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There are many different types of social worker employment, and the ability to participate in the various jobs depends somewhat on education and regional definitions. People with bachelor’s degrees (BSW) may hold social work related jobs in a variety of fields. Better paying jobs with greater responsibility are held by those with a master’s degree in social work (MSW), and many social workers have also completed several years of post-graduate school supervised training to earn the designation of licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), or earned a doctorate in social work (DSW).
Public and non-profit agencies that assist people in various ways offer a great deal of social worker employment. Agencies in the public sector include those that administer welfare or social assistance programs and might protect injured children, educate children or adults, or assist those with disabilities or mental deficits. These settings principally offer work to eligibility workers and caseworkers.
Eligibility workers assess whether people qualify for help and they may not need a college degree for this job. Caseworkers then assist qualifying individuals or families. As a caseworker, the social worker directly assists clients, helping each to navigate and understand the assistance the agency offers. Caseworkers need more training because of their direct work with clients, and most agencies, non-profit or public, won’t hire people who don’t possess a minimum of a BSW or a bachelor’s degree in a related field.
Another type of social worker employment takes place in the medical field. Hospital social workers directly assess patients and their families in getting ready for discharge or transfer. These jobs usually require an MSW at minimum. A variation is the psychiatric social worker, who often needs an LCSW, and may work as both therapist and case manager for people in psychiatric hospitals.
Insurance companies can also employ social workers. In this position, workers may be called patient advocates and they inform patients of any special services or rules of coverage. A different type of patient advocate works privately on behalf of patients to negotiate cost, insurance, or treatment with medical providers and insurers.
Not all social worker employment involves direct case management. Instead, some workers find employment in agencies dedicated to changing or writing social policy. Work might include anything from community organization to behind the scenes political maneuvers. Social policy writers tend to be highly educated and are able to extensively analyze or conduct research. Education can certainly help, and an MSW or LCSW may make it easier to compete in this market.
Another market is education. People with a DSW could opt for careers in academia. These teachers may not only teach, but are frequently involved in social policy changes or projects, too. Another option is grantwriting, which may come easy to social workers who have completed graduate studies.
A type of social worker employment only possible with an LCSW is work as a psychotherapist. Many people interested in group or individual counseling choose to get a social worker degree. These LCSWs may work in private practice or for bigger facilities like hospitals, jails, or drug treatment centers.