A career change for social workers is easy to achieve, thanks to the skills they learn on the job. A social worker’s career involves providing help and support to people and communities. They typically provide support and assistance in direct care services, community outreach, counseling, and advocacy.
A degree in social work can lead to lucrative and rewarding careers where you get to make a real difference in people’s lives. You also develop essential skills that can be transferred to other professions. This article covers some of the best alternative careers for social work professionals who are looking to break away from the social work field.
Career Change for Social Workers: Overview
Through the course of their career, social workers develop essential skills that can serve them well outside the social work profession. As a result, social workers are free to pursue other lucrative career paths should they find their existing jobs riddled with unfavorable factors such as low pay, long hours, poor job satisfaction, or poor working conditions.
For instance, an increasing number of social workers are shifting to the healthcare industry. The healthcare industry pays good annual salaries and is experiencing a high worker demand due to COVID-19’s impact. According to Gwynedd Mercy University’s 2020 report, the demand for healthcare professionals will continue to rise exponentially in the near future.
Social workers provide invaluable support, which cuts across different facets of the healthcare industry. Additionally, thanks to their interpersonal skills, they can play a more significant role in the healthcare industry, meaning they’ll be able to enhance the patient experience
What Can You Do with a Degree in Social Work Besides Being a Social Worker?
There are many other jobs that you can do with a degree in social work besides becoming a social worker. Some options include college admission counseling, human resource (HR) management, college lecturing, and consultation.
A bachelor’s degree in social work will develop your skills in case management, organizing, social justice, multitasking, diversity, and community service. The coursework is also designed to help students gain hands-on experience in the field.
Social work graduates can enjoy careers in youth counseling, community organization, school social work, case management, and general counseling.
Common Second Careers for Social Workers
Because social workers serve different groups of people within the population, they can work in numerous jobs in different locations. Social work professionals can use their social work skills to work in careers like caseworkers, high school teachers, paralegals, mediators, mental health counselors, and human resource managers.
Social workers are trained to apply their theoretical and practical skills to various fields, including family services, children’s services, occupational services, gerontology, public welfare, advocacy organizations, community development, administration, justice, and corrections.
The Best Alternative Careers for Social Workers in 2022
There are many career alternatives for social workers angling for a career change. What’s more, you don’t need to have clinical education or private practice experience. Your social worker training and education develop highly transferable skills that qualify you for many other careers, like the ones listed below.
High-Paying Jobs for Former Social Workers
|Job||Average Salary||Transferable Social Worker Skills|
|Sociologist||$86,110||Organization, communication, critical thinking, and analytical skills|
|HR manager||$74,934||Employee relation, performance management, teamwork, organization, customer service, project management|
|Diversity and Inclusion specialist||$71,706||Verbal, writing, presentation, interpersonal, project management, attention to detail|
|Social and community service manager||$69,600||Communication, analytical, managerial, time management|
|Mediator||$66,130||Critical thinking, decision making, conflict resolution, negotiating, listening, interpersonal, reading, writing|
|High school teacher||$62,870||Communication, resourcefulness, patience|
|Elected official||$61,706||Listening, communication, conflict resolution, negotiating, critical thinking|
|Career counselor||$58,120||Listening, speaking, analytical, interpersonal, empathy|
|Instructor/ Lecturer||$56,565||Communication, resourcefulness, critical thinking|
|Paralegal||$52,920||Communication, organization, interpersonal, computer, research, problem-solving|
Sociologists study societal behavior by examining cultures, institutions, groups, and organizations where people interact and work together. They observe human behavior in religious, political, and economic groups. They also study substance abuse and human development.
As a social worker, it is relatively easy to branch out to this field considering your education and training. However, if you have a bachelor’s degree in social work, you should consider earning a sociology degree at the graduate or doctoral level to improve your marketability.
An HR manager performs a number of tasks designed to shape the performance and development of employees in a given organization. The HR manager is expected to lead all human resource practices while providing an employee-oriented high-performance culture.
Many social workers will find it fairly easy to transition to this career, as their training equips them with skills in compliance, teamwork, planning, organizing, communication, customer relations, and commercial awareness, and these skills are essential for HR managers.
Diversity and Inclusion Specialist
Diversion and inclusion (D&I) experts lead a wide variety of programs designed to deliver diversity and inclusion to the development of organizational culture at a workplace.
Duties for D&I managers include identifying speakers for various events, brainstorming ways to improve organizational culture, and providing ideas for mainstream people practices.
As an experienced social worker, you’ll have transferable skills such as excellent verbal and written skills, great presentation skills, and project management skills which are greatly applicable to this line of work.
Social and Community Service Manager
Social and community service managers work with community stakeholders to identify necessary practices, analyze data to determine the effectiveness of various programs, and write proposals for social services funding. Although this is still within the social work field, it is a managerial field with more responsibilities that cut across different career paths.
One major reason why you should consider a career in this field is because of the numerous career advancement opportunities. This career applies knowledge from a wide variety of disciplines including psychology, business management, and administration, making it fairly easier for a person with a background in social work to join.
Mediators offer conflict resolution services to people looking to solve disputes. These professionals work in healthcare industries, legal services, and government agencies. You’ll need a degree in a law-related field, or in communications, mediation, or conflict resolution to become a legal mediator.
One main reason why you should consider this career path is that a significant number of mediators work privately as freelancers. This means that you can use your transferable skills, such as conflict management, communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, and empathy, to start your own social work practice.
High School Teacher
If you are looking for a different kind of challenge, you might try your hand as a high school teacher. If earnings are a big motivation for your career change, becoming a high school teacher might be worthwhile.
Social workers have important transferable skills applicable to teaching, including communication skills, resourcefulness, and patience. Plus, you’ll still get that sense of satisfaction from your career, as most teachers find it rewarding to watch their students learn and gain an appreciation for education and knowledge.
Many social workers run for office because of a specific issue that needs addressing on the political front. There are several types of elected officials including US senators, representatives to Congress, governors, state treasurers, and sheriffs. Their roles vary depending on the seat. As an elected official you’ll occupy either a federal office or a state office.
Social workers are equipped to run for public offices because they are well-educated and, through social work, know about issues affecting their local communities. As a social worker, you’re better poised to improve your community by using your leadership skills and your sense of social responsibility. You can start by providing your expertise to campaigns as you gain experience.
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Career counseling involves helping clients understand themselves and the world of work to allow them to make informed career, education, and life decisions. As a career counselor, you’ll provide counseling services, talking with clients about their thoughts, ideas, fears, and concerns regarding their career choices.
Career counselors typically have a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Counseling, Psychology, or a related field. Most of these professionals work in universities and colleges, but it is also common for many to practice privately and independently. If job satisfaction is a huge reason for your career change, you should know that career counselors get a lot of satisfaction from helping their clients.
If you have a knack for teaching and educating people, you should consider a profession in lecturing. You can become a social work lecturer and earn a higher salary while experiencing better job satisfaction rates. However, you’ll need to have advanced degrees to be eligible for this position, meaning you should have a master’s degree or a PhD.
There are many disciplines within the paralegal field that you should consider. For instance, forensics social work is a field that applies questions to social issues surrounding law and legal systems.
You could use your social work knowledge to become a paralegal and help investigate issues involving child custody, child abuse, divorce, termination of parental rights, or spousal abuse.
How to Make a Career Change from Social Work
Making a career change can be a challenging and frightening process, especially if you have no experience in the career path you want to pursue. Career transitions are not just about switching jobs but involve considering how you want to feel while working. For these reasons, you should make a career change in the right way.
Here are some steps to consider if you want to make a successful career change from the field of social work.
1. Evaluate the Reasons for Wanting to Change Careers
There are plenty of reasons why social workers decide to change careers. Take time to think about why you want a different career, and make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. For instance, you could want a job with higher job satisfaction rates or a higher salary. Find a field that meets your needs while still being relevant to the life experience you’ve acquired within the social work profession.
2. Consider Careers that You Want to Do
After you’ve thought about all the reasons for a career change, the next step is to research more about the jobs you want to do. Do these jobs need more education or training? Where will you work? How will you enter into the field of work? Plan your next move carefully to avoid any pitfalls along the way. You could also speak to a career counselor beforehand.
3. Develop Skills through Training and Education Programs
As a social worker, you likely earned a professional certification or a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Although this may be enough for some jobs, others might require some form of training before you can become eligible for related positions. Adding more skills to your resume is a great way to increase your chances of landing higher-paying positions.
4. Get Connected
We live in a vastly interconnected world where many positions are offered to job seekers based on referrals. Therefore, you should consider networking and connecting with professionals in your new field of work. Consider attending workshops, conferences, seminars, and events to gain more knowledge while connecting with others in your new field of work.
5. Gain Experience in Your Field
Experience is the best teacher. You should consider volunteer or internship roles as many employers prefer working with experienced professionals. For instance, if you want to become an elected official, you should start by offering your expertise to someone else’s campaign to gain supervised experience.
Is It Time to Make a Career Change as a Social Worker?
You should absolutely make a career change from social work if you feel it’s time for a different challenge or experience. However, making a career change is no easy task. This is why you should take time to seriously think about this decision, to ensure you’re making a career change for all the right reasons.
If you decide to change careers, you should know that you have a ton of transferable skills that you’ve gained as an experienced social worker, like organizational skills and analytical skills. These skills are applicable in many professions, some of which pay better and have higher job satisfaction rates than social work careers.
Social Worker Career Change FAQ
A social worker has transferable skills and experience within professional organizations that can be used to pursue a wide range of positions. Social workers can transition into working as elected officials, career counselors, college lecturers, mediators, and HR managers.
The best way to transition from a career in social work is by using your transferable skills to pursue a career that pays more and has better job satisfaction rates. The knowledge and skills gained from your training as a social worker might be enough to qualify you for positions in other careers. However, you should also consider pursuing higher education in the form of master’s degrees and doctoral degrees to gain more skills and increase your marketability.
There is career progression in social work, as many career opportunities open up once you gain more experience. Such roles come with increased responsibilities and significant reliance on expertise. With that said, there are three advanced fields that you can choose from as you gain more experience. You can specialize as a manager, educator, or practitioner.
Social workers possess a wide range of transferable skills. These skills include active listening, critical thinking, time management, system analysis, and time management. When changing careers, it is important to list transferable skills on your resume.
As a social worker, your soft skills, like your experience with human relationships and your ability to form relationships with clients, are highly sought after in various other professions. Key transferable soft skills include written and verbal communication, negotiation, judgment and decision making, problem-solving, empathy, and leadership skills.
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