Where International Social Workers are Needed

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 can be difficult because organizations need candidates that can help people overcome the specific obstacles facing citizens around the world.

Continue reading to find out about the regions that need social workers, a list of issues facing their citizens, and some organizations you could work for.

What Is International Social Work?

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 16% during the ten years from 2016 to 2026.i

Where Are Social Workers Needed?

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

Africa:

Many African countries face epidemics from Ebola and HIV/ AIDs, leaving many children orphaned, and many adults facing mental health and survivor issues.

  • Countries in need of social workers:
    • Liberia
    • Sierra Leone
    • South Africa

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.

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

Europe:

In 2015, more than 1 million refugees entered the continent and roughly 300,000 more entered in 2016. As these migrants get settled in their new countries, social workers can help in a variety of ways.

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

Asia:

As China’s economy continues to evolve, there is expected to be a shortage of social workers who can help with some of the challenges the underserved and poor class may face.

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

Oceania:

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.

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

Social work abroad is no easy task. It usually involves learning a new language, 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 Do International Social Workers Do?

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

  • 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 most plentiful opportunities for international social workers. Some positions may include as 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, as a liaison between caregivers and families, assist with paperwork and financial issues, and provide grief counseling.

Requirements to Become an International Social Worker

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.

Organizations That Look for Social Workers

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

Social Workers vs. Social and Community Service Managers

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Social Workers earned a median annual salary of $46,890ii in 2016, whereas Social and Community Service Managers earned $64,680.iii

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

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.

In fact, many MSW, or master of social work degree programs, can be earned in two years by full-time students. Learn more about how these programs take a practical approach to subject matter by combining practicums and other forms of hands-on study with research and analysis.

To find the perfect program for you, click on any of the sponsored listings on this page or click on the button below to get matched to programs that suit your needs.


[i] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm#tab-6 [ii] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm#tab-5 [iii] bls.gov/ooh/management/social-and-community-service-managers.htm#tab-5