Social Work

Pursuing Alternatives to Social Work With an MSW

Pursuing Alternatives to Social Work With an MSW
Social work opportunities aren't limited to clinics, hospitals, and nursing homes. Image from Unsplash
Nedda Gilbert profile
Nedda Gilbert July 30, 2018

Social workers aren't limited to clinics, hospitals, and nursing homes—even Google has MSW jobs to help promote women in tech.

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Earning an MSW degree is a great way to launch a social work career. With a master’s in social work in hand, you will be able to pursue licensure and help individuals or groups with many different social needs.

But what if your interests lie outside of the traditional social work field? Opportunities abound for you as well: many people find MSW jobs in other related professions. Consider, for example, that Google has MSW jobs to help promote women in tech and you’ll realize that social work opportunities aren’t limited to clinics, hospitals, and nursing homes. If you’re interested in navigating uncharted waters, this is an exciting time to earn your master’s in social work.

Employers are learning the value of hiring people with their master’s in social work. Respect for the skills the MSW degree brings is on the rise across industries, organizations, and institutions, and for good reason. Social workers are problem solvers, game changers, innovators, organizers, advocates, influencers, implementers, leaders and champions. They engage on a micro level while operating in a macro context. And since MSW jobs require working with a variety of populations, social workers are trained to thrive in almost any setting.

Non-Traditional MSW Jobs

A master’s in social work equips practitioners with an understanding of the human behaviors that drive personal and organizational needs. That’s valuable insight not just in traditional MSW settings but also across the professional world. The cultural competency and sensitivity to diversity of MSW degree holders make them a particularly good fit for organizations that have a commitment to social responsibility and inclusion.

In short, employers of all types now recognize that the social and emotional competencies possessed by MSWs are needed in the workplace.

With that in mind, here are some alternative careers for social workers:

1. College Counselor/Educational Consultant
Because of their training in helping people manage stressful situations, social workers are a natural fit for college counseling and education consulting. A successful counselor must evince empathy, careful listening, and skill at setting expectations, all attributes of a successful social worker. The work is not only emotionally rewarding but can also pay off financially. According to, higher education counselors earn between $48,939 and $65,146 annually.

2. Legal Mediator/Mental Health Advocate in Divorce, Couples and Business Dispute Resolution
Social workers are trained to mitigate and resolve conflict, making mediation a practice area for which MSWs are particularly well suited. Social workers help parties in conflict consider their own emotional needs and the needs of others, help them create fair and realistic agreements, and, when circumstances require, guide them through a separation or divorce. Some states require mediators to complete training programs and acquire certification while others place no such restrictions.

3. Community Outreach
With their training in the psychology of individuals and groups, policy and politics, conflict management and consensus building, MSWs are well equipped to perform community outreach. In fact, many work in field settings doing this type of work while completing their degrees and/or concentrate on social policy within their programs.

4. Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Those with a master’s in social work are also uniquely poised to take on careers in entrepreneurship and social enterprise. That’s because fighting for change and taking on seemingly intractable societal problems is the bread and butter of social work. Trained social workers can think outside the box and bring empathetic but informed perspectives to this work. Their training in interpersonal relations equips them to facilitate the cross-disciplinary collaboration necessary for any social innovation and entrepreneurship undertaking.

5. Corporate Giving and Philanthropy
Because of their training in recognizing and helping vulnerable populations, many in MSW jobs have the expertise to assess and designate organizations worthy of receiving corporate funds. They are well qualified to understand how philanthropic gifts should be allocated and to supervise that allocation.

6. Human Resources
There are many MSW jobs available in human resources, often as counselors with Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) at large organizations. Becoming an EAP counselor means working with employees strugging with alcoholism or addiction, personal issues, mental health, stress, and more. In fact, over 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies have an employee assistance program, and the majority of EAP work is performed by those holding an MSW degree.

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About the Author

Ms. Nedda Gilbert is a seasoned clinical social worker, author, and educational consultant with 25 years of experience helping college-bound and graduate students find their ideal schools. She is a prolific author, including The Princeton Review Guide to the Best Business Schools and Essays that Made a Difference. Ms. Gilbert has been a guest writer for Forbes and a sought-after keynote speaker on college admissions. Previously, she played a crucial role at the Princeton Review Test Preparation Company and was Chairman of the Board of Graduate Philadelphia. Ms. Gilbert holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University and is a certified interdisciplinary collaborative family law professional in New Jersey.

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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Categorized as: Social WorkSocial Work & Counseling & Psychology