5 Nontraditional Careers for MSWs

An increasing number of social workers with master’s degrees are looking for positions outside the field, and some are finding lucrative and stimulating work. The state of the economy has adversely affected the availability of jobs in every field and squeezed resources available to gainfully employed social workers. As a result, some MSWs have found employment with corporations, fit into a non-social-work niche in the non-profit field, or even founded their own businesses. Carrie Lew, Director of Professional Development and Alumni Relations at the University of Southern California, has taken an interest in helping MSWs find internships and careers outside the norm. She offered USCNews a useful explanation of what social workers bring to the table: “Social workers are catalysts who utilize their extensive knowledge of human behavior, motivation and interpersonal relationships to identify and understand personal and organizational needs or challenges. We are problem-solvers, and we’re great at assessing problems and managing relationships within organizations.” While many may not realize it, this very marketable set of skills qualifies social workers for a wide variety of positions outside their traditional field, including:

1. Community Outreach

Social workers have extensive training in understanding community strengths, problems and organization. While they typically use this knowledge to work toward serving communities and the individuals within them, this training also prepares social workers to do community outreach working with nonprofit organizations or corporations.

2. Program Development/Management

Overseeing the creation of new programs for an organization can be a rewarding and exciting job. By drawing on your training in how individuals function socially and what makes for healthy relationships, you can master management skills quickly. The ability to look at problems from multiple perspectives is also a social work skill that will frequently be applied in this field.

3. Human Resources

The ability to evaluate an individual’s capacity to function well in a given environment is a fundamental aspect of both casework and human resource work. In fact, human resources focuses on many of the same issues as social work, except that it seeks to maximize the gain of an organization rather than serve the interests of individuals or a community, per se.

4. Managed Care

Managed care health systems seek to minimize costs while providing high quality service. Because social workers often have training and/or experience navigating health care systems in the service of client needs, they tend to have skills and knowledge transferable to this field. The managed care field includes related positions with insurance corporations and health care providers.

5. Entrepreneur

Most MSWs intend to find a job when they graduate, and to a certain extent, graduate programs tend to encourage this thinking. However, in today’s economy, it is often more rewarding to think in terms of creating a business, particularly once you have some experience in your field. Social workers have an often overlooked wealth of knowledge and skills that ordinary people and other professionals will gladly pay for. Opening a private therapy practice, holding professional seminars or family-oriented workshops, and consulting work can all translate training and experience into a business. This article was written by Community Manager, Brian Pesner on behalf of CAREEREALISM-Approved Partner, 2tor – an education-technology company that partners with institutions of higher education such as the University of Southern California (USC) to deliver their Master of Social Work degree online. Careers MSWs image from Bigstock

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