Where Are International Social Workers Needed

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International Social Worker

International social work is an important and growing field that addresses the unique challenges and opportunities of working with populations in other countries. Whether it’s providing humanitarian aid in times of crisis or helping to build sustainable communities, international social workers are making a difference all over the world. So where are these workers needed most? Read on to learn more about the areas where social workers are needed right now.


Where are Social Workers Needed?

Social work is a profession that crosses boundaries and aims to help people in need all over the world. However, there are specific areas of the world where social workers may be desperately needed. Here are just a few places where international social workers might make a big difference. Continue reading to find out about the regions that need social workers.

Some of the regions where social workers are needed the most are:


Many African countries face epidemics from Ebola and HIV/ AIDs, leaving many children orphaned and many adults facing mental health and survivor issues. Additionally, some need emergency relief services and victim advocates. Some programs are also beneficial for those who want to help with LGBTQI support (unjobs.org).

  • Countries in need of social workers:
    • Liberia
    • Sierra Leone
    • South Africa
    • Jordan
    • Central African Republic

Caribbean and Latin America:

Throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, many citizens have faced long-term poverty, natural disasters, and a lack of access to quality healthcare. As a result, these countries need social workers in all types of fields. Economic limitations, long-standing political adversity, and social development limitations create the need for social workers in these areas (ifsw.org).

  • Countries in need of social workers:
    • Venezuela
    • Cuba
    • El Salvador
    • Puerto Rico
    • Belize


Refugees from some European countries have skyrocketed. The area has seen 2.48 million refugees in the European Union in the last 2 years. As these migrants get settled in their new countries, social workers may help in a variety of ways. There is a significant amount of need for social workers who may be able to help with easing the emotional and mental wellbeing of those facing the need to leave their home countries.

  • Countries in need of social workers:
    • Greece
    • Turkey
    • Ukraine
    • Germany
    • United Kingdom


Across many Asian countries, there is strife from wars and social changes. These individuals are needed to support people who are embracing modern culture as well as those who need support for children (learn4good.com).

  • Countries in need of social workers:
    • China
    • Taiwan
    • Malaysia
    • Singapore
    • Vietnam


In 2014, New Zealand passed the Vulnerable Children Act of 2014, which provides a platform of accountability and monitoring never before seen in child welfare to help the indigenous population. As a result, they are looking for qualified social workers to provide protective services and education to children. There are also needs for fostering, family support, social workers for those with disabilities, and other needs (jobs.communitycare.co.uk).

  • Countries in need of social workers:
    • New Zealand
    • Australia

Social work abroad is no easy task. It usually involves learning a new language and culture and about challenges facing those citizens. However, many social workers have the natural inclination to help people, including those from any nation, who are dealing with a variety of health and lifestyle issues.

What Does an International Social Worker Do?

International social workers help individuals, families, groups, neighborhoods, and communities around the world overcome the challenges they face, such as poverty, substance abuse, or even after a natural disaster.

However, finding international social work positions may be difficult because organizations need candidates that may help people overcome the specific obstacles facing citizens around the world.

Social workers are committed to making a difference in the lives of people within communities. Therefore, international social workers diligently strive to ease suffering and better the lives of people in need around the world.

But that doesn’t mean social workers do all of the work themselves.

Instead, social work is about helping those in need to discover new and innovative ways to resolve or cope with the challenges they face. That way, their clients have the skills, knowledge, and empowerment to improve their circumstances and overall life.

Did You Know? According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the projected employment of social workers is expected to increase 7% during the ten years from 2022 to 2032. Also, the median annual salary for social workers was $55,350 in May 2022.

Top States for Employment for Social Workers, All Other
StateEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
New York7,940$64,170
South Carolina2,500$41,830

Bureau of Labor Statistics

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International Social Work Jobs 2024

Some of the most common jobs for international social workers usually fall under these categories (BLS):

  • Mental Health: While the specific responsibilities may vary, these social workers assess and treat individuals with mental or emotional problems. These may include helping neglected children or adults with depression, bipolar, or other personality disorders.
  • Education: This is one of the more plentiful opportunities for international social workers. Some positions may include a liaison between a school and students’ families or with special needs children.
  • Rehabilitation: Whether in schools, prisons, rehabilitation facilities, or juvenile correctional facilities, these counselors help people overcome addictions, which often tie in closely with some of the mental health issues mentioned above.
  • Public Health and Disaster Relief: Usually through NGOs and humanitarian organizations, these jobs usually cover a wide range of specialties that include support work for people displaced because of natural disasters, war, or epidemics.
  • Medical and Aging Support: Working in hospitals, emergency rooms, hospices, or assisted living centers, these social workers act as a patient rights advocate, a liaison between caregivers and families, assist with paperwork and financial issues, and provide grief counseling.
  • Child, Family, and School: These social workers spend time working with families and providing individual support to children and schools. This may include aiding with wellbeing checks and ensuring a child is getting access to the care they need.
  • Health Social Workers: These individuals work within medical and healthcare centers with the goal of ensuring a needs are met in areas such as medical and mental health.

This is an offer for educational opportunities that may lead to employment and not an offer or guarantee of employment, and that may help prepare students to meet the licensing or certification requirements of the field they choose to study. Students should check with the appropriate licensing or certifying body to make sure the program they apply to will help meet any licensing or certification requirements. Students should also consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific program curriculum.

How to Become an International Social Worker?

If you want to become an international social worker and help vulnerable citizens all around the world overcome the challenges they face, one of the best ways to do that is to earn a graduate degree in social work.

Depending on your role and where you want to work, you may need to have various licenses, education, or experience. For many roles, it may also be beneficial, though not necessary, to speak the language, or at least have an understanding of the dialect of the region you hope to work.

Other requirements may include:

  • Years of domestic social work experience
  • International experience
  • Knowledge of culture
  • Proven resourcefulness

The biggest challenge for many who want to pursue these positions abroad is gaining the international experience. However, this is one of the most important aspects of earning a paid position because employers, usually NGOs (Non-Government Organizations), are looking for candidates who understand the culture and the unique challenges of those citizens.

One of the best ways to gain that experience is through volunteering. Many organizations are looking for volunteers, especially those with domestic experience and education in social work.

Did You Know? World Social Work Day has been celebrated annually at the UN in New York City since 1983 and in Geneva since 2012 on the 3rd Tuesday in March. In 2018, World Social Work Day will be celebrated on March 20th.

List of International Social Work Organizations

There are a number of organizations that are looking for social workers, such as:

  • The United Nations
  • Save the Children
  • The Peace Corps
  • Council for International Education and Exchange
  • International Rescue Committee
  • International Justice Mission
  • The Institute for International Education
  • The Society for Intercultural Education, Training, and Research
  • British Association of Social Workers

Each of these organizations vary in size and typically look for social workers with a variety of skill sets to help in different situations.

For instance, some of these organizations continuously post short-term positions associated with local authorities. Others are looking for full-time permanent staff members.

Check with each of these organizations, plus the many others that are available, for current openings. However, be sure to read job postings thoroughly to understand the length of service, job requirements, and to see if you’re a good match.

What Is the International Federation of Social Workers?

With 126 country members, the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) strives for social justice, human rights, and social development through the promotion of social work, best practice models, and the facilitation of international cooperation.

In addition to being granted Special Consultative Status by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the IFSW works with:

  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
  • Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

What’s the Difference Between Social Work and Human Services?

While both human services and social work are involved with helping others, those in human services are usually in administrative or managerial roles. Often, these professionals have years of experience in social services and may even have a graduate degree in human services or social work.

On the other hand, usually social workers:

  • Interact directly with clients to carry out social programs
  • Connect them with necessary services
  • Assess their needs
  • Provide counseling

Instead, those in human services positions are more concerned with the bigger picture, which may include:

  • Serving the needs of a particular population
  • Making sure that the services run smoothly
  • Providing supervision and direction to social workers
Top States for Employment for Social and Community Service Managers
StateEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
New York12,560$82,190

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Current Issues in International Social Work

Unfortunately, throughout the world, people aren’t able to meet their basic needs. And, wherever this happens, social workers provide a valuable service to those citizens.

Some of the current issues in international social work that are impacting people around the world include:

  • Sustainable development
  • Income, employment, and poverty
  • Health, mental health, and disability
  • Rights of families and children
  • Issues in aging and medical care
  • Women’s issues and equality
  • Refugees and mass migrations

Though every nation and region needs social workers, the conditions for social work and the exact needs of the people vary from country to country and may change depending on circumstances.

Either way, social workers are part of the infrastructure of every country.

Performing Social Work Abroad

The common goal for those in international social work is to help those who face social disadvantages, or, for whatever reason, are not able to fulfill their basic and secondary needs to participate fully in social life.

Therefore, in each of the social issues mentioned above, social workers can help the people suffering through these events to obtain their basic needs and to overcome their unique set of challenges.

This could be through:

  • Group or family sessions
  • One on one sessions
  • Helping people find work
  • Finding foster care
  • Connecting students to tutoring services
  • Support development of those in need
  • Arrange for quality care

Did You Know? In 2015, the countries of the UN adopted a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Each of the 17 goals has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years and requires the help of governments, businesses, and citizens.

Earn Your Social Work Degree

In fact, many MSW, or master of social work degree programs, and degrees for different types of social work, can be earned in two years by full-time students. Learn more about how choose social work graduate program.

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