Jobs in social work often involve interfacing directly with clients, but students who earn degrees in this field aren't limited to clinical roles. They can also land social work positions that allow them to have an active voice in policy. Here are five jobs that illustrate that well.
Community Social Worker
Community social workers enjoy some of the most diverse opportunities in the field because they work with communities of all sizes and types. Whether you work in a rural area or with a defined population in an urban area, you'll have the opportunity to improve the wellbeing of those in your community. You'll do that by offering services tailored to the population, but you'll also work with local governments, community organizations and businesses to solve problems in your area. It's a great way to affect policy on a small scale, and you'll gain the experience needed to move into state or national policy-making roles too.
Social Work Researcher
Researchers tend to shape what's important and innovative in their fields, and there's no exception when it comes to social work. As a social work researcher, you'll do in-depth study in a particular area of concern or interest. Researchers work at government agencies, schools, non-profit organizations and policy think tanks. They help social service providers better understand the populations that they serve and do research into the efficacy of different social work models. Social work researchers who are employed in the non-profit and government sectors also look at the causes and possible solutions of social problems that affect large populations.
Social Work Administrator
Social workers with experience in the field can ascend to administration positions in community organizations, clinics, non-profit agencies and government agencies. As administrators, they make key decisions on behalf of their organizations. While administrators are responsible for deciding how their organizations run, they also set policy in the field as a whole by participating in professional organizations and advocacy efforts. Because social work administrators are employed at high levels within various government agencies and organizations, they also have the power to change policy by building relationships with influencers in related fields.
Medical Social Worker
Many medical social workers provide one-on-one services to patients and their families, but that's not all that can be done in this job role. Social workers who specialize in the medical field can ascend to leadership positions in community clinics, hospitals and other health care settings. Professionals who work in leadership roles in medical social work are often responsible for evaluating the ethical and humanistic aspect of various medical situations. They may be called upon to support and give advice to both medical professionals and patients. Medical social work jobs are particularly well suited for social work students who have interest and knowledge in public health topics.
Social Work Professor
There's no doubt that college professors by and large shape how their students perceive their field. As a social work professor, you'll have the opportunity to influence the lives of students who move into policy-oriented roles. You'll also have a direct influence on policy by setting curriculum and learning priorities at your college or university. Of course, social work professors often work closely with social work researchers to determine if priorities and needs in the field are changing too.
Shaping policy in social work means finding effective ways to improve the lives of others. If you're interested in a policy-oriented job, consider taking ethics and business courses. Having a well-rounded understanding of social work and its role in the wider world is essential to success in a policy-making career.
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