College Advice Blog

Sep 20, 2012

Where Can A Degree in Social Work Take Me?

Graduating with a degree in social work allows graduates to pursue a number of rewarding careers that are focused entirely on helping people in undesirable circumstances. Many prospective students inevitably ask, “Where can a degree in social work take me?” Well, it can take you directly into areas of society that need help the most.

A degree in social work leads to a rewarding career that will give you the opportunity to truly help others. These degrees are not intended to propel graduates into the world of business or finance; they are intended to impart tools that graduates can use to provide social work. This career path has higher education requirements. Recent years have given rise to an online degree in social work. There also traditional programs available from colleges and universities. This enables students interested in this career to study on their own time while maintaining their present commitments.

What is Social Work?

The International Federation of Social Workers states that modern social work is, “based on a methodology that recognizes the complexity of interactions between human beings and their environment, and the capacity of people to be affected by and to alter the bio-psychosocial factors that influence them. Social work profession draws on theories of human development and social systems to analyze complex situations and facilitate individual and social changes.”
Essentially, this means that social work is concerned with preventing and resolving social problems. Social workers typically work individually with families, adults, children and those with mental illnesses. Sometimes they will work out of government agencies, other times they are located in hospitals or rehabilitation centers. However, not everyone with a degree becomes a one-on-one social worker. Social work also includes creating policies and programs to benefit those in poverty and experiencing a social injustice.

What Are the Different Types of Social Work?

There are three primary fields of social work spread throughout the social work industry.
    • Child and Family Social Workers – These social workers find foster homes for children in need. They also provide training for parents who need to learn how to care for their children. Some social workers in this type of work will also assist in adoptions. Others work to provide assistance to elderly citizens and their families.
    • Medical Social Workers – Usually found in hospitals, these workers provide help to those who are sick or have been experiencing long-term hospitalization. They give advice to the individuals and their families to help them cope with their illness. Medical social workers will also help locate additional medical assistance, such as long-term nursing care.
    • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker – Often referred to as clinical workers, they provide help to those with mental illness or substance abuse issues. Their work in this field often includes lending an ear and empathetically listening to patients thought processes. They attempt to help patients identify the roots of their issues. Clinical social workers will often reach out to the local community for supportive assistance.

What Careers Are Available?

The primary career available with a degree in social work is becoming a social worker. As seen above, this career is split into three separate and distinct fields. Each field receives specialized training and will have different daily responsibilities. However, they tend to earn the same general salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for a social worker is $42,000. The BLS also states that this career is anticipated to increase by 25 percent by 2020.

A social services manager is another common career available with a degree in social work. The BLS states that this career has an average salary of $58,000 and is projected to grow by 27 percent by 2020. This position requires experience as a community manager and may also require a master’s degree. A social services manager is responsible for coordinating a staff of social workers to implement and maintain social programs.

A Degree in Social Work Is Rewarding

Social workers have consistently stated that job satisfaction and the rewards that come from truly helping others far outweigh any potential salary. While a degree in social work can lead you into a position that earns a livable wage, it can also provide the opportunity to help people lead happier and safer lives.

About the Author
Brian Henderson is attending school and will be social worker come spring 2013. He was spurred to pursue social work as a career due to his love of helping others.

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