What Can You Do with a Social Work Degree?

Ready to start your journey?

For those who want to be on the front line of helping others through challenging situations or improving the community, researching social work careers can be a rewarding path.

Social Work Careers

A degree in social work is a great way to get started in a rewarding, challenging career field that offers opportunities and the chance to help others.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

From child advocacy to working as a business advisor or community liaison, there are a number of exciting ways you can utilize your social work degree to make a difference in society.

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

what can I do with a social work degree

As you can see from the information above, there are countless opportunities to get started in a rewarding and varied career with a degree in social work.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

When wondering what jobs can you get with a social work degree, it’s helpful to know that those who choose to become a social worker can find employment in a variety of settings, including education, family services, or adoption and foster care.

Once you’ve obtained your degree, you can choose from micro, mezzo, or macro social work.

  • Micro social work involves licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) who focus on an individual. In micro social work, you may help an individual with physical, emotional, or mental challenges they are facing.
  • Mezzo social work involves LCSWs, like micro, but they work with multiple people within groups, like families or even an entire community. Mezzo work involves collaborating with others to help your various clients. This type of social work is typically handled at the institutional level of practice.
  • Macro social work involves large-scale collaboration. Macro social work typically includes changes in social policy or implementing new social programs that may affect a large group of people, such as a school or community. With this type of social work, you likely will not work one-on-one with clients.

Depending on if you prefer to work directly with individual clients or with larger groups, such as families, will help you determine what type of social work you’re interested in. If you are looking to make a larger change, such as creating or changing large-scale policies or programs, macro social work may be worth looking into.

While many social work career ideas have pay equal to or above the national average across all occupations according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you may make more or less depending on your specialty within the field. For example, if you have a Doctor of Social Work (DSW), you may qualify for more advanced positions.

10 Things You Can Do with a Degree in Social Work

social worker on duty

One of the main occupations professionals with a social work degree pursue is social worker, which can include working with children, adults, or communities.

According to the BLS, similar career paths in social work include health education specialists, social service assistants, correctional treatment specialists, and community health workers. A social work degree can equip you with the skills and knowledge to advocate for social policies, research available resources for clients, and help improve the lives of others through various methods of support.

1. Social Worker

Social Worker visiting an elderly

Education Requirement: Bachelor’s Degree

Social workers help children, families, adults, or communities cope with the challenges they’re facing. Some social workers may work in healthcare, education, and government, or offer their services to individual clients.

Some daily responsibilities of a social worker may include identifying communities or individuals in need, helping clients cope with life changes or personal issues, and referring clients to various resources relevant to their situation.

2. Clinical Social Worker

Clinical Social Worker visiting her elderly client

Education Requirement: Master’s Degree

Clinical social workers are licensed professionals who provide healthcare services to clients. These services can include performing clinical and behavioral assessments, giving diagnoses, and preparing treatment plans.

A clinical social worker may specialize in mental or behavioral health, substance use, or disabilities. Since these social workers provide clinical services, state licensure is usually needed to practice.

3. Child Welfare and Family Social Workers

Child Welfare and Family Social Worker visiting a family

Education Requirement: Bachelor’s Degree

Child welfare and family social workers work with children and families that need support and assistance with life challenges.

Some of the services they perform may include providing families with resources for food stamps, finding housing or childcare, or protecting children or families from harmful situations. These professionals may also coordinate with adoption or foster care services.

4. Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker

Substance Abuse Social Worker in a group therapy session

Education Requirement: Master’s Degree

Mental health social workers help individuals struggling with mental health or behavioral disorders. Professionals in this field obtain licensure or certification so they can provide diagnoses and treatment plans for their patients.

Substance abuse social workers help individuals struggling with addiction and provide intervention and treatment plans to help them with recovery.

5. Health Education Specialist

Health Education Specialist discussing to community residents

Education Requirement: Bachelor’s Degree

Health education specialists work for the government, hospitals, outpatient care centers, or individual and family services. Some professionals also work for nonprofits or other types of organizations.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

These professionals inform individuals or communities about health resources and promote wellness. Some of their daily responsibilities might include creating health programs and materials, referring health services, and promoting public health policies.

6. Medical Social Worker

Medical Social Worker providing health feedback to her client

Education Requirement: Bachelor’s Degree

Medical social workers provide services within the medical setting. They are responsible for supporting patients and their families during any medical situation.

Medical social workers help by providing various services including crisis intervention, education, and assessments. They also work to make sure patients understand their treatment plan and the various resources available to them.

7. Social and Community Service Managers

Community Service Manager and her team in a meeting

Education Requirement: Bachelor’s Degree

Social and community service managers work for individual and family services, residential care facilities, local government, community services, or various organizations.

This is a leadership role that involves coordinating programs and supervising other social and community service personnel. Some daily responsibilities include making adjustments to programs for improvement, writing proposals for funding, and analyzing data to assess the success of programs.

8. Correctional Treatment Specialist

Correctional Treatment Specialist discussing with a probationer

Education Requirement: Bachelor’s Degree

Correctional treatment specialists work with people on probation or parole to provide rehabilitation services. These professionals are also called case managers.

Daily responsibilities typically involve coordinating with probationers, parolees, and inmates to implement release plans and education or training programs. Some correctional treatment specialists are authorized to evaluate their clients by conducting psychological tests.

9. Community Health Worker

Community Health Worker inviting residents in an outreach program

Education Requirement: Bachelor’s Degree

A community health worker is responsible for addressing community health concerns and educating the public about healthcare services. They collect data to determine the needs of a community, coordinate outreach programs, and advocate for the well-being of communities.

Most community health workers work for the government or individual and family services. Some professionals work for various organizations, such as grantmaking or civic agencies, outpatient care centers, and hospitals.

10. School Social Worker

School Social Worker discussing with a child's guardian

Education Requirement: Bachelor’s Degree

School social workers help students with academic and social development on school grounds. Professionals may work for a single school or multiple schools in one district.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

They meet with parents, teachers, and school administrators to formulate plans to help a student succeed in these areas. Some challenges they address include student absences, behavioral issues, and family crises.

Social Work Careers & Salaries

Social Work Careers & Salaries

While many graduates of a social work degree program go on to careers as social workers within a variety of settings, there are a number of other career opportunities that will be available to you after earning your degree.

Below we have put together a list of the top 40 social work careers & salaries according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Human Resources Managers $126,230
Clinic Directors $101,340
Administrative Services Managers $100,170
Social Scientists $84,430
Social Scientists, Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools $80,340
Community Development Planners $78,500
Survey Research Professors $77,500
Community Service Organization Directors $74,000
Social Work Professors $71,010
Elementary School Counselors $63,460
Social And Community Service Managers, Individual and Family Services $63,260
Public Relations Representatives $62,800
Human Resources Generalists $62,290
Life Coaches $61,900
Criminal Justice Social Workers $61,190
Healthcare Social Workers $60,840
Certified Health Education Specialists $60,600
School Guidance Counselors $60,510
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists $60,250
Marriage and Family Therapists, Outpatient Care Centers $57,930
Health Education Specialists, Outpatient Care Centers $54,060
Health Education Specialists, State Government $53,830
Child and Family Counselors $49,880
Marriage and Family Therapists, Offices of Other Health Practitioners $49,630
School Counselors, Junior Colleges, Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools $49,430
Child Protective Services Specialists $49,150
Community Mental Health Social Workers $49,130
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors $48,520
Social Service Specialists $48,400
Public Housing Interviewers $47,420
Community Organization Workers $47,390
Social Service Assistants, Local Government $46,950
Community Health Representatives $46,590
HR Clerks $45,630
Rehabilitation Counselors, Individual and Family Services $38,930
Social Work Assistants $37,610
Social and Human Service Assistants, Individual and Family Services $37,370
Administrative Clerks $37,030
Mental Health Technicians $36,570
Social Service Assistants, Nursing and Residential Care Facilities $34,030

According to the BLS, social workers will experience overall job growth of 9% over the next decade. More specifically, child, family, and school social workers will see a 8% growth and healthcare social workers are projected to have 11% occupational growth within this same timeframe.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

With a positive social work career outlook and a variety of career opportunities to make a difference in the lives of those within the community, working in the field of social services can be a great choice for motivated and caring graduates of a social work degree program. You can also view our Science Careers and Theology Careers guides for more possible career paths for social workers.

How to Know if a Degree in Social Work is Right for Me

social worker career pathways

If you have a deep desire to help people in need and offer resources to improve the lives of others, you might consider a social work degree. Some general attributes a social worker may have to succeed in their role include:

  • Compassion toward others
  • Commitment to learning
  • Passionate about helping those in need
  • Problem-solving and critical thinking

Being compassionate toward sensitive situations and providing support in various ways to help improve the lives of others are important features of social work degree careers. Social workers may work in the healthcare, education, government, or professional services industries.

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Social Worker?

Mental Health Counselor listening to an adult

Individuals may enter the social work field with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) or higher. Education requirements can vary depending on the social work position you wish to pursue.

Entry-level social worker careers are typically nonclinical. Some entry-level positions may be attainable with a high school diploma or equivalent. A Master of Social Work (MSW) is usually required for clinical or healthcare social work occupations. It can also prepare students to sit for licensure or certification exams. You can also continue your education to obtain a PhD in Social Work.

Professionals interested in the research side of social work or working in academia might find a doctorate in social work appealing.

What Is a Social Work Degree?

Social Worker visiting a family

A social work degree is a degree program that teaches you the knowledge and skills you need to excel in careers that work directly with clients and the public.

Throughout the course of your social work degree program, your classes will cover a variety of essential topics, including:

  • Multicultural concerns and diversity
  • Psychology
  • Behavior modification
  • Sociology
  • Social welfare

For those who would like to work directly as a social worker or counselor after graduating with a social work degree, it is essential to look into the licensing requirements and regulations that govern your specific state.

Many states require social workers and those in the counseling field to hold advanced graduate degrees and pass comprehensive examinations in order to apply for professional licensing. However, requirements often vary for social work vs. counseling licensing.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

By enrolling in programs that lead to online social work degrees, you can complete your education at a pace that suits your busy schedule while still maintaining career and family obligations.

What Skills Do You Learn in Social Work?

Clinical Social Worker in a session with a client

Professionals have the opportunity to develop a broad skill set in the social work field. There are several skills social workers can learn to provide the best support and services to their clients, such as:

  • Communication
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Public speaking
  • Decision-making
  • Active listening

Some degree coursework that can help you gain these skills include Human Behavior in the Social Environment, Human Growth, and Development, and Crisis Intervention. Sensibility is also an important ability that social workers learn to be able to respond appropriately to sensitive and complex situations.

What Do Social Workers Do?

Social worker interviewing a mother and her daughter

Social workers are responsible for assessing the needs and situations of clients or communities to help them overcome various obstacles.

They work with children, families, communities, and groups dealing with personal challenges. Some of the daily responsibilities of a social worker involve helping clients adjust to life changes, researching and referring resources, and advocating for social policies. They also monitor clients’ situations and maintain case files.

Social workers in the clinical field may be authorized to provide diagnoses and treatment plans for clients with disabilities or mental and behavioral disorders.

Where Does a Social Worker Work?

Social Worker in an Outpatient care center

Social workers may work in a variety of environments depending on their specific job titles. Social workers that work with children usually work in a school or office. Other work environments a social worker works in include:

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing care facilities
  • Schools
  • Outpatient care centers

Some positions include frequent travel between schools, agencies, or the homes of clients. The largest employers of social workers are individual and family services, according to the BLS.

Is Social Work a Good Career Choice?

Social Worker visiting a client

Yes, social work is a good career choice for many professionals. It can be a rewarding job for those who want to improve the lives of others by offering them support and resources.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

Social work is a broad practice that might give you the opportunity to choose what kind of groups or communities you work with. Social workers help others struggling with mental health, disabilities, aging, trauma, and other circumstances. According to the BLS, the median annual pay of a social worker is $50,390 and some positions are expected to see growth over the next decade.

How Much Does a Social Worker Make?

Social Worker interviewing a student

Social worker salaries can differ depending on one’s level of education, work experience, and geographic location. The median annual salary of all social worker positions is $50,390, according to the BLS. Some positions have a higher salary, such as healthcare social workers who earn a median salary of $60,840 per year.

Child, family, and school social workers earn a median annual salary of $49,150. Mid to senior-level positions, such as social and community service managers, earn a median pay of $74,000 per year.

What Are Some Entry Level Social Work Jobs?

Entry Level Social Work Jobs

Entry-level social work jobs may be attainable with a high school diploma or bachelor’s degree. Per the BLS, the following are some entry-level jobs you can obtain in the social work field:

  • Adult Protective Service Social Worker: $61,190
  • Child, Family, and School Social Workers: $49,150
  • Mental Health Social Workers: $49,130
  • Community Health Workers: $46,590
  • Social and Human Service Assistants: $37,610

Median annual salaries can differ based on a number of factors, such as level of education and experience.

What Are the Highest Paying Social Work Jobs?

Highest Paying Social Work Jobs

High-paying social work careers are often found in management or mid to senior-level positions. According to the BLS, these are the median annual salaries of some of the highest-paying jobs in the social work field:

  • Human Resources Managers: $126,230
  • Federal Social Workers: $83,020
  • Social and Community Service Managers: $74,000
  • Human Resources Specialists: $62,290
  • Healthcare Social Workers: $60,840

The highest 10% of social workers earned a median annual salary of more than $82,840. Location, experience, and level of education can impact salary opportunities.

What’s the Difference Between Social Work Licensure vs. Certification?

Licensure and certification are professional credentials you may pursue to perform certain duties or provide credibility in your skills and knowledge.

The differences between these credentials include:

Social Work Licensure Social Work Certification
  • Granted by a state licensing board
  • May authorize professionals to diagnose and treat clients
  • Granted by a certified organization
  • Proves one has the skills and knowledge to perform social work

Professionals pursue certification to prove they have the proper qualifications to perform their duties. Licensure is granted by the state board you plan to practice in and may allow you to perform clinical duties.

Is a Social Work Degree Worth It?

social worker schooling

Yes, a social work degree is worth it for many professionals. The need for professionals to help others with personal issues is expected to grow in the coming years.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

According to the BLS, social worker positions are expected to experience a 9% job growth increase over the next decade. Earning a degree in social work may help individuals accomplish their goals of wanting to help others. It can be a fulfilling career choice for professionals, knowing that they’re making a difference in people’s lives.

Getting Your Social Worker Degree Online

student pursuing Social Work Degree online

An online social work degree can prepare you for a variety of careers in the field. It may provide you with essential skills and knowledge to carry out daily social worker responsibilities.

Social work might be a good career choice for you if you’re interested in helping children, families, communities, or other groups. It’s an admirable career path for professionals committed to providing support and resources to others to improve challenging situations.

Researching accredited schools with social worker degree programs that align with your interests can be the first step in your journey toward a career in social work.

Ready to start your journey?
Amy Hayes

Amy holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from Old Dominion University, with a minor in English. She previously worked as an educator before starting her career as a writer. Amy spends much of her time researching and writing, with the goal of sharing valuable information with readers.