Social work is all about helping people, and, unfortunately, there are many people who need help.
If you have a passion for helping those less fortunate or want to find more purpose in your life, finding a job in social work can be a great, rewarding career.
No matter what role you find yourself in, you’ll be making a difference in someone’s life. With the ever-changing world, there are always new challenges facing people from all walks of life, meaning social workers learn to adapt to these changes to improve the quality of life for others in their community.
But what types of jobs are actually available? Not everyone in social work is simply a ‘social worker’. There are several specialisms and progression routes you can take, with an endless number of job possibilities.
Where do social workers work?
Social workers are able to walk in just about every corner of society. Depending on the types of vulnerable people you want to work with, you could see yourself working in a wide selection of different environments.
If you’re particularly interested in working with high-risk communities or offenders, you could take a role in a prison or homeless care outreach center. Those that want to work with children may find themselves working within community centers, schools, or even hospitals. There are also social work roles in the government and within other large corporations.
It’s likely you could find a job in social work just about anywhere you look, so the possibilities for keeping your career varied are endless.
That said, there are obviously some jobs that are in much higher demand. As the baby boomer generation gets older, seniors have to face their own challenges – meaning they often need extra support. As such, there are a significantly large number of jobs available working with the elderly. Similarly, as communities become more culturally diverse, social workers that are able to adapt and understand different cultures will be in high demand.
How much do social workers earn?
Nobody goes into social work for the salary. The rewarding sense of purpose is fulfilling enough. However, it’s always nice to know what to expect in terms of salary if you’re looking to pursue a new career in social work.
The BLS suggests that the average salary for social workers is $50,470, but this accounts for both entry-level and senior positions. Those doing the hands-on work within the community tend to be on modest salaries, while managerial positions could easily see you earning up to $82,000.
The best social work jobs
There are plenty of opportunities for social work graduates. But here are a few to inspire you.
1. Healthcare Social Worker
Physical illness can make family life incredibly complex. Whether it’s caring for another family member, or an individual struggling with their day-to-day tasks, social workers can be the support they need.
Healthcare social workers offer support to help arrange health insurance and advanced care for those that need it. They’re also able to provide counseling to both sufferers and their families.
Almost a quarter of all social workers are actually employed within the healthcare sector, so if you want to help those with physical illnesses, you won’t be alone. Social workers working in healthcare tend to work in ambulatory services, outpatient care centers, and hospitals.
Annual salary for social workers in healthcare: $56,750
2. Veteran Social Worker
There is surprisingly very little help for veterans, which is why veteran social workers are so important. The US Department of Veteran Affairs works to support veterans and their complex needs after service. Veteran social workers provide therapeutic care and preventative services.
Day to day, the work of a veteran social worker can seriously vary. One minute you might be counseling, and the next long-term planning.
Annual salary for veteran social workers: According to PayScale, $64,449
3. Social and Community Service Manager
This managerial role will require you to be an advocate for the work of social workers. You’ll be the voice for communities, speaking to local leaders to help gain funding or to implement integral initiatives that could make a huge difference.
Social and Community Service Managers tend to specialize in either a vulnerable group of people or a specific demographic. For example, you may want to work with those struggling with substance abuse or homelessness. Alternatively, managers can choose to work with children or seniors.
As communities become more diverse, Social and Community Service Managers are becoming in high demand, so there’s somewhat high earning potential.
These positions can lead to a salary of around $85,000.
4. Adoption Social Worker
If you’re passionate about the welfare of children and want to see the joy and happiness adoption can bring to both vulnerable children and their new families, becoming an adoption social worker could be the perfect choice for you.
Adoption social workers typically work in government or private organizations, meaning there’s some level of job security.
Social workers for adoption services will conduct initial home assessments to determine the best placements for each child. They may also offer counseling to the adoptive parents and direct them to resources and support services available to them.
Glassdoor suggests that adoption social workers have an average salary of $49,450.
5. Gerontological Social Worker
It’s no secret that the US has an aging population. However, the US Census now suggests that the older generations (seniors above 65) will outweigh the younger (18 and under) by 2034.
With this aging population, the demand for gerontological social workers will increase. There’ll be new social challenges to face, and each senior will have their own specific needs in terms of maintaining a good quality of life.
Gerontological social workers will experience a hugely busy working life as they’ll be coordinating any health care needed for their seniors, supporting independent living, or helping with residential transitions – be that to a new property or into an assisted living facility.
These social workers find work within both government and community agencies but can also find positions in local nursing homes.
Average annual salary: $50,000.
6. School Social Worker
For those interested in focusing on the younger generations, there is plenty of work available in schools and other educational facilities. As a school social worker, you’ll be supporting both children and young adults with their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing, all while guiding them through to academic success. If you would be interested in play therapy for children, visit Claritychi.com.
Salaries can seriously vary for school workers, as it all depends on location and the type of school you’re working at. However, the average salary is around $47,390, with the option to earn more depending on experience.
7. Substance Abuse Counselor
Perhaps you’ve been personally affected by addiction and have seen the damage it can have.
Or maybe you have a successful recovery story that has inspired you to move into social work.
Whatever your reasoning, a career as a substance abuse counselor can be incredibly rewarding.
You’ll work with people of all ages to try and address their abusive behaviors, helping them find the help they need or working with them to find their triggers and new, healthier coping mechanisms.
Unfortunately, the pay for a substance abuse counselor isn’t particularly high, ranging around $39,721 a year. That said, your work can seriously make a difference – and perhaps even save lives.
8. Clinical Mental Health Social Worker
For this role, you’ll be working in a medical or therapy setting. You’ll work with all ages and support people through complex and personal situations.
For clinical mental health work, you’ll need to study an additional master’s degree, as there is so much more to learn about psychology before trying to help others develop personal goals and deeper purpose.
Clinical social workers can earn anywhere from $56,914 to $78,000 a year.
9. Child and Family Social Worker
A key part of social work is promoting wellbeing, and that’s exactly what a child and family social work does.
Low-income parents are a particularly vulnerable group that can benefit from the support of a social worker. In your work, you may help them create a long-term plan for achieving family goals or direct them to resources for their children.
Another key role for these social workers is to identify signs of abuse, neglect, or safety concerns for children. You’ll be working in the best interests of the child and will aim to improve their emotional wellbeing as well as their academic performance if needed.
Family social workers may also be required to step in as an advocate in court.
Average annual salary: $47,390.
10. Corporate Social Worker
What you may not realize is that there is a place for social workers in the corporate world.
Businesses now hold social responsibility, meaning they often need the support of social workers to direct them.
Social workers will help to encourage businesses to give back to their communities or share profits with non-profit organizations. You’ll also play an integral role in ensuring the business implements responsible practices that benefit wider than their organization.
Naturally, social workers that work in the corporate setting tend to build up a high profile and can be paid an average salary of $81,284.
These are just ten jobs in a world of possibility. If you’re empathetic and want to work with less fortunate people, social work is guaranteed to have the perfect role for you.