Alternative Careers for Social Workers

Find out about a few of the alternative career options for social workers that range across several different job fields. We also discuss the median salaries, expected job growth rates and education requirements for each position.

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Alternative Career Options for Social Workers

Social workers likely enjoy careers that allow them to interact with people and/or help provide people with a variety of services and resources. There are several other careers in different fields that may fit this description and could serve as alternative career options for social workers. Below is a table that lists a handful of the available alternatives.

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Mental Health Counselors $42,840 20%
Social and Community Service Managers $64,680 10%
Psychologists $75,230 19%
Special Education Teachers $57,910 6%
Sociologists $79,750 -1% (Decline)
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists $50,160 4%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information for Alternative Careers for Social Workers

Mental Health Counselors

A career as a mental health counselor, or any type of counselor, is likely a good alternative career for social workers as these counselors work to help people navigate through their problems and hard life circumstances/decisions. Mental health counselors may work with individuals, couples, families or other groups of people during counseling sessions in which they carefully listen to their clients' situations, feelings and reactions. They may help diagnose emotional disorders, give their clients tools for modifying their behavior and even refer clients to additional community resources if needed. These counselors need a license and at least a master's degree.

Social and Community Service Managers

A social worker may enjoy a career as a social and community service manager who is responsible for overseeing programs and/or organizations that provide people throughout a community with a wide variety of resources. This requires these managers to oversee staff members as they identify, implement and continuously evaluate needed community programs and resources. They typically have administrative duties, such as monitoring the budget and applying for grants and other funding, but they also advocate for programs and needed resources. These managers may hold a bachelor's or master's degree, but usually have some work experience.


Like social workers, psychologists, especially clinical and counseling psychologists, interact with people but with the purpose of studying and/or diagnosing various kinds of human behavior. They may focus on emotional, cognitive or social processes and collect data through interviews, observations, surveys and more to analyze and try to identify patterns in behavior. Psychologists may use this information to try to predict behavior and help them treat their patients. Most psychologists need a doctorate and a license to practice, but some psychology positions exist for those with a master's degree.

Special Education Teachers

Social workers may enjoy teaching and advocating for the needs of disabled children in a position as a special education teacher. These teachers are specially trained to help students who may have emotional, physical or learning disabilities and require material to be taught to them in a unique way they can understand. This means that special education teachers must adapt lesson plans and create Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for each student, which they closely monitor and make changes as needed. These teachers need at least a bachelor's degree and must have a license/certification if they work in a public school system, while private schools may or may not require a license/certification.


Similar to psychologists, sociologists study people and behavior, but focus on social aspects and how people interact with one another. This may prove interesting to a social worker as sociologists conduct research projects and collect data through observations, interviews and more to better understand cultures, social institutions and group processes. Sociologists may use their findings to influence policy and/or further understand the social impact of various issues. They usually need a master's degree or Ph.D.

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists may help counsel and provide the necessary resources to probationers that are needed to keep them out of trouble. Social workers may enjoy this career as it requires the officers or specialists to meet with probationers, evaluate their needs and situation and connect them with resources that will help them succeed. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists also meet with the probationer's family, test probationers for drugs and keep detailed reports about all their contact with law enforcement and other necessary information. Most of these professionals need a bachelor's degree, driver's license, successful passing of exams, drug tests and a background check, as well as be at least 21 years of age.

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