Approximately 713,200 social workers are employed in the United States. They can be employed in direct or clinical practice, providing individual and family counseling services, or they may work as administrators for the organizations that provide direct practice. Social workers are employed by community health and mental health centers; hospitals and mental hospitals; child care, family services, and community service organizations, including day care and Head Start programs; elderly care programs, including adult protective services and adult day care and foster care; prisons; shelters and halfway houses; schools; courts; and nursing homes.
Most students of social work pursue a master's degree and in the process learn about the variety of jobs available. They also make valuable connections through faculty and other students. Through the university's career services center or an internship program, a student will learn about job openings and potential employers.
A social work education in an accredited program will provide you with the most opportunities, and the best salaries and chances for promotion, but practical social work experience can also earn you full-time employment. A part-time job or volunteer work will introduce you to social work professionals who can provide you with career guidance and letters of reference. Agencies with limited funding may not be able to afford to hire social workers with M.S.W.'s and therefore will look for applicants with a great deal of experience and lower salary expectations.
More attractive and better-paying jobs tend to go to those with more years of practical experience. Dedication to your job, an extensive resume, and good references will lead to advancement in the profession. Also, many social work programs offer continuing education workshops, courses, and seminars. These refresher courses help practicing social workers to refine their skills and to learn about new areas of practice and new methods and problems. The courses are intended to supplement your social work education, not substitute for a bachelor's or master's degree. These continuing education courses can lead to job promotions and salary increases. Social workers with advanced degrees and experience can advance to become social work managers or directors of social work programs. Some become university professors.
Tips for Entry
Participate in internships or part-time jobs that are arranged by your college’s career services office. Try to acquire work that requires you to frequently interact with people.
Visit https://careers.socialworkers.org for job listings.
Join the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities.
Become certified by the NASW in order to show employers that you have met the highest standards set by your industry.