What Careers Opportunities Are Available with a Doctorate in Social Work?

Are there enough career opportunities with a DSW to justify the time and expense of obtaining the degree? It depends. If you want to advance your role as an advocated, practitioner and leader, there are many opportunities for you. If you're interested in research, you might consider the Doctorate of Philosophy in Social Work (Ph.D.) instead. Here are some of the many ways you can improve lives with a Doctorate in Social Work (DSW).

Executive Director

Non-profit organizations need leaders. With a doctoral degree in social work, you'll have the opportunity to take the helm at large or small non-profits. Executive directors need outgoing personalities to raise funds from major donors, strong management skills to lead the organization and a commitment to the non-profit's mission. Great career options for DSW graduates include homeless shelter, non-profit advocacy organizations and other social service providers in the community. Many of these jobs qualify for student loan debt reduction under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program administered by the Federal Student Aid Office of the U.S. Department of Education.

Government Official

Have you always wanted to reform your state's child welfare department or tackle major quality issues with local psychiatric care? A role in public service might be the ticket for you. You might find yourself administering a government department or testifying before the legislature about the need for increased funding. Government jobs offer good benefits and steady pay, with bonuses for graduate-level education. If you have real-world experience working for state or local government before finishing your doctoral degree, you can use that as a powerful argument for why you'll make a great higher-level government worker.


Yes, most social work professors earn the research-oriented (Ph.D.). You can still work in academia with a DSW. You might find yourself in a lecturer or non-research role, but you'll be able to share your passion for social work with the next generation of students. Some graduates work part-time as visiting or adjunct faculty at a university and part-time in the field. This is a great option if you want to combine a love of teaching with your love of client-focused social work.


Earning your DSW doesn't mean turning away from the clinical or micro-level social work you love. You can use your training to become a top-notch clinician and practitioner. You'll dive deep into psychology, counseling and strength-focused client advocacy. Many clinician-focused graduate programs offer flexible schedules so you can earn your degree on your time without interrupting your practice. Plus, in many states, your graduate education can count towards continuing education credits, so you won't have to worry about taking extra classes to keep your license current.

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Because the DSW focuses on learning new information, rather than creating new knowledge through research like a Ph.D. in Social Work, you can complete a DSW online with limited in-person sessions. This means you'll have increased career opportunities with a DSW if you continue working while obtaining the degree, and your employer might even offer tuition reimbursement.