When you hear the term "social worker," what comes to mind? For many people, social work often conjures up images of community agencies, departments of human services and of the people who work there.
Yet while many social workers do work in those environments, these are not the only places where social workers are in demand. In fact, as the world becomes more complex, the need for social workers in a variety of areas is only increasing. If you are thinking about earning a Master of Social Work (MSW), but you're afraid that you'll be limiting your career options, don't be. Consider some of these social work jobs when planning your career path.
Child and Family Social Workers
Often child and family social workers are what come to mind when people think of social workers. These are the social workers who provide help and services to families and kids in crisis, whether due to socioeconomic factors, abuse, substance issues or other reasons. Many child and family social workers are employed by child welfare agencies and are charged with helping families meet their basic needs and become functioning, self-sufficient members of the community.
Social workers of this type are also involved with investigating reports of child abuse and neglect, and in some cases, placing children in safer environments. In most cases, though, social workers provide support, education and access to resources in an effort to solve problems.
Not all child and family social workers are focused on problem solving or crisis management, however. Some social workers work with adoption agencies, coordinating the adoption process and supporting all the families involved. Child social workers can also be involved in foster care, providing training and support to foster children and families.
School Social Workers
Schools and colleges also offer many jobs for social workers.1 School social workers generally have many different responsibilities, with the ultimate goal of supporting student academic success. School social workers serve as mediators, advocates for students and parents and coordinators of resources for students with disabilities and other challenges, such as homelessness, poverty and hunger. School social workers are also on the front lines of anti-bullying efforts and provide education and resources to keep kids safe in schools.
Most schools, especially in smaller or more rural districts, only have one social worker on staff, but in some areas where specific ongoing issues regularly occur, schools may hire multiple social workers to address them. For example, in some regions, schools have hired social workers for the specific purpose of maintaining a drug-free school; these individuals are charged with providing drug education and awareness and developing programs to keep students from using drugs.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
Speaking of drug use, many clinical social workers opt to focus on mental health, specifically as it relates to substance abuse. In this field, you would work with individuals who have substance abuse issues, often in a rehabilitation center or outpatient treatment program, providing counseling, therapy and additional services for patients. In many cases, patients leaving rehabilitation centers need additional support getting their lives back on track, and a social worker can help provide resources for housing, employment and other necessities.
Hospital Social Workers
Often, people who have been diagnosed with a serious disease or who are in the hospital due to a major illness, injury or surgery aren't sure what to do once they leave the hospital. For many people, changes in their health mean significant changes to their lifestyle, and they don't know where to start. That's where a hospital social worker comes in.
Hospital or medical social workers work with patients and their families to ensure that they have everything they need once they leave the hospital—and in some cases, before they leave the hospital.2 Hospital social workers might serve as advocates for families in crisis, offer help navigating insurance and payment issues and coordinate post-discharge care. In the case of a terminal illness, social workers help coordinate hospice and palliative care and support the family and patient during this time. And in the case of ill children, hospital social workers often coordinate with the child's school to ensure that he or she has the support and services necessary for academic success.
Social Work Research and Policymaking
Not all social work career options involve directly working with clients. The field itself is rapidly growing and changing, and educated individuals are needed to conduct research and develop new ideas and policies related to that research that can guide other social workers in the field. Many advocacy groups, educational institutions and think tanks hire social workers to conduct this important work.
These are just some of the major career options for people with a MSW. You might find other opportunities with the military, insurance companies, law enforcement, legal services and other areas. So as you consider your educational options, don't feel like you are limiting your available careers—you actually have a wide range of paths to choose from. Contact Yeshiva University today to learn even more about the career options available to you through our online MSW program.
1 Retrieved on February 21, 2018, from nasw-michigan.org/?page=SchoolSocialWork
2 Retrieved on February 21, 2018, from socialworkers.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=o7o0IXW1R2w%3D&portalid=0