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Social Justice

What can you do with a bachelor's in social work?

September 23, 2021 by University of Massachusetts Global

 

If you’re searching for meaningful work that helps others live happier and healthier lives, a career in human services could be your calling. Earning a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (BSW) is a natural first step for those who are committed to serving their communities.

A BSW degree can prepare you for direct-service positions in a variety of fields and settings. Keep reading to find out how this comprehensive program sets you up for success in securing a fulfilling job after graduation.

Breaking down the BSW degree

A BSW program helps you develop a strong foundation in the principals of communication, community impact and social structure through theory and hands-on experience. For social workers in the United States, earning a BSW degree that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) ensures a high-quality and rigorous curriculum that includes supervised field work and/or internships.

By earning a BSW degree at UMass Global, you can expect to:

  • Learn how to serve individuals, groups, families and communities.
  • Develop real-world professional skills through 400 hours of supervised on-site field practice.
  • Increase your intercultural competency by learning how to work with diverse populations.
  • Gain a holistic understanding of the history of social welfare policy.
  • Understand and internalize the principles of the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics.

In addition to general education requirements (writing, humanities, and natural and social sciences), BSW students must complete a robust set of core classes in social work theory, such as:

  • Foundations of Social Work Practice
  • Human Behavior Throughout the Lifespan
  • Diversity and Social Justice
  • Social Welfare and Social Policy
  • Interviewing and Assessment Skills
  • Social Work Practice With Individuals, Families and Groups

Because social work is a helping profession that serves people of all ages and backgrounds, there are many opportunities to develop expertise working with specific populations. In the UMass Global BSW program, for example, students can choose from the following elective courses:

  • Domestic Violence
  • Victim Advocacy
  • Youth at Risk
  • Child Abuse
  • Military Social Work
  • International Social Work
  • Drug and Alcohol Treatment in Social Work
  • Social Work With Older Adults

5 Bachelor of Social Work jobs to consider

With a BSW degree from a CSWE-accredited program in hand, you are qualified to apply for a number of entry-level, nonclinical positions in your field. Employment of social workers is projected to increase by 13 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. While growth will vary by specialization, the overall job outlook for the profession is promising.

But what can you do with a bachelor’s in social work after graduation? Join us as we break down five potential careers that may be in your future.

1. Substance abuse counselor

These professionals specialize in providing direct care to clients who are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction/abuse and other comorbid conditions. They provide support in the form of assessments, counseling, interventions and develop personalized plans to promote physical and mental health.

As healthcare institutions shift to recognizing addiction as a treatable condition and not a moral failure or criminal vice, the need for compassionate and competent counselors will grow significantly. Substance abuse counselors and social workers are employed in clinics, public health centers, public and private rehabilitation and recovery facilities, and mental health clinics.

2. Geriatric social worker

These specialists work with aging populations in hospitals, clinics, residential facilities, hospice and outpatient centers. Also known as gerontological social workers, their job is to protect the medical, emotional, social and mental health of older adults. Senior citizens often have multiple conditions that require integrated care from many healthcare providers, and geriatric social workers play a critical role in ensuring their clients’ needs are met. Their duties include communicating treatment plans to patients and their families, managing patient discharges and acting as the patient’s advocate to the rest of the care team.

This particular social work specialty is becoming increasingly important as the baby boomer generation ages out of the workforce and into retirement. By 2030, it’s estimated that about 30 percent of Americans 65 and older will require high levels of care.

3. Case manager

Becoming a case manager or caseworker is one of the most common Bachelor of Social Work jobs. These professionals are employed in all kinds of fields and settings, often specializing in certain populations, like senior living, foster care, hospice, mental health or addiction. Essentially, wherever there is a need for coordinated care, you’ll find a dedicated case manager behind the scenes.

While they are responsible for providing direct care to their clients, they typically do not offer one-on-one therapy or mental health counseling. Instead, they are focused on understanding and evaluating the clients’ circumstances, determining what support they need and connecting with other agencies to provide those services. They also act as advocates for their clients and help them navigate the often complicated and bureaucratic processes that can impede access to resources.

Case managers do not have to be licensed but typically must have at least a bachelor’s degree in social work, psychology, sociology, criminal justice or a similar field.

4. Child welfare specialist

Child welfare specialists are dedicated to protecting and advocating for children who are at risk of abuse or neglect. This often involves working with families that are struggling with systemic challenges, like poverty, racism, addiction and homelessness. Most child welfare specialists work in local, state and federal government agencies, in addition to schools and community health centers.

Child welfare social workers must be knowledgeable about how trauma impacts child development and behavior, plus parenting and family dynamics. Their duties include conducting home visits and meetings with families, developing reunification plans, referring clients to other specialists and services and facilitating adoptions.

5. Correctional counselors

Also known as correctional treatment specialists, these professionals provide compassionate care to people in the criminal justice system. They work with incarcerated individuals, probationers and parolees to develop rehabilitation plans aimed at reducing recidivism (the likelihood of committing more crimes). Correctional counselors prepare their clients to transition back into society successfully by connecting them with services like education, housing support, job training, therapy and substance abuse treatment.

Correctional counselors work in facilities like prisons, jails, courts, police departments, detention centers and victim services offices. A social work student who is interested in a criminal justice or adjacent career might find that adding a minor in criminal justice to their BSW degree gives them an edge in the job market.

Building upon your BSW

As you can see, earning a bachelor’s in social work can open doors to many meaningful career options. It can also be the first step on a rewarding educational journey leading to even more impactful opportunities.

It’s estimated that nearly half of social workers in the United States hold a master’s degree. Many enter the workforce upon earning their BSW and gain years of valuable experience before deciding to pursue a Master of Arts in Social Work (MSW). Enrolling in an online MSW program makes it possible to earn a graduate degree while continuing your work in the field.

To learn more about the licensing credentials for this field, read “The social worker requirements you’ll need to meet in order to serve.”

Launch your social work career with a BSW

Now you know that what you can do with this degree, you might be ready to take the first step in the direction of your dreams. For a flexible, affordable and accredited program led by seasoned professionals in the field, explore the Bachelor of Arts in Social Work at UMass Global.

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