Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Career Spotlight: Social Work

This is the second installment of monthly career spotlight blog series created by the team at, an educational directory and resource for adult learners interested in pursuing a graduate degree.  These articles are intended to provide an overview of the job outlook, salary data, daily life, and educational requirements of selected careers in hopes that one of these spotlights will help you decide what you want to be when you grow up.
Social Work Careers
Demand for qualified social work professionals is growing at a surprising rate.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts jobs in the field of social work will increase by 25% between 2010 and 2020.  Which means by 2020 there are expected to be 811,700 people employed in social work positions. 

This growth is expected across a broad range of specializations within the field.  Social Work professionals are employed in a variety of industries and work environments.  They might be employed by schools, hospitals, in-patient and out-patient mental health and rehabilitation facilities, non-profit organizations, home healthcare service providers, or local, state, or federal offices.  Social work professionals might pursue careers where they provide services directly to clients, as researchers, or as program directors or administrators. 

Clinical social workers, those who spend most of their time interacting with clients spend most of their time meeting with clients to assess their needs, provide counseling, and connecting their clients to available services.  Available services might include; food assistance, health care, housing, and employment or vocational training services.  Working as a clinical social worker is dynamic; no one work day will be identical to the next as each client will present the practitioner with new challenges and opportunities to provide care.  Clinical social workers must work to keep up to date on available services that may help their clients improve their lives. Social workers who wish to pursue careers as administrators or community organizers spend less time working directly with clients and more time creating programs  or managing programs that provide services to those in need, examples of these programs might include managing a food pantry, or working to establish community gardens in urban areas.  In essence, these social work professionals create and manage the programs and services that clinical social workers can utilize to connect the clients they are working with to the resources they need.  Social workers who focus on research might conduct studies to determine whether or not a specific program is able to create positive outcomes for the participants, or work to identify new intervention or counseling methods clinical social workers can use to better treat their clients.  Social workers in the field of research may spend some time working with the population seeking services, but they rarely provide direct care to these individuals.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in social work you may have several options.  If you have not already earned an undergraduate degree, you might consider majoring in social work as an undergraduate and then seek admission into a social work graduate program.  Individuals with an undergraduate degree in social work may qualify to enroll in an advanced standing program where they may be able to earn their MSW (Master’s in Social Work) in as little as 1 year.  Those without an undergraduate degree in social work are usually required to participate in a more traditional 2 year course of education.  Both programs are likely to require students to complete mandatory supervised training hours, working in professional settings under the guidance of a licensed social work practitioner.  Individuals with a bachelor’s degree in social work may be qualified to work in the field, but are not able to obtain licensure in most states.  Licensure may be particularly important for those interested in a career as a clinical social worker as licensure (LSW, LCSW) is often required for those interested in providing counseling.

Social workers salaries vary across industries and specializations the table below outlines some of the median salaries of social workers practicing in different job environments and specializations.  This data can be found in the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics.

Social Work Specialization/Work Environment
Median Salary
Federal Government
Insurance Carriers
Insurance and Employee Benefit Funds
Medical and Surgical Hospitals
Specialty Hospitals
Local Government
Individual Family Services
Social Advocacy Organizations
Community Food and Housing

Visit if you are interested in learning more about a career in social work or researching graduate programs in this discipline.

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