Careers in Social Work
Social work is a rewarding field that provides daily opportunities to make a difference. From one-on-one counseling to systemic interventions, social workers can be found at various levels of influence ready to help improve the lives of others.
The field of social work is a diverse one. Professionals may find employment in mental health clinics, schools, hospitals, or private practice. Clientele can include anyone, such as children, the elderly, those with disabilities, incarcerated individuals, or the general public. Levels of schooling vary as well.
If you are considering a career in social work, it helps to understand the education requirements for job of choice.
Jobs with a Bachelor of Social Work
A Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree is a common requirement for entry-level positions in the field. Though some related degrees can still qualify you for social work jobs, a BSW is advantageous because it features a curriculum specific to the field.
Social and human service assistants support other social workers and help clients obtain benefits and services. They may also follow up with clients to ensure they are satisfied with those services. These assistants can work with several populations, including children and families, the elderly, the homeless, veterans, people with disabilities, former prison inmates, and immigrants, among others.
Although some employers may hire you with only a certificate or an associate degree, it’s more common and expected to have a bachelor’s degree. The level of education you have often determines the amount of responsibility you would be given, and the difference is significant. Social and human service assistants without a college degree are more likely to do lower level work, such as helping clients fill out paperwork, while those with a college education may take on managerial tasks, such as coordinating program activities.
In 2018, the median salary for social and human service assistants was $33,750, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Community health workers and health educators are two distinct but intertwined professions. Those who work in community health use an in-depth understanding of the health needs of a certain community to collect data, identify issues, and address the needs they encounter. Health educators take the information provided by community health workers to teach behaviors and develop programs that promote wellness.
If you choose to enter one of these careers, earning a bachelor’s degree is preferred. Some employers may also require you to earn a master’s degree. If you are specifically considering a career as a health educator, it is common to also pursue a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential.
Careers in Social Work – BSW Jobs
|Job Title||Median Salary||Career Outlook|
|Social and Human Service Assistants||$33,750||16%|
|Community Health Workers||$39,540||18%|
Jobs with a Master of Social Work
A Master of Social Work (MSW) degree generally takes two years to complete. This credential is required for clinical positions. MSW programs prepare you to work in a chosen specialty by developing clinical assessment and management skills. Whichever program you choose, you will be asked to complete a supervised practicum or an internship. After you graduate, two years of supervised training is typically required.
Child and family social workers focus specifically on the needs of children and families, such as securing housing, acquiring benefits, or finding services like childcare. If a child is in danger of neglect or abuse, these social workers step in. Other responsibilities can include arranging adoptions or foster situations, reuniting families, or providing therapy in a group or family setting.
To become a child and family social worker, most states would require you become licensed. Getting a license in social work requires a minimum of two years of supervised clinical experience after earning a master’s degree, and passing a clinical exam. Because licensing requirements vary by state, those interested should research requirements for their state licensure board.
Healthcare social workers help patients understand and come to terms with their diagnoses and then make any necessary changes to their lifestyle, housing, or medical care to better accommodate their illness. They may, for example, provide clients information about health support services or work with doctors to help them understand the mental and emotional effects physical illness may have on their patients. Healthcare social workers assist a variety of client populations, such as elderly adults or people in hospice care.
As with child and family social workers, a license is required to be a healthcare social worker at the clinical level. Steps to becoming a clinical social worker include earning a master’s degree, completing supervised clinical experience, and passing a clinical exam. Again, those interested in this career should contact their state licensure board for requirement details.
Rehabilitation counselors work with clients who have physical, mental, developmental, or emotional disabilities, and they help them develop strategies to overcome or manage their disabilities in order to live independently. These counselors work with clients of all ages and at all stages of their disability. Client populations can include students with learning disabilities, veterans with mental health issues, elderly people who have developed physical impairments, and more. Some of these counselors, also called vocational rehabilitation counselors, deal primarily with employment issues.
Most employers require candidates to have a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling or a related field, which would typically include supervised clinical experience, such as an internship. Although some people find jobs with only a bachelor’s degree, they typically can’t offer the full range of services that a rehabilitation counselor with a master’s degree can provide. Licensing requirements for rehabilitation counselors, as with most social workers, differ by state and by type of services provided. Rehabilitation counselors, for example, who provide counseling services must attain a license through their state board.
In 2018, the median annual salary for rehabilitation counselors was $35,630.
Careers in Social Work – MSW Careers
|Job Title||Median Salary||Career Outlook|
|Child, Family, and School Social Workers||$46,270||14%|
|Healthcare Social Workers||$56,200||20%|
Career Outlook for Social Work Jobs
The BLS has projected the demand for social work jobs in general will increase 16% by 2026, which is more than double the national average for all jobs. Several factors are likely to play into this demand. A growing population, for example, means that a demand for social services is likely to increase. Socioeconomic trends like widening inequality also play a factor. The country’s aging population is also set to boom, meaning a greater need for medical assistance. Additionally, more people of all ages are readily seeking treatment for mental illness, substance use, and other issues once considered taboo.
For those considering a career in social work, the field offers plentiful opportunities for both professional growth and personal fulfillment. Earning a degree in the field can set you on a path towards a rewarding and meaningful career.