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Social Work Professions: Summary of the Social Worker Fields

Social workers help people by giving them access to resources like healthcare facilities and counseling services. These professionals deal with people who face life-threatening situations, such as criminal activity or substance abuse. While there are a number of specialties, a majority of social workers are employed in three major branches.

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Child, Family, and School Social Workers

These social workers provide services to children and their support systems. Some may work with families to ensure that children are properly cared for through services like daycare, foster care, and adoptions. School social workers work with students, their parents, and school personnel to create an environment that allows children to reach their potential. The issues a school social worker may handle can vary depending on the age of the students they work with.

Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS,, the employment of child, family, and school social workers was expected to increase about 20% from 2010-2020. The increases in job opportunities are due to the growing enrollments in schools and the need to help disadvantaged children. In addition to schools, government organizations and family services are major employers. Budgetary short-comings could hinder opportunities with governmental organizations.

Salary Information

In May 2012, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for child, family, and school social workers was $41,530. Of the major employers, elementary and secondary schools paid the highest annual wages, followed by home health care services.

Medical and Public Health Social Workers

This branch of social work concerns individuals who are facing serious illnesses or are in need of special care. These social workers may be employed by hospitals and can interact with doctors, nurses, and hospice workers. These professionals get sick and disabled people the services they need such as at-home care or treatment referrals. Some may choose to specialize with a specific population, such as the elderly.

Career Outlook

The BLS stated that employment for healthcare social workers was expected to grow 34% from 2010-2020. The growing elderly population is a major reason for the projected job growth. Facilities that service senior citizens and their families will be a major source of job opportunities.

Salary Information

According to the BLS in May 2012, healthcare social workers made a median salary of $49,830 annually. Of the major employers, specialty hospitals were among those with the highest wages.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

Social workers in the mental health and substance abuse areas provide intervention, outreach, and therapeutic services to individuals with these problems. They can help individuals who've been in treatment readjust once they leave a facility. Mental health and substance abuse social workers may be self-employed. They can work with professionals in the therapeutic services, including psychologists and substance abuse counselors.

Career Outlook

The BLS stated that employment for mental health and substance abuse social workers was expected to increase 31% from 2010-2020. Opportunities are due in part to the increasing number of substance abusers being placed in treatment rather than prison and the necessity to provide counseling services to them once they have reentered society.

Salary Information

In May 2012, the BLS indicated that the median annual earnings for a social worker in the mental health and substance abuse field were $39,980. Of the major employers, home health care services, specialty hospitals, and health practitioners' offices paid the most.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics