You may be motivated by the desire to help others and make a positive difference in the lives of those you serve. Or perhaps you have experienced adversity yourself and want to assist others. For many, this is what sparked an interest in the degree. Or you may be drawn to helping a particular population such as those affected by substance abuse disorder, mental illness, abuse, poverty, disease, family problems, aging or eating disorders. Maybe you are someone fired up by social injustice. The MSW arms you with the competencies to pursue work in a wide range of organizations where you can influence policy and change, or become an advocate.
Whatever your particular interest, most social workers are inspired by the idea of making a difference in people’s lives – the kind that really has an impact – and making the world a better place.
Social workers are uniquely positioned as professionals in that their skill set is highly diversified and varied. What may differentiate the MSW from other graduate degrees is that the coursework and training can be as specialized as it can be broad. When it comes to jobs, you may be amazed by all the options and career opportunities you can pursue. Social workers can pivot career wise in ways few other professionals can. In fact, according to U.S. News and World Report’s Best Healthcare Jobs, clinical social work was named as one the 100 best jobs overall for 2015.
Although many social workers develop an expertise in an area – for example, substance abuse counseling – that expertise can develop into an organizational or executive position in that specialty. Or the skills utilized in counseling or in the substance abuse field can be successfully applied to a wholly different job function allowing you to progress into new territory.
Whatever area of work you enter into as a newly minted graduate, you won’t be locked into that practice area. As we said, the MSW is defined by optionality and versatility. The value of your degree will remain high over time and again, across many jobs and industries.
Think about your identity and career as a social worker as having a single mission statement: you help people get their needs met. That opens the door to extraordinary and exciting career paths.
Although one popular career path for the MSW is clinical practice – working in a therapeutic setting directly with inviduals, couples, families or groups – an equally common career path is working with communities, nonprofits, schools or government agencies to address societal problems and pursue social injustice on a local and national level. MSW’s are as equally successful as clinicians in practice, as they are as influencers in policy and program administration.
Here are the most common practice areas for the MSW:
Medical/Public Health social worker: MSW’s in this area usually work in a hospital, hospice, nursing home, rehabilitation center, assisted living facility, private clinic, or emergency room.
Substance Abuse Social Worker/Counselor: Practice here is typically performed in an inpatient or outpatient substance abuse facility. The focus is on helping people struggling with addiction and managing withdrawal and relapse.
Child and School Social Worker: This area of work involves counseling children for academic, personal or family problems, guidance counseling, working with students with learning disabilities and special needs, community work or developing health education and intervention programs.
Mental Health Social Worker Practice work here involves providing psychotherapy and counseling to a range of population’s including individuals, couples, families and groups in varied settings.