Human Services Guide

Where Can I Work With a Degree in Social Work?

A common question that soon to graduate students of Social Work will ask is “Where can I work with a degree in Social Work?” While some will take the road of becoming Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW), many do not want to open their own practice or are not interested in the counseling branch of Social Work. Some also want to begin working immediately once they have earned their Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) instead of staying in School to attain their Master of Social Work (MSW) degree.

For those who are interested in working at a non-profit it is simply a matter of finding a non-profit that is hiring and whose mission aligns with your ethical and moral compass. There are also jobs within private industries on occasion for Social Workers to do things like work in compensation such as in the case of a product malfunction.

The overwhelming majority of Social Workers will however work for government at either the state or federal level. For those Social Workers who decide to work within a government framework it is important to consider what kind of agency one wants to work for and to ensure that they want to work within the context of that agency’s stated objectives. The Federal government has numerous agencies with a wide variety of agendas that are hiring Social Workers. Below you will find a few of them who all operate under the auspices of the department of Health and Human Services. Each agency has its own unique mission and structure and special hiring needs that go along with those. Each agency will be listed with a description as well as a few of the positions that you can hold with a Bachelor’s of Social Work (BSW) or a Master of Social Work (MSW) or higher degree.

Department of Human Services

The Department of Human Services is a state run organization that administers state and federally funded programs. They include programs such as Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP formerly Food Stamps), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, local state programs and also Medicare and Medicaid. In most states, the Department of Human Services is an umbrella organization that oversees a number of smaller agencies Adult and Family Services, Child Welfare, Aging and Disability Services, the Employment office and a variety of other tasks. The Department of Human Services is often one of the largest employers in a given state, and is virtually always the largest department within the state government.

Potential Jobs With a Bachelor of Social Work Degree: Eligibility Worker, Eligibility Screener, Human Services Specialist 1

Potential Jobs with a Master of Social Work Degree or Higher: Line Manager, Human Services Specialist 4

Administration on Aging

The Administration on Aging is a Federal agency focused on researching and helping the elderly and aging in terms of direct service and also policy at the Federal level. The Administration on Aging has a number of sub-departments including research, regulatory and policy departments and also some direct care facilities. Based in Washington D.C., the Administration on Aging does also have regional offices working at the local and regional levels to make sure its mission is fulfilled.

Potential Jobs with a Bachelor of Social Work Degree: Administrative Assistant, Elder Care Information Specialist.

Potential Jobs with a Master of Social Work Degree or Higher: Administrator of Programs

Administration for Children and Families

By working to help families and individuals to become economically independent, the Administration for Children and Families helps to create a safe and prosperous environment for children and families. The Administration for Children and Families also works to promote the creation of supportive communities which are geared towards meeting the needs of children and families to flourish. The Administration for Children and Families works with governments at the state, local and tribal levels to create solutions to barriers preventing families from economic independence and communities that are empowering to families and children. The Administration for Children and Families works with governments to streamline and improve access to services for families and children. Another goal of the Administration for Children and Families is to help vulnerable populations on the fringes of society. The Administration for Children and Families is a vast agency with a $58.8 billion budget and therefore it has a huge amount of job opportunities.

Potential Jobs with a Bachelor of Social Work Degree: Administrative Assistant, Program Analyst

Potential Jobs with a Master of Social Work Degree or Higher: Head Start Program Specialist, Management Analyst

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is the federal organization that works in partnership with local and tribal governments to administer Medicare, Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to those who are eligible. One of the missions of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services it to act in a regulatory capacity to ensure that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s regulations are fulfilled by those who are regulated by this law. Certain quality of standards must be met by Nursing Homes and clinical laboratories and this regulatory capacity is also held by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The primary mission of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is to oversee and regulate the disbursement of Medicare and Medicaid benefits. As such, most jobs at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will be within the auspices of administering those programs. This mission is fulfilled by reviewing the work of each state’s Department of Human Services eligibility workers to ensure that the Medicare, Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Programs are correctly applied and benefits released in a timely fashion to those eligible. Based in Baltimore, MD, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also have regional offices as part of its oversight mission.

Potential Jobs with a Bachelor of Social Work Degree: Health Insurance Specialist, Quality Control Reviewer

Potential Jobs with a Master of Social Work Degree or Higher: Management Analyst, Actuary

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

The Mission of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is to educate the public and aid people who suffer from mental illnesses and substance abuse problems. They achieve this goal by increasing the access for the mentally ill and those with substance abuse problems to preventative treatments, rehab clinics and adequate healthcare in to mitigate the potential for illness, death and disability as secondary effects of these issues. Reducing costs to the community and society as a whole due to untreated mental illness and substance abuse is one of the secondary goals of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. By prioritizing education and the prevention of mental illness and substance abuse, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration works to reduce the chances of additional substance abuse and mental illness occurring within communities. Creating partnerships and dialogue with those working in the justice system, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helps to reduce additional justice system related costs to communities caused by traumas associated with untreated mental illness and substance abuse. Taking on the role of being a top reformer in the field, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration cultivates public health reform, helps increase access to housing for homeless people who struggle with mental illness or substance abuse problems. They also work to increase the coordination of appropriate remedies as well as vital health information for those professionals working with these vulnerable members of society. Based in Rockville, Maryland the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also has offices in other regions.

Potential Jobs with a Bachelor of Social Work Degree: Administrative Assistant, Field Agent

Potential Jobs with a Master of Social Work Degree or Higher: Program Analyst

Where Do Social Workers Work

Often people who are unfamiliar with the field will ask, “Where do Social Workers work?” The answer is, in a variety of places including ones that might surprise you. While some areas of Social Work are fairly well known such as working to help people receive State and Federal benefits at the Department of Human Services, there are other less well-known areas that Social Workers can forge careers.

Some examples of lesser-known workplaces for Social Workers might include:

  • Working to help inmates prepare to adjust to reintegration into society after prison.
  • Working in hospitals with patients who are undergoing invasive medical procedures as a Medical Social Worker.
  • Helping corporations keep their workers happy and communication flowing within the organization.
  • Keeping children safe and healthy as a Child Welfare Case Manager.
  • Helping troubled students in schools as a School Social Worker.

The Social Worker who works in the Corrections field is going to have to draw upon a very different set of skills and have an emotional makeup that is considerably different from those who work in other environments. Many prisons that employ Social Workers require a series of psychological tests to determine if the Social Worker has the appropriate mentality to work within a prison with all its unique rigors. However, the rewards for those who feel draw to working with convicts helping them to gain skills to become useful members of society are as rich as any in the field of Social Work.

The Medical Social Worker performs a variety of roles in the hospital. Helping people to gain access to federal Medicare and Medicaid coverage is one such duty. Working with patients to deal with the stresses and emotional difficulties that occur due to invasive but necessary medical procedures is another example of the way in which Medical Social Workers help hospitals to function at a higher degree of efficiency as well as deliver a higher quality of service.
An emerging field of Social Work is within organizations who wish to decrease worker stresses and increase worker efficiency as well as happiness. By understanding how to change workplace culture and facilitate communication within organizations, the Social Worker can make a significant contribution to the effectiveness of workers and organizations as a whole.

The Child Welfare Case Manager is a unique branch of Social Work that requires a level of emotional and mental discipline that is significantly more stringent than in other fields within Social Work. You must find an maintain a delicate balance between absolutely ensuring the safety of children, while at the same time honoring the importance of keeping families together by emphasizing parenting education and lifestyle changes.

The School Social Worker provides and invaluable service to the School system by helping troubled students to find a way of dealing with their emotional and mental problems in a way that is both healing and empowering. The student is then able to excel academically and also can act as a net positive to the classroom instead of adding to disruption.
So there is no one single answer to the question, “Where do Social Workers work?” As you can see the Social Worker works in a vast array of organizations. In all cases, the Social Worker facilitates the delivery of the vital human service of counseling and working to help humans to relate to one another in healthy and productive ways.

 

MSW@USC
University of Southern California