If you’re a social worker looking to make a change, deciding on which new career path to pursue can be daunting. The good news is that the skills and experience you’ve gained can open the door to various alternative careers for social workers. Whether you have a long track record as a social worker, or you just obtained your bachelor’s or MSW degree, it’s worth exploring your options for a career change from social work.
In this guide, we will explore the various career paths you can pursue if you’re looking for jobs similar to social work. We’ll discuss non-traditional social work jobs, including options in mental health, healthcare, criminal justice, child welfare, politics, teaching, and more. But first, let’s start with some of the reasons why you might want to pivot into a new role. Let’s dive in.
Why Switch Careers from Social Work?
There are various reasons why social workers might want to switch careers, and they are all equally valid. Social workers spend their time supporting communities and helping them overcome different types of challenges. However, they often deal with a lack of resources, long working hours, and emotionally taxing situations.
One big motivation to look for career change options for social workers can be burnout. Perhaps you feel overwhelmed by the types of situations you find yourself in due to the nature of your work, or you simply feel overworked and lack a healthy work-life balance.
Another reason why you might want a career change as a social worker can be that you just need a new challenge, or you realized that social work is not the best path for you based on your skills and long-term career goals. No matter the reason, if you are looking at alternative jobs that you can do with your social work skillset, then keep reading.
The Best Alternative Careers for Social Workers
The skills you have gained from your social work degree are transferable and valuable, so rest assured you will find something that suits you. Keep reading to see our list of the best alternative careers for social workers you should consider.
As a social worker, you will have had experience motivating people, possibly even groups of people, toward a particular goal. You could quickly transfer these skills to learning entrepreneurship, a field where resilience, creativity, and leadership are also fundamental.
If you already know about business and finances or have a concrete idea of a product or service that could help others, launching a career as an entrepreneur can be a great option. Entrepreneurship plays a vital part in the US economy, and it can help you work based on what you’re passionate about.
It is not a giant leap to consider the field of psychology as you will have learned about aspects of human behavior in social work. Those with an MSW can even diagnose mental health disorders already.
To become a therapist, you will need to go back to school and get a degree and training that allows you to have patients. However, a successful psychology career will also bring in a healthier salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a psychologist’s average salary is $81,040 per year.
Diversity and Inclusion Specialist
Social workers gain experience working with marginalized populations and, therefore, can work as diversity and inclusion specialists. You can help companies recruit employees from diverse backgrounds, and help them create environments that are inclusive in terms of race, gender, socioeconomic status, religion, age, and national origin.
There are typically three main types of consultants: scientific, management, and technical. They provide organizations with advice based on research and risk analysis. Consulting jobs require excellent problem-solving, research, and communication skills, which social workers possess.
High School Teacher
If you want to leverage your skills to work with young people and guide them through the transition to adulthood, a teacher’s role could be a perfect fit. To become a teacher, you will need to be licensed or certified according to your state’s requirements. This is an excellent career alternative for social workers, with an average salary of $61,820 according to BLS.
If you want to leverage your skills with a less stressful option, consider becoming a sociologist. In this role, you will study the behaviors of different social groups by conducting research and carrying out different types of studies. Through them, you can test theories about social issues, collecting and analyzing data on anything from education, health, crime, poverty, families, gender, and population, to racial issues.
As a mediator, you’d have a chance to use your skills to facilitate dialogue among parties and help them find a solution to their conflict. Being able to communicate, listen actively, be empathetic with all parties, and be patient throughout the process is essential in this role, and luckily it’s a complete match to the skills you need as a social worker.
Mediators can typically enter the field with a bachelor’s degree, so you won’t require a new degree to break into this field. The average annual salary for a mediator is $49,410, according to BLS.
Social work administrators can work as elected officials. Many of the skills required for this role are transferable, as you will need to know about social services, social policy, and human behavior.
If you find you want to help larger groups of people and even entire nations, then becoming an elected official will provide an exciting challenge. The pay is much better, and it is a huge responsibility and requires incredible organizational skills, resource management, and empathy.
Real Estate Agent
If you enjoy working with people and want a flexible career, consider a career as a real estate agent. These professionals help their clients buy, sell, and rent properties. Real estate agents are usually able to design their own schedules and can earn handsomely through commissions. To enter the field, you will need to get licensed.
College Admissions Counselor
Our final pick for this list is college admissions counselor. In this position, you will be using your people skills to help students find the right path forward as they transition into college. It is a great alternative to leverage your social work skills to support young people. You can also become involved in the creation of college outreach programs.
What Are Transferable Social Worker Skills?
To land jobs similar to social work, you need to leverage your existing skills. Below are the top transferable skills that social workers have and that employers are always on the lookout for.
- Active listening
- Written communication
- Verbal communication
- Complex Problem-solving
- People skills
- Negotiation skills
- Organizational skills
- Ability to work under pressure
- Decision-making skills
- Systems analysis
Switching Careers from Social Work
There is a wide variety of alternative careers for social workers where you can leverage your existing education and skills while doing work you love and find rewarding. Whether you’re feeling burnt out at your current job or you simply need a new challenge, these career paths will be easy to transition into and will open new possibilities in your life.
Once you’ve decided the type of career you want to pivot into, make sure to take some time to build a strong resume and cover letter, complete any additional training you need, and put your best foot forward in your job search. With a little effort, you’ll soon find yourself on a new path with plenty of opportunities.
Alternative Careers for Social Workers FAQ
Jobs similar to social work that pay more include psychologist, sociologist, and high school teacher. Other paths, such as entrepreneurship or real estate, come with higher risk but can also lead to greater earnings down the road.
Some options you can pursue with an MSW besides social work include mediation, consulting, or director of corporate responsibility. A master’s degree gives you the chance to work in a wide variety of management and coordination roles adjacent to social work.
Non-traditional social work jobs include corporate social work, social sciences research, and social work in the medical field. In truth, the skills you gain as a social worker can be valuable in a wide variety of fields, as long as you are able to find the overlap and identify a field that you are passionate about.
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Some common types of social work include clinical social work, child, family, and school social work, and public welfare. As a social worker, you can choose to work with various groups of people, including those who struggle with substance abuse, trauma and disaster relief victims, or people in need of mental health support.
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