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College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Fields of Social Work Practice

A degree in social work from a college or university accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is necessary to become a social worker.  Virginia State University Bachelor of Social Work Program is accredited through the Council on Social Work Education. 

Resources 

Careers in Social Work:

Family Services

Social workers provide support services for families to enhance family functioning. Examples of services include counseling, family therapy, and family life education.

Employers:

  • Domestic violence prevention affiliated agencies
  • Family Counseling Agencies
  • Mental Health Clinics

Children Services

Child welfare workers practice in family-based services that address children, youth and families. A social worker in this field may counsel children and youth who have problems or have difficulty adjusting socially. She/he may work to protect or intervene on their behalf when they are abused or neglected. Child welfare may advise foster care in cases where parents cannot or will not protect and/or provide for their children. Social Workers will then work with the courts to find adoptive homes for children.

Employers:

  • Public/Private Child Welfare Agencies
  • Legal services agencies
  • Adoption agencies
  • Foster care agencies
  • Child care agencies
  • Family Preservation and Reunification Services

Employment/Occupational Social Work

A growing practice field for occupational or corporate social workers is in employment assistance program (EAP’s). The social worker may be the owner of the EAP or be employed by large corporations, business or unions, mostly in urban and industrial settings. They help employees deal with a large range of problems including work stress, substance abuse, domestic violence, single parenting, depression, eating disorders, vocational rehabilitation, takeovers, layouts, etc. In this way, social workers assist corporations reengineer their organization and processes to improve effectiveness, creativity, productivity, and morale.

Employers:

  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s)
  • Businesses
  • Private Consulting Firms
  • Corporations
  • Labor Unions

Gerontology

There is a tremendous need for social work with older persons and their families. Social workers help older adults maintain independence. The social worker arranges income assistance, organizes recreational groups and support groups. A social worker in this field would improve the quality of life for elders.

Employers:

  • Nursing Homes
  • Senior Centers
  • Hospitals and Medical Centers
  • Hospice Program
  • Mental Health Centers
  • Employee Assistance Programs
  • Legal Services

Health Care

Social workers are important members of the healthcare teams and provide medical and emotional treatment in hospitals, clinics, and other medical and health care settings.  The work together with doctors, nurses, administrators, and other professionals to help patients and their families cope with chronic or terminal illnesses.  Social workers who work in health care assess patient’s needs, set up an aftercare program, educate patients and their families, and help them deal with emotional problems associated with illness. Social workers help facilitate discharge and provision of supportive services for post-hospitalization by providing patients and their family caregivers with information and referrals.

Employers:

  • Health Care Organizations (such as the American Lung Association)
  • Nursing homes
  • Acute Care and Rehabilitation Hospitals
  • Rural Health and Specialty Clinics
  • Hospices and Home Health Agencies
  • Public Health Department
  • Group homes

Mental Health/Clinical Social Work

In the common instances when people need mental health services to cope with life’s stressors; clinical social workers are utilized. Clinical social workers are the largest group of professionally trained mental health providers in the nation. Social workers in this field supply more than half of counseling and therapy services.   All clinical social workers must have an MSW. The must be licensed or certified in the state in which they practice.

Employers:

  • Psychiatric Hospitals
  • Family Service Agencies
  • Residential Treatment Centers
  • Sheltered Work Settings
  • Community Mental Health Centers
  • Employee Assistance Programs
  • Schools
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Program

Public Welfare

Social work in public welfare entails administration, implementation, monitoring, and program evaluation of the public welfare system. Social workers provide information on how to apply for public assistance and other benefits, review eligibility requirements, and arrange for services. They also train and supervise staff while setting and evaluating standards and criteria for service delivery.

Employers:

  • Public Welfare Agencies
  • Private Social Service Agencies

School Social Work

School social workers work closely with teachers, administrators, and other professionals to help children with physical or learning disabilities as well as emotional problems. They provide counseling and referral services for a range of concerns including family problems, domestic violence, child abuse, neglect, and poverty. They serve as a liaison between family and school and often between school and community. To work in schools as a school social worker, and MSW and Type 73 Certificate required.

Employers:

  • Schools: Elementary / Secondary
  • Head Start Centers
  • Special Education Centers
  • Counseling Centers
  • Special Education Placement Offices
  • Counseling Centers
  • Early Intervention Programs

Corrections and Justice

A social worker’s activities in corrections and justice are diverse, providing the chance to use a range of skills. Social workers in criminal justice make recommendations to courts, serve as expert witnesses, do pre-sentencing assessments, and provide services for prison inmates and their families.   They focus on rehabilitation by providing therapy, drug and alcohol addiction and basic life skills training. Many social workers become probation officers or parole officers. They help ex-offenders access supportive services upon release from prison. Social workers may arrange for a half-way house, job training, employment, remedial classes, counseling, child care and / or transportation.

Employers:

  • Victim Restitution Programs
  • Courts
  • Police Departments
  • Prisons
  • Juvenile Detention Facilities

Community Development

There are numerous opportunities for social workers in community development programs and projects that are designed to provide community, professional and volunteer services. This is an area of employment that is expanding as greater responsibility for human services programs that are assumed by cities, towns, communities, neighborhoods, and local organizations. Social workers participate in establishing and operating such services as homeless shelters, youth activities, free lunch programs, and services for homebound elderly and persons with disabilities.

Employers:

  • Community Funded Projects
  • Religious Organizations
  • Americorps
  • Vista

International Social Work

International Social Work involves direct services in child welfare, family planning, health and mental health, international adoptions, human rights advocacy, and refugee programs through relief and international organizations. Social workers also assist governments in developing delivery systems and training programs. They provide technical assistance and are involved in research projects. International organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Red Cross, the United Nations, and numerous non-government organizations employ social workers.

Employers:

  • Community Funded Projects
  • Religious Organizations
  • Americorps
  • Vista

Administration and Management

Administration and management are areas in which social workers utilize their training. Social workers help formulate policy, evaluate and design programs, develop budgets, direct personnel, determine resource allocation, develop public relations plans and set goals.

Public Interest Groups

Social workers are hired by public interest groups to help develop policy. This work entails analyzing legislation, drafting position papers, testifying at hearings, working with the media, and lobbying elected and appointed officials. In this capacity, they usually write grants or conduct demonstration work.

Masters in Social Work Options

As undergraduates work toward graduation, they may ask themselves, "Will my degree be enough?" For those interested in a career in social work, the answer may be no.  With an undergraduate degree becoming the standard in today's professional world, the decision to pursue a graduate degree can yield a higher salary while giving social work professionals the step up needed to pursue their passions at a higher and more direct level. A Master of Science in Social Work (MSW) is mandatory for those seeking licensure.

Student's interested in pursuing an MSW degree after completing their undergraduate program at Virginia State University can benefit greatly by understanding all of the options available to you.

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