What Can I Do With a Social Work Degree

Public Welfare

Areas

  • Administration and Planning
  • Case Management
  • Program Evaluation
  • Policy Setting
  • Research

Employers

  • Public welfare agencies
  • Private social service agencies

Strategies

Public welfare is designed to provide services and support for poor, disabled, ill, elderly, or juvenile clients.

Volunteer at homeless shelters, soup kitchens, battered women homes, literacy programs, or other social service agencies to get experience.

Criminal Justice / Corrections

Areas

  • Counseling/Therapy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Probation
  • Parole
  • Youth Services
  • Victim Assistance

Employers

  • Prisons and correctional facilities
  • Courts
  • Police departments
  • Probation offices
  • Victim services organizations

Strategies

Social workers in corrections focus on rehabilitation of clients.

Obtain experience by volunteering at a corrections facility or victims program such as a rape crisis center.

School Social Work

Areas

  • Clinical Social Work
  • Pupil Personnel Services
  • Student Advocacy
  • Instruction

Employers

  • Elementary and secondary schools
  • School districts
  • Head start centers
  • Early intervention programs

Strategies

School systems may employ social workers to help students cope with and resolve emotional, developmental, or educational difficulties.

Gain experience with children at daycare centers, camps, or Scouts.

Child Welfare

Areas

  • Case Management
  • Advocacy
  • Intervention

Employers

  • Public and private child welfare agencies
  • Adoption agencies
  • Foster care organizations
  • Child daycare

Strategies

Child welfare social workers strive to ensure the safety and well-being of children through treatment of the whole family.

Volunteer at daycares, child shelters, camps, YMCA, Scouts, or other agencies that aid youth.

Gerontology

Areas

  • Advocacy/Intervention
  • Counseling
  • Case Management
  • Programming
  • Public Policy

Employers

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Senior centers
  • Assisted living
  • Hospice

Strategies

Gerontology involves working with older adults, healthy or ill, and their families.

Get involved with programs or organizations designed for senior citizens.

Clinical

Areas

  • Counseling
  • Therapy

Employers

  • Community mental health centers
  • Psychiatric hospitals
  • Residential and day treatment hospitals
  • Employment assistance programs
  • Schools
  • Family service agencies
  • Private practice

Strategies

Clinical social workers are found in a variety of settings that provide therapeutic counseling to clients.

Master of Social Work (MSW) is required.

Administration

Areas

  • Management
  • Policy Development
  • Planning

Employers

  • Family service agencies
  • Child welfare departments
  • Social service agencies
  • State mental health departments
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Probation departments
  • Public welfare agencies
  • Public interest groups
  • Local, state, and federal government

Strategies

Administrators are involved with planning, budgeting, public relations, marketing, supervising, operations management, fund raising, and other crucial responsibilities that keep an organization functioning.

Obtain an MSW and gain management experience.

Research and Education

Areas

  • Research
  • Teaching

Employers

  • Colleges and universities
  • Research institutes
  • Local, state and federal government
  • Advocacy organizations

Strategies

Research provides data and statistics important in program implementation and policy development.

Doctor of Social Work (DSW) or Ph.D. usually required.

Occupational

Areas

  • Counseling
  • Education
  • Wellness Promotion
  • Employee Assistance
  • Organizational Development
  • Human Resources

Employers

  • Businesses
  • Corporations
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Labor unions

Strategies

Occupational social workers help employees to be more productive and satisfied.

Developmental Disabilities

Areas

  • Case Management
  • Program Planning and Evaluation
  • Research
  • Policy Development

Employers

  • Community residential homes
  • State and local agencies
  • Medical facilities
  • Schools

Strategies

Social workers in this area help people with disabilities to adjust and to lead productive lives.

Volunteer at special needs camps, daycares, schools, or hospitals to gain experience.

Health Care

Areas

  • Case Management
  • Counseling
  • Program Development
  • Administration
  • Research

Employers

  • Hospitals
  • Community health centers
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Public health programs
  • Health maintenance organizations (HMOs)
  • Nursing homes
  • Group homes
  • Hospice
  • Veterans Administration hospitals

Strategies

Social workers in health care facilitate medical and emotional treatment of patients.

Choose volunteer settings such as hospitals, the American Red Cross, or AIDS agencies to get experience.

Community Organization

Areas

  • Program and Community Development
  • Advocacy
  • Politics
  • Education
  • Planning

Employers

  • Advocacy organizations
  • Development corporations
  • Community centers
  • Local, state, and federal government
  • Associations

Strategies

Social workers in this area work with existing organizations to improve conditions for specific groups, enhance quality of living, and involve community members in the political process. Get involved with grassroots causes and community agencies.

General Information

  • Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) prepares individuals for entry-level direct practice.
  • Master of Social Work (MSW) is necessary to provide therapy and for advancement to supervisory or administrative positions.
  • Doctorate in Social Work (DSW) or Ph.D. usually required for positions in teaching, research, and administration. Desirable for some clinical positions and private practice.
  • Complete a degree from a college or university program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Programs include practical field experience.
  • Most states require licensure, certification, or registration.
  • The field practicum is used to determine suitability for this profession and to provide exposure to various practice settings and clients.
  • Candidates should possess empathy for others, an appreciation for diversity, and an interest in social change.
  • Social workers serve a range of client systems (individuals, families, groups, communities) as they attempt to enhance social functioning.
  • Social work is unique given its dual focus on the person and the environment.
  • Note: Much of this information was adapted from Choices: Careers in Social Work by the National Association of Social Workers.

Prepared by the Career Planning staff of Career Services at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. (2005) UTK is an EEO/AA/Title VI/Title IX/Section 504/ADA/ADEA Employer