Fields of Social Work: Explore Your Best Career Path

Learn about the different types of social workers and social work careers. Find out where a social work degree can take you.

portrait of Doug Wintemute
by Doug Wintemute

Published on September 29, 2021 · Updated on June 27, 2022

Reviewed by Melissa Russiano, LCSW, LISW

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Fields of Social Work: Explore Your Best Career Path


The field of social work offers plenty of opportunities to help different groups of people. The variety of social work careers available allow professionals to specialize in an area or population that interests them. They can also choose to work in administration or policy.

Regardless of specialization, the career outlook for social work looks promising, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting the addition of 90,0000 new social work positions between 2019 and 2029. To help prospective social workers choose the right path, we explore some of the best careers in the field.

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

A social work degree can lead to different social work careers, fields of social work, and types of social work jobs. This career flexibility allows both students and experienced professionals to chart a path based on their interests and skill sets.

Depending on their career goals and area of social work, students may need to follow a specific educational pathway by completing the appropriate specialization, degree level, and postgraduate license. Luckily, the growth of distance learning has made finding the right program easier for many prospective students.

Below are eight possible career paths for social work graduates. All data comes from the BLS. Median annual salary data is from 2020, and projected job growth figures apply to the years 2019-2029.

Eight Social Work Career Paths

Is a Career in Social Work Right for You?

Social work is a broad field to explore. Social workers and community service specialists work to improve the lives of the people around them and the communities in which they live. The BLS projects strong career outlooks for most types of social workers and community and social service occupations in general.

Nevertheless, choosing a career or specialization among the many different types of social workers can prove challenging. Prospective social workers should consider speaking to a local community organization or talking with a social worker to get more personal insight and help weighing their options.

Frequently Asked Questions About Fields of Social Work

true What field of social work pays the most?

Salaries depend on many factors, but the highest-paying social work career is community services manager. According to the BLS, these professionals earned a median annual wage of $69,600 in 2020, and the top 10% of earners in the field made more than $115,800 that year.

true What can you do with a master's in social work?

A master's in social work can lead to various clinical social work professions. Licensed clinical social workers can provide therapy and counseling services to clients with various challenges and issues. They can also take on management positions in many organizations.

true Is a Ph.D. in social work worth it?

At the doctoral level, social work students can pursue a Ph.D. or a doctor of social work degree (DSW). Most students interested in pursuing clinical work apply for DSW programs. While a Ph.D. can also qualify graduates for clinical roles, most students seek out a Ph.D. program if they aspire to a career in research or as a university professor.

true What is the best social work job?

The best social work jobs depend on your specific goals and interests. While community service managers may make the most money, child social workers may find their career more personally rewarding. Prospective students should carefully consider their interests and needs when choosing a social work career path.

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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