Types of Career Paths for Social Workers

Social workers are very common, but the term is quite vast, and any two social workers could have very different day-to-day jobs. All of them, however, do work to help members of their communities, making this a very mentally rewarding job for many who do it. Specialties within social work include foster care and children, helping the terminally ill, working with veterans, helping victims of abuse, and more.

About one-third of social workers choose to work with children, and that is the largest percentage, meaning there are many other sects of the trade. These individuals can work in schools, for local and state governments, and, a more recent trend, alongside police to help diffuse situations involving mentally ill persons involved in a crime. While most social workers tend to conduct their business with a handful of individuals in a face-to-face setting, some are involved in macro social work, which focuses on a “bigger picture” to help enact lasting change regarding the aforementioned communities that social workers dedicate their lives to helping.

Though not exhaustive, here is a list of career paths aspiring social workers can look into.

Child Welfare

If you enjoy working with children, social work is a great alternative to something like teaching, though be prepared for some eye-opening occasions regarding neglect and abuse. Social workers are often the first individuals to try to connect with children who were victims of trauma and help them get past those experiences mentally and physically. Social workers also help foster kids find forever families and continue to meet with those kids to ensure their health and education needs are being met, and, are ultimately big parts of the fight against child illiteracy, which is more common in low-income and foster families.

Case Manager

Very similar to a project manager in the business world, case managers ensure all community services are being handled correctly and in a timely manner. Normally these individuals do not have much one-on-one time with patients, but it’s necessary to have a firm grasp on what caseworkers do, in “case” something goes wrong and immediate action is needed.

Mental Health

Social workers with a focus on mental health generally get to where they are after focusing their studies on just that, mental health. Extra certifications are often required for these positions, but, generally, there is a little hike in salary, as well. Generally hired by local governments, mental health social workers are advocates for community members suffering from mental health issues such as depression or PTSD, or behavioral issues with children stemming from traumatic experiences.

Clinical Social Workers

For individuals who hold master’s degrees, clinical social work is a great option, as most jobs are at the state level and come with a nice retirement plan on top of the day-to-day activities that involve helping people overcome issues that have caused them to have problems in society. This often included formerly incarcerated individuals, and also members of the community who experienced heavy trauma like the loss of a child or spouse. Generally, clinical social workers work in hospital settings.

Substance Abuse Social Work

As one would expect by the name, substance abuse social workers work with community members who suffer from substance abuse. A very popular trend in local government right now is sending drug offenders through rehabilitation as an alternative to incarceration, and for good reason, as many individuals who go to jail do not overcome their disease and go right back to substances as soon as they are released. Social workers tasked with helping these individuals are truly lifesavers on a very regular basis.

Future of Social Work

Regardless of your path in social work, be sure to be prepared for changes, as many of these jobs are dependent upon legalities within your state or city. It’s wise to continue educating yourself on different parts of the social work spectrum, and sometimes a change might result in you finding an area of social work you didn’t even know existed.