Essential Guide to the Top Careers in Social Work

The Essential Guide to the Top Careers in Social Work

Are you looking to make a comfortable living and make a positive impact on the world? If this sounds familiar, social work may be the ideal field for you. Often considered more a calling than a choice, social workers strive to create space for others to heal, for social justice to take place, and for families to come together — all while enjoying a high rate of job satisfaction and ample opportunities for advancement. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of social workers make around $50,000 a year, with the highest-paid jobs offering upwards of $83,000 — an attractive advantage for those driven by a desire to do good.

Let’s explore the outlook for the top jobs in the field, as well as tips on how to launch your career so you can begin doing what matters: improving the lives of vulnerable people, groups, and communities.

Social Work Settings

Social workers are found in every facet of community life, offering their services and specialties to ensure individuals and their families receive the help they need, when they need it, and from the best resources available. Consequently, these professionals find meaningful employment in a variety of settings that include:

  • mental health clinics
  • schools
  • child welfare agencies
  • human service agencies
  • hospitals
  • settlement houses
  • community development corporations
  • and private practices.

Social Work Careers

Social work offers a wide array of lucrative opportunities in different settings and specialties, especially for graduates who hold a master’s degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities in social work are expected to grow 9% through 2031, much faster than the national average for all other occupations. Four common and profitable social work jobs are:

Healthcare social workers, who provide patients with information and counseling to promote health, prevent disease, and address barriers to access to healthcare. These professionals earn an average of $60,840 per year.

Social work case managers work with clients to assess their needs, facilitate treatment or access to programs and services, and oversee the progress of each case. These professionals earn an average of $55,357 per year.

Child, family, and school social workers provide social services and assistance to improve the social, academic, and psychological functioning of children and their families. These professionals earn an average of $49,150 per year.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers assess and treat individuals with mental, emotional, or substance abuse problems, including abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and/or other drugs. These professionals earn an average of $49,130 per year.

Social Work Industries

Social workers work across industries, conducting research, advocating for improved services, engaging in systems design, and planning new policy development. While most work in an office setting, they may visit clients and meet with colleagues, community specialists, or other support workers. Four common and profitable social work industries are:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals, wherein social workers address health care, behavioral health, criminal justice, social services, and child welfare issues. Professionals working in this industry have an annual salary of $61,190.

Ambulatory healthcare services, wherein social workers assess patient and family needs and concerns related to the impact and understanding of illness and treatment options. Professionals working in this industry have an annual salary of $58,700.

State government, excluding education and hospitals, wherein social workers serve as program analysts, eligibility workers, community-outreach workers, and program administrators. Professionals working in this industry have an annual salary of $48,090.

Individual and family services serve as liaisons between families, children, schools, courts, protective services, and doctors, helping children who face poverty, abuse, or disabilities. Professionals working in this industry have an annual salary of $46,640.

Tips for Pursuing the Profession

Whether you’re considering a career in social work or are already enrolled in an academic program, below are a few tips and best practices for those looking to succeed in the field.

Intern at a relevant organization to build your skill set and gain valuable knowledge and experience that you can add to your resume.
Volunteer at a community service project to help others whilst gaining experience to include on your college applications.
Earn an accredited degree to qualify to sit for the bachelor’s examination offered by the Association of Social Work Boards, and to apply for licensing.
Participate in fieldwork through your academic program to gain familiarity with social welfare, human behavior, substance abuse counseling, and mental health awareness.
Apply for a license to verify your education and experience, use the social worker title, and begin practicing in your state.
Network at industry events or informational interviews to meet people in the field who can answer your questions and assist with job placement.
Tailor your resume to your desired position to draw the shortest line between your experience and what’s stated in the job description.
Practice your interview skills to feel confident during an actual interview, and to ensure you’re prepared to answer any questions the interviewer asks.

The UC Online Difference

If you’re looking for a career with meaning, action, satisfaction, and a variety of professional options, then social work may be right for you — and at UC Online, we’re committed to helping you gain the real-world experience that will set you apart from the pack and prepare you for success in the field. Our Bachelor of Social Work program provides the knowledge and experience needed to launch your career as a community social worker and is ideal for students who hold a 2-year associate degree in pre-social work. Plus, with multiple start dates available, you can begin working toward your degree on your schedule.

Ready to learn more? Explore our online program to discover how you can achieve your goals with a social work degree from the University of Cincinnati Online; or take the leap in advancing your career by beginning your application today.

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