Social workers make up the nation’s largest group of mental health services providers, accounting for more than 40% of disaster mental health volunteers trained by the American Red Cross, and holding more than 10,000 positions within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.* Nearly 650,000 social workers are employed in the U.S. alone, and the field is expected to grow by 12% in the coming decade.† While some social workers have made careers in policy-making or administration, most spend their time directly helping people in need. Social workers are most commonly involved in areas such as the following:
Healthcare social workers often hold a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree and help patients and families in medical settings such as hospitals, clinics, hospices, and long-term care facilities. They assess the needs of patients from a holistic point of view, looking at social and emotional situations, living environments, financial concerns, and familial support structures. Using this information, social workers counsel patients on healthcare decisions, lead support groups, and assist patients who need to put plans in place for their care after leaving the hospital.
Mental illness is often a lifelong condition. Social workers in the mental health field may hold an MSW degree and work in clinics and in community settings, helping clients manage their mental illness. Social workers help connect clients with resources that meet their health, financial, and other needs.
Families can face all kinds of challenges, including coping with a death, escaping abuse, or handling a conflict that’s creating an unstable home. Whatever the difficult situation, professionals who have graduated from an accredited social work degree program can often help. Sometimes, this help is as straightforward as providing conflict-resolution assistance. But social workers can also help in crisis situations, connecting families with immediate healthcare or mental health resources, or recommending a child be removed from a dangerous environment. For family social workers, the ultimate goal is to help families create stable and healthy homes. If you’re looking to provide this type of assistance, some online MSW programs have specializations in social work with children and families.
While social workers play a significant role in both inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment, anyone in the social work field may encounter issues of addiction with their clients. When they do, it’s their job to provide assistance and help their clients find appropriate and financially feasible treatment. Social workers specifically focused on addiction provide services similar to healthcare social workers, helping the client and the client’s family to get the patient into recovery and set up necessary support structures.
Many schools, both public and private, employ social workers who’ve earned an MSW degree. These social workers help students and their families through such issues as behavioral problems, learning difficulties, bullying, and mental health concerns. Many educational social workers also help families experiencing economic crisis, providing guidance and ensuring these families are aware of assistance programs available through the school and in the community. In many cases, social workers in our schools are the front line of defense for children and their families.
If you think social work could be the right career for you, you might consider enrolling in a CSWE-accredited online MSW program. While some entry-level social work careers require no more than a bachelor’s degree, many of the profession’s advanced positions require you to have earned your master’s. Earning your MSW degree online can make the process easier, since online universities are structured with convenience in mind—allowing you to advance your education without uprooting your life.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online MSW program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
*National Association of Social Workers, Social Work Profession, on the Internet at www.socialworkers.org/pressroom/features/general/profession.asp.
†Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014–2015 Edition, Social Workers, on the Internet at www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.