Social work has been an influential instrument of change in many aspects, from establishing workers’ rights to fighting poverty. Social workers are as needed as ever, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects their employment to increase by 11% between 2018 and 2028 — a much faster rate than the 5% average occupation growth projected for that period.
This job outlook is excellent news for individuals interested in earning a Bachelor of Social Work degree and pursuing a career in the field. While the career paths available to BSW graduates shape the concept of social work in different ways, all of them are built on social work’s fundamental mission of helping and advocating for vulnerable people and communities.
Why Social Work Matters
Social work is driven by the mission to help people in need, yet that only touches on why it plays such a vital role in society. Those in social work positions are advocates whose actions and assistance can often provide a voice for the vulnerable and the marginalized — people or groups who often don’t have the leverage to speak for themselves. Social workers’ efforts allow these people’s voices to be heard by those who can provide aid or exact societal change.
Social work is also designed to address a wide range of issues. Some of these issues directly relate to an individual’s behavior or personal struggles, such as mental health issues or substance abuse. Other issues originate from dysfunction in a family unit, such as child abuse or divorce. Different areas of social work concentrate on socioeconomic or social justice issues that can make living a normal day-to-day life a challenge, such as unemployment, long-term illness, poverty, and discrimination.
Regardless of social workers’ focus, the results of their collective efforts extend past an individual or family. Their work and advocacy for the vulnerable can possess the power to produce significant social change. Because social workers can bring to light the daily challenges of those who would otherwise go unnoticed, lawmakers can gain a better understanding of the urgency surrounding these issues. This could lead to the creation of laws and policies that positively affect the people and groups whom social workers help.
Industries Hiring Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) Graduates
Because social work encompasses a wide range of personal and socioeconomic issues, those pursuing a career in the field have the opportunity to get involved in a wide range of industries. Each industry comes with unique challenges, but the fundamental goals of helping and advocating for individuals in need are still the foundational fuel that drives the social worker’s underlying mission.
Healthcare social workers generally provide aid and advocacy to those facing various health issues, such as chronic conditions or terminal illnesses. Their work could also involve connecting individuals with community health programs so they can receive optimal care. Healthcare social workers can also provide guidance to patient families faced with crucial care-related decisions, such as situations involving long-term or hospice care. Qualified advanced social workers in healthcare may also be able to assume clinical roles in which they work with individuals struggling with behavioral or addiction issues.
The Criminal Justice System
Those who apply their social work skills to the legal field may be tasked with assisting individuals in the criminal justice system and their families. These individuals can range from inmates and former convicts to those sent to a court-ordered intervention program. Social workers in this field are commonly responsible for identifying rehabilitative services designed to help individuals to re-enter society. Some of these professionals may work on behalf of victims, providing them with guidance and support through the legal process, from the crime-reporting stage to a trial’s aftermath.
School social workers apply their skills to advocate for and support students. They’re typically trained mental health professionals who are equipped to address and assist children with mental health- or behavior-related concerns. They can also provide support for children struggling in the classroom for various reasons. Their work with students often corresponds with the educational mission and goals set by the schools that employ them.
Those who pursue social work roles in the government use their knowledge and skills to create, develop, and promote programs designed to effect positive social change on an individual or group level. This work can focus on a vast number of large-scale projects related to socioeconomic issues, such as public housing or immigration. Ultimately, social work professionals can be vital in ensuring everyone has a firm understanding of public policies as they’re implemented.
These disparate fields are also bound together in the sense that they allow BSW graduates to gain valuable real-world experience, which can be beneficial in their pursuit of an advanced role in social work. Higher-level positions could ultimately place social workers in an even better position to push for positive change in numerous aspects of society.
Popular Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) Careers
Earning a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree can prepare individuals to pursue a wide range of social work professions. In these roles, BSW graduates can gain experience and further hone the skills that can allow them to make an even more substantial impact as their social work careers progress.
Case Management Assistant
Those in case management assistant roles are commonly tasked with organizing and preparing files, paperwork, and informational data for case managers. The precise content can depend on the field. For instance, case management assistants in the legal field could prepare information for incoming court cases, and those in the healthcare field can prepare patient data or information pertaining to health insurance. The following skills are commonly needed for the role:
- Time management
- Research skills
The BLS classifies case management assistants as social and human service assistants, who earn a median annual salary of $33,750. The BLS also projects a 13% job growth for the category between 2018 and 2028.
Probation officers are responsible for providing social services to offenders of the law placed on probation. They can work with both adult and juvenile offenders, guiding them through rehabilitation programs designed to allow them to reintegrate into society. The following skills are considered essential for the profession:
- Critical thinking
- Emotional control
According to the BLS, the median annual salary of a probation officer is $53,020. The BLS also lists the position’s 2018-28 projected job growth at 3%.
Community Outreach Worker
Community outreach workers can serve as the liaison between a community and a service organization, creating and implementing strategies that make it easier for individuals in need to connect with services that can provide them aid. They often focus on a specific aspect of community assistance, such as healthcare or education. They can also further narrow their focus to a specific demographic, such as children or a particular ethnic group. The following skills are commonly required for a community outreach worker:
- Analytical skills
- Interpersonal skills
While the BLS does not keep specific salary data for community outreach workers, it lists the median annual salary for community health workers at $46,080. The BLS projects the employment of these professionals to grow by 11% between 2018 and 2028.
Eligibility workers work with individuals in need to determine what social programs or services they may be eligible to receive. Those in this role commonly work in a government capacity, serving at the federal, state, or local level. The skills required for the profession are as follows:
- Written communication
- Verbal communication
- Critical thinking
The BLS places eligibility workers in the social and human service assistants category, which has a median annual salary of $33,750. It also projects a 13% job growth for these professionals between 2018 and 2028.
Human Services Specialist
Human services specialists serve as the go-between for social workers and various resources. They collaborate with social workers to determine an individual’s needs and also help individuals find the services that meet their needs in the way that best suits them. The skills needed for this profession include:
- Interpersonal skills
- Time management
While the BLS does not have a category for human services specialists, it lists the median annual salary for social and human service assistants at $33,750. It also projects a 13% job growth for the role between 2018 and 2028.
The Chance to Make a Substantial Impact
By advocating for the vulnerable and the marginalized, social workers can make a substantially positive impact on individual lives and whole communities. This ability to promote and effect change makes social work professionally and personally fulfilling. Learn how Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Social Work program can help prepare you for a career in this critical field.
How Many Seniors Live in Poverty?
Protecting Child Welfare and Preventing Abuse: A Guide for Social Workers and Educational Professionals
What Are Social Justice Issues?
Federal emergency Management Agency, Human Services Recovery Support Specialist
Houston Chronicle, “Case Management Aide Job Description”
Houston Chronicle, “What Are the Duties of a Probation Officer?”
National Association of Social Workers, Behavioral Health
National Association of Social Workers, Social Work History
PayScale, Average Case Management Assistant Hourly Pay
PayScale, Average Community Health Outreach Worker Hourly Pay
PayScale, Average Eligibility Worker Hourly Pay
Psychology Today, “Social Work in an Era of Social Injustice”
School Social Work Association of America, Role of School Social Worker
Social Advocates for Youth, Street Outreach Worker
Social Work Today, “Why Our World Needs Social Work”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Health Educators and Community Health Workers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Social and Human Service Assistants
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Social Workers