There are three social work specializations that individuals who graduate with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) can pursue, and it can be helpful for aspiring social workers to learn about the job duties and outlook for each. A BSW program prepares graduates for a variety of entry-level social worker job. Through field experience and coursework in psychology, sociology, social work practice, and research methods, BSW graduates gain the skills needed to work as child, family, and school social workers; mental health and substance abuse social workers; or healthcare social workers.
It is important to note that a BSW does not prepare graduates for work in all social work specialty areas. For instance, it doesn't prepare graduates to become clinical social workers, which requires licensure, experience, and a master's degree.
Child, Family, School Social Work
Social workers who specialize in child, family, and school social work often deal with issues related to child welfare and protective services as well as other family-related issues. They may work directly with individuals or host workshops for groups. Some of the issues that they address may include:
- Foster care
- Teenage pregnancy
- Domestic violence
- Drug and alcohol use
- Stress and homelessness
- Conflict resolution
Employment is often found in schools and individual and family services agencies as well as state or local government agencies. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these social workers are expected to experience job growth of 6% between 2014 and 2024, which is about average. This is due to a need for social workers who can provide support at schools and to families who are having ,problems. While the mean wage for child, family, and school social workers was $47,510 in May 2016, those working exclusively in elementary and secondary schools earned an average annual wage of $62,170, according to the BLS.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Substance abuse and mental health social workers provide therapy, rehabilitation, and intervention for the mentally ill and those with substance abuse problems. They may also help individuals make a smooth transition back into the community, provide employee assistance, and offer counseling services to the family members of clients they've treated. These individuals tend to work at both inpatient and outpatient facilities.
The BLS expects growth for these social workers to be much faster than average at 19% between 2014 and 2024. As more people become willing to get help for substance abuse and mental illness, there will be a need for more mental health and substance abuse social workers. The BLS reported an average wage of $47,880 for these social workers in 2016, with those in psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals making an average annual wage of $53,740.
Healthcare Social Worker
Healthcare social workers provide psycho-social support to the terminally ill, counsel patients and caregivers, and coordinate at-home care services. Some may specialize in a particular area, such as gerontological services. Healthcare social workers can find work in a variety of settings including hospitals, individual or family services agencies, nursing homes, and local government agencies.
The BLS expects this field to have a very fast increase of 19% in job opportunities between 2014 and 2024. This is mainly due to the aging population's need for care. In May 2016, healthcare social workers earned a mean annual wage of $55,510, with those working at hospitals making an average salary of $61,080, according to the BLS.
Bachelor of Social Work programs typically require four years of full-time study. In these programs, students take career-focused courses and fulfill general education requirements. In addition, they must complete an internship or participate in supervised fieldwork in order to graduate with eligibility for a social worker license. Some of the courses cover topics like counseling skills, American social welfare, human behavior, cultural diversity, social policy analysis, and mental health theories. By earning a BSW degree, aspiring social workers can get the academic knowledge and practical skills they need for work in a variety of specialization areas within the field.