What is social work?
According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty.
The primary focus of the profession is the well-being of an individual in the social context and society’s well-being. Attention to the environmental forces that create and influence problems for an individual is essential to the practice of social work. Social workers are advocates of social justice and social change. The word “clients” is used to refer to individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. People who are social workers are sensitive to diverse backgrounds and strive to end the oppression and discrimination that affect individuals and groups belonging to diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Activities social workers use to aid clients include direct practice, community organization, supervision, consultation, administration, advocacy, political action, policy development and implementation, education, and research.
What can I do with a social work degree?
Social workers are employed in a variety of settings including:
- Healthcare: Hospitals, Hospices, Nursing Homes, Home Care Agencies, Mental Health Services, Public Health Agencies
- Child Welfare: Schools, Foster Care, Adoption, Department of Human Resources
- Aging and Gerontology: Area Agencies on Aging, Senior Housing Facilities, Hospitals, Senior Volunteer Programs, Nursing Homes
- Justice and Corrections: Substance Abuse Programs, Local, State, and Federal Government, Prisons, Courts, Treatment Facilities, Victim Services Programs
- Community Development: Social Action, Work with the Homeless, Battered Women, Persons with AIDS, Hunger Coalitions
- International Social Work: United Nations, Peace Corps, World Health Organization, U.S. Agency for International Development
- Federal and Government Positions: U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Federal Prisons, Services to Native Americans, Federal Health Facilities, Administrative Agencies, U.S. Congress, Armed Forces
What can I expect to earn as a social worker?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for social workers was $51,760 in 2020.
What is the job outlook?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment will grow 13 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will be driven by increased demand for healthcare and social services but will vary by specialty.
What training and qualifications do I need?
The minimum requirement to practice social work in Alabama is a bachelor’s degree in social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and licensure. Some positions require a Master of Social Work (MSW). Many of these positions are often clinical, in mental health facilities, nursing homes, community-based service organizations, or colleges and universities.
All states and the District of Columbia require social workers with master's degrees to be licensed in order to practice and use professional titles. Many states now emphasize communication skills, professional ethics, and sensitivity to diverse backgrounds. Most states require at least two years of supervised clinical experience before social workers are licensed as clinical social workers.