When you choose a career in social work, you have a number of options for specialization. Although you might think of a social worker as the harried government employee with a stack of case files on her desk and not enough time to handle all of them, social work extends well beyond that all-too-common image. While there are certainly opportunities for social workers in government agencies, there are a number of other areas in which social workers can work. From schools and churches to hospitals and private practice, after earning your online degree in social work you can specialize in areas such as:
Clinical social workers provide counseling and psychological support services to those who need support with mental health issues. This might be in a substance-abuse-treatment environment — a social worker will provide support and strategies for dealing with recovery, as well as access to resources a patient might need after treatment — or in other areas, such as community mental health centers. A small but growing specialty of mental health social work is in the area of disaster relief and emergency management. Social workers can work with those who have experienced a disaster or traumatic experience, helping them get back on their feet. This area is ideal for those who are interested in the policies affecting mental health in society.
When someone is diagnosed with a serious illness or has a traumatic injury — or even just needs a little extra help after a surgery or illness — hospital social workers help them and their families deal with the issue and access services and resources they need after leaving the hospital. For example, a hospital social worker might work with the parents of a child with cancer, helping them find resources to cover expenses or find counseling.
Another type of health care social work is palliative care or hospice care. Social workers in this field work with those who are dying and their families, helping them find proper care, manage end-of-life issues and access counseling and support services to help them manage their grief.
Social workers can also opt to work with specific populations, such as children and youth or the elderly. Child social workers, for example, might work in child welfare, ensuring the health and safety of children, or they might provide intervention and support services to teens to help them develop into healthy, productive adults. Those that focus on the aged population, on the other hand, work with senior citizens and their families to help them manage the issues that come with aging. They might help families find appropriate assistance for a relative who can no longer care for herself, for example, or help with access to health care, financial assistance and other programs.
Not all social work involves direct client care. With a background in social work and a masters degree in organizational leadership or other management experience, you could pursue a career in social work administration and leadership. From the management of organizations and agencies to advocacy, the field of social work needs committed and experienced administrators who understand the issues and can manage programs both fairly and efficiently.
These are just a few of the possible specializations for social workers. Other options might include working with churches, schools, businesses, the court system or in private practice as a clinical social worker. As you complete your courses and learn more about various aspects of the social work profession, chances are, you will find your passion and direct your focus to one of the specialty areas. Regardless of the area of specialization, however, as a social worker you provide an important and valuable service to your clients and their families — whether they are facing a health crisis, an economic crisis, the aftermath of a natural disaster or another issue.
Guest Article Provided By: Maria St. John has a master’s degree in social work and has worked for the past five years in a teen group home. She writes about teen social issues for a number of blogs and publications.
See all posts on career success