Career Opportunities | Social Work | SIU

Home
Southern Illinois University

CONTACT

SIU.EDU

College of Education and Human Services

student on computer

Career Opportunities


Child Welfare

Child welfare social workers practice in family-based services that address the needs of children, youth and families.  They may counsel children and youth who have behavioral problems or have difficulty adjusting socially.  Social workers also work to protect children and intervene on their behalf when they are abused or neglected. Some of them work in residential institutions for children and adolescents. Still others specialize in adoption services and assist parents in arranging for adoptions.

Social workers investigate reports of neglect or abuse of children and must evaluate family situations with children's best interests in mind. The emphasis in protective services is to link parents with needed support services and resources to create a safe environment for children. Social workers may recommend temporary foster care when a child's safety is at issue. If children are removed temporarily, social workers will work on plans to reunite families as soon as possible. They may also initiate legal action to terminate parental rights and put the child up for adoption.

Employers

  • Public Child Welfare Agencies
  • Private Child Welfare Agencies
  • Legal Services Agencies
  • Adoption Agencies
  • Foster Care Agencies
  • Child Day Care

Return to top of page


Health Care

Social workers are important members of the healthcare teams in hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities. They work together with doctors, nurses, administrators, and other professionals to help patients and their families cope with chronic or terminal illnesses. They assess a patient's needs for medical, and/or emotional treatment, as well as rehabilitation. Social workers help facilitate discharge and provision of supportive services for post-hospitalization by providing patients and the family caregivers with information and referral. 

In health settings, social workers also provide case management and often help to organize support groups for families and patients suffering from AIDS, cancer, asthma, substance abuse, chronic illnesses of aging, disabilities, and organ transplants.  They develop new programs, lead support and educational groups, manage social work departments, network with community resources, and serve as a resource on managed-care plans.

Social workers are often hired by agencies that provide hospice care. The hospice movement is increasingly popular in this country. The goal of these agencies is to assist the dying to have optimal quality of life during their final months. Social workers employed by hospices provide counseling to these patients and their families, helping them adjust to the inevitable stressors presented by the dying process. The mission of hospice, which is to help patients take charge of their lives and make their own decisions during this critical period, coincides with the social work mission of helping people help themselves.

Employers

  • Acute Care and Rehabilitation Hospitals
  • Rural Health and Specialty Clinics
  • Hospice and Home Health Agencies
  • Nursing Homes
  • Health Care Organizations (such as the American Lung Association)
  • Public Health Departments

Return to top of page


Mental Health

Clinical social workers provide more than half of the counseling and therapy services in the United States. As mental health providers they help clients with mental, emotional, alcohol or drug abuse problems through individual and group therapy, outreach and crisis intervention, and, in many cases, serve as agency directors and administrators. 

Social workers in mental health settings provide services for persons who are unable to deal with day-to-day stress due to depression, emotional distress, mental disorders, or mental retardation.  They also assist in planning for supportive services and activities within the community.  Entry level positions include case managers, day treatment facilitators, and residential technicians. Advanced-level positions require a Masters in Social Work degree (MSW).

Employers

  • Psychiatric Hospitals
  • Family Service Agencies
  • Residential Treatment Centers
  • Sheltered Work Settings
  • Community Mental Health Centers
  • Employee Assistance Programs
  • Schools
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Programs

Return to top of page


Public Welfare

Social work in public welfare entails administration, implementation, monitoring, and program evaluation of the public welfare system.  Social workers provide information on how to apply for public assistance and other benefits, review eligibility requirements, and arrange for services. Social Workers also train and supervise caseworkers who provide direct services.  The main challenge of public welfare agencies is to develop effective programs for self-sufficiency and moving people from public welfare into the workforce and mainstream of society.

Employers

  • Public Welfare Agencies
  • Private Social Service Agencies

Return to top of page


Social Work with the Elderly

There is a great need for a professional social work practice in our aging society.  Social workers provide services to senior citizens such as counseling, income assistance, transportation, home care assistance, and recreational activities to help them remain active, healthy, and independent as long as possible. 

They run support groups for family caregivers, advise on the availability of services and long-term care, as well as coordinate and monitor services for the elderly.

Employers

  • Nursing Homes
  • Senior Centers
  • Hospitals and Medical Centers
  • Hospice Programs
  • Senior Housing Facilities
  • Mental Health Centers
  • Employee Assistance Programs
  • Legal Services Agencies

Return to top of page


Employee Assistance Programs

A growing practice field for occupational or corporate social workers is in employee assistance programs (EAPs).  These programs are available with large corporations, businesses, and labor unions, mostly in urban and industrial settings.  EAP social workers counsel workers and executives alike to help them achieve emotional well-being and improve job performance.  They deal with the diverse problems and situations affecting American workers today:  divorce, single parenthood, substance abuse, domestic violence, depression, eating disorders, vocational rehabilitation, stress, takeovers, layoffs, etc.  In this way, social workers help businesses and organizations improve their productivity.

Employers

  • Employee Assistance Programs
  • Businesses
  • Private Consulting Firms
  • Corporations
  • Labor Unions

Return to top of page


School Social Work

School social workers work closely with teachers, administrators, and other professionals to help children with physical or learning disabilities as well as emotional problems.  They provide counseling and referral services for a range of concerns including family problems, domestic violence, child abuse, neglect, and poverty.  They serve as a liaison between family and school and often between school and community. 

School social workers also provide a number of services to students in special education programs. To work in a school as a school social worker in Illinois, an MSW degree and a Professional Educators License (PEL) are required.

Employers

  • Schools: Elementary/Secondary
  • Head Start Centers
  • Special Education Centers
  • Counseling Centers

Return to top of page


Corrections and Justice

Social workers in criminal justice make recommendations to courts, serve as expert witnesses, do pre-sentencing assessments, and provide services for prison inmates and their families.  They focus on rehabilitation by providing therapy, drug and alcohol addiction treatment, and basic life-skills training. Many social workers become probation officers or parole officers.  They help ex-offenders access supportive services upon release from prison.  Social workers may arrange for a halfway house, job training, employment, remedial classes, counseling, child care, and/or transportation. 

Social workers may also work in victim services programs, courts, and police departments.

Employers

  • Prisons
  • Courts
  • Police Departments
  • Victim Assistance Services

Return to top of page


Community Development

There are numerous opportunities for social workers in community development programs and projects that are designed to provide community, professional, and volunteer services.  This is an area of employment that is expanding as greater responsibility for human service programs is assumed by cities, towns, communities, neighborhoods, and local organizations. 

Social workers participate in establishing and operating such services as homeless shelters, youth activities, free lunch programs, parent training and child care, migrant worker services, educational programs, and services for homebound elderly and persons with disabilities.

Employers

  • Community Funded Projects
  • Religious Organizations
  • Neighborhood Organizations
  • Americorps
  • Vista

Return to top of page


International Social Work

International Social Work involves direct services in child welfare, family planning, health and mental health, international adoptions, human rights advocacy, and refugee programs through relief and international aid organizations.  Social workers also assist governments in developing delivery systems and training programs.  They provide technical assistance and are involved in research projects.  International organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Red Cross, the United Nations, and numerous non-government organizations employ social workers.

Employers

  • Relief Organizations and Agencies
  • International Human Rights Agencies
  • Peace Corps
  • Non-Government Organizations

Return to top of page