Social work is a dynamic, changing and challenging profession with a vast range of career options and rich opportunities for deep personal job satisfaction. Professional social workers are experts who help people cope with complex interpersonal and social problems and obtain the resources they need to live with dignity. At the same time, the social worker is also committed to making society more responsive to people's needs.

Wherever there are people, there are social workers. A useful way to see the social worker's role is as "the professional in the middle". On the one side are the individual families; on the other, the community and its resources. The social worker weaves back and forth between the two--assessing, understanding, developing relationships, mobilizing and initiating/helping people build their own lives and helping the community create and deliver the services and supports that many people sometimes need.

Social work's historic mission has been helping the disadvantaged, those who have been excluded from participation in the ideal of a just and equitable society. But the contemporary social worker also assists people from all walks of life--rich and poor, black and white, young and old. No matter what the political climate or the nature of personal and social problems, there will always be a need for social workers because there will inevitably be people in need of assistance. Some of the social work positions are:

Child Welfare

Social workers work to improve the physical and emotional health of deprived children. A main thrust of social work today is in the area of child abuse and neglect. The social worker investigates physical, sexual or emotional abuse of children, intervenes to provide for the child's protection and sometimes initiates legal action.

Public Welfare

Developing sound public policies and implementing programs and services for-those who need support are traditional and critically important areas of social work. These professionals work in local, state or federal agencies, and their jobs range from client assistance to top level administrators. Social workers in many settings help to develop legislative strategies, organize communities and lobby in the hope of influencing and improving the public welfare.

Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Industry, hospitals, community group homes, and prisons are just a few of the social settings in which social workers help those with drug or alcohol addiction. Through individual and group counseling, and community education, social workers provide the necessary support and assistance.

Mental Health

Half of all mental health treatment in the United States is given by professional social workers. They are found in psychiatric hospitals and mental health centers and clinics. Social workers also give direct mental health counseling services to individuals, families and groups in private settings, and serve as administrators of large mental health agencies, both public and non-profit.

Health Care

Hospital social workers are advocates for patients' rights and plan for discharge and re-entry into the community. The social worker can also arrange for home care for patients and continued access to service as needed. Social workers in public health--in rural health departments, on Indian reservations, in public health agencies and inner-city clinics--work with the entire community to prevent disease and avoid health risks.

Developmental Disabilities

Physically or mentally disabled persons are increasingly finding their place in the mainstream of society, and social workers help them by providing counseling,referral and education in daily living skills. The social worker also works closely with people suddenly disabled by accidents or critical illness to help them adjust to their disability and live as independently as possible.

Services to the Aged

The fastest growing segment of the population are the elderly, and here social workers can find some of the greatest job opportunities of all. Social workers have vast new opportunities in helping the aged and their families obtain vital services, find meaningful activities and relationships and adapt to the aging process.

*Portions of the above were adapted from The Many Career Opportunities in Social Work, St. Louis:
George Warren Brown School of Social Work. For further information about careers in social work, contact the: National Association of Social Workers 7981 Eastern Avenue Silver Spring,Maryland, 20910

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Resources in Social Work

  • The Social Worker Network
  • Links of Social Work
  • Web Resources for Social Workers
  • Net Lists for Social Workers
  • Graduate Schools of Social Welfare and their Directors

Regional Graduate Programs in Social Work

  • University of South Carolina College of Social Work
  • University of Georgia School of Social Work
  • University of Tennessee College of Social Work
  • East Carolina University School of Social Work
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Human Services on the Web

  • American Psychological Association
  • WWW Site for Psychological Resources
  • Center for Disease Control
  • Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP)
  • National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI)
  • National Alliance for the Mentally Ill
  • Web Links for Physical and Mental Health
  • School Psychology Resources Online
  • Rate your risk of: rape, robbery, homicide or assault: Are you easy prey? Take the test and find out.
  • Or play the Multimedia Violence Reduction Game

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