What Can I Do with a Doctorate in Social Work?

A Doctorate in Social Work (DSW) is a terminal degree that offers highly specialized, advanced training in various areas of social work. Professionals obtaining their DSW usually focus their studies on clinical social work and social work administration.

A DSW degree program offers students the chance to advance their social work careers to the highest administration or clinical practice. The doctorate of social work is usually a practice doctorate in the field, including learning social work practice at the leadership and management level. It differs somewhat from a Ph.D. in Social Work, which is intended more for academia and research-focused students.

If you are considering a DSW, it is essential to know what your career options are. Below are some of the most popular jobs for people earning this prestigious degree.

#1 Social Work Administrator

A social work administrator is a decision-maker in a social services organization, usually overseeing a team of family or clinical social workers. The social work administrator is concerned about the efficiency and well-being of the entire social work system in a facility, not just one client.

With a doctorate in social work, you will possess the administrative and leadership skills to direct social work services in many nonprofit and governmental organizations.

Some of the other essential work you may do as a social work administrator with a DSW are:

  • Develop a facility budget for social services
  • Understand the varying needs of different patient populations
  • Development of new social services programs
  • Evaluate the efficiency of current programs
  • Identify areas in the facility where more help is needed
  • Devise social work regulations and policies
  • Hire and train new social workers
  • Manage community outreach

#2 Clinical Social Worker

A clinical social worker is a mental health worker who provides psychological therapy and counseling, and also helps with many practical concerns related to mental health problems.

For example, a clinical social worker may help find patients’ jobs, find places to live and ensure that their basic human needs are met. In this work, they can tear down obstacles that could affect a person’s quality of life with chronic mental health problems.

A clinical social worker may also work in the community to address the people’s needs in their care. Hospitals and clinics may provide funding for housing and work with various housing providers to locate homes for people undergoing mental healthcare. These social workers also usually develop a network of employers and contacts who can help place patients into jobs.

While you can work as a clinical social worker with a master’s degree, having a doctoral degree will provide you with more skills and expertise to care for your patients. Also, you should be able to earn a higher salary.

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#3 Healthcare Social Worker

A healthcare social worker oversees administrative medical tasks while they work with clients. They interview patients and relatives to develop a better healthcare history for the patient. Healthcare social workers refer clients to healthcare specialists and other related professionals to ensure they get the care they need.

These social workers also arrange transportation for patients who need to go to their medical appointments but cannot drive. Further, they facilitate support groups, offer counseling, and health clients integrate healthy skills and behaviors into their daily lives.

Other duties include:

  • Coordinate client interactions, such as patient care, discharge, follow up, and aftercare.
  • Negotiate with outreach, family, payers, and third-party groups to protect patients’ rights.
  • Communicate with clients and care or rehabilitation programs to ensure the right actions are taken.
  • Perform psychosocial evaluations and advise other healthcare professionals on social work issues.

As with the clinical social work profession, you can work as a healthcare social worker with a master’s, but you will have higher knowledge and skills with your doctorate. You also could lead a team of healthcare social workers to help a large number of patients in a medical facility.

#4 Health Educator or Community Health Worker

Health educators do some of what social workers do to educate people about behaviors that promote health and wellness. They devise and implement strategies to boost the health of communities and individuals.

Typical duties of health educators include:

  • Assess the health and wellness needs of people and the communities in which they live
  • Devise programs, materials, and events to teach community members about vital health topics, such as nutrition, smoking cessation, exercise, and fitness, etc.
  • Assist clients in finding health information and services.
  • Offer training programs for health professionals and community health workers
  • Oversee staff who implement your health education programs

Community health workers identify health-related problems, collect health data from the community, and discuss health issues with people they serve. They might help residents of a community enroll in Medicare or Medicaid and explain the benefits they can get.

Community health workers also may address roadblocks to care and offer referrals for basic needs, such as housing, education, food, and mental health services.

#5 Social and Community Service Manager

As a social and community service manager, you will oversee programs and organizations that promote the community’s health. Some of their duties usually include:

  • Working with members of the community and stakeholders to identify new programs and services that are needed
  • Oversee administrative parts of programs to meet program objectives
  • Analyze public health and other data to determine how effective programs are
  • Plan and oversee outreach programs for better awareness of community programs
  • Write proposals to obtain community and social services funding

As a social and community service manager, you can work for many types of entities. Some organizations help a particular demographic, such as older people or children, while others work with homeless or veterans.

A significant aspect of this job is to show stakeholders that the programs they implemented effectively accomplish the stated goals.

#6 Probation Officer

A probation officer offers social service assistance to people who are on probation or parole. With a DSW degree, you may serve in a leadership or executive position overseeing many probation officers’ performances.

Probations officers ensure the person is not a danger to their family or the community and health with their rehabilitation. These officers write regular reports that detail every probationer’s treatment plan and how they progress since they left jail or prison. Most probation officers work with juveniles or adults exclusively.

Some of the duties of probation officers include:

  • Interview parolees and probationers, friends, and relatives in a residence or office to assess progress.
  • Evaluate each probationer’s programs to determine how to rehabilitate them best
  • Offer each probationer vital resources, such as job training and housing vouchers
  • Test probationers for drugs and send them to drug or alcohol abuse counseling
  • Write case files and reports for each offender

What the Experts Say

To learn more if a DSW is worth it, we checked in with a few experts on Quora.com:

  • “If you want to do research or become a university professor, then a DSW would be very beneficial. It is important to weigh the added financial burden of education to the ability to repay it with income from your future employment. If you are not planning on teaching or research, then the higher degree is usually not worth obtaining and repaying the degree.” – Gregory Page, MSW.
  • “Advancing your knowledge about any subject is always good. Social work is in its very nature pragmatic, which also means a more broadened understanding of what is good social work and what are the causes of social problems. If you pursue a doctorate, you are studying and researching social work on a higher level, which means you will be able to become a real contributor to the field.” – Nataniel Kristoffersen, DSW.
  • “It all depends on what you want to do with it. If you are going to teach and want to be doing research and teaching, you need to get one. If you don’t want to teach, you could get your Licensed Certified Social Worker certification and go into private practice. Social work has so many different options and career paths that are open to you. My best advice is to decide what you want to do in social work first, then decide if you need the doctorate to do it.” – Carole Lafreniere, Texas Social Worker.
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Doctorate in Social Work Summary

A DSW is a valuable degree because it opens the door to many leadership and higher-paying positions in social work and related fields. Professionals who want to get to the highest positions in the social work field usually earn their doctorate and spend years as valued leaders and decision-makers in their organizations.