This is a question that will often be asked about Social Work and it is not any easy question to answer with just a few sentences. Social Work is a large sub-sector within the even larger field of Human Services. The Social Worker performs a great diversity of tasks to help people who are struggling with some aspect of their lives. Social Workers involve the job of helping people as the primary goal, this can take myriad forms and it can also be something that happens within a wide variety of contexts. In many cases, Social Work address some aspect of Social Justice, whether it is helping women suffering from Domestic Abuse, working on a campaign to reduce red lining of loans for low-income families of color or helping the homeless, the Social Worker is trying to help redress some form of injustice. The Social Worker might also be addressing the basic needs of their fellow human beings by helping a family get access to food, connecting homeless persons with shelters and other resources or ensuring the physical safety of children by working in Child Welfare. There are also Social Work jobs that address things at the macro level or further up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. For example, one of the most profitable careers in Social Work is to attain licensure and become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) helping clients with their emotional and mental challenges by bringing a new awareness and context so they can heal and release their patterns. There are also occupations that involve influencing public policies, pursuing specific goals through a Non-Profit and operating at the management level of Social Services agencies. The Social Worker has a wide variety of ways that they can impact the world of Social Work by providing excellent Human Services.
There are many different kinds of agencies that employ Social Workers one of the largest is the state government. Usually called the state Department of Human Services, although this varies from state to state, is the main state agency that is in charge of administering the federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) as well as Medicaid and other state programs. In the Department of Human Services there are a great range of jobs from the Child Welfare branch to the Adult and Family Services side of things a number of programs are administered. There is also the Unemployment office, Rehabilitation office, Aging and Disability Services and a number of other offices to assist with a wide variety of Human Services challenges.
Social Work also occurs within the context of Non-Profits who have a wide variety of causes that they are geared towards addressing. This can include working with Teen Parents in an advisory, training and advocacy capacity. There are numerous Non-Profit agencies that work with substance abuse issues. There are Non-profits that are specifically created to help the homeless and undocumented workers. There are also those who work for political purposes to address social justice through social change and the education of society in order to enact sweeping changes. There are many Non-Profits that a Social Worker could join it is more a matter of finding a cause that resonates with one personally and then joining a Non-Profit that is aligned with that goal.
If you are considering a career in Mental Health working with people to address and heal their Mental Health issues, you will first need to choose from a variety of MSW schools and find a Master of Social Work school and program that fits your needs. Finding one that is geared towards the end result of creating a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) is ideal. You will also need to fulfill other various pre-requisites before you can take your final tests and become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and eventually open your own private practice in which you help families, groups, individuals and couples with Mental Health issues through the lens of a Social Work educational background.
Whether you are working in a private practice, through a state agency or a Non-profit there are so many ways you can help your fellow Human Beings in a Social Work context, the issue becomes choosing just one career you like. We also have a wide variety of in-depth job descriptions in our career section that may help you find the ideal career for you. Social Work jobs vary tremendously as do their educational requirements or licensing in the case of the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and similar job titles. So regardless of whether you want to work in a leadership position, helping children, the elderly or the disabled, Social Work has myriad ways in which you can give back to your community. You can check out our careers section by clicking here: http://humanservicesedu.org/occupation-career-outlook.html