Career Pathway: Social Work

Social work is a growing field and has the ability to draw a large number of prospective job seekers since the field touches many other industries (healthcare, education, counseling, substance abuse, military, etc.). Professionals in this field are in high demand which means job seekers can spend time exploring the right job fit and enjoy room for growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social worker employment is expected to grow 13% from 2019 to 2029. Social workers may also be particularly well positioned for future job outlook and stability based on their abilities to provide specific treatment services. 

Types of organizations where clinical or mental health social workers may work:

  • Private practices
  • Mental health outpatient center
  • Psychiatric units
  • Private nonprofit agencies

Entry-Level Job Title Examples: Case Worker / Case Manager

Relevant Licenses: LCSW, LICSW may be required for mid/senior level roles) 

Future Roles: Clinical Social Worker, Clinical Therapist, Director of Social Work, Director of Therapy, Director of Counseling

Types of organizations where medical social workers may work:

  • Hospitals
  • Assisted-living facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Acute-care facilities
  • Dialysis centers
  • Substance-abuse facilities

Entry-Level Job Title Examples: Social Worker I, Case Manager, Discharge Planner. 

Relevant Licenses: LCSW, LICSW (may be required for mid/senior-level roles) 

Future Roles: Social Worker II, Manager of Social Services, Director of Social Services

Types of organizations that school social workers may work:

  • K-12 public schools
  • Charter schools
  • College or private school counseling departments
  • Administrative agencies that partner with local schools/agencies with school-based programs

Entry-Level Job Title Examples: Social Worker, Social Emotional Learning Specialist

Relevant Licenses: LCSW (may be required for mid/senior-level roles) 

Future Roles: Director of Social Services, Director of Counseling

Types of organizations where administrative social workers may work:

  • Family service agencies
  • Child welfare departments
  • Social service agencies
  • School personnel departments
  • Area agencies on aging
  • State mental health departments
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Probation departments
  • Hospitals and home healthcare agencies
  • Public welfare agencies

Entry-Level Job Title Examples: Case Worker/Case Manager

Relevant Licenses: LCSW, LICSW may be required for mid/senior level roles) 

Future Roles: Clinical Social Worker, Director of Social Services

Types of organizations where administrative social workers may work:

  • Local or state governments
  • Community-based organizations 
  • Community health centers
  • Advocacy groups

Entry-Level Job Title Examples: Community Organizer, Community Support Advocate

Relevant Licenses: LCSW, LICSW (may be required for mid/senior level roles) 

Future Roles: Policy Advisor, Strategic Planner, Director of Operations

How can I acquire social work skills and turn them into a career?

In-Demand Skills

Ultimately, your ability to land a specific role comes down to your experience and background, as well as your proficiency in the skills below.

Transferable Skills and Qualities

  • Client-Centered
  • Attentive
  • Collaborative
  • Adaptable/Flexible
  • Diplomatic
  • Creative
  • Communicative
  • Passionate
  • Curious
  • Objective

Field-Specific Skills

  • Advocacy
  • Program Evaluation
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Program Development
  • Community Organizing
  • Grant Writing
  • Qualitative Research
  • Program Implementation
  • Strategic Planning
  • Policy Analysis

Certifications

Pro tip: Title and type of licensure is subject to state of residence. Please verify your state’s licensure titles and requirements.

This list shares a general framework for licensure. All licensures referenced require a social work degree from a program accredited by the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) and an examination from the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB):

LSW:
Definition/Purpose Licensed Social Worker – BSW required 
Information Non-clinical social work services, such as case management and administrative supervision.

LMSW:
Definition/Purpose Licensed Master Social Worker – MSW required
Information This is the most advanced non-clinical licensure you can receive and the first master’s level license you may attain without post-graduate hours. Though this is a non-clinical social work license, you can provide clinical social work services under the direct consultation of a LCSW.

LCSW:
Definition/Purpose Licensed Clinical Social Worker or Licensed Certified Social Worker – MSW required
Information This license allows you to provide clinical services to clients independent of supervision. You typically need, at minimum, a master’s degree and two years of supervised field experience to become a licensed clinical social worker. Those with this license often work in mental health agencies, hospitals, treatment facilities, or in private practice.

LGSW:
Definition/Purpose Licensed Graduate Social Worker – MSW required
Information This requires the same qualifications as an LCSW. Some states use “LGSW” to describe this level of licensure.

LICSW:
Definition/Purpose Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker – MSW required, hours of clinical work under LICSW required (quantity is state dependent).
Information Most advanced type of social work licensure. LICSWs are usually therapists or counselors in public or nonprofit agencies or in private practice. They can bill insurance companies for their services.

What could my career look like with a social work skill set?

Note: This is a basic guide to kick-start exploration, not a complete list of all paths. See specific job descriptions for more details. To determine specific roles and responsibilities for each type of social worker, navigate to this checklist to see how you match up.

Clinical social workers offer counseling or psychotherapy services in clinics, public agencies, medical facilities, and private practices.

Medical social workers help people who have serious or chronic health problems. They advise individuals and families about how best to deal with being ill. They also find services, such as nursing care, nutrition classes, and therapies that are available to help sick individuals and their families.

School social workers specialize in helping students with school-related and personal issues that affect their lives. Working at one or more schools, these social workers mediate between community resources and students who need special services.

Those with a background in social work administration possess a unique skill set that enables them to access a diverse range of positions. Those specializing in social work administration are particularly suited for  leadership or directive roles. 

Community social workers advocate on behalf of a group or community toward a common goal. Community social workers may conduct needs assessments, plan or administer programs, or allocate resources to the community. Community social work is unique because the community and social workers often work actively together. Those affected by the issue in question are naturally invested and passionate about reaching a resolution.

What are my next steps?

Watch a session:

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