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MSW Careers: How a Master of Social Work Can Change Your Life and Your Community

June 21, 2019

A social worker sitting on a couch while speaking to a client

Social needs and inequality endure across communities in the United States. Whether they pertain to the opioid crisis, mental health, healthcare, education, or access to technology, there remain ample opportunities to ensure the collective success of all citizens of the communities we call home. Social work students create positive change in these arenas. Through dedicated study at the undergraduate level and beyond, these passionate advocates prepare to thoughtfully, meaningfully, and fiercely do work that can make measurable improvements in the world.

Undergraduate students learn about the strategies and ethics of social work. They develop a foundational understanding of basic interventions, national social welfare policy, and casework planning as they prepare to enter the workforce. Some students then choose to pursue a Master of Social Work (MSW), which can open up new possibilities for work in clinical fields, policymaking, and administration. MSW students deepen their knowledge of core principles and usually complete supervised hours in the field, often through an internship, to put theory into practice.

During their graduate studies, students have the opportunity to pursue specialized coursework that aligns with their particular MSW career goals. After completing the coursework and internship credit hours, MSW graduates can step out into the world and make tangible improvements to the quality of life in their communities.

Positive Gains: Where You Can Put Your MSW To Work

There are a variety of MSW careers within the field of social service. Clinical social work and counseling, employee assistance programs, school social work, and HIV and AIDS counseling are all potential career paths for MSW graduates to pursue. With the breadth of knowledge obtained through advanced study and the passion to improve social conditions, social workers find many ways to effect change.

Public Health

Public health social workers, sometimes called medical social workers, help their clients navigate all aspects of their health. This broad category encompasses many different kinds of social work, such as working with the elderly to help them receive benefits and care; doing casework at organizations that aim to assist people with their physical and mental health; working with child and maternal health organizations; and developing policy at health, nonprofit, and government agencies. The vast options for working in public health often provide opportunities for social workers to see their impact on individual lives, as well as on larger populations.

Child Welfare

Pressing issues facing America’s youngest populations include abuse and neglect, homelessness, and navigating the foster care system. Social workers build bridges between children in need and service providers, police officers, schools, and government entities. MSW careers in child welfare often include work in the education system; at nonprofits; and in local, state, or federal government agencies. These dedicated professionals might work in child protective services doing ongoing casework, as a counselor at a school, or coordinating support and care for children and their families in other ways. Social workers are key to offering safety and stability to children in need and help young people gain footing on a path toward success later in life.

Substance Abuse and Addiction

Social workers are facilitators of substance abuse treatment across the continuum of care, from diagnosis to treatment, rehabilitation, and re-entry into the workforce and community. In the face of ongoing national concerns about substance abuse and addiction, social workers are a vital resource for individuals suffering from these crises. An MSW career in substance abuse and addiction might involve assessing a client’s condition, recommending a course of treatment, connecting the individual to other community resources, and offering counseling. In this position, social workers might work at a nonprofit; at a hospital; in the prison system; or with local, state, or federal government agencies. As it often involves one-on-one casework, this kind of social work can be both challenging and rewarding and requires a high degree of empathy, patience, and knowledge.

Integrating Learning and Life: Moving Toward an MSW Career

While compassion, courage, and conviction can’t be taught, MSW students can learn the advanced skills that make social workers such an essential part of the fabric of society. With a desire to work hard to change the lives of others and a hunger for knowledge, graduate students can prepare for an MSW career in social service.

LSU Online’s Master of Social Work offers students the opportunity to put their values into action, as well as learn complementary skills—such as policy planning, cross-cultural communication, and advanced casework planning—and develop a nuanced understanding of state and federal law. Take the next step in the direction of building a better world by applying today.

Discover LSU Online's Master of Social Work program.

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