A Comprehensive Guide to Careers in Social Work

A Comprehensive Guide to Careers in Social Work

Social work is a process of change that helps individuals, families and communities to solve social problems and improve their well-being. It is a dynamic and challenging profession that requires a deep commitment to social justice and a passion for helping others. 

The social work profession has become increasingly popular in recent years as more and more people are looking for ways to make a difference in their communities. As a result, there is a growing demand for qualified social workers. The field is immensely rewarding, but it can also be challenging. It is a career that requires dedication, compassion and a commitment to helping others.

Social work provides an array of opportunities in different specialties and settings, especially for master’s degree holders. At Florida State University, a Master of Social Work program gives students the skills they need to make a difference. It offers in-depth training on the most effective practices and theories in the field. The current trends in social work continue to be influenced by the economic and social issues that are prominent in the US and other parts of the world. Social workers currently have numerous career options, such as program planners, policy analysts, school social workers, urban social workers, and many others.

Where do social workers work?

Social work is a profession with a long history. Since its beginnings in the early 1900s, social work has evolved into an independent profession that is based on professional ethics and values. The field relates closely to educational psychology, which is the application of knowledge, research and practice in education to society.

As a social worker, you can occupy positions in hospitals, schools, outpatient services, government agencies and nursing care facilities. Depending on their chosen career setting, social workers address social problems and work with individuals, families, groups and communities to meet their needs.

Additionally, there is an extra benefit from working in a rapidly growing field: with a projected growth rate of 9% by 2031, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has established that employment opportunities in social work have outpaced those in other fields.

Here are the different careers in social work.

Clinical social workers

Clinical social workers help people work through their problems and deal with difficult situations or crises. They work in hospitals, nursing homes and outpatient services, as well as in private practice. Clinical social workers provide psychotherapy to individuals, couples, families and groups.

Clinical social workers also work with people experiencing a wide range of healthcare concerns, such as physical and mental illnesses and disorders, poverty, domestic violence, addiction and discrimination to provide psychosocial interventions.

Gerontological social workers

Gerontological social workers work with older adults who are experiencing a variety of physical, psychological and social problems. They help their clients live independently by providing assistance with household chores, managing finances and arranging transportation.

They seek to help improve the lives of elderly people. They work in clinics, hospitals and nursing homes providing psychotherapy, life evaluation, health assessments and case management.

Forensic social workers

Forensic social workers utilize their education, training and professional experience in the field of psychology to work with criminal justice professionals and juvenile justice system staff to help individuals and communities resolve legal, social, economic and personal problems. They work with law enforcement officials and criminal defense attorneys. They help by planning a program for victims and responsible parties, assisting with court proceedings, and referring clients to other appropriate agencies.

These workers provide counseling, crisis intervention, group therapy and education for defendants in criminal court proceedings. They also identify victims who may require services from other agencies and collaborate with law enforcement officials to ensure the safety of those victims.

Hospice and palliative social workers

These social workers are responsible for helping the terminally ill deal with both physical and emotional struggles. They help coordinate hospice care and provide support to patients and their families to make sure that they are receiving the level of service they need. Hospice social workers also evaluate patients and assess their support systems.

Hospice and palliative social workers also work closely with doctors, nurses, counselors, pharmacists, religious leaders, hospice staff members and others to ensure that families receive the proper support. They follow up with patients to make sure that they are feeling well and are coping with their disease-related symptoms.

Pediatric social workers

Pediatric social workers are employed in a growing field that is responsible for helping families with children of all ages. They also assist children who are at risk by providing case management services.

Pediatric social workers help parents and children deal with the challenges of raising a child. They work with children, teens, parents, families and communities. They provide services to families in hospitals, clinics and community settings. They work with children and adolescents going through difficult life experiences such as abuse, neglect, poverty, mental health problems and family issues.

These professionals help clients by coordinating child abuse investigations and presentations, conducting safety assessments, and helping make decisions regarding medical care. They also take part in family reunification services, education programs and parent education groups.

Military social workers

Military social workers are part of the US-based military. They work with military members and their families, including those on active duty, veterans, reservists and National Guard members.

They are responsible for helping military members deal with the stress and trauma of serving in the military. They provide counseling, case management, life evaluation and crisis intervention.

These professionals work with service members who have experienced combat, sexual assault, drug abuse problems, mental health issues and suicide. They assist service members with regaining control of their lives by providing support services such as education about mental health programs and support groups for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

School social workers

School social workers are responsible for helping students and their families deal with problems involving grades, bullying, school violence and drug use. They provide counseling and case management services to students, parents, teachers and school staff members. They encourage successful relationships between children and their teachers by offering advice for addressing problematic issues.

These professionals are responsible for ensuring that students’ social, emotional and academic needs are met by attending to their situations and behaviors. Their goal is to help students navigate through difficult situations such as divorce or the loss of a family member.

School social workers ensure that students do not fall behind in school, by assisting them with study skills, understanding school programs and navigating the academic environment. They also help children who have been abused or neglected, those who have mental health or substance abuse issues, or those who are affected by gang violence.

Psychiatric social workers

Psychiatric social workers specialize in the treatment of mental illness, developmental disabilities and behavioral issues. They help individuals recover from psychiatric disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. They also help patients learn how to cope with these conditions.

These professionals operate in areas where they can help someone by providing education or conducting research. They work with people who are struggling with schizophrenia, Huntington’s disease, and other psychosis disorders.

Private practice social workers

Private practice social workers, who often work as contract workers or self-employed consultants, provide a wide range of services. These professionals handle many issues such as depression, substance abuse, homelessness, unemployment, poverty, and others. They provide services on an individual basis and also educate others on topics related to these conditions.

These social workers also assist people who are experiencing trauma and anxiety associated with serious illnesses such as cancer. 

Research social workers

Research social workers conduct research in their field of specialization. They are also responsible for communicating and documenting their findings. They work as mentors, educators, facilitators and consultants to help others learn about the role that research plays in gathering knowledge.

These professionals conduct research by examining current issues or problems within a specific area of focus. They write reports explaining their investigations or findings. They also participate in training classes to help other professionals comply with ethical and procedural policies as they apply their knowledge to help solve real-world problems.

Social advocacy and policy social workers

Social advocacy and policy social workers work with advocates, policymakers, researchers and others to achieve a set of policy or program goals. They communicate and analyze their findings to help other groups develop their work. These professionals also help end homelessness or promote educational attainment by working with policymakers and others to get legislation passed through state government and local government officials.

Substance abuse social workers

Substance abuse social workers are responsible for providing services for those in recovery from substance use disorders. They also work with professionals and paraprofessionals to provide appropriate services for those who suffer from substance use disorders, such as alcoholism and addiction to drugs. 

These professionals work with patients to help them navigate their recovery process. They also educate their clients about the risks associated with substance abuse, including the likelihood of relapse.

Prepare for a career in social work today!

Social workers represent a wide range of interests, specializations and career paths. No matter how varied their focus or the setting in which they work, their goal is the same: to improve lives by helping people deal with societal issues and challenges.

If you are interested in becoming a social worker, a degree in social work will prepare you for a variety of jobs while allowing you to focus on specific areas of interest. Once you obtain your bachelor’s degree, you can look closely at what kind of career path you would like to follow while earning your master’s and doctoral degrees.