Becoming a social worker today is a popular choice because the profession is seeing healthy growth, with 12% job growth anticipated in the field overall in the next decade.
However, there are certain types of social workers that should see even more growth. For example, health care and clinical social workers will see 19% increase in job demand. Health care and clinical social workers are needed as the United States population is getting older, and those who are aging need assistance with medications, treatments and ways of living.
For all professionals and students interested in social work, know that the best social work careers can only be had by earning a master’s degree. Here are the six best careers in the field requiring a master’s degree:
#1 Clinical Social Work
These types of social workers also are called licensed clinical social workers. They specialize in diagnosing and treating mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. Some of the most common types of mental problems they handle include anxiety and depression.
Clinical social workers can provide therapy to individuals, groups, families and couples. They work with their clients to devise strategies to change behavior or to cope with challenging personal situations. Clinical social workers often refer their clients to other community resources and services. These might include support groups or different types of mental health professionals.
Clinical social workers are qualified to come up with treatment plans with doctors, clients and other healthcare professionals. They may adjust the plan of treatment if it is needed, based upon the progress of the client. Clinical social workers also often provide mental health care services to help families and children deal with major life changes, including divorce.
If you want to work as a clinical social worker with the elderly, you can earn a certification in clinical social work in gerontology from the NASW. Clinical social workers who work with the elderly must have a high level of skills and knowledge so that they can assess the needs of older adults and to be aware of their functional capacity and be aware of their overall mental and physical health.
Clinical social workers will experience 19% job growth by 2024, and their median pay is $58,500.
#2 Healthcare Social Work
Healthcare social workers specialize in helping patients to have a clearer understanding of whatever medical diagnosis they have, and to make the needed adjustments in their housing, healthcare or lifestyle. For instance, healthcare social workers often help people who were in the hospital for a long time to transition back to living at home.
Healthcare social workers often also provide vital information to clients about essential services such as home health care and support groups to help them to live with their condition better. These social workers also help doctors and other types of healthcare professionals to better understand how the condition is affecting the person’s mental health.
If you decide to become a health care social worker, you can decide to earn your Certified Social Worker in Health Care certification (C-SWHC). This credential is offered by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). This certification has been offered since 2000. It is offered because healthcare social workers must use their knowledge to come up with new standards of practice and to recommend health policies for their patients.
There will be plenty of jobs available in this field in the next decade, with 19% job demand expected. The median salary for healthcare social workers is $52,400.
#3 Gerontology Social Work
According to the US Administration on Aging, people who are 65 or older will be 19% of the US population in 2030. This means that our aging population will be growing and those who are over the age of 65 will need many more resources and support so that they can continue to live independently and happily.
That is where gerontology social workers play a very important role. They help senior citizens to have a better grasp of the physical and mental challenges of aging. This type of social worker will use advocacy, clinical work and social action to help to make the lives of seniors better.
Many gerontology social workers are effectively liaisons between the senior citizen and doctors, family, caregivers, and more. Social workers in this area can help the elderly client to avoid being abused or scammed, can help them with assistance they need in the home, and to deal with grief or depression.
The NASW offers a certification in this speciality called the certification for the social worker in gerontology (SW-G). This certification is offered because these professionals have to be very knowledgeable about social programs, legislation and policies that affect older Americans. Also, they need to know about the process of aging and the common issues that older adults have as they age.
The average salary for gerontological social workers is $60,000.
#4 Substance Abuse Social Work
Substance abuse social workers play a vital role in helping their clients to overcome drug and alcohol abuse problems. They work in different types of facilities that help people who have addictions and who exhibit patterns of substance abuse. Some of the places where they work most often are rehab centers, foster care, prisons, health care centers and community service centers.
Substance abuse social workers are usually deeply involved with counseling people with drug and alcohol addictions. They also frequently help people who have physical abuse problems, poverty, unemployment and/or some type of mental or physical illness.
Substance abuse workers must deal with people who are having regular relapses into addictive behavior. You will need to have patience, commitment and compassion in this role. While this is a very challenging type of social work, most people who choose it find it to be very gratifying.
If you specialize in this field, you will become very aware of the problem of heroin addiction. It is one of the most addictive drugs. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 25% of people who try heroin once get addicted to it.
Another drug that you will deal with often is cocaine. In 2009, more than 4.5 million Americans over the age of 12 had tried it. Many social workers must work with clients who are or have been addicted to cocaine.
Substance abuse social workers make an average wage of $48,000 per year.
For professionals or students who want to make a difference in the lives of others, and have an exciting and rewarding career in social work, we recommend that you focus your efforts on one of the above specialties in social work.