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Sep-17-2020 00:48printcomments

Ten Career Paths for Those With A Master of Social Work

For those considering pursuing an MSW degree and social work career, here are some fantastic job opportunities.

social worker
Photo by Cottonbro, Pexels

(SALEM, Ore.) - Social work is a broad term that describes a large industry centered around helping people and making meaningful contributions to the community and society.

In general, social work is incredibly fulfilling for all those who pursue it and offers many potentials for career progression and growth.

Whether you've already obtained your MSW degree or looking at enrolling in an MSW degree program, it's beneficial to understand what options are available to you once you graduate.

There are many career opportunities once you have your MSW degree, and you can choose your path based on what you're passionate about.

Although those working in the social work industry aren't typically in it for the money, you can still become incredibly successful. Social work professions provide job security, as the sector is unlikely to become automated as some other ones are.

With anxiety and stress on the rise, more people seek social work services, meaning that employment rates will continue to grow.

For those considering pursuing an MSW degree and social work career, here are some fantastic job opportunities.

1. Addiction social worker

A whopping 21 million Americans suffer from some form of addiction. As an addiction social worker, you will have the chance to help guide those with addictions away from substances and support them on a recovery path.

Addiction social workers can work in rehab facilities, providing assistance with withdrawals, counseling both during and after their time in rehab, working with patients to create strategies to prevent relapse, advising families on how to support the person with the addiction, hosting DUI classes, and more.

Having your MSW degree will allow you to work in this profession, but it's also helpful to obtain certification from NAADAC, which will better prepare you for working with addictions.

The average annual salary for an addiction social worker is about $46,650.

2. School counselor

If you love working with kids and helping them through some of the most influential years of their lives, then becoming a school counselor might be the perfect option for you.

School counselors will work in elementary, middle, and high schools, providing a range of support for all the students. They will work with students to guide them on schoolwork and career planning, including any challenges or barriers they face.

Additionally, they help students navigate emotional, social situations, or issues, such as bullying or any abuse at home. With one in five students reporting being bullied, they must have someone they trust to support them.

As a school counselor, you'll become that person, and someone they can go to with any concerns. Once you obtain your MSW degree, you will be able to start your job search for this role.

The average annual salary for a school counselor is around $54,913.

3. Clinical social worker

A clinical social worker works in a clinical setting, such as a private practice, hospital, or health agency.

They specialize in providing mental health and psychotherapy services to clients to assess their behaviors, counseling, documenting sessions, referring clients to additional services, and monitoring their recovery process. In some states, they may even have the authority to diagnose and treat mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Once diagnosed, they will develop intervention plans to help clients cope with their disorders and overcome them. With over half of adult Americans experiencing mental illness within their lifetime, qualified clinical social workers with an MSW degree are required to keep up with the demand.

The average annual salary for a clinical social worker is $56,200.

4. Marriage and Family Therapist

Dynamics within a marriage or family unit can often be hard to deal with, and many people seek external help from a therapist.

As a marriage and family therapist, you will work with families and couples to treat various mental and behavioral problems. These issues could stem from past trauma that hasn't been dealt with or occurs due to poor family dynamics.

You will observe how the individuals interact with one another and make evaluations based on what you see. You can help couples and families resolve their relationship problems by acting as a sounding board and using questions to prompt them to work through their issues.

If any behavioral or psychological disorders within the family or marriage are causing disruptions, you can both diagnose them and begin treatments.

As a marriage and family therapist, you will also help your clients through traumatic life events such as death or divorce. You will need an MSW degree and a state license to work as a marriage and family therapist.

The average annual salary for a marriage and family therapist is $75,684.

5. Rehabilitation counselor

Rehabilitation counselors help people with disabilities build their skills, become independent, and cope with depression feelings due to their condition.

Those with disabilities may find themselves at a disadvantage when it comes to obtaining a job and may struggle with chronic pain, mobility issues, and finding basic care.

They also may be unable to drive or find transportation to get them to and from a job. As a rehabilitation counselor, you will help these individuals overcome their barriers by assisting them in career development, having counseling sessions to benefit their mental and psychological health, and coordinating rehabilitation activities.

You will evaluate each patient's strengths and limitations and use those to develop an effective plan and set goals. At a minimum, you will need a bachelor's degree for this role, but priority will go to those with an MSW degree.

The average annual salary for a rehabilitation counselor is $45,928.

6. Director of corporate social responsibility

If you're looking for the highest-earning potential that you can get with your MSW degree, it's pursuing a career as a director of corporate social responsibility.

The social work industry has evolved over the years and now includes a lot more than basic counseling. There is now a focus on developing effective government programs to help those who are suffering through counseling and health-related services.

Companies are being held accountable for their social responsibility; that is how they contribute positively to society and their employee's lives.

Companies are expected to give back somehow, beyond just providing their product or service, and consumers are looking for this social responsibility when they choose who they purchase from.

Additionally, potential employees will also look at companies' social responsibility initiatives before deciding to work with them, so implementing these practices is vital.

Social workers are an excellent resource for companies since they are experts in social justice. Companies are hiring MSW-qualified social workers to develop and uphold their social responsibility policies, such as recognizing diversity in the workplace, processes to deal with bullying, and find ways to give back to the community.

Pursuing this job role, especially when working for a large organization, provides one of the best salaries in the industry and a chance to make a difference. You'll need an MSW degree to work as a director of corporate social responsibility.

The average annual salary for a director of corporate social responsibility is $93,400.

7. Child welfare social worker

If you're passionate about giving children the best chance of a happy and safe life, then working as a child welfare social worker could be an excellent fit for you.

As a child welfare social worker, you will help children who live in high-risk homes, such as those with abuse or conflict. You'll work with the children and the rest of the family to help resolve disputes if possible and create a safe living environment for them.

Child welfare social workers are essential in protecting children from neglect and both physical and emotional abuse. You will also serve as the children's advocate, acting as a liaison between the family, community institutions, and government organizations to determine the best place for the child.

In one year alone, an estimated 678,000 children in the United States were victims of abuse and neglect. These statistics are staggering, and child welfare social workers have a large role to play in ensuring these children have a chance to bounce back.

Some of their job tasks will include counseling parents and guardians, attending custody hearings, referring parents to third-party services, and arranging adoptions when necessary. As long as you have your MSW degree, you can pursue this career path.

The average annual salary for a child welfare social worker is $46,270.

8. Geriatric social workers

On the opposite side of the spectrum is senior social workers, who work with the elderly community. A geriatric social worker helps the aging population and their family navigate the challenges of getting older.

There are many services that an elderly family member may require to help them live more comfortably as they age, but people don't know where to start. As a geriatric social worker, you will help connect families to services like meal delivery and home health care.

You will also help seniors' transition into long-term care facilities, both physically and emotionally.

For seniors opting to continue living independently, geriatric social workers can help them make adjustments based on any chronic medical conditions they may have.

It could include linking them up with service providers who can help them with things around the home to make their lives easier, such as cleaning or landscaping services.

It also involves counseling seniors and providing emotional support as they learn to cope with aging and grief. Having your MSW degree will be a tremendous asset if you're looking to pursue this career path.

The average annual salary for a geriatric social worker is $48641.

9. Social science researcher

Working as a social worker doesn't necessarily mean being client-facing. If you have a passion for social justice for all people, then working in the social work industry will be fulfilling regardless of which avenue you go down.

The needs of society are continually changing, and by evaluating and studying those needs, social services can be optimized. Social science researchers will identify the needs of a group of people and which resources they currently have access to.

Through this process, they can identify any holes within the system where societal demands are not being met and suggest changes. They will also analyze the costs of social services and how they benefit the community.

Doing research is a big part of social work since the industry needs as much data as possible to ensure correct priorities. Some essential information that a social science researcher might collect includes data on domestic violence, poverty, homelessness, mental health issues, and more.

By collecting this data, they can then present it to government entities to encourage new social programs or initiatives within a community.

The average annual salary for a social science researcher is $63,561.

10. Military social worker

Both those who are currently working in the military and veterans often require social work services to cope with the trauma they've experienced. Military social workers will work with military members to help them re-enter society after serving in the military.

They can provide counseling services to aid in mental health illnesses, such as depression, PTSD, and intermittent explosive disorder, which are drastically higher in veterans. Military social workers will work with military members to evaluate their condition, provide continued care and treatment, and frequent follow-ups.

For those who are high-risk, they will handle long-term case management and connect patients with beneficial third-party services.

Military social workers will also work with military members to help them obtain employment after serving in the military.

They can provide patients with resources that will allow them to grow their skillset or pursue further education in a career path they are interested in. With an MSW degree, you can pursue a career as a military social worker.

The average annual salary for a military social worker is $69,454.


For those passionate about helping others and making a difference in people's lives, the social work industry offers a range of career opportunities.

Regardless if you want to work with kids, families, couples, seniors, or processes, there is a job role that will allow you to use your MSW degree to pursue a successful career.

Source: Special Features Dept.


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