It is possible to specialize a social work degree in LGBT issues even when this specific curriculum is not formally offered by the school. Social work is a service-focused career where professionals are trained in various aspects of supporting individuals and groups to cope with everyday and extraordinary challenges. As such, social work is one of the top career tracks for those committed to LGBT causes as an advocate for the community or a part of said community.
Core Mission of Social Work
Social workers are tasked with determining which communities need help, assessing the level of need and identifying resources that are available locally and immediately. Social workers address long-term needs of individuals and communities, including those affected by socioeconomic challenges such as poverty, unemployment and illnesses. They may also be called upon to work with responders to help communities facing traumatic events to assist in their recovery and transition to normalcy. In addressing short-term and long-term needs, social workers ensure that individuals and communities have access to the help they need from government and private sector resources, which may include counseling, physical, behavioral and mental health therapy, financial help and other programs.
Finding the LGBT Focus
The LGBTQ community faces unique challenges even in societies that have become more inclusive and open when it comes to gender issues. Advocating for this community requires an in-depth understanding of these issues with hands-on involvement in finding solutions to issues such as discrimination, bullying and covert ostracism. To successfully specialize a social work degree in LGBT, it is important to remain involved with the community as an advocate, a volunteer or a partner in LGBT-focused activities.
Working with LGBT individuals and families will provide a better understanding of their needs, which will help define efforts to focus your social work major on issues relevant to the community. Choose electives in psychology, sociology and the humanities that will help explore and expound on these issues. Opt to complete research work that focuses on the unique challenges that LGBT individuals face in terms of mental health, access to social services and other socioeconomic disadvantages unique to the community. Spread awareness about crisis situations faced by LGBT individuals through your choice of papers, practicum or capstone projects. Consider adding counseling and psychotherapy courses to your academic work load. These courses may not be enough to earn credentials to become a full-fledged counselor for LGBT issues, but the basic knowledge gained may prove helpful in helping someone cope with their personal challenges.
Related Resource: The 14 Most Affordable Accredited MSW Programs in the North East 2018
Outlook for Social Workers
A study prepared by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force indicates that the LGBT population may be anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of the total population in the U.S. It is difficult to come up with a more specific number because of changing definitions of the LGBT label along with survey respondents refraining from identifying with the LGBT. The job outlook for social workers in general is expected to improve by 16 percent between 2016 and 2026 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is much faster than the average growth rate, and the LGBT community will account for a significant part of the population that will need the services of social workers. Make the effort to specialize a social work degree in LGBT, and you will create a niche opportunity for a fulfilling career focused on supporting the causes you champion.