When we think of social workers, we often think of givers. Social workers strive tirelessly to help others, and you might be wondering what they get out of all this effort for themselves. As it turns out, there are a lot of great reasons to go into this field, and as many social workers will tell you, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. For prospective social workers, here are just some of the benefits of pursuing an exciting and fulfilling career in social work.
1. Social Work Is a Growing Field
The field of social work is expanding rapidly. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that demand for social workers is expected to rise between 17 percent and 18 percent by 2028, which is faster than for other occupations.1 And with a wide range of job options, it’s likely that you’ll be able to find meaningful work in this field no matter where you want to work, from government agencies to healthcare facilities and every location in between.
The pay for social workers isn't terrible, either. The median salary for a social worker with a Master of Social Work (MSW) is $61,592 per year,2 a number that rises to $66,749 for a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).3
2. As a Social Worker, You May Have Your Student Loans Forgiven
One of the benefits of becoming a social worker is that depending on the position, professionals may qualify to have some or most of their student loans forgiven. As part of the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007, if you work in public service (which includes both nonprofit organizations and government agencies) full time for 10 years and make payments on your loans, you can apply to have the remaining balance discharged. You may also qualify to have up to $50,000 of your student loans repaid if you work for two years in a community-based site in a high-need designated Health Professional Shortage Area as part of the National Health Service Corps loan repayment program.4 Some other employers may also provide loan repayment or assistance programs as well to help defray the cost of your education.
3. You Have a Variety of Opportunities as a Social Worker
While you may assume that social workers only work in social services agencies run by the government, that is not the case. There is a wide range of opportunities and workplaces for social workers.
Social workers specialize their career paths around their areas of interest and can be found in various settings. From government agencies to private practices and nonprofit organizations, rehabilitation centers to correctional facilities, social workers are out at the forefront of their communities to provide counseling services, support and resources to community members. Social workers serve as school social workers, medical social workers, military social workers, clinical social workers, as human services specialists and mental health social workers. A social worker can practice as a child welfare social worker or child welfare researcher within the community or the foster care system, medical social worker, a behavioral management aide, a geriatric social worker, a family social worker and much, much more.
Explore some of the social worker types in greater depth:
School Social Workers
School social workers help children work through the social and emotional issues that might prevent them from thriving in school. School social workers also provide various family services, helping parents access necessary programs and resources.
Clinical Social Workers
Clinical social workers diagnose and treat mental illnesses, in addition to helping clients prevent and address the psychological, behavioral, emotional and social contributors to mental illness. Clinical social workers are usually required both to hold a master’s degree and to complete other licensing requirements to be considered clinical licensed social workers.
Mental Health Social Workers
Mental health social workers work with patients experiencing mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. Some choose to specialize as substance abuse social workers, as well, a type of practice that benefits from also earning an addictions credential. A mental health social worker plays a key role in creating an effective strategy and plan to treat mental disorders.
Substance Abuse Social Workers
A substance abuse social worker specializes in working with clients who have addiction issues. They may provide individual and family services, and work with wider communities that are affected by substance abuse. They may offer community resources and contribute to treatment plans along with other healthcare professionals. Substances can include alcohol, drugs, or tobacco. Some addictive behaviors can also fall under the purview of a substance abuse social worker, including gambling and overeating.
Gerontological Social Workers
Certified hospice and palliative care social workers offer counseling and emotional support to terminally ill people and their families, helping them through the grieving process. This type of social worker requires advanced certification as well as a master’s degree.
Learn more about the salary expectations for these various positions here.
The types of positions you have in each of these fields vary, as well. You could be involved in direct client care, serve in a supervisory role, or focus on policy development, advocacy, grant writing or other aspects of the field. In short, there is no single definition of social work, and you can find a role that interests you and fits your skills and talents.
4. Find Room to Grow With Careers in the Social Work Field
Once you get your foot in the door of the social work field, you have a great deal of potential for growth, especially if you continue your education and earn a master's degree. The more education you have, the more positions you will qualify for, including supervisory roles. There are also a number of opportunities to earn specialized credentials. Depending on their credentials, some social workers may also end up going to work in their own private practices.
5. Make a Difference as a Social Worker
You can’t have a discussion about the benefits of a career in social work without addressing the fact that working in the field allows you to make a difference in the lives of individuals and provide a tangible benefit to society.
Many people want to make the world a better place, but aren’t sure where to start or what to do. As a social worker, you are in a position to solve specific problems and help others, and there is a good chance that you will end up being the person that changes someone else’s life. While it is a lot of hard work and change doesn’t always happen quickly, just knowing that your work is meaningful to others can help provide you with a purpose and personal fulfillment.
6. Apply Your Core Values to Your Work
Many social workers enter the profession because its core principles align with their own values and priorities. In fact, many social workers were inspired by their own experiences, which spurred a desire to help others and advocate for the support and services that they themselves didn’t have. Yet even if you don’t have your own challenges to draw upon, working as a social worker allows you to live out the values of equality, justice, fairness, respect, dignity and the right of everyone to health and well-being. If these values align with yours, then consider becoming a social worker.
Earn Your Master’s Degree in Social Work Online
Social work has a number of benefits for those who commit to it, and earning a master’s degree is the best way to get the meaningful career you desire. With various career paths to choose from, it may seem difficult to know where to start. However, if you have been thinking about a career in this field, now is a great time to jump in and begin making a difference in your community.
It's never been easier to find the right program for you with a greater abundance of online social work programs. Consider how an Online Master of Social Work (MSW) from Yeshiva University can help you find a meaningful career. With advanced training in methodologies and specialized practice for communities, group work and individuals, you will find the style of social work that matches your unique preferences and professional strengths.
Our flexible, 100% online master’s degree program prepares you for real-life challenges with our methods-based curriculum. In our acclaimed virtual learning environment, The Heights, you’ll learn best practices for a variety of important specializations. This is where purpose and passion intersect, offering the greatest opportunity to achieve your highest aspirations.
- Retrieved September 10, 2020 from socialworkguide.org/salaries/
- Retrieved February 21, 2018, from www1.salary.com/Social-Worker-MSW-Salary.html
- Retrieved February 21, 2018, from www1.salary.com/Licensed-Clinical-Social-Worker-salary.html
- Retrieved February 21, 2018, from socialworkers.org/Advocacy/Policy-Issues/Student-Loan-Forgiveness