Careers in Social Work
Social work is a profession concerned with promoting the well-being of people. It includes assisting individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities to achieve life-enhancing goals as they learn to cope with or shape the social and environmental forces affecting daily life.
Relevant coursework includes classes in sociology, psychology, urban problems, criminal justice, human development, social work methods, and field experience.
Important Skills and Traits to Have:
- Passion for social justice
- Ability to advocate for equity and inclusion
- Strong cross-cultural skills
- Advocacy skills
- Courage to challenge injustice and to work for social change
- Creative problem solving
- Emotional maturity
- Listening skills
- Establishing trusting relationships
- Written/verbal communication
- Knowledge of a second language (especially Spanish) is helpful
Outlook for Field
Employment opportunities in social work are projected to grow much faster than average (11 percent from 2018 to 2028), due to an aging population, additional home health care services, an increasing number of children living in poverty, increased social work needs in schools, and greater emphasis on substance-abuse treatment rather than imprisonment for drug offenders. About half of social work jobs are expected to be in health care and social assistance industries, with about 30 percent of jobs in government agencies.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the median annual earnings of child, family, and school social workers were $49,470 in May 2018. The median annual earnings of healthcare social workers were $56,200 in May 2018. The median annual earnings of mental health and substance abuse social workers were $44,840 in May 2018. The median annual earnings of child, family, and school social workers were $46,270 in May 2018. For additional career information, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook for Social Workers.
Possible Career Paths
- Community-based Social Worker
- Clinical Therapist
- Social Work Educator
- Hospital Social Worker
- Child Welfare Worker
- Public Health Social Worker
- Medical Social Worker
- Case Manager
- Geriatric Social Worker
- Non-profit Administrator
- Community Organizer
- School Social Worker
- Public Policy Advocate
- Refugee and Resettlement Social Worker
- International Social Work
Social work majors may also decide to pursue a master’s degree. Here is a list of graduate schools that recent social work alumni have attended.
- Loyola University Chicago
- New York University
- University of Illinois at Chicago
- University of Wisconsin-Madison