The good news is that regardless of what kind of social work you are interested in, there will probably be a demand for your services.
“Overall employment of social workers is projected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, the project demand for well-trained and well-qualified social workers is more than double the projected job creation of other professions.
Social workers work with a number of populations that need help. As the population ages, healthcare social workers will be in more demand.
Also, as more sensitive societal issues become more visible and discussed openly, the demand for social workers with specialized skills and training is also rising. Some social workers work with immigrants and undocumented people, for example, or teens who need support around identity issues.
Another noteworthy thing about social work careers is that they are growing in all locations — from large cities to remote rural areas — and across all economic levels.
Social workers that hold an MSW and are licensed clinical social workers, in particular, are in-demand.
Here is a list of a few social work careers reporting shortages:
Behavioral therapists work with people to treat depression, anxiety, panic disorders, anger issues, and other kinds of behavior. They also use a variety of techniques to treat conditions such as eating disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), self-harm, phobias, and substance abuse.
Behavioral therapists work with children and adults in a wide range of settings including one-on-one meetings, group settings, and in hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centers.
Child social workers are primarily focused on working with children, young people, and family units. These specially-trained social workers are concerned with both overall child wellbeing and welfare, as well as administering the mental health services and counseling that children, youth, and families need.
Child social workers often work with the most vulnerable populations of children including homeless children and youth in foster care. Child care social workers can work in hospitals, government agencies, nonprofits, clinics, or in private practice.
Medical social workers provide a wide array of assistance and guidance to people and families that are trying to navigate the medical system. Depending on the situation, people going through a health issue might need mental health services, crisis intervention, end of life planning, and/or ongoing support for chronic illnesses.
In particular, medical social workers often help patients navigate hospital stays including coordinating patient care, acting as an advocate for the patient, coordinating future services, helping with things like post-hospitalization equipment or medicine needs, and connecting people with outside resources such as advanced directives, disability options, and insurance programs.
Military social workers play an important role for both active-duty military personnel as well as soldiers returning from deployments and veterans. It is acknowledged by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), “chances are that nearly all social workers will serve this population in some capacity, whether through mental and behavioral health therapy, social services, housing, health care, care coordination or a variety of other services.”
Military social workers, in particular, build the skills and expertise to address the unique challenges faced by active-duty personnel, veterans and their families.
School social workers work at all levels of public and private educational institutions, from preschool to high school to help support the emotional needs and learning outcomes of students.
Social workers working with students might also look at the community factors that interfere with a student’s learning (such as domestic violence, learning disabilities, hunger, etc.). With this unique perspective, they perform a wide variety of functions — ranging from crisis intervention to school-wide programming.
Forensic social workers can testify in court, train police officers, and other law enforcement personnel and diagnose mental health problems in a prison population. A forensic social worker may work at a juvenile detention facility or a mental health facility, especially a facility for criminal defendants who have pled not guilty by reason of insanity.
One of a forensic social worker’s most important roles is providing expert testimony in court. For example, a forensic social worker’s testimony may be a deciding factor in cases regarding child abuse, child custody, domestic violence, or drug and alcohol abuse. After the fact, a forensic social worker may work with the victimized person or persons to connect them to resources to help speed recovery.
One of a hospice social worker’s primary roles is to interface with the family and provide a level of support and explanation that other medical staff might not be able to offer. For example, a hospice social worker will typically know their patient’s medical history, as well as the most current medications and treatments.
A hospice social worker can then convey all of this information to the family, acting as a de-facto interface between the doctors, medical staff, and the family. While a patient is in hospice, usually a hospice social worker is the person the family speaks to more than anyone else.
Psychiatric social workers provide services in hospitals, clinics, and community agencies that support patients struggling with mental illness and/or substance use. The patients they serve often have severe and persistent mental illness or substance use disorders that require more intensive care, such as 24-hour inpatient care. Social workers in these settings provide one-on-one psychotherapy and facilitate support groups as methods of treatment.
Psychiatric social workers collaborate with a care team of physicians, nurses, psychologists, and other health professionals to assess, diagnose, and treat patients. Psychiatric disorders require the development of insight into the disorder, behavior modification and other psychological, social, and emotional interventions to support recovery. Psychiatric social workers provide evidence-based psychotherapy, which is a key part of the treatment plan for patients in a psychiatric setting.
A community social worker’s job is to improve conditions in their community by helping individuals and families to find appropriate social services. Also, to improve those services and increase their availability. Community social workers are most often employed by the government, although they may also be employed by NGOs and nonprofit organizations.
There are different specializations within the field of community social work. Some community social workers help those struggling with substance abuse, while others provide mental health services. Family outreach is also a possibility. In general, a community social worker will help to promote and provide services to those in the community who need them the most.
Research social workers play a critical role in improving the social work field. Like other forms of social work, there are different forms and formats that social work research can take.
Sometimes social work researchers look at the big picture and study data or survey results to come up with conclusions. Other times, research social workers are working one-on-one with people, patients, and clients of social work services to determine if the treatment or therapy is effective or how it can be improved.
There is an important interplay between research social work and public policy social work. Public policy social workers use research and data to help craft local, state, and federal policy.
By creating social welfare-related policy, public policy social workers can have an enormous influence on what kinds of social work services are available and how people can access social work services.
Pediatric social workers assist children and their families. Pediatric social workers can help with a wide variety of issues ranging from adoption to trauma. Pediatric social workers also work in a wide variety of settings, from hospitals and social welfare agencies, to clinics and private practices.
Pediatric social workers need well-practiced communication skills in order to navigate family issues and advocate for children. Like other social work fields, pediatric social workers often obtain an MSW to work to be able to work in clinical settings.
Mental health social workers play critical roles in diagnosing and treating mental health in a variety of care settings. Mental health social workers might work in hospitals, clinics, or private practice. They often work alongside and collaboratively with other medical professionals.
One attribute of mental health social workers is that the job can be widely varied, depending on the job setting and patient needs. Like other social work professions, obtaining a master’s degree will open up more opportunities to advance as a mental health social worker.
Substance abuse social workers are at the front lines of the national opiate epidemic. Last year, drug overdoses claimed the lives of 70,000 Americans. The number seems to grow each year.
Treating addiction and drug abuse require a special kind of training and a special kind of social worker.
A private practice social worker refers to social workers that work outside of traditional governmental social welfare or non-profit social welfare agencies.
Often private practice social workers have specialized skills, such as a certain kind of mental health or behavioral therapy and work with a small group of clients. Private practice social workers often have a lot of experience working in other formats before working on their own.
Geriatric social workers help seniors navigate life’s challenges as they also deal with the complex realities of aging. From a biopsychosocial perspective, geriatric social workers assist their clients with services ranging from case management to resource referral to treatment planning. Geriatric social workers also provide advocacy for their clients and the senior population at large. Some may even work on management and policy level to improve services and legislation for seniors.
Marriage and family therapists (MFTs) enjoy the rewarding career of helping people with various mental health issues and emotional concerns. They can provide diagnostic assessments and offer effective interventions to support their clients in making positive changes. MFTs come from many diverse backgrounds, and they can work in numerous settings. Similarly, these professionals are in high demand with faster-than-normal career growth over the next decade.
Social work in the United States began in the nineteenth century working with immigrants and others living in poverty in settlement halls, according to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). These homes served as not only residences, but provided a place for the residents to find employment, medical care, education, and other services they needed to begin a transition to living successful lives in the United States.
Then as now, many immigrants found themselves facing poverty upon arrival in this country. These social work pioneers, and those who followed, believed that addressing all of the root causes of poverty would help their clients build success moving forward. The social work profession grew out of this framework. In a very real sense all social work is an outgrowth of immigration social work.
International social workers are concerned with addressing inequalities of disadvantaged individuals and communities around the world. The field works to ensure the basic needs of each individual are met, communities are equipped to be sustainable and provide services equitably, and that systems of oppression are dismantled.