“Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”
- Anne Frank
Social Work careers offer professionals the flexibility to enter diverse fields of practice including individual therapy, family therapy, group work, case management, program planning, administration, school social work, policy analysis, and advocacy.
Medical & Health Care Social Workers can be found working in hospitals, clinics, or public health service. Often, social workers become involved in assisting a family to mobilize its resources in order to care for a sick or handicapped child or adult. Medical Social Workers work with a team of other health-care providers to establish safe discharge plans from hospitals or nursing facilities. They provide patient education on self-care and specific diagnoses, and assist individuals with health care needs to access community services. Some Social Workers have specialized areas of expertise such as working in pediatric oncology, rehabilitation and the physical medicine, cardiac rehabilitation, inpatient mental health. Many Social Workers have practiced in the area of public health and Veterans’ services. Medical Social Workers frequently work with complex situations and with individuals and families in crisis. It is an interesting and rewarding area of practice.
Family & Children Services The family is recognized as humanities’ basic institution is considered fundamental to societies. It is central to the molding of personality of children and adults. Social work recognizes the importance of “relationships” to all human beings. In a changing world, family structures are changing as well. Families are sometimes composed of individuals who are not related by blood, but by the nature of the relationships. Families are also part the larger society, and they influence both individual and group behavior. Some Social Workers are involved in specialized areas of practice related to children and families. A few of those specialties include premarital counseling, marriage counseling, domestic violence intervention, parenting and family skill building education, child protection, adult protection, developmental disabilities, and early childhood intervention. Family and child welfare services involve the provision of economic support, in-home care for children, foster care, and assistance with access to mental health services. Social Work seeks to maintain families, enhance family functioning, and protect the most vulnerable members of society.
Aging Services Many Social Workers find great satisfaction in work with the geriatric or elderly populations. The meaning and dignity of being human, and the intrinsic value and worth of individuals is the basis for Social Work practice with older populations. Social Workers work on insuring adequate income to meet physical needs, promoting the best possible physical and mental health, assisting with the opportunity for employment if desired, maintaining suitable housing, and developing community resources and services to meet special needs. Social Workers involved in geriatric care assist seniors in maintaining their freedom, independence and their right to exercise individual decision-making in the planning and management of their lives and health care. Believing that seniors deserve to retire in honor and dignity, Social Workers engage in research and legislative action aimed to improve the health and happiness for American seniors.
Substance Abuse Social Work intervention in the treatment and rehabilitation of those addicted to drugs or alcohol aims to address recovery and to alleviate both the social conditions that lead to abuse and the impact on family units in society. While there are several models and theories regarding addiction, Social Workers seek to address addiction issues in a systemic way. Social Work recognizes that human behavior occurs in an environment, and environments impact human behavior. Social workers can be found in treatment settings which include therapeutic communities for young substance users, family treatment groups, outpatient services, assessment, emergency care and detoxification, inpatient substance abuse treatment, and community prevention.
Domestic Violence Domestic violence is an area of intervention in which Social Workers can be found working with victims of violence or rape or with family members who are impacted by the violent acts of others. Social Workers provide crisis intervention, assessment, group treatment, agency administration and grant writing, volunteer organizing and community resource development. Many of the resources available today for domestic violence intervention are the results of collaborative work between Social Workers and other concerned community members. A BSW education provides the skills, ethical standards, and values to enable a Social Worker to make judicious and effective decisions in difficult or volatile situations. Many who work in the field of domestic violence have a profound personal commitment to the work and they understand the challenges that victims face.
School Counseling Social workers can be found in schools providing support for children and education for parents and staff in the educational field. They are engaged with the team of professionals in the development of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for children with significant disabilities, mental and health issues, learning disabilities and behavior problems. The "person in environment" and "strength based" approaches inform Social Work practice and enable the trained Social Worker to provide assistance when children are challenged by life circumstances or difficult home situations which interfere with their learning or development of positive self-esteem.
Family Preservation Because of the value Social Work places on the importance of relationships for all human beings, the preservation of family units is an important goal. The profession recognizes that while challenges and difficulties may impact a family, the resources and strengths of the family unit can serve to mitigate and stabilize a crisis. Social Workers seek to engage families in education and activities which will enhance their strengths and improve in the functioning of individuals and the family as a unit. Family preservation and protection of vulnerable members of society are core values for the provision family and children's services.
Employee Assistance Many employers provide short-term mental health and counseling services for their employees. It is recognized that these services can improve worker productivity and satisfaction. While employees may "take their work home with them" it is also true that they may "bring their family problems to work" with them. Some individuals will seek employee assistance services on their own, and others may be referred by their supervisor. Areas of assistance include drug and alcohol assessment and referral, community services and resource access, grief and loss, family conflict, adolescent developmental issues and other parenting or marital concerns. Employees who need longer-term or specialized interventions are typically referred after a period of assessment. Social Workers often find employee assistance programs to be an interesting and rewarding area of practice.
Juvenile Delinquency Social Workers become involved with intervention in juvenile delinquency in several settings. Sometimes a situation in the schools or community leads to a referral or court order to meet with a Social Worker. Social Workers may also be found working in institutions that provide out- of- home- care for juveniles who have had problems with the law, difficulties at home, problems with substance abuse, learning disabilities and mental health challenges. Social Workers seek to utilize the strengths of their clients to enhance self-esteem, enable them to overcome obstacles and develop responsibility and good decision-making skills.
Developmental Disabilities There are numerous developmental disabilities which can challenge an individual, but the value of the person and their right to equitable treatment under the law remains a constant for Social Workers. Social Workers may be involved in early childhood intervention such as Head Start, work with adults in sheltered work environments, assist with independent living, provide case management services, and develop community resources on behalf of those with developmental disabilities. While assisting their clients, those who work in this area of practice find it to be enriching their own lives as well.
Mental Health Therapist A Master's Degree in Social Work (MSW) is often required to provide therapeutic services in mental health settings. A bachelor’s degree can qualify the graduate to work in case management services for those with persistent mental health problems, to provide "clubhouse" and independent living support, assessment and intake. Social Workers who perform this work gain invaluable experience in the area of mental health. For those interested in pursuing private mental health practice in the future, a BSW degree can reduce the time needed to obtain the MSW by a year.
Organizational Trainer Social Workers in the position of Organizational Trainer may be employees of that organization or work for a firm that specializes in education and corporate training. Stress Management, managing aggressive behavior, career advancement, organizational dynamics, and personal growth and awareness are some of the topics that might be presented by a Social Worker for an organization. Because Social Workers have specific training in intervention with groups, organizations and communities they are effective organizational trainers.
Forensic Social Work Social Workers are in a common part of the team providing a service to those who are incarcerated or on supervised release in the criminal justice system. They provide assessment and group counseling in adult and juvenile diversion programs. Probation offices, police departments, prisons and district attorneys benefit from the services of a trained professional Social Worker. This is a growing area of Social Work and offers the opportunity to assist offenders to adopt more functional behaviors, understand the motivation and impact of their crimes, identify societal norms and advocate within the field for social justice.
Adoption & Child Care Home studies for prospective adoptive parents are often conducted by Social Workers. Some Social Workers work for private nonprofit agencies or religious organizations, others contract with attorneys involved in adoption, and some work for a state Department of Health and Human Services. Efforts are made to find a loving and permanent home for children who are in the foster care system or have been released for adoption by their birth parents. Also, Social Workers are involved with inspection and licensing of child care facilities. Because children cannot speak for themselves in most cases, the goal is the protection and well-being of children who are vulnerable members of society.
Adult & Juvenile Felons Individuals who have been convicted of a felony have complex problems on release after incarceration. Social Workers are often involved in assisting with re-integration into the community, locating resources, assuring access to community services and assisting with employment. In addition, Social Workers often serve as counselors and group facilitators for individuals who have been ordered to diversion programs rather than to jail. Social Workers can be found in residential treatment programs or half-way houses, the juvenile detention and probation fields.
Residential Treatment Children, adolescents and adults may be found residing in specialized facilities focusing on particular problems. There are residential treatment centers for individuals in substance abuse recovery, or recently released from jail or prison, and those with significant mental health problems. Children sometimes are placed in residential treatment for a complex combination of social, legal and behavioral problems. Social Workers are especially well trained for work with individuals in crisis or transition and strive to encourage the identification of strengths in clients with which they can build a more functional life and promising future.
Crisis Intervention When an individual is in a crisis they can benefit from the services of a professional Social Worker. Social Workers provide support and reassurance, identification of support network, assistance with complex problem-solving and access to community resources. Often, a crisis is an opportunity for change. Social Workers assist individuals and families through the change process and with decision-making in times of crisis. Social Workers are often some of the first professionals to report to areas struck by natural disasters. They assist with locating family members, supporting those in crisis, establishing triage centers and mobilizing community and regional resources. Social Workers are also involved in critical incident debriefing for first responders to the disaster such as police, firemen, doctors and nurses.
Disability Support Vocational and medical rehabilitation are areas in which Social Workers offer education, group facilitation, assessment of client support systems, identification and access to assistive device technology and educational and vocational accommodations. Social Workers assist individuals with disabilities to maximize their potential and overcome challenges and barriers to personal independence and autonomy. A patient may first encounter a Social Worker in the hospital or in arehabilitation program and continue to work with a number of Social Workers during all recovery phases. Social Workers advocate for client self-determination and treatment options with insurers and community resource providers.
Refugee Resettlement In a world of conflict and war, shifting political and national boundaries, many individuals are displaced. They flee from political oppression, harsh regimes, and economic crises. On both the national and international levels, Social Workers can be found providing assistance to refugees. Social and distributive justice and equity in distribution of resources are core values of the Social Work profession. Many Social Workers see the opportunity to make significant differences for individuals, families and countries through application of their training in the field of refugee resettlement.
Management Social Workers are valuable managers and administrators and can be found in hospital systems, government and private non-profit organizations. Because their training includes provision of services at multiple levels, facilitation of group processes and organizational dynamics, Social Workers rise to high levels in the Administration of their organizations. Social Workers are grant writers and community organizers. Many identify a community need and are the "non-profit entrepreneurs" who start up new services and agencies.
You can learn more about Social Work Careers at: http://www.socialworkers.org/students.
There are several descriptions and information at http://www.helpstartshere.org.
Then, click on the icon at the bottom of the page to view "On Any Given Day", a video about being a Social Worker.