What Can You Do with a Social Work Degree Besides Social Work?

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Social workers help people address challenges like drug abuse, mental illness, and divorce. They often connect clients with resources, such as mental health professionals and community health services. Although a rewarding career, some social workers experience burnout. Professionals in this position may benefit from a career change.

Social workers seeking a career change should consider roles like educator, career counselor, or inclusion specialist. These professions require many of the skills that social workers possess. This guide outlines these and other opportunities for professionals with social work degrees considering a career change.

Social Worker Transferable Skills



Social workers possess many soft and hard skills. This section outlines several transferable skills that social workers can use in their new career.

  • Soft Skills

    • Active Listening: Active listening refers to the ability to attentively listen to someone and comprehend the meaning of what’s being said. The skill involves ignoring distractions and displaying physical cues, such as nodding, to show engagement. These skills help job applicants engage during an interview.
    • Emotional Intelligence: Social workers use emotional intelligence to understand their clients’ needs and perspectives. Recognizing and understanding someone’s emotions can make professionals strong collaborators and leaders. Individuals with heightened emotional intelligence can understand an interviewer’s emotional state and adjust their answers accordingly.
    • Judgment and Decision-making: Social workers use their judgment and decision-making skills when evaluating clients’ needs and developing action plans. Employers typically reserve managerial positions for candidates with a strong decision-making record. Social workers seeking a career change can demonstrate these skills to potential employers on a resume or during an interview.
    • Time Management/Organizational Skills: Social workers operate in a dynamic work environment with diverse challenges. They need strong time management and organizational skills. They can demonstrate these skills during a social work career change by arriving at interviews early with a copy of their resume.

  • Hard Skills

    • Workload Management: Workload management helps social workers serve clients while avoiding burnout. The skill involves creating a priority system for cases. Employees with this skill can often manage tight deadlines. Applicants can demonstrate their workload management expertise by describing an example in their cover letter.
    • Interviewing Skills: Social workers interview clients to understand their needs and recommend resources. The skill involves empathy and trust-building. Social workers can apply these skills when interviewing with a hiring manager.
    • Leadership: Most employers value applicants with leadership skills. Social workers develop these skills when helping clients make positive life changes. Experienced social workers may also lead teams and coordinate others’ workloads. Discussing a leadership example with a hiring manager can help candidates secure employment.
    • Advocacy: Social workers possess advanced advocacy skills. They advocate for clients when speaking with professionals like medical providers, other social workers, and elected officials. A social work career change involves advocating for oneself in front of hiring and human resources managers.


Tips for Transitioning from Social Work to a New Career



Professionals seeking a career change from social work benefit from networking with potential employers. Websites such as LinkedIn allow users to research employers and create an online profile. Many employers also post job opportunities on LinkedIn. Other networking opportunities include in-person career fairs.

Professionals can attract employers’ attention with a well-written resume. A compelling resume is clean, concise, and error-free. It should list candidates’ accomplishments and include updated information.

A social work career change may involve developing new professional skills. Fortunately, many organizations offer certificate and certification programs that can help job candidates demonstrate specialized skills.

Alternative Careers for Social Work Degree Holders



Many roles require skills that social workers possess, such as career counselor, health educator, and high school teacher. The following list highlights several careers available to professionals planning a career change from social work.

  • Career Counselor

    Like some social workers, career counselors use interpersonal and communication skills to help clients explore career opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that career counselors earn a median annual salary of $58,120. The BLS projects the need for these professionals to grow 8% from 2019-2029.

    Explore a certification to make this career shift.

    • IACA Certification: An IACA certification can help job candidates learn the latest career counseling best practices and qualify for more roles. Certification candidates must complete coursework on 10 core competencies and pass a comprehensive exam. They must also sign an ethics pledge and submit three recommendation letters.

  • College Admissions Counselor

    College admissions counselors help students plan for the future. Some social workers already possess experience assisting young adults and nontraditional learners with exploring higher education. This advantage sets them apart from other job applicants, especially if they earn certification.

    Explore a certification to make this career shift.

    • College Admission for Emerging Leaders: The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) awards this certification to professionals who complete an eight-week online course. The course uses a cohort learning model and covers topics like data analytics, unconscious bias, and student engagement basics. NACAC members receive a registration discount. The program offers several annual start dates.

  • High School Teacher

    High school teachers educate students on one or more subjects. They may also host student clubs or coach sports. According to the BLS, they earn a median salary of $62,870. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow 4% between 2019-2029. Social workers with experience working with adolescents should consider this profession for a career change.

    Explore a certification to make this career shift.

    • National Board Certification: Educators with at least three years of experience can pursue this certification. Candidates must demonstrate mastery of four competencies, including content knowledge, differentiation, and teaching practice. They must also pass examinations and record their classroom instruction. Some school districts offer an automatic raise or promotion to teachers with this credential.

  • Human Resources Manager

    Human resources managers develop benefits programs, resolve disputes between employees, and advise senior managers. They earn a median annual salary of $121,220. Social workers can use their interpersonal and organizational skills to excel in this role.

    Explore a certification to make this career shift.

    • Professional in Human Resources: Human resource managers with some experience can earn the PHR credential. Candidates must hold at least a bachelor’s degree and pass an exam. The exam’s 90 mostly multiple-choice questions cover topics like business management, total rewards, and employee-labor relations. Professionals must renew the PHR by completing 60 recertification credits every three years.

  • Health Educator

    Like social workers, health educators work with clients to identify problems and propose solutions. They also assess communities’ healthcare needs and collaborate with medical professionals. They earn a median annual salary of $48,140. Professionals pursuing a career change from social work may need additional education or training to work as health educators.

    Explore a certification to make this career shift.

    Certified Health Education Specialist: This credential serves new and experienced health educators. Candidates must complete undergraduate or graduate health education coursework. They must also pass a 3.5-hour, 165-question multiple-choice exam. Certification renewal requires 75 hours of approved professional development courses.

  • Mediator

    Mediators help parties settle legal disputes outside of the justice system. They often conduct interviews, prepare legal documents, and maintain files. The median annual salary for mediators exceeds $66,000. Social workers may excel in this role since their professional experience often involves conflict resolution.

    Explore a certification to make this career shift.

    • Certified Public Accountant: Mediators specializing in financial issues can pursue CPA credentials. CPA requirements vary by state but often include a master’s degree, 1-2 years of supervised experience, and passing a comprehensive exam. CPAs must renew their credentials annually by completing 40 hours of professional development training.

  • Diversity and Inclusion Specialist

    Training and development specialists focused on diversity and inclusion lead training programs for employees. They may also develop program material and assess programs’ efficacy. These workers earn a median annual salary of $62,700. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow 9% from 2019-2029. Social workers with experience helping people from minority groups may excel in this position.

    Explore a certification to make this career shift.

    • Certified Diversity Professional: Candidates for this credential must demonstrate mastery of 16 professional criteria. They must also hold at least two years of relevant work experience and pass a 170-question exam.

  • Public Policy Advocate

    Social workers often advocate for clients. They can use this experience to work as a public policy advocate. Public policy advocates may also classify as political scientists. Political scientists make a median annual salary of $125,350. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow 6% between 2019-2029.

    Explore a certification to make this career shift.

    • Graduate Certificate in Public Policy: Social workers without public policy experience should consider earning a graduate certificate in public policy. University certificate programs typically take no longer than a year to complete. They may include courses on topics like finance, public policy evaluation, and the relationship between public policy and political institutions.


Portrait of Thomas Broderick

Thomas Broderick

Thomas Broderick is a freelance writer and the owner of Broderick Writer LLC. He creates study guides, informational websites, and blog posts for clients in the education field. Thomas is also a published author of over 20 short stories and a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.

See articles by Thomas

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