronically ill patients and those with disabilities.

Counselors must be certified to work with patients whether they are working in a medical facility or their own practice. Counseling is a practice that is generally done on a self-employment basis. Counselors assist people with problems associated with family, education, work, and other stress factors.

School social workers work with a variety of people, including students and their families, in an effort to rectify problems that arise for students both in and out of the school environment. They will typically become involved in situations where a student is experiencing challenges that are standing in the way of academic achievement. School social workers are most often found in schools that have a high-need for social wellness services, and will most often provide referral services and limited counseling, as well as helping identify students who may need their assistance.

Human service managers work within an organizational framework, often serving as directors and staff for local and regional human service agencies such as food pantries, homeless shelters, and other services for high-need populations. These organizations can range from a handful of staff to hundreds of staff members, and social workers in this position are a combination of administrator and service coordinator.

Social policy research and advocacy is a social work focus that involves working directly for the benefit of specific segments in the community. This will often mean working within an agency that serves a population with an identified need, such as the homeless or the mentally ill. This type of social worker will research and create descriptions of the needs and characteristics of the populations being served in order to design and seek funding for programs that will address social needs.