Careers with a Social Work Degree


A bachelor of social work (BSW) degree program is intended to equip you with the skills, knowledge and competencies needed for professional work in this field. In fact, the BSW degree is now a minimum requirement for many public sector social work jobs in Canada and the United States.


While it is primarily meant to serve as professional preparation for social work careers, it also allows you to pursue careers outside of the field. This is possible because of the many transferable skills it can teach you.


By providing an education that stresses respect for diversity, lifelong learning, social justice and, a social work program can effectively equip you for careers in which you work collaboratively with individuals, families, groups, and communities in diverse and cross-cultural environments.



What You Can Do with This Degree

This guide is meant to outline the many ways an education in this field can help serve as an excellent foundation for your future career. It show you what skills it can teach you, and what careers you can pursue as a result of those skills. We’ve also included other helpful information to show you just how valuable this degree can be.





What Does a Social Work Program Teach You?

The primary focus of most BSW programs is to teach you the skills and competencies necessary to become an effective social work practitioner.


This is generally accomplished by combining in-class studies of professional techniques and methods with practical experience. The practical experience element of a social work degree is typically acquired through supervised social work practice in a local or regional public or private social agency.


In-class academic work involves the study of social work practice methods; social policies; human behaviour in individuals, families, groups, and communities, as well as research methods in social work.


As a result of this work, you should be able to critically analyze the elements of oppression in our society, as well as identify barriers that prevent individuals, families and groups from reaching their full potential. 



Employable Skills Gained for Relevant Careers

Pursuing a degree in social work will help you develop knowledge, skills and competencies that are unique to the subject matter, and can be applied directly to a wide variety of careers in the field:


• Capability in the areas of clinical intervention, research and community development

• Ability to critically analyze manifestations of oppression

• Familiarity with both historical and current manifestations of social inequity and injustice

• Ability to effectively work with service users in a variety of contexts

• Ability to analyze theoretical and conceptual frameworks of social work policies, programs and practices

• Ability to make judgments concerning the positioning of yourself and others within the political and ethical contexts of social work

• An understanding of how the practice, theory, policy and research of social work can both advance and inhibit the building of a socially just society



Directly Relevant Careers

The field-specific skills taught by this degree are meant to be applied to the following careers (just a sample of the possibilities, not a comprehensive list):


• Aboriginal Housing Advocate

• Addictions Counsellor

• Adoption Services Worker

• Behavioural Therapist

• Child Care Worker

• Community Care Coordinator

• Community Outreach Coordinator

• Community Service Agency Worker

• Community Service Organization Manager

• Community Services Director

• Community Support Director

• Correctional Counselor

• Crime Victim Specialist

• Crisis Hotline Coordinator

• Crisis Intervention Specialist

• Developmental Care Worker

• Director of Youth Development

• Domestic Abuse Investigator

• Domestic Violence Victim Advocate

• Elder Care Worker Career

• Family Counselor

• Family Enforcement Worker

• Family Preservation Case Worker

• Family Support Worker

• Foster Care Worker

• Geriatric Care Manager

• Gerontologist

• Group Home Worker

• Halfway House Supervisor

• Human Rights Activist

• LGBTQ Services Coordinator

• Life Skills Coach

• Medical Social Worker

• Mental Health Community Worker

• Mental Health Counselor

• Military Officer

• Readjustment Coordinator

• Rehabilitation Counselor

• Relief Shelter Worker

• School Counselor

• Sexual Abuse Counselor

• Sexual Assault Educator

• Social Services Coordinator

• Social Worker

• Street Outreach Worker

• Suicide Prevention Services Director

• University Professor

• Wellness Coordinator

• Women's Shelter Staff

• Women's Shelter Supervisor

• Youth Advocate

• Youth Counselor


Please Note: Some of the careers listed above may require additional training, experience and education beyond the scope of a BSW degree.





Transferrable Skills You’ll Gain

In addition to field-specific skills, you'll also learn transferrable skills that can be applied to careers in almost any field. Such skills include:


• Communication and interpersonal skills

• Leadership and teamwork skills

• Organization and time management skills

• Fundamental cultural literacy

• Research skills, including data gathering and direct observation

• Synthesizing and interpreting vast amounts of information

• Academic writing and presentation skills

• Critical intelligence and skills in intellectual analysis

• Ability to empathize with your fellow human being in order to understand his or her perspective


In particular, this skill set serves as an excellent foundation for jobs that require relating to others, reaching out to them, building bridges, or incorporating many perspectives at once.


Please Note: While this type of skill set may not be enough to ‘get you a job’ per se, it does serve as an excellent foundation for many jobs. Be aware, that in a cover letter or an interview, you should be prepared to explain how these skills, and others you may have, are a great fit for the organization.



Careers Indirectly Related to Social Work

Not interested in a career that’s directly related to social work? That’s okay, because of the transferrable you'll gain, you'll have plenty of career options, including (but certainly not limited to):


• Academic Advisor

• Animal Rights Coordinator

• Blogger

• Camp Director

• Career Counselor

• Child Life Specialist

• Community Education Officer

• Community Mobilization Director

• Consumer Advocate

• Credit Counselor

• Daycare Worker

• Director of Volunteer Services

• Discrimination Investigator

• Divorce Mediator

• Elementary School Teacher

• Facilitator

• Genetic Counselor

• High School Teacher

• Intelligence Analyst

• International Aid Worker

• Juvenile Correctional Officer

• Lawyer

• Legal Advisor

• Mayor

• Mediator

• Mentoring Coordinator

• Motivational Speaker

• Non-Profit Administrator

• Paralegal

• Parole Officer

• Police Officer

• Postal Inspector

• Probation Officer

• Recreation and Leisure Supervisor

• Student Activities Programming Board Director


Please Note: Some of the careers listed above require additional education, training and experience. Click on careers that are of interest to you to find out more about the specific requirements.



What Kind of Salary Could You Earn?

The salary level you could earn as a graduate of a social work program can vary quite a bit, typically depending on the following factors:


• Your level of education (bachelor’s, master’s, etc.)

• Whether or not you end up working as a social worker

• What kind of social work you end up doing

• The amount of work experience you’ve accumulated

• The size and type of your employer

• The region in which you find work


That’s a lot of factors that can influence your earnings. To make it easier to determine what you could earn, let’s just look at the average salary level of a social worker.


Social Worker Salary Alberta: According to the 2013 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working as part of the Social Workers occupational group earn an average of $67,175 per year.


Social Worker Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the Social Workers occupational group is $44,200 per year. 



Gaining Practical Career Experience

Gaining practical field experience is an essential component of a Bachelor of Social Work program. As a social work student, you will likely be required to complete one or two social work practicum terms with a social work agency in their area or region.


Aside from fulfilling an academic requirement, getting work experience while you’re a student has several benefits, such as:


• Meeting others with the same professional interests

• Making your own conclusions about a career in social work

• Strengthening your resolve to work in social work

• Getting your foot in the door with an organization


BSW programs may offer practicum placements in many different service areas including child and youth care, mental health, gerontology, clinical care, probation services, non-profit and profit agencies, contracted services, special projects, multicultural agencies, and government ministries. Try and land an opportunity in the field that interests you most!


Please Note: For quality assurance purposes, all field placements and field instructors ought to be approved through your school. 



Earning a Master's Degree in Social Work

Have you ever thought about taking your social work degree to the next level? If not, you should. A graduate degree can greatly increase your chances of finding suitable employment.


A Master of Social Work (MSW) degree can open many doors by showing employers you not only have specialized knowledge and skills, but also the compassion and dedication necessary to work in such an important field.






Social Work Scholarships

Take a quick browse through our scholarship database, which is sorted by field of study. It lists plenty of scholarships that are specific to this field, as well as scholarships that are open to any field of study. Just make sure you apply for any that you even barely qualify for; so much scholarship and bursary money goes to waste every single year simply because of a lack of applicants.



Professional Social Work Associations

To find out more about careers in social work, consult the following professional association websites. They offer career-related information, and many have opportunities for student membership, as well as job placement and mentoring opportunities.



Canadian Association for Social Work Education

Canadian Association of School Social Workers & Attendance Counsellors

Canadian Association of Social Workers

Canadian Professional Counsellors Association

Canadian Society for Spirituality & Social Work


United States

Association of Social Work Boards

Council on Social Work Education

National Association of Social Workers

The American Council for School Social Work

The Association for Addictions Professionals



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