When you think about jobs that are in high demand, social work may not be the first one that comes to mind. But in this digital age, science and tech aren’t the only fields that are expanding. There’s always been a need for folks with a passion for working with real live people, and as populations grow, change, and age, the need is only increasing.
It might surprise you to know is that social work is one of the more stable and recession-proof careers there is, and the job outlook for social workers is on the upswing.
According to the US Department of Labor, career opportunities in all areas of social work will rise at a faster than average rate of 12 percent through the next 8 years. A bachelor’s degree in social work is the minimum requirement for many positions, as in almost every professional field. However, greater opportunities are open to those with master’s degrees.
A Master of Social Work (MSW) gives you an edge against the competition and a wider range of options in the job market. An MSW is required for work as a clinical social worker, some states require it for other specified positions, and it is a requisite for supervisorial and leadership positions in most government-funded, nonprofit social service organizations.
On-campus MSW programs take 2 years of full-time or 4 years of part-time study including supervised clinical practice. If you choose to study online instead, coursework can be completed in about 3 years, with supervised field assignments. If you already have a bachelor’s degree in social work, it will typically put you on a fast track to the MSW and decrease your course time by about a year.
Now for the social work careers expected to have the greatest demand in the coming years:
Social workers who provide services in hospitals, clinics, and in the public health arena have an expected job growth rate higher than any other in the social work field, as well as salaries that are generally higher than average.
Licensed clinical social workers provide counseling in these settings, and other social workers engage with patients and their families to serve as advocates by assisting with the sometimes difficult decisions that have to be made, coordinating treatment as well as after-care, and helping with the often confusing paperwork that accompanies medical care.
Baby boomers aren’t babies anymore. As the population ages, social workers with expertise in gerontology have become a needed resource. They provide counseling and other services to seniors, whether they’re still living at home, are in a short-term rehabilitation setting, or in a long-term residential or care facility.
Social workers are an integral part of the professional teams that both public and private schools employ to work with children — and the parents of children — who have behavioral or emotional issues, developmental challenges, learning disabilities, substance abuse problems, and other concerns.
They may also manage truancy prevention programs, sex education, and crisis interventions, and serve as an important link between faculty, parents, and the children themselves.
Another area of social work that is experiencing growing demand is that of helping people with substance abuse addictions. Jobs are available in rehabilitation facilities, prisons and juvenile detention centers, and a variety of non-profit organizations as well as private practices. This demanding arena isn’t for the faint of heart, but can be highly rewarding.
Child welfare social workers are charged with providing services to children who are abused or neglected by their parents, and to children who need special advocacy because their parents can’t afford or are otherwise unable to take care of them properly. Many are involved in child protective services, investigating and intervening in critical situations, and when necessary, finding and placing children in safe care environments.
Businesses are increasingly hiring social workers in their human resources departments to create workplace programs to manage conflict and provide employee assistance.
More and more, corporations are encouraging employees to volunteer in community service, and calling on social workers to coordinate those efforts as well as assisting management in making thoughtful and strategic decisions for directing their local philanthropic activities.
Check out the National Association of Social Workers, for more information on jobs in these and other areas of social work that you might find a perfect fit.