5 Specializations for a Social Work Degree

The field of social work is an expansive one, covering many different practices, specializations, and services under one umbrella. More and more people are seeking degrees in social work, as the need for social workers has increased significantly in the last few years.

Social work covers a broad array of opportunities, and a great number of specializations are available to those who undertake degree studies in social work – particularly for those who pursue a master’s, licentiate, or doctoral degree in social work. Here are five specializations for professionals trained in social work.

1. School Social Work

School social workers provide counseling and mentoring to students as they progress through primary, middle, and high school. The duties of the school social worker are many, and include providing advisement to students on meeting personal challenges that may interfere with their work, addressing family problems that may interfere with the child’s academic progress or providing referrals, or – in some cases – reporting suspected abuse to child protective agencies. This specialization is usually undertaken during master’s study, and typically this position requires a master’s degree in social work.

2. Domestic Violence Counseling

One of the most challenging specializations for social workers, but also potentially one of the most rewarding, domestic violence counseling may take place anywhere from a clinical practice or public service agency to safe houses and domestic violence shelters. Domestic violence counselors may not only counsel victims of domestic violence, but abusers as well; they may assist victims in finding or remaining in safe havens, or testify in domestic violence cases in court. Some positions in this field require only an undergraduate degree, while others may require a master’s degree. Specialization classes can sometimes be taken during undergraduate study.

3. Elder Care

Social workers for the aging usually work for state or public agencies, providing assessments and evaluations for the elderly, counseling the aging, and in some cases, advocating for older adults who may be suffering abuse at the hands of family members or caretakers. Many elder care social workers work in senior citizen centers or agencies, in nursing or assisted living facilities, or may work through private agencies to visit older adults in their homes to evaluate and assist in their care. Those with bachelor’s degrees may work in this field, in addition to those with advanced degrees, and specialization classes can usually be taken at the undergraduate level in addition to undergraduate internships.

4. Child Welfare

Child welfare social workers, or child and family social workers, specialize in ensuring child safety and care. They may work through child protective agencies or the court system, assigned to evaluate and monitor the wellbeing, safety, and health of children and adolescents. They may counsel new or at-risk parents, or testify on behalf of endangered children or adolescents in child abuse court cases. Candidates with bachelor’s degrees in social work may specialize in this field, and very often work through public agencies, while some with advanced degrees work in mental health settings, providing counseling to children and adolescents.

5. Clinical Social Work

Clinical social work requires a minimum of a master’s degree in social work, though those in undergraduate study may take classes towards a specialization in this area. Clinical social workers typically work in therapeutic settings, providing diagnoses and counseling to those with mental illnesses or disorders such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, personality disorders, and many others. Clinical social workers may work through a variety of agencies, including private practices, state hospitals, public mental health clinics, hospitals, and college health and counseling centers.

Those still in undergraduate study in social work may wish to meet with their academic advisor to discuss potential specializations, particularly if they plan to pursue a master’s degree. Those who have completed schooling may develop a specialization via continuing education as well. The field of social work is a dynamic and rewarding one, and these specializations represent just a few of many that social workers may pursue.

Related Resource: Top 10 Best Online Social Work Degree Programs