As one of the most exciting and rewarding careers, Social Work leads to a noble profession that contributes to society. According to the International Federation of Social Workers, “Social Work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people.”
Upholding the principles of social justice human rights and taking responsibility are some of the tenets of social services and Social Work. Their duties run the gamut from conducting therapies and counseling to policy formulation and analysis, advocacy, and even political intervention.
As of 2016, there were 682,100 jobs in the field of Social Services & Social Work. From 2016-2026, the employment rate is expected to rise by 16%, taking several specializations into account. This, in part, is driven by the increased demand for healthcare and social services professionals.
Social Work as a Degree
To make it as a successful professional earn a degree in Social Work that delivers the right education and training. Typically, a Social Work program enables students to define and discover new methods that can influence human behaviors and interactions. You also explore the causes of social behavior and the changing social patterns.
Most Social Work programs are designed to provide students with skills in social advocacy. These include courses covering human behavior, research methods, psychology, and Social Work practices. Depending on the degree level, some Social Work courses can tackle clinical practice, behavioral treatment, adult psychopathology, and drug and alcohol abuse intervention.
Aside from the coursework within the classroom, students are also expected to gain hands-on experience through field practicum or internships, such as working with individuals and other groups from human services agencies.
In 2017, a survey conducted by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) found that there are 518 baccalaureate program offerings for Social Work, 255 for master’s programs, and 77 for Ph.D. programs.
Types of Social Work Degrees
Social Work degrees come in different levels: bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees. Each degree level comes with a unique curriculum and coursework. They also vary in difficulty and the length of time it takes to complete the program.
Associate’s Degree in Social Work
An Associate’s degree in Social Work can be completed in two years. The courses typically consist of an introduction to the discipline for foundational knowledge of the practice. The subjects of focus include Sociology and Psychology. Unlike a bachelor’s, an Associate’s in Social Work degree does not qualify you for Social Work practice. They, however, enables you to take on human services and support Social Work positions. Social Work assistant jobs pay an average of $30,830.
Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work
A Bachelor’s degree in Social Work usually requires four years to complete. It is commonly the basic educational requirement for many Social Work jobs as well as a minimum qualification for Social Work licensing and certification programs in most states.
This degree program prepares students for direct service positions with a curriculum centering on essential individual and family needs and support, social welfare policy, casework planning, and intervention strategies. Most bachelor’s degrees require at least 400 hours of supervised field experience.
Some of the most popular courses in a bachelor’s degree in Social Work include foundations of Social Work practice, micro human behavior in the social environment, research methods in Social Work, statistics for Social Workers, and diversity and oppression in a Social Work context.
Holders of a Bachelor’s in Social Work can take up the position of care consultants, child life specialist, child protective services worker, court-appointed special advocate, criminal justice Social Worker, or gerontology Social Worker.
Master’s Degree in Social Work
To increase your chances of landing better career opportunities in Social Work, earn a master’s degree. This graduate program gives them an excellent credential for securing top-tier positions such as a Social Work department supervisor or a professor.
What sets it apart from a bachelor’s degree is that a master’s program requires students to complete many courses focusing on research. They are also required to complete intensive fieldwork.
This advanced Social Work degree usually takes two years to complete. It is a useful degree for those who want to attain specific positions in Social Work, including clinical, policy, and administration jobs. Aside from the class work, they are also required to complete a particular number of supervised hours of around 900 in the form of field instruction or internship. Some schools might require students to master a second language.
A master’s degree in Social Work can equip students with the necessary credentials to become a certified Social Worker, clinical Social Worker, or a diplomate in Social Work.
Doctorate in Social Work
Focusing on research techniques and qualitative and quantitative analysis methods, a doctorate in Social Work takes around two to four years to complete. This advanced program is the terminal degree in Social Work and is designed to hone students for careers in leadership, educational institutions, and healthcare environments.
In this program, students focus on a narrow field of study and research. Ultimately, they should be able to present a well-researched dissertation, which is their ticket for graduation.
Those who have completed a doctoral program for Social Work can find opportunities as professors in accredited universities and executives within Social Work organizations. They can also take on positions that require them to conduct research and policy analysis.
Social Work Specializations
As one of the most diverse professions today, Social Work has several specializations available for those who earned the degree.
Some Social Workers, for example, specialize in child welfare and spend a lot of time dealing with children in foster homes and juvenile courts. Others devote their time and energy in caring for older members of society.
It can be overwhelming to choose one specialized area of Social Work, especially if one’s goals and interests are not yet clear. In our goal to help aspiring Social Workers, we feature some of the most common specializations:
Child and Family Social Work
In this specialized area, students are taught how to deal with children and family members who have been abused, suffering from mental or physical illness, exhibiting behavioral problems, or experiencing stress. They are expected to learn how to ensure the safety of children of all ages within their family units.
Social Workers who specialize in this field provide a variety of services, including providing therapy for individual children or work with their families to secure resources. It is also part of their jobs to conduct training, serve on interdisciplinary teams, and testify in court.
This specialization involves various work settings. The most common is in government agencies, schools, residential care facilities, social service agencies, and adoption agencies.
School Social Work
For this specialization, Social Workers often serve as a liaison between students, families, teachers, and administration. They ensure there is seamless communication between all parties which can then result in better individual services for different student needs.
School Social Workers provide crisis intervention, personal and academic counseling, assessments, and sex education, all of which are integral in ensuring students have a fruitful academic career.
Practitioners in this specialized area are required to obtain a master’s degree. Students who wish to take up this specialization are expected to complete specific coursework in school Social Work. In their internship, they may be required to interact with school personnel and parents and provide direct services to students.
Clinical Social Work
This area of specialization requires an advanced degree like a master’s in Social Work. Most types of Clinical Social Work involve tackling mental health, psychological disorders, relationships, and family problems.
Clinical Social Workers are responsible for diagnosing, creating treatment plans, and providing counseling services to clients of all ages. They are also expected to give counsel to new or at-risk parents or testify on behalf of children and adolescents in child abuse court cases.
They can be assigned across a variety of settings, including substance abuse facilities, juvenile detention centers, prisons, nonprofit organizations, and mental health centers.
Elder Care Social Work
A typical job in many state and public agencies, Social Work for elder care involves assessments and evaluations for the elderly, counseling, and advocating for older adults suffering at the hands of their family members or caretakers. Social Workers specializing in this area can act as counselors or therapists.
Students who are interested in this specialization can use their bachelor’s degree or higher to be qualified. There are also specialization classes and undergraduate internships that can equip them with the right education and experience to work in this kind of setting.
Online vs. Brick and Mortar Social Work Degrees
Aspiring Social Workers have several options to get their degree. It can be done the traditional way by attending a brick and mortar school, or the flexible method of online learning. The advancements in technology made the latter possible, with many colleges and universities offering online degrees in Social Work these days. This option gives distance learners the chance to earn their degree at the comfort of their home and their own pace. The flexibility it affords them is a great help especially for those who are juggling their family and career responsibilities along with obtaining a good education.
Online Social Work Degree
The most advantageous aspect of completing a degree online is that it offers more flexibility. Students can schedule their classes in the most suitable time, allowing them to pursue their careers while advancing their education.
What’s more, you can complete the program at their own pace, unencumbered by the need to attend on-campus classes. With a high-speed internet connection, you are set to go.
As for the cost, online programs, in general, can be cheaper than traditional ones. There are a few universities that offer Social Work programs at $15,000 per year. Thankfully, financial aid options are offered to students who wish to earn this degree online in the form of loans, grants, and even scholarships.
Since online Social Work degrees are flexible, the program length varies depending on the pace of the student. Generally, bachelor’s degrees can take as much as four years to complete, while graduate programs in Social Work can be completed within 2-3 years.
Just like the on-campus programs, the curriculum online offers courses that focus on providing communities with social support services and dealing with Social Work issues. It is possible for some schools to require internships.
Online programs take a lot of self-discipline to complete, as students are expected to take charge of their own academic experience. They have assigned online advisers that can guide them and answer their questions. But most of the time, they navigate on their own.
Some of the best schools offering Social Work degree programs online include the University of Utah, University of North Dakota, the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Walden University, and the University of Southern California.
Brick and Mortar Social Work Degree
Still the most popular choice of many students, on-campus Social Work degrees poses a lot of advantages.
For students who thrive in the classroom environment, earning their degree in a brick and mortar format is the ideal route. They can learn more effectively through direct contact with their professors while forming connections with their fellow students.
Many state and public universities offer Social Work programs that are cheaper. It is possible to find a program that costs only around $10,000 per year. Highly competitive programs in prominent universities, however, could cost up to $30,000 annually.
The good thing about that though is the fact that many financial aid options are readily available at their disposal. Most colleges and universities offer low-cost student loans and scholarships that can considerably lighten many students’ financial load.
Since most campus programs adhere to specified schedules, completing the degree program usually takes four years for bachelor’s degrees and two to three years for graduate studies. Students, however, have the option to study full-time or part-time.
Campus programs curriculum still tackles Social Work and its many facets that can prepare students for their chosen career. It can be easier for students because they have access to their professors and other faculty members when they need to discuss issues regarding materials and such. Their professors are also there to keep them on track through providing rigid class schedules, minimizing the possibility of slacking off and enabling them to complete the degree right on time.
Financing Your Social Work Education
Earning a degree is a worthy investment. Social Work degree programs are no different. They can help students navigate their career path in the field of Social Work, providing them with golden opportunities and maximizing their rewards. It is not so surprising to find, however, that financial constraints can hinder many aspirants from reaching their goals.
Financing one’s education is challenging. College is expensive. Thankfully, many educational financing options are available for earning the Social Work degree on-campus or online.
Many universities have a list of scholarships, grants, loans, and other financial aid options available for their students. Students should explore the full range of funding opportunities at their disposal and submit the necessary application and requirements on time.
Often considered as financial rewards and the best form of financial aid, scholarships do not need to be paid back. However, the caveat is that they are mostly merit-based, meaning students can only avail of it if they are qualified. Most qualifications are based on academic performance.
The state and federal governments grant scholarships. Many such opportunities are also offered by private and nonprofit organizations and even academic institutions. These scholarships can vary from institution to institution.
The American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work awards students who excel in professional development through their original clinical practice papers. There is also the American School Health Association Scholarship which is available for applicants who major in Social Work, whether it is for undergraduate or graduate studies.
Federal and Private Loans
The most widely available financial aid option, student loans from the federal government and private institutions are pretty accessible to most universities and colleges in the country.
Federal loans require students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Loans from private institutions have their own set of rules and qualifications as well, often accessible through credit unions, banks, and loan or savings establishments. These loans come with fixed interest rates.
Loan Forgiveness Programs
Once students graduate, they can make use of loan forgiveness programs for Social Workers such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program. In some instances, these programs require Social Work professionals to be employed full-time in their public service jobs.
Social Work Career Pathways, Information, and Outlook
Social Work majors share the common desire to help others. Their career path leads to providing social services to the needy, from children and families to the elderly population.
They may provide services like advocacy and crisis response. Some Social Workers specialize in child, family, and school while others focus on healthcare, mental health, and substance abuse. Clinical Social Workers also evaluate and treat behavioral, mental, and emotional conditions.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 680,000 Social Workers employed in the United States as of 2016. The majority of them specialized in helping children and families or worked in schools while the smallest percentage worked as a criminal justice Social Worker and forensic Social Worker. By 2026, Social Work jobs are expected to grow to more than 790,000.
Social Work graduates with a bachelor’s degree can work in most Social Work fields, but if they want to take up specific positions like clinical Social Work, they will need to have a master’s degree and two years of post master’s experience in a supervised clinical setting. They are also required to acquire a license in the state where they practice.
As of May 2018, the median annual wage of Social Workers was $49,470, but it can go lower or higher depending on one’s specialization and location.
10 Common Social Work Occupations
Child Welfare Social Workers
One of the most common social worker occupations, Child Welfare Social workers are responsible for investigating cases of child abuse or neglect. Their findings determine whether the child should remain in the home or move to a safer place temporarily or permanently. They also provide support services to families, including child care, substance abuse treatment, parenting classes, and family counseling. In many cases, Child Welfare Social Workers witness in court and testify on a child’s behalf.
Although this profession requires a lot of time and effort because of limited resources and a usually demanding caseload, being a Child Welfare Social Worker is a fulfilling job.
Educational Requirement: Bachelor’s degree
Direct-service Social Worker
Primarily addressing the different cultural, social, health, and environmental issues for individuals and families, Direct-Service Social Workers have valuable contributions to society. They work in different settings and offer various services like child welfare, a shelter for the homeless, local community development, and even rehabilitation program for the youth. They aim to help families and communities become functioning members of society and learn the art of self-sufficiency.
Educational Requirement: Bachelor’s degree
Gerontology Social Worker
When people reach 65 years old, they are considered part of the aging population in the country. They are expected to represent 19% of the population by 2030. Gerontology Social Workers ensure that the seniors get the support and resources that allow them to freely and independently pursue their interests and enjoy activities. It is their job to understand the mental and physical challenges of the aging population. They help the elderly avoid scams and abuse, get long-term care, obtain end-of-life planning, and combat depression and grief. They act as the liaison between the seniors and family members. It is also possible for Gerontology Social Workers to deal with doctors, caregivers, medical centers, and nursing homes.
Educational Requirement: Bachelor’s degree
Public Health Social Worker
Patients who need support when it comes to medical care can turn to public health social workers in hospitals, wellness centers, emergency rooms, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, and hospices. Their job is to ensure that patients are aware of their rights to public health. They help with paperwork and decision-making and set dialogues with clients, caregivers, families, and other medical personnel.
Educational Requirement: Bachelor’s degree
Mental Health Social Worker
Many individuals suffer from a wide array of mental, behavioral, and emotional problems. It is the job of Mental Health Social Workers to assess and diagnose mental disorders as well as develop treatment plans. Most Mental Health Social Workers serve in psychiatric hospitals, community health centers, hospitals, and private practice.
Educational Requirement: Master’s degree
Hospice Care Social Worker
People who are at the end of their life due to severe and terminal illnesses need palliative care. Hospice Care Social Workers help clients and their families move through illness and death with compassion. They also help patients navigate the practical and emotional issues that come with the demise of a loved one. Hospice Care Social Workers fill out an advance directive for patients, assist with funeral arrangements, and assess the emotional needs of both the patients and caregivers.
Educational Requirement: Bachelor’s degree
Research Social Worker
Research Social Workers primarily oversee social changes and uphold progressive social policies. They are responsible for exploring and compiling the best field and clinical practices, assessing governmental and administrative policies, and publishing their findings. It is also part of their jobs to write grants, conduct demonstration projects, analyze census data, develop papers, testify at hearings, and deal with the media and policymakers.
Educational Requirement: Bachelor’s degree
School Social Worker
Children with personal issues tend to rebel and mess up in school. School social workers help parents and teachers listen carefully to these students and help them overcome their troubles. Most of these students have problems at home that lead to negative emotions like pain, frustration, embarrassment, anger, and insecurity. These can translate to inappropriate behaviors at school, which can interfere with their learning.
School social workers help troubled children with their educational requirements and offer behavioral interventions.
Educational Requirement: Bachelor’s degree
Substance Abuse Social Worker
The main job of substance abuse social workers is to help people with addictions and patterns of substance misuse. They typically work in rehabilitation centers, juvenile, and foster care facilities, health care centers, and community service agencies. They provide counseling and sequential crisis interventions.
Substance abuse social workers have a lot of patience and compassion. They aim to help their clients attain long-term recovery.
Educational Requirement: Bachelor’s degree
Veterans Social Worker
This type of social workers offers services for veterans and their families. This includes advocacy, benefits assistance, medical referrals, bureaucratic navigation, and mental health therapy. The latter involves depression, PTSD, and drug and alcohol addiction.
Educational Requirement: Bachelor’s degree
Salary: Salaries based on the military system of rank and time in service.
Other Social Work Occupations include:
30 Highest Paying Social Work Careers
Director of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
As consumers become more and more particular with how corporations are giving back to the community, corporate social responsibility is now a significant consideration of many companies in the private sector. Graduates of social work and their skill set will be a valuable addition to any company venturing into CSR projects that cover issues like health education, sustainable livelihoods in far-flung communities, and ending human trafficking. Funding and budgeting (and consequently, compensation) for social workers in corporate fields are also less of a concern thanks to resources provided by big corporations, as compared to those working in the public sector.
Director of Corporate Social Responsibility Salary: $94,000
Social Work Academic / Professor
Working in academic institutions is also a well-compensated option for social work graduates, even though it involves further education and a somewhat long climb up the academic career ladder. For many colleges and universities, a master’s degree and a doctorate will be necessary to even get into the entry-level position of assistant professor. Aside from developing social work curriculums and courses, holding classes, and mentoring aspiring social workers, constant research and publication is also a major part of the job.
Social Work Academic / Professor Salary: $85,000
Speech pathologist positions usually require specialization through a master’s degree and a licensure examination, but it is one of the highest-paying opportunities for social workers. Speech pathology involves the diagnosis of speech disorders, such as in children with cleft palates or stroke survivors with impaired verbal abilities, and the development and execution of individualized treatments that will enable patients to communicate better and more comfortably.
Speech Pathologist Salary: $74,000
School Social Worker or Counselor
School social workers or counselors aim to support the emotional and mental well-being and development of students through school programs, one-on-one counseling for students’ various concerns, or intervention in issues like bullying or even conflicts between students and teachers, to name a few. They are also expected to guide high school students in college applications and scholarships. School social workers or counselors are also responsible for referring students to psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, or other mental health professionals for cases that may need more serious intervention. Note that some schools may require a master’s degree or even a doctorate for this position.
School Social Worker or Counselor Salary: $71,000
Veteran Affairs (VA) Social Worker
Social workers can also explore working with veterans and their families, as well as homeless veterans, which have become a pressing issue in recent years. As many veterans experience depression and post-traumatic disorder after returning from their deployment, VA social workers create programs for their treatment and counseling. They also recommend support groups or other methods to improve their mental, emotional, and physical health. They also support veterans in areas like financial or housing assistance, processing of benefits, or help during hospitalization, especially for elderly veterans.
Veteran Affairs (VA) Social Worker Salary: $69,400
Employee Assistance Program Counselor
Companies tap externally contracted social workers or create an in-house group to lead employee assistance programs. These programs ensure the mental and emotional well-being of their employees and improve their productivity and performance at work. Employee Assistance Program Counselors provide support to employees dealing with issues that can affect their work performance, such as marital problems, health concerns, financial difficulties, work stresses, and substance abuse. They also educate and advise employees on benefits or other forms of assistance for specific situations.
Employee Assistance Program Counselor Salary: $68,895
Non-profit Organization (NPO) Executive Director
Being the executive director of a non-profit organization means ensuring the execution of strategies toward its goals. Reporting to the organization stakeholders or Board of Directors, an NPO Executive Director also leads all marketing efforts and explores fundraising opportunities. Majority of their workload will most likely focus on fundraising for their chosen community or sector. Executive Directors represent the organization in the media and the public.
Non-profit Organization (NPO) Executive Director Salary: $64,200
Social Science Researcher
Social science researchers contribute immensely to the development of social work as a profession. They ensure that practices in social work are up-to-date. They look into the current and changing needs of various communities or groups. They gather and analyze data on areas where social work is prevalent, such as healthcare, education, and gender, through methods like surveys, face-to-face interviews, and case studies.
Social Science Research Salary: $63,500
Housing and Community Development Director
Both private and government sectors have worked together in recent years to improve housing for the homeless and people living in poverty and, in turn, improve the health and safety of these people by getting them off the streets. Housing and community development directors lead housing programs that aim to end homelessness in a community. They develop processes and qualifications for those who intend to avail of free or subsidized housing.
Housing and Community Development Director Salary: $61,000
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Usually requiring a master’s degree in Social Work, licensed clinical social workers conduct diagnostics and evaluations of patients’ emotional and mental health and provide therapy and other courses of treatment for these patients. They also assist in connecting patients to specialized professionals who can further support them manage their specific issues. As indicated in the job title, acquiring a license by passing a national examination is necessary, while other requirements vary from state to state. Salary rates increase substantially when a clinical social worker is fluent in another language, especially in Spanish, as there is a higher demand for social workers within low-income Latino communities.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker: $60,150
Substance Use and Recovery Treatment Counselor
For patients who aim to achieve sobriety from drug or alcohol abuse and other addictions, substance use and recovery treatment counselors are a crucial part of their journey. Counselors work with people struggling with addictions and provide them with treatment, resources, coping techniques, and support groups that can help them in their recovery. Substance use and recovery treatment counselors also work to educate friends and family members of recovering addicts about addiction and how they can support loved ones as they move towards sobriety. Employers include public and private hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and even prisons and juvenile detention centers.
Substance Use and Recovery Treatment Counselor Salary: $60,000
Medical Discharge Planner
Medical discharge planners develop healthcare and support plans for patients who are about to be discharged from a hospital setting. It is the goal of discharge planners to ensure that patients remain in good health through recommended practices and follow-up services after their hospitalization. Discharge planners do not develop these plans alone, as they are required to work closely with the patient’s family members, doctors, dietitians, etc., to ensure holistic and medically sound recommendations for the patient’s recovery and improvement.
Medical Discharge Planner Salary: $58,600
Healthcare Social Worker
Healthcare social workers specifically support people who are dealing with major illnesses or diseases by providing services and resources (e.g., doctors, specialty hospitals, medical equipment) suited for their health issue or condition, providing valuable information on their rights as patients, or by assisting them in securing funding or finances for their medical bills. Overall, healthcare social workers communicate closely with their patients to determine their individual needs and find ways for those needs to be met.
Healthcare Social Worker Salary: $57,000
Clinical coordinators are in charge of managing the everyday operations and other administrative aspects of a variety of healthcare facilities. They must work to ensure that industry standards and government regulations are consistently met and hire appropriate and qualified personnel. Managing the facility’s budget is also part of their responsibility, as well as keeping patient records and ensuring the availability of equipment and medication. Social workers interested in becoming clinical coordinators may first need experience in a clinical or healthcare setting to qualify for the position.
Clinical Coordinator Salary: $56,460
Social Policy Analyst
Social policy analysts, as is apparent in their name, analyze existing or even upcoming legislation and policies on public health, poverty, crime, homelessness, etc. created by the government and determine if they are appropriately implemented. They also look into policies’ effectiveness through various methods, including analysis of data, and recommend changes or courses of action if needed. Social policy analysts can also serve as consultants when policies are being drafted, as part of their job is also to find solutions to pressing social issues and not just analyzing existing solutions. They can also go into promotion and awareness of social service programs among the community and through the media and other channels.
Social Policy Analyst Salary: $54,800
School counselors are required to have at least a master’s degree in school counseling. Trained in child and adolescent psychology, they closely work with students so that they can help them enjoy a safe learning environment and, therefore, excel well in school. Although they usually meet with students individually, they also organize group sessions, workshops, and school assemblies. School counselors are in charge of designing, implementing, evaluating, and enhancing comprehensive school counseling programs. When stressful incidents happen in schools, such as the death of a fellow student or a disaster, they are usually the ones who conduct crisis intervention to students.
School Counselor Salary: $56,170
Hospice Care Social Worker
Hospice care social workers have the difficult job of making the end-of-life process as smooth a transition as they can. Their work is mostly to coordinate care within hospice facilities. They are in charge of providing hospice services that give patients the best possible care, including the arrangement of medical services as well as the availability of emotional, psychological, and spiritual care. Hospice care social workers provide talk therapy and other counseling services whenever they meet their patients personally. They mostly work with terminally ill patients and their loved ones.
Hospice Care Social Worker Salary: $68,377
Military Social Worker
Military social workers undergo a specialized training that enables them to learn the qualifications needed to work with military clients. Their main purpose is to assist members of the military, veterans, their spouses, their children, and the support staff whenever they have trouble living their daily life. The difficult challenges in the military that require the help of a social worker include deployment anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and re-adjustment to civilian life. The responsibilities of military social workers include care for military personnel and their families, the connection of military members to programs, and communication with other members of the military.
Military Social Worker Salary: $53,689
Mental Health Counselor
Mental health counselors help their clients cope with emotional, psychological, and even dependency disorders. Some examples of the struggles they encounter and help with are drug and alcohol addiction, marital and family problems as well as stress and anxiety. The usual duties of a mental health counselor include outpatient mental health services, mental health assessments, counseling, referrals, and intervention services. They process paperwork and documentation, following the federal and state guidelines. Mental health counselors usually treat routine mental health problems, but they also face serious mental health illnesses.
Mental Health Counselor Salary: $43,300
Marriage and Family Therapist
The role of marriage and family therapists is not an interaction with only one individual but the relationships of the people within the marriage and family units. As families are usually a diverse and challenging subject to handle, marriage and family therapists employ various psychological techniques and tools to help the families and couple under their wing. One of these methods is cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a conventional therapy method used among clients. A marriage and family therapist encourages clients to discuss their emotions and experiences. The professional guides them in making decisions and helps develop strategies to improve their behavior.
Marriage and Family Therapist Salary: $48,790
Certified Addiction Counselor
Certified addiction counselors help rehabilitate drug or alcohol dependents/addicts. They identify the behaviors related to their addictions and counsel their clients in either individual or group settings. They also conduct crisis counseling sessions or introduce the tools needed to start over. Their work environments include rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and private organizations. Other than directly helping their clients, they also speak with the family member who is affected by the addiction if their clients. They teach prevention programs through community outreach as well.
Certified Addiction Counselor Salary: $45,000
Corrections Social Worker
Corrections social workers assess and evaluate the inmates in the facility. They conduct interviews and psychological tests of the inmates and their families to analyze their tendencies, intelligence, and behavior. This enables Corrections Social Workers to create a rehabilitation plan for the inmates. Other than interviews and tests, they also usually conduct programs such as educational programs that help ready the inmates for when they return to society. In general, corrections social workers help the inmates survive the difficulties in prison and prepare them to go back to the community once they are free to go.
Corrections Social Worker Salary: $53,360
Child Welfare Social Worker
Child welfare social workers make sure that their clients’ well-being is socially, physically, psychologically, and emotionally sound. They are mostly found working for government-run agencies that focus on child welfare. However, they can also be seen in non-profit community organizations, foster care, and adoption or child advocacy agencies. Their responsibilities include regular home visits, protection of children from abuse, neglect, and maltreatment, investigation of allegations of such abusive behavior, and assessment of a parent or guardian’s ability to provide care. Child welfare social workers must also be thorough as they are in charge of complete documentation of their case files and the performance of other administrative tasks.
Child Welfare Social Worker Salary: $53,950
Education Outreach Coordinator
Education outreach coordinators provide domestic violence prevention and early intervention work. They conduct activities in the youth and service providers, community outreach, and public education. Some of their essential duties include educating and training adult professionals on teen violence through workshops and seminars, researching violence found in the home as well as in the different youth sectors, and developing materials for volunteers and community members whenever there are outreach programs or community events being organized.
Education Outreach Coordinator Salary: $40,655
Community organizers are in charge of organizing and managing members of a community. The sample organizations that they are mostly a part of faith-based organizations, grassroots campaigns, fundraising groups, or political lobbying groups. They either work indoor or outdoor, but their job mainly demands high levels of interaction with others and the community as a whole. They conduct discussions, meetings, training, and welcome activities for recruits. Their duties include organizing public awareness campaigns, building support systems and rapport among the community and its leaders, and recruiting new members to the organization.
Community Organizer Salary: $40,304
Housing Support Specialist
Housing support specialists are in charge of providing collaborative intensive coordination and client’s needs assessment to grant-funded clients. They are the ones who give support service strategies to clients who have had struggled in the past because of homelessness, mental health challenges, and housing instability. Their ultimate goal is to ensure health, mental health, housing, and job stability to their clients. They determine their client’s needs by conducting outreach and assessment to provide useful referral services. They also help their clients further through intensive case management and development of goal-oriented service plans.
Housing Support Specialist Salary: $51,000
Adoption counselors provide assistance and support to birth parents, adoptees, adoptive parents, and foster families during the adoption or foster care process. Their primary purpose is to help the parties involved in the adoption or foster care situations by giving the members the counseling and emotional support they need to get through it. Whenever there is a newly formed family because of adoption, adoption counselors make sure that this new family is adapting well. Not only that, but they also check on the birth parents to make sure they are coping well with the separation from their child. They also provide information, counseling, and support to adults who were adopted as children.
Adoption Counselor Salary: $49,647
Youth Social Worker
Youth social workers play a crucial role in the youth welfare system. Their primary purpose is to protect children from situations and people that can bring them harm. They are always available for prevention and intervention when it comes to protecting at-risk children against abuse or neglect. They ensure the children’s medical needs, mental health, and need of a safe home. Youth social workers need to possess empathy, patience, an organized mind, self-awareness, and other personal skills vital when dealing with at-risk children. As the point person for their clients’ (the children’s) case plan youth social workers, need to monitor the progress after interventions and services are done.
Youth Social Worker Salary: $41,530
Street Outreach Social Worker
Street outreach social workers help people with mental illness or are undergoing homelessness to have access to housing, social services, and health. They need to possess primary case management and assessment skills. These skills are usually acquired through post-secondary education, experience in psychiatric/mental health services, or other community programs. The primary duties of street outreach social workers include supporting the homeless individuals in the community. They also find ways to develop and maintain relationships with the community and find ways to improve the services they provide. It is also part of their responsibilities to secure the records, reports, and statistics needed for the maintenance and function of their programs.
Street Outreach Social Worker Salary: $53,950
One of the primary purposes of child advocates is to secure the social and psychological well-being of children under their care and their families. Child advocates usually work under the criminal justice system, and they are in charge of cases of abuse and neglect. Ultimately, they work with the courts and authorities to make sure that their client, the child under their care, is provided with the best attention that he or she deserves. The main responsivities of child advocates include assessment of the state of the child and his or her family, making sure that the child’s needs, medical, and social history are adequately documented and communicated, being on top of things regarding the child’s case within the state adoption database, and being present in all the court hearings.
Child Advocate Salary: $42,405
Part-time Social Worker Jobs
Social Work Case Manager
A social work case manager conducts assessments of clients and their families. Based on these assessments, they will be able to identify the needs and arrange, coordinate, and monitor several services from different providers to serve the clients. Provides may include state and local social service agencies as well as nonprofit organizations. Some of them hire social work case managers part-time, an opportunity that many social work graduates can take advantage of.
Social Work Case Manager Salary: $25,000
There are opportunities for part-time housing counselors. This job involves conducting financial capabilities and pre-purchase housing counseling and credit counseling services. They assist clients who are planning to buy a home by providing education, guidance, and referrals tailored to clients’ circumstances. They also develop action plans that can help clients achieve their housing goal.
Housing Counselor Salary: $40,000
Child Care Social Work
It is possible to work part-time in daycare centers, nonprofit organizations, and local community centers that cater to children as recreation assistant or camp counselor. This job does not require too much effort and is perfect when you are trying to further your education.
Child Care Social Work Salary: $20,000
Teacher assistant positions are often offered as part-time jobs. It is their job to assist the teachers in grading and classroom duties as well as help kids with their lessons. This position is common in elementary and secondary schools.
Teacher Assistant Salary: $25,000
10 Unique Social Worker Careers
Community Service Manager
Known for its promising employment outlook, the field of community service is a lucrative career for many graduates of social work. As community service managers, they are expected to coordinate and supervise social service programs and community organizations. They are also responsible for directing and leading staff who provide social services to the public. They can work in a variety of social and human service organizations, dealing strictly with children, older adults, veterans, and the homeless. They must recruit, hire, and train new staff.
Salary: $70,530 to $109,990
Substance Abuse Counselor
Substance abuse counselors play a crucial role in their clients’ lives. They work with individuals who are addicted to drugs or alcohol throughout the various stages of their recovery process. They evaluate each client to determine the background and severity of their addiction and help them plan out their road to recovery. It is their job to teach them the mechanisms to a healthier behavior that can replace their dependence on drugs and alcohol. Substance abuse counselors are often found in mental health and substance abuse centers or hospitals.
Not your typical social worker, probation officers supervise people who are sentenced to probation by the court. They are responsible for guiding the offenders in their rehabilitation process. Usually, they work with assigned clients, prepare detailed reports for the court, investigate offenders, and provide the information to the judge. Sometimes, they are also tasked to conduct random drug tests, monitor their clients’ whereabouts, and interview the people closest to their clients like the family and friends.
Forensic Social Worker
Closely connected to the legal system, forensic social workers apply social work theories to real-world issues faced by the legal system. Social workers in this field apply their knowledge to questions and concerns on the law or legal policies. They deal with both the criminal and civil cases, which can include termination of parental rights, juvenile, and adult justice services, corrections, and mandated treatment. It is their job to assist individuals of all ages with cases such as child custody, juvenile arrest, elder abuse, divorce, civil disputes, and imprisonment.
Bereavement counselors help people who are dealing with grief from the loss of a loved one, relationship, home, or jobs. For them to go through the grief process and reach the point of acceptance, bereavement counselors are there to counsel and comfort individuals who are suffering from loss and help them cope with the grief that comes with it. Unlike other social worker fields, this job requires bereavement counselors to obtain a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and doctorate.
Group Home Worker
Those who have acquired a bachelor’s degree in the field can find job opportunities as a group home worker. This type of work does not explicitly involve social work. Even unlicensed workers are qualified to assist the residents of a group home. They help with daily interactions, transport arrangements, and counseling.
Program coordinators are expected to ensure that a diverse population is provided with quality services. It is their responsibility to coordinate, participate in, and monitor the activities and functions of a social services program. Unlike social services managers, program coordinators deal with larger and more complex applications. It requires a flexible work schedule.
Salary: $48,530 to $60,663
Adoption counselors help adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive families to understand and cope with emotions that come with adoption. They usually offer counseling sessions and give talks to schools or other professionals like caseworkers and guidance counselors. Parents who are considering adoption may ask the help of adoption counselors. The latter is also there during the period of transfer between the birth and adoptive parents.
Social Policy Analyst
Some social workers found their calling in government agencies and consulting firms as social policy analysts. It is their job to ensure the policies intended to counter pressing social issues like hunger, poverty, and diseases are run efficiently. They examine these social problems by gathering data. They are also expected to propose plans that can help fix those problems.
Crisis Intervention Counselor
Often trained as mental health professionals, crisis intervention counselors help people who are in distress. It involves dealing with people who are in danger of harming themselves or others. They support those who are undergoing crises like terror attacks and natural disasters. It is their job to help their clients deal with grief, loss, and bereavement. They may work in a variety of settings, from mental health clinics to humanitarian aid organizations.
Top Travel Social Worker Careers
Military Social Worker
It is common for active military service members to face social, emotional, psychological, and familial challenges. It is the job of military social workers to help them manage these difficulties by providing counseling and support to the servicemen and their families. Because most active military personnel move around from base to base, it is expected that military social workers get to travel a lot for this kind of job. They are often under the medical and mental health departments.
Salary: $50,159 to $82,858
Clinical Social Worker
A specialty practice area of social work, clinical social work focuses on assessing, diagnosing, treating, and preventing mental emotional, and other behavioral illnesses. Clinical social workers usually offer individual, group, or family therapy. To qualify for the job, they need to be licensed or certified at a clinical level. For clinical social workers who want to work abroad, they can volunteer for non-profit organizations, especially those specializing in helping out immigrants, refugees, and trafficked youths. A knowledge or sometimes fluency in a foreign language might be required.
Salary: $51,528 or more
International Social Worker
A lot of international organizations like UNICEF, Save the Children, among many others, need social workers who can offer their services abroad. While their work is similar to that of domestic social workers where they get to deal with individuals, communities, minorities, and impoverished, international social workers are often required to take international studies and language as additional skills. They learn about the country of their destination and gain a better understanding of the complex issues.
Salary: $37,000 to $80,000
Why should I earn a Social Work degree?
The field of Social Work is one of the most rewarding experiences. This occupation contributes significantly to the betterment of society, from fighting social injustice to alleviating suffering through counseling and working on solutions.
Students seeking to build their career as Social Workers wonder if obtaining a degree in the field is worth the investment. The simple answer is YES! Social Work requires specialized training and a specific set of skills. Students can gain a base of theoretical knowledge through academic discipline, which is valuable when they need to make difficult decisions.
Most Social Work entry-level jobs require a minimum of bachelor’s degree or a related field like Psychology and Sociology. This undergraduate degree allows students to obtain the fundamental knowledge and foundational skills that are integral to Social Work.
Many universities combine academic classes and lectures with practical experience in social organizations, institutions or care facilities. They are introduced to different types of Social Work, from working with children and families to people with physical or mental disabilities.
With a degree, students will be able to build their knowledge and skills to help them prepare for the real world. It is an excellent credential that will enable them to work in different social services organizations.
Other specific areas like clinical Social Work require a master’s degree, and most graduate schools need an undergraduate prerequisite. If students need to be licensed by the state, they might also be required to earn a master’s degree first to be eligible. A master’s degree can also prepare them best for leadership and direct practice roles.
Earning a degree will give Social Workers better employment opportunities and higher starting salary grades. It also ensures they receive the necessary training that can hone their skills and competencies to become competent Social Workers.
Highly sought-after Social Workers have outstanding credentials that can give them the means to enter key leadership positions and advance their careers. Most of the time, the jobs available to them and opportunities for advancement depend on their educational attainment.
Putting it into perspective, one can look at the pay gap between social and human service assistants who only acquired a high school diploma or associate’s degree and a Social Worker who earned a bachelor’s degree. The latter can earn as much as $46,890 per year as opposed to the former’s median pay which is only around $31,810 per year.
To maximize their potential, it is a good idea to earn a degree in Social Work and consider further education in the form of graduate studies.
Who is best fit to earn a Social Work degree?
Not all people are suitable for a career in Social Work. This field can be demanding and complex. Many people suffer from burn out and disenchantment. Before jumping into this career track, students need to find out whether they would make an excellent Social Worker.
To become a Social Worker, aspiring students must understand the nature of their work. It involves hard work, commitment, and sacrifice. They are responsible for protecting vulnerable people from abuse, neglect, and harm.
They need to know the characteristics of a good Social Worker to help them become more effective at their jobs. Generally, Social Workers must possess the following: compassion, listening, and organizational skills.
Since Social Workers often deal with people who struggle in life, compassion is a valuable trait in feeling a sense of empathy for those who need help. They will feel empathy and understanding that will enable them to help their clients address the issue and find solutions.
Listening is another fundamental skill for many Social Workers. They can only help their clients more effectively if they listen and understand their clients’ situations. Each person has a different need that requires a tailored solution.
Of course, most Social Works require superb organizational skills. Social Workers have to deal with a large caseload, with some handling more than 20 cases at once. Being organized can help Social Workers manage their time and energy so they can provide the necessary services for their clients.
Social Workers can also use these skills:
- Communication skills, both written and oral. Social Workers have to keep notes on cases and interview their clients to help them become better.
- Perceptiveness. Many find it hard to express themselves. Being able to observe their body language and social clues can help Social Workers provide better services.
- The power of persuasion. Most Social Workers need to coax and convince their clients to take action.
- Emotional resilience. Social Workers have to provide emotional support to their clients, but it can lead to burnout. To survive in this field, you need to withstand emotional demands and know how to step back when needed.
- Good teamwork. It is common for Social Workers to liaise with other professionals and take part in meetings and conferences. Foster good relationships with other people to make the job easier for you. Seek support and direction from your supervisors and colleagues.
- Endurance. Apart from the daily stress that comes with the job, a heavy workload is one of the biggest challenges Social Workers face. Many of them deal with irregular work schedules, mainly because their services may be required during emergencies. Increase your physical stamina to endure and overcome the hurdles of the job.
How can one apply for Social Work degree programs?
Before one can enter the school of their choice and enroll in a Social Work degree program, there are steps that they need to go through. The application and admission process can be overwhelming for many but knowing what they need to do can help a lot in increasing their chances of being admitted to a reputable institution.
High school students who already made up their minds about pursuing a career in the Social Work field can prepare early on. There are classes that they can take in high school that can help them get ready for college-level courses needed for a bachelor’s in Social Work. They can give careful attention to subject areas like communication, psychology, and language. Math and science are also important.
Accredited Social Work programs have a rigorous set of standards that aspiring students must meet. Generally, students need to review their GPA, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and volunteer experience. Most schools also require students to meet the program’s outlined objectives that they can demonstrate through their statement, references, and admission interview.
Interested students can increase their chances of admission with a high GPA. Most schools require a GPA of at least 3.5.
For those who aim to be admitted to a master’s degree program, it is vital to earn an undergraduate degree from an accredited school. Just like a bachelor’s degree, a statement of purpose and letter of recommendation are required. The application process might assess a student’s commitment to Social Work values, sensitivity, and experience in the field. Many accredited master’s in Social Work programs favor applicants with volunteer or professional work experience.
Although the process varies in each learning institution, students should keep in mind that there are application deadlines they must strictly adhere to. Most schools set February as the application deadline for fall term and November for spring. Although some universities can still accept applications after the deadlines, students might not be given priority consideration for merit scholarship awards.
Many schools are now giving students the convenience of accomplishing their application forms online, although offline supplemental materials like transcripts and letters of recommendations might need to be delivered via mail or in person.