America has always been a nation of immigrants. Today, more than 40 million people living in the United States were born in another country, accounting for about one-fifth of the world’s migrants.1 Although the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) does not officially recognize immigration social workers among its 16 specialtie,2 the profession in the U.S. has always been closely associated with helping immigrants, dating back to the first settlement houses founded by social work pioneer Jane Addams in the 1900s.3
Immigration social workers may work in many different settings—schools, hospitals, government agencies, refugee camps and social service agencies—but they share some very important characteristics. Immigration social workers provide direct support and services to immigrants, helping their clients make the transition to their new homes and improve their lives. If you have a strong passion for the plight of immigrants, consider these five reasons to become an immigration social worker:
- You can make a difference. All social work is important work, but immigration social workers today are on the front lines of some of the world’s most pressing problems. There is a massive global refugee crisis underway, with more than 68 million people who have been forcibly displaced due to horrific political and economic conditions.4 Families, as well as unaccompanied minors, enter the U.S. daily to escape violence, political oppression and poverty. Social workers are often their best, and sometimes only, advocates.
- Immigrants have unique needs. Immigrants come from many regions and nations, and every situation is different. Well-prepared immigration social workers are qualified to identify and address many of the issues that immigrants bring with them to a new country. As newcomers, many immigrants need assistance in navigating unfamiliar housing, education, healthcare and employment systems. They may have language barriers and emotional and mental health burdens. Immigration social workers are trained to recognize these and other challenges and to provide needed support.
- You become an important part of our nation’s story. The U.S. has long been a destination for those who are persecuted and seek freedom and safety, and welcoming immigrants is a basic American value. Throughout our history, immigrants have made important contributions and sacrifices to our country. But to continue this legacy, our nation needs people committed to a vision of our society and democracy as one that embraces immigrants. Immigration social workers are among those equipped with the knowledge and experience needed to advance fair and humane policies in the U.S. while helping migrants and refugees settle in and build a better life here.
- You can lend your voice as an advocate. Social workers have historically worked to ensure all people have equal access to the resources and opportunities that allow them to meet their basic needs. In fact, the NASW Code of Ethics of 2018 states that: “Social workers pursue social change, particularly on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed individuals and groups of people.”5 Because they understand the issues, immigration social workers can use their skills to help the public face up to problems, and are vocal advocates for those who have no voice because of legal, economic or political standing. They can organize, lead and educate others to stand with immigrants and demand change. Immigration social workers might find work helping create policy, in community organizing or political action.
- Your experience may help you apply for jobs abroad. Because immigration is a worldwide crisis, social workers who help immigrants and refugees are well-positioned to work abroad.6 As an immigration social worker, you might be qualified for international humanitarian work in other countries working with refugees.
As people continue to be on the move across the globe, it is likely social workers who have a special interest in immigration will be in demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “overall employment of social workers is projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.”7 Work as an immigration social worker will continue to be challenging, important work well into the future.
At Yeshiva University, students in our online Master of Social Work program are trained for that future. Our virtual learning tool, The Heights, provides students with real-world scenarios that bring social work concepts and theory to life.
Are you ready to advance your career?
Schedule an appointment with an admissions advisor today and learn more about how our online MSW connects your passions with purpose.
1. Retrieved August 28, 2020 from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/08/20/key-findings-about-u-s-immigrants/
2. Retrieved August 30, 2020 from https://www.noodle.com/articles/how-to-become-an-immigration-social-worker-career-guide
3. Retrieved August 30, 2020 from https://www.socialworkers.org/News/Facts/Social-Work-History
4. Retrieved August 30, 2020 from https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.naswnyc.org/resource/resmgr/currents/2019/currents_feb_19.pdf
5. Retrieved August 30, 2020 from https://www.socialworktoday.com/archive/MA18p14.shtml
6. Retrieved August 30, 2020 from https://www.noodle.com/articles/immigration-social-worker
7. Retrieved August 30, 2020 from https://www.bestmswprograms.com/highest-paying-careers-in-social-work/