The world is under attack. People need help. Loud cries echo everywhere. And then, you hear this, ‘Avengers assemble’. The cinema hall gets filled with loud cheers and claps. Captain Steve Rogers is ready with his team.
Every super fan of the Avengers franchise has replayed this scene at least 100 times. This article is not about those on-screen superheroes. But the real ones who offer a hand to people who are in need. Yes, I’m talking about social work professionals who go around finding people and communities that need help.
Who are social work professionals?
“Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people.”
You must be knowing that the formal pathway towards becoming a social work professional is to take up undergraduate and postgraduate courses. But what’s after that? In this article, I’m am going to talk about a few social work career options one can take up after MSW.
Community social worker
A friend of mine enrolled for a social work fellowship program. They took her to a remote village in Orissa. She lived there for two years studying the community, collecting data, experimenting practices that can improve their lives, and making recommendations to the authority who is in charge of implementing the suggestions.
What she was doing is called community social work. It is ‘the practice of professional social work with communities as target population or setting for interventions’. The term covers social work at a macro level. Unlike social workers who work on an individual level, community social workers work for the improvement of a community. They focus on interventions that can impact a large number of people and works with larger systems at the institutional, city or even state level. Community social workers advocate to a large number of people at once, organizing them, coming up with programs to meet their needs, appealing to government and other welfare organizations for interventions.
They are usually employed by government institutions or non-profit organizations that work for the welfare of underserved communities. Their job role involves assessment of needs, recommending people to services, administering welfare programs, etc.
Foreign aid worker
If your heart wishes to serve, boundaries won’t stop you. Foreign aid workers are social service professionals who travel across the underdeveloped world to make it a better place. They provide support to the underserved and displaced in countries that are affected by wars, drought, and poverty. They usually work for international organizations such as Redcross. Though having an MSW degree is not a mandatory requirement to become a foreign aid worker, it will give you an upper hand during the selection process to join international organizations.
If you are up for the task, gain relevant work experience of at least two years and then apply for a position in an international aid organization. But this is harder than you think. Foreign aid workers will sometimes have to work under extreme conditions without even having basic facilities. But if you are up for it, there is no better service based job role than becoming a foreign aid worker.
Administrative social work
A lot of people around the world work for the welfare of the underserved. But change happens only when many hands come together for a common cause. And when people come together, there need to be people who can manage them and their work. Here comes the role of administrative social workers.
As the name suggests, they are the professionals who take up administrative roles in organizations that are into social work. Social workers who attend to people alone can’t do the job. Be it an NGO or a government body, professionals who are good at administrative roles are required to run the organization, organize and manage programs.
In this job role, you will able to impact a larger group of people at once. A social work degree along with a business degree will be the perfect academic qualification for this role. Remember, this is not only about serving people but also about building a strong career for yourself.
Child, and Family Social Workers
The turn of the century has seen poverty, unemployment, racism, etc eat up the world. This has lead to the need for professionals who can help young people, families, and children to deal with social and psychological issues the 21st century has brought upon us. Child and family social workers are professionals who are specialized in this.
They support children and families to cope up with different social and mental health issues. Their work includes allocation of resources to families that are in need, help children from unhealthy families or neighborhoods, advocate against practices like bullying and racism, arrange counseling sessions for children and families facing trauma, etc. Child and family social workers either practice independently or are hired by social service institutions.
Criminal Justice Social Workers
There are millions of people who are either in prison or were once inside a prison. But just because they were convicted, their rights as human beings cannot be denied. In fact, the ideology behind prison systems is to correct criminals, not to keep them away from society. But unfortunately, not everyone realizes this. Many ex-convicts find it difficult to get back to a normal life again. The society’s stigma and their inability to get back to social life after the years inside a prison are the most common reasons. And here comes the role of criminal justice social workers.
They are the social work professionals who ensure that prisoners, former prisoners or their families are not denied any rights. They also provide rehabilitative services, work with parolees, and act as mediators in case of conflicts. Qualified criminal justice social workers even serve as advocates for clients whose rights were denied. They either practice independently or work with the social justice systems of a country or a province.
Gerontological Social Workers
The world is for ‘old’ aswell. Senior citizens should not be denied of their right to live with dignity. Gerontological social workers are the people who are into the welfare of elderly people. They help the elderly access social and community services. This includes helping them with access to facilities such as housing, healthcare, etc. They also ensure the psychological well being of their clients by providing mental health support. They work in old age homes, outpatient services, adult protective agencies, etc.
Military and Veterans Social Work
When the US soldiers returned from Vietnam, they found it hard to get back to their normal lives. The years they spend dealing with war, blood and dead bodies took a big toll on their body and mental health. Some of them even suffered from post-traumatic stress disorders.
Around the world, military professionals take a lot of physical and mental damage. When they finally try to come back to normal life, they might need help. Military and veteran social workers are social work professionals who are trained to help the military and veterans. They assist them in dealing with physical and mental trauma and in making the shift from military life to normal life smoother. They help them to reach out to resources and support military families during deployment.
Medical and Hospital Social Workers
They are the social workers who support patients and their families in getting access to health care facilities and dealing with trauma in cases of severe medical cases. Most medical and hospital social work professionals work in hospitals or clinics. Some even attend patients at home if necessary. Medical health care workers should have an MSW or sometimes will be required to have a license to deal with certain kinds of illnesses.
School social worker
Most schools today have social work professionals who provide counseling and psycho-social services to children and adolescents. They work as counselors, mental health experts, students, and parents support team, etc. Some schools even have social work professionals working with grievance redressal committees. These professionals are equipped with skills and knowledge to deal with issues concerning children and adolescents.
Psychiatric social work
Psychiatric social work is about attending to people suffering from mental illness. According to Kaitlin Louie ‘Psychiatric social work is a specialized type of medical social work that involves supporting, providing therapy to, and coordinating the care of individuals who are severely mentally ill and who require hospitalization or other types of intensive psychiatric help’.
The job role of a psychiatric social worker includes psychosocial risk assessments, individualized and group psychotherapy, crisis intervention and support, care coordination, and discharge planning services, etc. They work in hospitals, mental health institutions, outpatient clinics, etc.
Depending on workplace settings and job roles, psychiatric social workers are mainly of three types. Inpatient Psychiatric Social Workers, Psychiatric Emergency Services and Crisis Response Social Workers and Outpatient Psychiatric Social Workers. In India, anyone who has done their masters in social work with a specialization in psychiatric social work is eligible to practice as a psychiatric social worker.
If your heart wishes to serve the underserved, social work is an interesting choice. Courses such as BSW and MSW offers plenty of opportunities. Community social work, children and family social work, school social work, administrative social work, criminal justice social work, hospital social work, psychiatric social work, army and veteran social work, foreign aid, etc are few of the areas one can choose for a career after MSW. We hope the illustrated analysis has powered up your insights and widened your perspectives about the career options after MSW. Always remember that you make your own destiny. Make sure that you invest time and thought before making your life-changing decisions.