There are many potential career paths for social workers. Some individuals may choose to work directly with clients providing counseling services and support for individuals in need. Others might choose to work as managers or administrators, overseeing the delivery of services or aid. Still others might choose to work as public advocates, working with federal, state government, or local government officials to enact policies aimed at enhancing the lives of populations in need.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual social worker salary in 2012 was $44,2001.
There are numerous jobs, roles, and responsibilities within the field of social work. The following are some examples of types of social workers:
Clinical social workers typically work with individuals, families, and groups dealing with mental health, substance abuse, or addiction issues.
Clinical social workers provide counseling and support to people afflicted by mental, emotional, or behavioral issues, or work with friends and family members of the afflicted to support them in providing care to their loved ones. They may also perform community outreach in an effort to provide people with the resources they need to live safely and healthfully, or act as social and/or political advocates for the people they serve.
Clinical social workers are usually required to earn a master’s degree (MSW) in social work, and undergo several hundred hours of supervised field training in order to meet licensure requirements that enable them to work directly with clients providing mental health counseling and other services.
Clinical social workers are usually required to be licensed through the state in which they wish to practice (NOTE: some states may accept a bachelors degree in combination with practical experience in lieu of a master's degree; be sure to research the licensure requirements in the state in which you wish to practice).
Medical social workers provide psychosocial support to individuals, families, and groups dealing with acute, chronic, or terminal illnesses. They provide counseling services and help connect them with other resources or organizations that might be able to provide assistance or support.
Medical social workers may also work with the care-givers, friends, and family members of people dealing with illnesses to teach them how to cope with their loved ones’ illnesses, and how to best support them.
Medical social workers provide clients with numerous resources such as education, counseling, tools for coping, and referrals to other service providers. They typically must have a bachelor’s degree, some experience working with their prospective population, and, in certain cases, a master’s degree or Ph.D. Medical social workers must also be licensed through the state in which they wish to practice.
Some social workers offer their services privately rather than through organizations. Private practitioners primarily offer counseling and give referrals to other services. Private practitioners may act as direct-service social workers (social workers who work with a particular population or in a particular work environment) or as general practitioners who offer their services to numerous types of individuals, groups, and communities. In this role, social workers handle a lot of their own administrative duties and therefore also act as social work managers. Private practitioners typically have a master’s degree or Ph.D., though there are some cases in which private practitioners only have bachelor’s degrees. Private practitioners must also be licensed to provide services through the state in which they reside.
Social and community service managers work in the administrative side of social work. They typically organize, coordinate, and supervise the administration and delivery of social service programs to individuals, families, and communities. Managers typically work directly with social workers and not with the cliental that the organization and social workers serve. Social and community service managers must have a bachelor’s degree and experience working in the field. Some positions also require managers to have completed an MSW program that compliments the organization’s goals and intentions. Social and community service managers may or may not (depending upon their role and duties) be required to obtain licensure in the state in which they work and reside.