A social worker may provide care for hospice patients.
The field of social work is concerned with helping vulnerable populations and people in need. According to the National Association of Social Workers, professionals in this area can carry out an array of duties, contingent on their employer and level of expertise. From managing cases to offering counseling and therapy and even clinical diagnoses, social work is a multi-faceted and rewarding profession.
Given that social workers are often tasked with complex cases and issues, a high level of expertise and education is often preferred by prospective employers. As Careers in Psychology explained, this is especially true for individuals looking to enter a social work role in the field of health care, as the qualification is mandatory for a job in this industry.
It's clear, therefore, that studying for a master's degree could be an astute move if you're looking to increase the number of career options available to you. Before you make the decision to enroll in an advanced degree program, you may be wondering exactly what the career prospects are like for a master's of social work graduate. The U.S. Department of Labor reported that the number of job opportunities for social workers will increase considerably in the next decade — by as much as 12 percent — indicating a bright future for graduates in the field.
You may also be curious as to the most popular career paths for MSW graduates. Following are three careers you can pursue with a master's degree in social work.
Substance abuse social worker
Social workers in this area are tasked with helping clients that are facing problems with addiction, whether it be to illegal drugs such as heroin or cocaine, or to legal substances such as prescription medication and alcohol. The University of Southern California explained that substance abuse social workers work tirelessly to help clients rebuild their lives and maintain sobriety. Most substance abuse social workers are employed in places such as rehabilitation centers, prisons and detention centers. Clients may have criminal records as a consequence of their addiction. The source noted that while rewarding, the career path can also be immensely challenging, as clients may struggle with episodes of relapse. Consequently, patience and perseverance are character traits that every candidate looking to enter this field should possess.
"The median salary for a substance abuse counselor is $36,000 per year."
In terms of compensation, Payscale explained that compensation tends to be modest: The median national salary for a substance abuse counselor stands at around $36,000 per year, with some professionals earning as little as $27,000 annually. On the higher end of the scale, professionals with more experience can earn upward of $48,000 a year.
Child and family social worker
Child and family social workers dedicate their lives to helping children in a range of difficult circumstances. According to U.S. News & World Report, examples of issues that child and family social workers often deal with include homelessness, poverty, abuse and neglect. Consequently, the role can be emotionally draining and is therefore not suitable for candidates that can become easily overwhelmed. A child and family social worker is often in charge of a number of cases at any one time. For example, he or she may help remove a child from an abusive home, or may help an impoverished family connect with the resources they need to support their child. In many cases child and family social workers will also oversee adoptions, the source noted.
Salaries in this profession are reasonable. U.S. News & World Report stated that some child and family social workers will earn over $75,000 a year. The median national salary currently stands at a little over $42,000.
Palliative and hospice social worker
Social workers in the field of palliative and hospice care provide social support for patients experiencing chronic illnesses. More often than not the patients will be nearing the end of their lives, particularly if they are in the hospice setting. According to Social Work Licensure.org, typical duties in this career include counseling patients, offering support and administrative services to patients and their families, and conducting support groups and one-on-one meetings. Given that patients in palliative and hospice care are often in a considerable amount of physical and emotional pain, the best candidates for this role will be adept at empathy, communication and listening. In much the same vein as the child and family social worker role, this position can be upsetting at times and requires an individual who can separate their emotions from their work, while still remaining compassionate and understanding. The source notes that while some candidates with bachelor's degrees can attain this job, recruiters tend to prefer candidates with master's degrees.
In terms of salary prospects, Social Work Licensure.org reported that master's graduates tend to earn more money in this field than individuals with only a bachelor's degree. The median salary for master's graduates currently stands at almost $50,000 a year.