The desire to serve may be inspired by a personal experience of adversity, an interest in what makes people tick, or a calling to activism. Whatever the inspiration, social workers are defined by purpose, compassion and action.

Because of this, social workers are found in virtually every community, and in a variety of roles and functions. The role they play is vital, no matter where they are employed. MSWs work with children, families, the elderly, the military, those fighting addiction, the mentally ill, and the sick. Social workers may find employment in schools, military bases, hospitals, mental health clinics, rehabilitation facilities, residential treatment programs, or a range of other health care settings.

The career options for MSW grads are equally wide-ranging. They may carve out a career in private psychotherapy (with additional credentialing), or wind up crafting social policy. And it’s entirely possible to have several careers with the one degree; the MSW often leads to multiple occupations and career paths.

In fact, a key value proposition of the MSW is that it offers enormous flexibility and versatility in the marketplace. In its simplest form, social work is about how to help people. The basic skills of an MSW are highly transferable across multiple industries and jobs.

But what happens when the work you are most passionate about does not fit into any of the traditional areas of social work practice? Does it still make sense to fulfill the desire to help others and earn an MSW? Can you pursue the path less traveled?

The answer is yes.

That’s when the MSW degree and its inherent versatility can work for you.

There are many innovative career adaptations of the MSW. Because of the broad banner the degree operates under – remember, social work is about how to help people - having the credentialing of a master’s degree further legitimizes any career goal.

You may have a variety of creative ideas that you want to put in play, and hope to have an impact as a social worker in a non-traditional setting, but having the MSW suggests there is a discipline and methodology to your thinking. Your degree ensures that you have an informed and substantive framework behind your desire to shake up the world.

Where will the MSW take your career?

Here is a sampling of exciting MSW career paths for this degree.

College Counseling:

A sizeable number of MSWs enter this profession. For more information about how to get started in this field, contact the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC, www.nacacnet.org), the primary organization offering support and credentialing.

Social Work and Sports:

To learn more about the role of social work in sports, contact the National Alliance of Social Workers in Sports (www.naswis.org).

  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Fundraising
  • Career Counseling
  • Employee Assistance Program Counseling or Administration
  • Corporate Giving
  • Social Work and Veterinary Practice – Grief and Pet Loss
  • Diversity and Inclusion Management
  • Labor Relations
  • Criminal justice (evaluation of juvenile and drug offenders)

Social Entrepreneurship: Even Google Gets Social Work

A new and exciting area that is a particular fit for social work practice is social entrepreneurship and social innovation. This new area has positioned social workers as pioneers on new and entirely different career paths.

Perhaps more than any other professional degree, the MSW positions you for this kind of work. At Google, an MSW is the co-leader of Google’s Women Techmakers Initiative, a program that “provides visibility, community, and resources for women in technology.”

Heading into any area that’s considered outside of the box will require creativity and the ability to forge your own way. But social workers have the capacity to make impacts in new and unexpected ways like never before. How you choose to use the degree is up to you.

Nedda
Nedda Gilbert

Ms. Gilbert is a certified social worker and 30 year educational consultant with an interest in helping college-bound and graduate school students manage the process and stress of admissions effectively. She is one of the senior founding managers of the Princeton Review Test Preparation Company, and the author of The Princeton Review Guide to the Best Business Schools and another book, Business School Essays that Made a Difference (Random House). She is a guest contributor to Forbes Magazine on college and college life. Ms. Gilbert is also certified as a collaborative family law professional in New Jersey. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and MS from Columbia University.