The 10 Best Careers in Social Work

May 31, 2019

Thinking of pursuing a master’s degree in social work? Here are 10 of the best career paths available to Master of Social Work grads.

The demand for health care and social services is projected to grow over the next 10 years — and with it, the number of social work jobs. While the average job growth rate for all occupations has hit seven percent nationwide, jobs in social work have seen nearly double that growth. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the social services field would add nearly 75,000 new jobs by 2024, representing an increase of 12 percent.

This spells good news for social work graduates and their employers, who will reap the benefits of new talent as a result of higher pay. But just how high can new social workers expect the pay to be?

In May 2015, social workers earned a median salary of $45,900 per year, but licensed social workers and those in certain specialties have the potential to make much more. For example, social workers in health care settings, as well as mental health and substance abuse social workers, will experience the most growth in terms of both their job prospects and earning potential. Jobs in metropolitan areas with high costs of living also tend to pay more, but it’s important that social workers fill positions in rural areas as well.

So, what should you do with your newly minted USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work MSW? Here are the top 10 social work jobs.

1. Substance Use and Recovery Treatment Counselor

Median Salary: $42,170

Want to help patients achieve and maintain sobriety? Consider becoming a substance use and recovery treatment counselor. The profession is expected to grow as more people seek treatment for substance abuse and as drug treatment programs become an increasingly popular alternative to jail time.

2. Mental Health Counselor

Median Salary: $42,170

Mental health counselors work directly with patients to help them manage mental illness or cope with challenging life events. They can work in a number of settings, including independently and within treatment programs. As more people openly seek counseling and treatment for mental illness, this profession will certainly grow.

3. Marriage and Family Counselor

Median Salary: $42,350

Marriage and family counselors work with individuals, couples and families to address their interpersonal challenges. They play a critical role in helping couples navigate issues at all stages in their relationships, as well as strengthening healthy bonds between parents and children.

4. Medical Social Worker

Median Salary: $59,420

Medical social workers work in a variety of health care settings, including hospitals, clinics and long-term care centers. They may act as case managers, therapists or patient navigators, depending on the individual’s or family’s needs. The demand for health care social work will grow as Baby Boomers age, making this a strong field for social work students to enter.

5. School Social Worker

Median Salary: $42,350

School social workers help students, teachers and their families manage mental health and behavioral concerns. They provide positive behavioral, academic and classroom guidance at all levels of education, and can change the school experience for students who would otherwise have struggled.

6. Foster Care Social Worker

Median Salary: $42,350

The role of the foster care social worker is what most people imagine when they think of social work. These social workers are advocates for children in the foster care system, ensuring that they’re being properly cared for and supported by their resource families. The job can be emotionally intense, but it’s equally rewarding.

7. Child and Family Therapist

Median Salary: $42,350

Child and family therapists focus on addressing the needs of children from toddlerhood through latency. They may specialize in subjects like play therapy, child development, attachment issues or mental illness. They also work to develop child-centric solutions for families struggling with unhealthy social dynamics.

8. Corporate Social Responsibility

Median Salary: $58,560

Though it may seem counterintuitive, social work opportunities are appearing more frequently in the private sector. A job in corporate social responsibility will give you the chance to make a positive social and environmental impact with the resources of a larger company at your disposal. As more and more companies invest in sustainability programs, social workers in this field are increasingly in demand.

9. Policy Analyst

Median Salary: $58,560

Social workers don’t always work directly with patients — they can also take a broader approach and focus on social issues at the policy level. Social workers who advocate for broader policy reform pave the way forward for their peers in every field of social work.

10. Human Resources Coordinator/Specialist

Median Salary: $58,560

Though this may not seem like a traditional social work role, human resource coordinators provide many of the same services within the workplace. They help to maintain a healthy work environment, ensuring that all employees feel comfortable and productive.

The world is full of possibilities for graduates of social work programs. If you’re thinking about getting your MSW, learn more about our program today!