Where Social Workers Work

by | March 10, 2009

Where do social workers work?

Local, state and federal governments offer many opportunities for social workers to engage directly with clients, as well as indirectly through policy work, research and program administration. Government services cover a wide range of issues, including public health, child and family services, homelessness, mental health, poverty and the law. For the most part, these programs focus on meeting the basic needs of people such as food, shelter, safety and medical care.

Policy social workers are often hired as lobbyists, analysts, evaluators and researchers to determine causes of certain social ills and propose possible remedies, much like research-oriented social workers. Social workers in this field often address overall problems, such as child abuse, homelessness, substance abuse, poverty, mental illness, violence, unemployment and racism.

Social workers in this field also analyse policies, programs and regulations to determine which solutions are most effective for a given problem. They identify social problems, study needs and related issues, conduct research, propose legislation and suggest alternative approaches or new programs. They may foster coalitions of groups with similar interests and develop inter-organisational networks. On a daily basis, this often means analysing population data and legislation, drafting position papers, working with the media, talking with policy-makers, and lobbying officials. Tasks may also involve raising funds, writing grants or conducting demonstration projects. Often, social workers are the directors of organisations that do this work.

KPMG, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and PricewaterhouseCoopers are a few of the corporate consulting companies winning contracts from government and nonprofit organisations for technical assistance in improving the delivery of social services through team-development, training and administration. These companies look to hire master's-level social workers to develop and deliver training on topics including organisational development, conflict resolution, and help with technology solutions, policies and procedures tailored to the agencies' specific needs, as well as clinical guidance to other social workers. Because of social workers' specialized educational and experiential training in terms of the staff, clients and issues nonprofits face, they give these companies a unique edge in this type of setting, which increases the effectiveness of the training. To be successful in this field, it is important to have good analytical, strategic planning, presentation and writing skills. Seeking internships in corporations is an important step in acquiring this kind of position upon graduation.

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