What Can You Do With a Bachelor of Social Work Degree? 6 Careers to Put Your Passion in Action

Social worker working with child

You’re all about people and putting others first, whether that means helping complete strangers or being there for friends and family. You empathize with others easily and nothing makes your day quite like making someone else’s.

You’re more motivated by helping people than making sales. It’s just who you are—and that’s why a career in social work piques your interest. Whether you’ve seen the difference a social worker can make firsthand or you’re simply inspired by the potential to make a difference in someone’s life, the field has a lot to offer.

But before you get there, you know you’ll need an education that equips you for the challenge of helping others maximize their strengths and overcome adversity. This is no easy task, which is why many positions in the health or mental health fields require advanced degrees.

Yet you’ll be happy to hear that you can start making an impact in social work with only a four-year degree under your belt. This leaves you to wonder: What exactly can you do with a Bachelor of Social Work degree?

The answer is not as simple as it might seem. Social work is a broad field, which means there are plenty of career options for social work majors. Keep reading as we explore a few of the professions that will allow you to pursue your passion.

6 social work careers to put your passion in action

1. Child and family social work

The purpose of a child and family social worker is to support children by either helping their family work together to function better or by providing a source of support from outside of the family. These professionals seek to advocate for children and serve as a liaison between the courts, health providers, school, and home.

They may work for government agencies, such as the Department of Health, Department of Children and Families, or Human Services. Other common employers include private adoption and foster care agencies and child care centers. Here is a look at some of the common day-to-day responsibilities of child and family social workers:

For children:

  • Manage adoptions
  • Assist in foster care placements
  • Coordinate placements in residential treatment facilities
  • Work with children and teachers in early childhood settings

For families:

  • Assist with job placements
  • Help acquire medical assistance
  • Provide debt counseling
  • Provide addiction treatment
  • Enroll in family therapy
  • Provide financial support resources
  • Provide emotional support and problem solving strategies

2. Public policy social work

Public policy social workers strive to improve systems on a larger scale and, in turn, improve the quality of life for community members. Whether their focus is on homelessness, violence, unemployment or substance abuse, public policy social workers seek to make a widespread impact on larger social forces. Working closely with coalitions of groups and organizations, professionals who specialize in this facet of social work analyze census data and other information to draft position papers and discuss the potential for change with lawmakers.

Public policy social workers often work closely with communities, the media, elected officials and similar organizations to enact change on a macro level. While such change may move slowly through the legislative process, impacting thousands of people can be extremely satisfying. These professionals may work for public interest groups, advocacy organizations, welfare councils, or government agencies. Some of the duties that fall within this area of social work include the following:

  • Talking with policymakers and elected officials
  • Testifying at public hearings
  • Lobbying and working with the media
  • Analyzing the effectiveness of existing regulations, programs and policies
  • Researching social problems and community needs
  • Planning and proposing legislation or alternative programs

3. Juvenile justice & advocacy social work

Juvenile/youth justice social workers assist victims of crime and work to rehabilitate offenders before assimilating back into society. They may also work with the courts to provide testimony in criminal matters. Youth justice social workers can be employed in a variety of facilities, such as police departments, courts, rape crisis centers, correctional facilities, prisons, and victim services offices.

Their duties may range to cover the following.

  • Serve as an expert witness in criminal cases
  • Provide life-skills training to offenders prior to release
  • Plan and provide drug and alcohol addiction treatment
  • Arrange services to help assimilate offenders upon release, such as group-home residence, job training, counseling, child care, and transportation
  • Assist police departments with trauma and critical incident services

4. School social work

School social workers assist students of all grade levels who are struggling (in or out of the classroom) with a number of possible issues, including physical or learning disabilities, academic struggles, behavior problems, truancy, neglect, abuse, domestic violence, poverty and other adversities.

In cases of a tumultuous home life, school social workers may act as a legal liaison between the student and outside agencies. They also work with teachers, parents and other support systems to find solutions for students needing assistance. They coordinate with the multidisciplinary team of educators, administrators, counselors, and nurses to assist struggling students. School social workers may also participate in the following.

  • Facilitate communication between parents and school staff
  • Assist in disciplinary hearings and develop alternative programs
  • Respond to a mental health crisis
  • Work one on one and in groups with struggling students
  • Provide educational programs on peer relations, job finding, dealing with drugs
  • Intervene in cases of suspected child abuse
  • Navigate legal channels in cases of abuse or neglect

5. Community social work

Community social workersSocial Workers in the community also focus their efforts on a larger scale, working to improve communities and neighborhoods. These individuals can have a tremendous impact on social reform at the local level. Community social work involves collaborating with community leaders to strengthen neighborhoods, improve living conditions, and enrich the quality of life for residents. They may work for a private social service agency or for the government.

Here are a few common duties of community social workers:

  • Researching neighborhood trends
  • Surveying community members
  • Finding and acquiring neighborhood resources
  • Collaborating with organizations to address community concerns
  • Working alongside advocacy organizations for specific populations (such as refugees, immigrants or homeless people) or for specific issues (such as violence prevention).

6. Medical social work

Medical social workers spend their time assisting patients as they cope with illness and attempt to navigate the healthcare system. They help patients understand their diagnosis and the resources available to them while providing support for them and their families. Medical social workers also assist patients with educational, counseling, and discharge resources.

Professionals in this field strive to break barriers within the healthcare system and provide a holistic, multidisciplinary care plan for patients. They may work in a specific area of medicine; for instance, in the area of geriatrics or hospice care, medical social workers may help seniors and those with terminal illness receive the support and services they need. While some positions call for candidates with a Master of Social Work, some medical social work positions are available to candidates with a bachelor’s degree.

Some duties under the medical social worker spectrum include the following:

  • Assisting elderly patients in finding home healthcare services, meal delivery programs, or residential care facilities
  • Finding community resources for patients and their families, such as camp programs, daycare services, or respite care
  • Organizing support or health-promoting groups
  • Intervening in situations of suspected elder or child abuse
  • Making home visits to patients after discharge, ensuring their needs are being met
  • Assisting families in acquiring grief counseling
  • Linking grieving families to support groups

Pursue your passion

As you can see, a Bachelor of Social Work degree can open doors for your future. You’ve already made up your mind—you’re meant to live a life of serving others. You’re meant to inspire a world of good. And whether you hope to make an impact in a one-on-one setting or on a broader scale, you can find your fit in the social work field.

So what are you waiting for? You already have the innate desire that can’t be taught. All you’re missing is the practical knowledge and hands-on training to put your passion into action. Check out the Wheelock College Social Work page to learn how we can help provide you with the missing pieces.