3 Top Careers in Social Work

A Master of Social Work degree can lead to many gratifying and challenging careers. Social workers in any specialized field are responsible for a variety of duties that can range from offering support to people in difficult situations to advocating for people in courts of law. A social worker may help to diagnose mental and behavioral disorders.

After completing a Master of Social Work, graduates also consider the many unique careers that are available outside of traditional social work and counseling positions. An individual social worker may choose to work with specific demographic groups such as the elderly or children.

A Master of Social Work degree prepares graduates for specialized careers in the field. This includes healthcare careers, administrative positions in organizations and agencies, and academic positions like researchers and professors. In some cases, these specialized careers require a specialty certification and on-the-job experience.

Social Work Researchers and Research Assistants

A researcher or research assistant in the social work field devotes their time and skills to learning about and discussion trends and progress in their field. This may include social work-related policies, best practices and how to apply these lessons. Researchers facilitate inter-professional support for other social workers concerning barriers and issues in this field. They may also design and offer learning opportunities and publish papers in social work publications. A social work researcher assistant aides a researcher in this pursuit. Social work researchers and research assistants often work as professors or in educational settings.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for a social work teacher or researcher is $67,500. Those who work in colleges, universities or professional schools make around $68,480. The Society for Social Work and Research is a professional association that provides social workers and social work researchers with resources relating to the progress of their field.

Government Policy Advisor

Professional and academic experience in social work can be a very important and useful characteristic of a government policy advisor because the policies of the government often affect issues like poverty, the environment, healthcare and education. Social workers have firsthand experience in dealing with these issues through the nature of their work, so influencing policies and putting policy into action to facilitate change is an ideal career for experienced and well-educated social workers. The BLS reports that those social workers who work in state and local government positions make an average salary of $47,140 a year.

Social Work Abroad

Social workers can find plenty of positions internationally, as well as in their own community. Humanitarian organizations and agencies hire individuals with graduate degrees in social work because of their experience with trauma and helping people in stressful situations. However, these jobs require more than just a degree and some professional experience. Such social workers need to possess a knowledge of the culture that they will work in, resourcefulness, tenacity concerning working in difficult or possible dangerous situations and, if appropriate, fluency in different languages. Many of these positions require at least five years of experience in domestic social work and some international experience.

A barrier to success for international social workers can be an inability to reconcile personal cultural experiences and beliefs with those of the people they are serving. In order to overcome this barrier, an international social worker must have empathy across class and culture as well as heightened communication skills. Though international social workers for religious, grantmaking or other related organizations make less than other social workers, the cost of living in foreign countries may stretch their salaries further. The average salary for one of these professionals is around $35,910, according to the BLS.