Social work is one of the most important and valued sectors of society. This is because social workers help protect the most vulnerable, advocate for social justice, and support people when they need it most. Due to this and the constant need for trained social workers in the country, it is a career choice that remains enduringly popular.
Although you can enter the sector and pick up some great roles with a bachelor’s degree in social work, many people study for advanced social work degrees to progress their careers. This may be people with a bachelor’s in social work or those with a bachelor’s degree in another subject studying to move into this type of job.
But how do you gain an advanced social work degree and what are some of the career opportunities it can open up post-graduation?
How do you get an advanced degree in social work?
There is no doubt that gaining this type of next-level degree, can reveal a lot of new career opportunities within the sector. Compared to holding a less advanced qualification, advanced awards enable you to apply for more senior roles within social work.
But what advanced social work qualifications are worth studying for and how can you get involved with them? One very popular example is a master’s level degree in social work. This type of course represents a logical progression for professionals in the sector who might be looking to advance their careers.
This is true for any social work professional around the USA. If you work in New York, for example, finding the best courses in advanced social work can help your career. With this in mind, click here to find out whether Keuka Colleges’ online MSW program NY is for you.
Why does holding an advanced social work degree help with career progression?
Just as improving your writing style can help you get better marks in an essay, studying for an advanced social work degree has its benefits. But what might these be?
The simple truth is that you will eventually hit a glass ceiling in social work if you do not hold more advanced qualifications. Although awards such as a bachelor’s degree can be a great starting point for your career, they cannot take you all the way to the top. If you have ambitions to work at the most senior levels and become a leader in the industry, studying for a more advanced award is essential.
This can be seen in how many senior roles within social work ask for higher-level awards when they are advertised. Many of the most interesting, satisfying, and best-paid positions usually stipulate an advanced qualification as mandatory. If you do not have this kind of award in your locker, you will naturally be limited in terms of progressing your career over time.
In addition, completing something like a master of social work arms you with the latest knowledge to succeed in higher-level positions. The information you pick up while studying for your advanced degree helps you to see what is involved in working at this level and gives you the knowledge required to succeed. This specific knowledge cannot always be picked up through experience within social work or from studying a lower-level qualification initially.
What skills do you need for advanced roles in social work?
We have already noted that studying for an advanced social work degree enables you to learn new skills and fine-tune existing ones to make the next step up in your career. But what skills might this be exactly?
There is no doubt that people skills are very important, as you will be dealing with people in any role you move into and could be leading teams of people. You must be able to deal with team members in a fair, sensitive, and appropriate way. You should also be able to get on with people in general and show good emotional intelligence to handle situations correctly. This is handy for managing your own team and dealing with other colleagues, stakeholders, and the public.
Communication is also a very important skill for those working at senior levels in social work. This is not only verbal communication but written communication too. As we spend an increasing amount of time communicating via text message or email, you must be able to pass written information on clearly and appropriately. Verbal communication is still a very useful skill in most social work jobs, as you will be dealing with people in person and could be required to attend meetings with colleagues in person or online.
What other skills might you need for the roles advanced qualifications bring?
It is also crucial for anyone looking to progress in their social work career to be organized and have excellent IT skills. The ability to organize effectively is key because it means you not only stay on top of your team’s activities if required but also manage your diary properly. Decent IT skills are a must in any top-level role in the modern world and will help you perform your job to the best of your abilities.
Good leadership skills are also a must for those looking to move on with their social work career via advanced qualifications. This is because being able to lead and inspire those around you is a big part of the careers that will be available to you after graduation.
What characteristics come in useful for senior social work positions?
Alongside important skills anyone working in more advanced social work roles might need, some key characteristics come in useful. These include:
- Calmness work under pressure
Although this is not an exhaustive list of all the characteristics which might be needed, they are among the handiest.
Why look at progressing your career with advanced social work awards?
It has to be said that studying for an advanced degree in social work involves time, hard work, and some costs. Many people already working in the sector with a bachelor’s degree or those looking to transition into it from outside may wonder if it is worthwhile. The simple truth is that it is, and there are some excellent reasons for this.
To begin with, the jobs available after gaining a more advanced award are usually better paid. A substance abuse counselor, for example, makes around $57,070 on average, according to Salary.com. This is to reflect their more senior status and the extra responsibility the role comes with. While this is not the top priority for most social workers, it is a major reason why progressing your career with advanced qualifications can be appealing.
In addition, there is a big demand for social workers who hold higher level qualifications across the country. US Bureau of Labor Statistics on social work, for example, shows a projected 9% increase in the demand for qualified professionals in this sector from 2021 to 2031. Holding an advanced degree in social work enables you to make the most of this bright outlook and gain an edge over other candidates when applying for roles.
Studying for an advanced award in social work can also make sense on a personal level. Very often, the positions it enables you to apply for are very interesting and highly satisfying. This can help keep your career fresh and prevent it from stagnating. In addition, advanced qualifications can help you work across all areas within social work and take your career in new, exciting directions.
What career opportunities does an advanced degree in social work deliver?
As noted above, gaining something like a master’s in social work can really open up a vast array of new career opportunities to pursue. The breadth of choice in terms of jobs is quite staggering and you will certainly not be short of fascinating positions to apply for.
But what are some of the most interesting roles in terms of career progression when you gain a more advanced social work award?
Substance abuse counselor
This is one career choice available to those with a more advanced degree in social work, such as an MSW. But what does it involve exactly?
In short, these highly trained professionals provide emotional, behavioral, and mental support to those struggling with substance abuse issues. This could be anything from addiction to alcohol or drugs to any other kind of substance. These social work professionals provide a safe space to help patients deal with addiction and recover. They can also deliver resources to help patients with their addiction or signpost other services/information that could assist them.
Substance abuse is still a problematic issue across the country, and this role is not only very important but in demand. Due to this, it not only offers good job security but is also accessible in terms of vacancies. This is a good choice for career progression in social work if you want to help deal with substance abuse in society and support people at their lowest ebb.
Although it is a demanding role to move into, it can also be very satisfying. This is especially true when you help someone to come off a substance they are addicted to, stay off it and turn their lives around. As well as working with individuals, this job can also involve community outreach and working with families to deal with how addiction is affecting them.
School social worker
These specialist types of social workers operate within educational environments and provide support to students. This can involve help with any mental, social, emotional, or academic issues the student might be facing. By giving them someone to talk to in a judgment-free environment, school social workers can make a real difference in young people’s lives. Social workers in this setting can also liaise with teaching staff to ensure students get the in-class support they need to succeed.
In addition to dealing directly with students, social workers in schools can also deal with parents. This can be in terms of flagging up issues concerning their child in school they need to know about or speaking with families to help plan out ways to support their child at home. By doing this, school social workers can hopefully help a student perform better academically by fixing any potential problems at home.
As you would expect, this is a highly responsible position and ideal if you have a passion for helping young people. With social workers being common in all schools now, it is also an in-demand role that you should find vacancies for nationwide. With an average salary of around $50,762 in the US, it is also a well-paid job.
Clinical social worker
Although you may already be familiar with non-clinical roles in this sector, clinical social work is one career path in which an advanced degree can help you move along. But what does this position entail exactly?
In essence, clinical social workers operate in a particular niche focused on diagnosing, treating and preventing mental illness. It can also be centered around helping people deal with emotional or behavioral issues. To work in this role, you usually need an advanced social work qualification and a license to practice at a clinical level in your state.
This role can involve working across a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, private clinics, and community mental health services. As you may expect, this is a well-paid role that brings great job satisfaction from helping people in need. The range of healthcare settings clinical social workers can operate in makes it an exciting role to progress into.
Child welfare social worker
If you get a real buzz from helping children but do not fancy working in a school, child welfare social work jobs could be for you. They certainly rank highly as a great career opportunity for professionals in the industry with an advanced degree.
These social workers usually work for the Government or Government-run agencies. This can be a varied role, but typical tasks include investigating allegations of child abuse, safeguarding children, and ensuring children have a safe home to live in.
As well as working directly with kids, child welfare social workers will work with their families very closely to get the best outcomes for all. They can also be someone to turn to for help when needed for children who are in foster care or adoptive homes.
This is yet another social work career choice that can be challenging yet highly rewarding. People who move in this direction after gaining an advanced degree need compassion and the ability to handle complex situations. With an average salary of around $40,695 per annum and the chance to make a real difference, the appeal of this position is clear.
Criminal justice social worker
Career progression opportunities after achieving an advanced social work degree don’t come much more exciting than this. Criminal justice social workers are employed by the justice system to complete assessments on inmates. In addition, they also set up and run therapy groups in prison to help inmates deal with any relevant issues.
Social workers in criminal justice can also be required to deliver counseling sessions in prison and help those soon to be released get ready for life on the outside. You may also work closely with probation officers in this role and liaise with them around newly released inmates integrating back into society.
As the approach to dealing with offenders changes as we move forward, many expect this to be a specific role within social work which will grow. It is a great career choice if you like working within the justice system and directly helping offenders reform. A busy and varied position, it is perfect if you want to try something different from traditional non-clinical social work roles.
Corporate social responsibility manager
If you fancy moving into a leadership role in social work with your advanced degree, this is a great career opportunity to look out for. Not only does it enable you to flex your leadership muscles, but it is also very well-paid (around $80,2000 on average per annum!). When you also consider the chance it offers to work in the commercial sector and form a company’s policy around social responsibility, it gets even more attractive.
As well as being responsible for drawing up a business’s social responsibility policy, this job also sees you monitoring adherence to it and picking up on any issues. If you want to work at more senior levels in the sector but do not want to be on the clinical front line, this is an ideal option. It is also a good career choice if you want to have a real impact on society and how the commercial world interacts with it.
Career options with an advanced social work degree
The above clearly shows that gaining an award like a master of social work opens up a plethora of exciting career options to you. Whether it is working in a clinical setting, leading in the commercial world, or taking next-level jobs in non-clinical social work, the range of positions you will be able to apply for with an advanced degree is impressive.