The Five Most Popular Social Work Careers

Social work is one of those careers in which you can truly make a difference in people’s lives. A Master of Social Work degree can open many doors and show others you have not only the knowledge and the skills, but also the compassion and dedication necessary to work in such an important field. There are many positions a graduate with an MSW degree can fulfill, but here are five of the most popular social work careers:

Medical/Public Health

Social workers who work in the medical field are always in high demand. It is projected that the number of jobs in medical/public health social work will grow by 22 percent through 2018, the highest rate in the social work field. Medical/public health social workers can work in any facility that provides care to patients, including hospitals, emergency rooms, hospices, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, assisted living facilities and home health agencies. They work with patients to ensure they are being cared for properly, facilitate communication between them and their caregivers, and assist with paperwork and decision-making. Medical/public health social workers are advocates for patient rights and a source of comfort during difficult times. Because this is such an important area of social work, it generally pays more, with an average salary ranging from $41,000 to $58,000 annually.

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Substance Abuse

Substance abuse social workers are employed in a variety of venues, including rehabilitation facilities, prisons, private practices, for- and non-profit organizations, and juvenile detention facilities. It is known as one of the more emotionally demanding areas of social work since addiction is hard to treat. People struggling with addiction need patience and compassion, and navigating mood swings, relapses and anger require a great deal of dedication. But knowing you are helping someone in recovery and that you can play an important role in their lives is incredibly rewarding. As the legal system places greater emphasis on recovery and rehabilitation, jobs in this area are expected to grow at a rate of 20 percent through 2018. Depending on your level of experience and where you work, the average salary ranges from $29,000 to $49,000 annually.

Mental Health

While a master’s is not always required for a career in social work, it always makes you a more marketable candidate; still, one area where a master’s is required is mental health in the realm of clinical practice. Many mental health social workers provide therapy, and this requires advanced education, as well as licensure, as a clinical social worker (LCSW). As a mental health social worker – or clinical social worker – there is a diverse range of mental health services you can provide. You can work in community mental health centers, mental hospitals, private practices, hospitals and even schools. You assess your clients’ mental health, diagnose mental disorders, develop treatment plans and assist in the daily living of those with mental disorders. The average annual salary of a mental health social worker is $41,880.

Child Welfare

Child welfare is an area of social work that requires sensitivity, compassion and a love of children. Child welfare social workers provide services to children who are abused and neglected by their parents or to children from lower-income families who cannot afford to properly care for them. Many child welfare workers work with child protective services to investigate reports of child abuse and neglect, and intervene when a child’s home environment is deemed unsafe. As a child welfare social worker, you would meet regularly with children and families to assess conditions in the home and report on the care a child is receiving. When a child is in danger, child welfare workers facilitate the removal of that child and place them in a safe alternative environment. The child welfare social work field is expected to grow at a rate of 12 percent through 2018, and the average salary for a child protective services worker is between $25,000 and $47,000 annually, depending on location and experience.

School Social Work

School social work is one of the more common areas in the field, and there are different capacities in which a school social worker can work. As a school social worker, you are a liaison between school and students’ families, essentially bridging children’s personal lives and education to make sure their needs are being met. You can function as a guidance counselor and also work with special needs children to facilitate their integration into mainstream classes. You are responsible for addressing a number of school issues, such as behavioral intervention programs, truancy prevention programs, sexual education, health education, crisis intervention and effective communication between parents, teachers and students. Depending on location and level of education, school social workers earn a salary ranging from $32,000 to $52,000 annually.

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