Advancement Opportunities for Social Workers

May 13, 2018

Social workers have developed skills in counseling and resource management. They may seek advancement through leadership in social services agencies or advanced clinical mental health professions.

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Career Growth Options for Social Workers

Social workers have an important job helping people to deal with problems in their everyday life. They actively listen to their clients and seek a variety of solutions to problems. Entry into the social work profession requires a Bachelor of Science in Social Work (B.S.W.). Many social workers look for growth opportunities after gaining experience in the field. A range of suggestions is offered below.

Job Title Median Salary (2017) Job Growth (2016-2026)* Certificates or Education
Marriage and Family Therapist $48,790* 23% Master's Degree
Community Service Manager $64,100* 18% Bachelor's Degree
School Counselor $55,410* 13% Master's Degree
Employee Assistance Program Counselor $55,126** 23% (mental health counselors) Bachelor's Degree
Licensed Clinical Social Worker $55,521** 16% (for all social workers) Master's Degree

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), ** (2018 figures)

Career Information

Marriage and Family Therapist

Marriage and family therapists are mental health professionals. They diagnose and treat a variety of conditions, such as depression and parent-child attachment. They look at issues through the lens of the family. Marriage and family therapy is considered to be a core mental health profession, which means that states have licensing requirements for these professionals. To become a marriage and family therapist, a candidate must earn either a master's or doctoral degree, undertake two years of supervised experience, and then sit for the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards exam.

Community Service Manager

Social workers may be looking for more leadership experience within their organizations. If so, one position they might consider is that of a community service manager. Community service managers supervise programs at various community service organizations and sets its policies. A community service manager would ensure that the agency is properly performing its functions by supervising staff, developing budgets, and ensuring that the agency is running efficiently. Depending on the experience and degree of the manager, clinical supervision may be provided to others. A community service manager might handle hiring or address grievances from clients. The minimum requirement to become a community service manager is a bachelor's degree and work experience; however, many employers prefer candidates that hold an M.S.W. or M.B.A. degree.

School Counselor

School counselors are educators who work in school settings. They work with children on an individual basis or in small groups to gain academic or social skills. They may also conduct classroom lessons about social and emotional topics. School counselors consult with parents, teachers, and administrators about academic or emotional difficulties that may be preventing a child from accessing their full education. School counselors must have a master's degree in counseling and meet state credentialing requirements for school employees.

Employee Assistance Program Provider

Employee assistance programs are designed to help employees with a wide range of problems that can interfere with work life, including family crises, substance abuse, and stress management. These programs began in the 1940's to address alcohol use at work but have expanded to include a wide range of social issues. Employee assistance program counselors help people to become more focused and functional at work. Social workers with bachelor's degrees can seek to move into positions as employee assistance program specialists. However, a master's degree is helpful in seeking these positions. Once professional experience is obtained, the specialist can seek certification through the International Employee Assistance Professionals Association.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Some social workers are interested in increasing the range of clinical counseling services they provide to clients. One next step for these social workers to consider is to become a licensed clinical social worker, or LCSW. Licensed clinical social workers provide therapy services to individuals for a wide range of mental health conditions. They may also provide diagnoses of mental health conditions. Many focus on one particular area, such as anxiety; or on treating a specific age group like teens or the elderly. Some LCSWs work in community agencies or hospitals, but many have private practices from which to see clients. To become a LCSW, one must earn a M.S.W., perform two years of supervised experience, and undertake the testing required by their state.

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