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Top Career Paths and Specializations for Social Workers

For professionals interested in entering the dynamic world of social work, the list of potential job opportunities continues to grow. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data projects that employment of social workers is expected to grow by 7% over the next decade — faster than the average for all occupations across the country.

Employers are searching for social workers who can adapt their skills in settings such as healthcare, schools, child and adult welfare, community health, elder care, hospice, substance abuse treatment and in policy and legislation and advocacy. Upon earning an online Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) from Avila University, graduates will have the qualifications to kick off their careers while also opening the door to continued education and credentials necessary to practice independently and take on supervisory roles.

Overview of the Social Work Profession

As prospective social workers pursue their education, they should consider the different opportunities available within the field. Indeed features five different paths for social workers: clinical, non-clinical, micro, mezzo and macro.

Regardless of their particular role, social workers are committed to improving the well-being of individuals, groups, families, organizations and communities. They have a particular regard for those who are, or have been, oppressed, marginalized or otherwise disenfranchised. Those with a BSW are educated to do generalist social work, meaning they have a broad skill set to work in multiple settings.

The clinical track focuses on helping individuals with emotional and behavioral issues access the services they need within different settings, including hospitals, law enforcement and court systems. Non-clinical social workers, on the other hand, help community members outside of the healthcare and mental health spaces. They can find job opportunities in schools, community organizations and legal aid groups serving as client advocates in court.

Micro social work focuses on licensed clinical social workers, who typically help individual clients in private practice. This path requires more education outside of a bachelor’s degree. In macro social work, professionals advocate for systemic change through research and government lobbying efforts. These social workers try to help entire populations through policy change rather than working with individual clients.

Other professionals may still focus on mezzo social work, which combines macro and micro. Instead of working with only individual clients, mezzo-focused social workers might help an entire family access government services or other therapeutic care.

Child and Family Counseling

Professionals working in child and family counseling work primarily with families who need assistance from government and nonprofit partners. Some of their duties include locating housing or childcare for parents and helping them apply for benefits they qualify for, like food stamps, Indeed reports.

Under job titles like child welfare specialist or case manager, social workers are responsible for ensuring the safety of children by making visits to their homes, writing reports about their treatment and offering counseling support to families as they experience different challenges, according to Indeed. Child, family and school social workers earned a median wage of $50,820 in 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Healthcare Social Workers

Social workers in the healthcare space serve in a variety of roles, including mental health substance abuse counselors, elder care workers and outreach staff. With a bachelor’s degree in social work, professionals can obtain jobs as health educators developing programs to teach youth, older adults and other communities about how to maintain healthy habits and access services, according to Indeed. In other cases, their position may include serving as an outreach worker facilitating communication between service agencies and their elderly clients.

Healthcare social workers make a median wage of $60,280, while mental health and substance abuse counselors earned a median salary of $51,240 in 2022, according to BLS data.

Correctional Counseling

Many professionals work directly with prison populations, either as counselors for incarcerated people or as probation officers for people in the criminal justice system. Correctional counselors, often called correctional treatment specialists, identify rehabilitation needs and strategies that will help incarcerated individuals re-enter society after serving their prison sentences.

Job duties of counselors or probation officers can include training and education plans for earning a GED or connecting the prisoner with substance abuse treatment services, according to Chron. The BLS found that correctional treatment specialists and probation officers earned a median wage of $59,860 in 2022.

The Value of a Bachelor in Social Work From Avila University

Avila University’s online Bachelor of Social Work program allows graduates to examine social problems, understand social legislation and policy, develop research skills and gain real-world experience serving clients in a social work setting. With a variety of career options and continuing education options available, professionals will have the broad base of knowledge they need to pursue whichever path speaks to them.

Learn more about Avila University’s online Bachelor of Social Work program.

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