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Why Should You Choose Social Work?

Do you like helping people? Do you want a degree that can be applied to multiple professions? Are you interested in making a difference in your community, the nation, the world? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you should consider getting a degree in Social Work!

Our SSW recruiters in the Social Work Outdoor Outreach Pavilion (SWOOP)

What Is Social Work?

Social work is a profession aimed at making the world a better place. The primary mission of the social work profession is to “enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people (NASW Code of Ethics).” Social workers advocate for those who do not have a voice; they promote changes in social policies that help those who suffer from poverty, discrimination, illness, and disabilities; they fight for social justice.

What Can One Do with a Degree in Social Work?

Social workers are everywhere – in healthcare, education, government, and corporations. A degree in social work provides students with an excellent foundation in communication, collaboration and creative problem-solving – all of which are valued by today’s employers. Graduates of our programs have become therapists, clinical directors, professors, grant administrators, HR directors, and company presidents. Social workers can work with people on an individual level (micro), advocate for policy changes at a national or global level (macro) or intervene anywhere in between (mezzo).

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections, employment for social workers is estimated to grow 14-20% over the next four years.

Here are some examples of some of the organizations that employ social workers:

And here are some examples of positions held by people with degrees in social work:

  • Sports Social Worker
  • Forensic social worker
  • Community activist
  • Family service worker
  • Licensed clinical social worker
  • Nursing home supervisor
  • Case advocate
  • Marriage counselor
  • Social work researcher
  • Fundraiser
  • Animal assisted therapist
  • Child welfare researcher
  • Child & family therapist
  • Behavior supervisor
  • Rehabilitation case worker
  • Group home counselor
  • Professor
  • Addiction worker
  • Behavior analyst
  • Human resources director
  • Transition home worker
  • Executive director
  • Lobbyist
  • Substance use counselor
  • Development director
  • Community educator
  • Mental health counselor
  • Clinical director
  • Grant writer
  • Admissions counselor
  • Non-profit manager
  • Crisis intervention worker
  • School counselor
  • Military social worker
  • Probation officer
  • Patient advocate
  • Child protective service worker
  • Case manager
  • Juvenile court liaison
  • Public health social worker
  • Adoption counselor/advocate
  • Wellness director
  • Homeless shelter worker
  • Family counselor
  • Community organizer
  • Foster care worker
  • Financial social worker
  • Youth worker
  • Hospice social worker
  • Life skills coach
  • Hospital social worker
  • Policy analyst
  • Correctional social worker
  • Volunteer coordinator
  • Occupational social worker
  • Career counselor
  • Pediatric social worker
Ranked 28th in the U.S.

What Type of Social Worker Would You Like to Be?

With so many possibilities, how do you know which area is right for you?

Take the quiz from the National Association of Social Workers and find out which area might best suit your interests.

What Degrees Can I Get in Social Work?

The University of Alabama School of Social Work offers four degree programs.

Our bachelor’s degree program prepares students for professional practice, graduate study and to improve the well-being of individuals, families, and communities.

Our top-ranked master’s degree program (28th in the nation) prepares students for advanced social work practice with an emphasis on public and non-profit social services and on community advocacy. This program is offered both in-person and online. There is an option to earn joint degrees with the UA School of Law or the UAB School of Public Health with this program. (You do not need a bachelor’s degree in social work to enter this program.)

Our PhD degree program is designed to prepare social work professionals for meaningful careers in research, scholarship and social work education.

Our online DSW degree program offers two tracks in clinical practice and organizational leadership.

How Do I Apply for One of the School of Social Work Degree Programs?

You can find a complete list of application instructions for all degree programs under the Admissions tab on our website or by clicking here.

a group of social work graduates at commencement

Who Are Some Well-Known Social Workers?

Here are just a few examples of prominent individuals who are/were social workers.

Jane Adams (1860-1935)

Jane Adams was considered a pioneer in professional social work. The first woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Adams founded the first settlement house in the United States, which provided many services to those who could not otherwise afford them.

Mary Ellen Richmond (1861-1928)

Mary Ellen Richmond is considered one of the founders of social work. Her scientific research and methods helped standardize social work and highlight the importance of education in this field.

Ida B. Wells (1862-1931)

Ida B. Wells was an advocate for social justice, bringing to light the lynching of African Americans and the exclusion of African American women in the Women’s Suffrage movement. Wells helped found the NAACP and The Negro Fellowship League and spent her life fighting for equal rights.

Martha Branscome (1906-1997)

Martha Branscome brought social work to the international field. A native of Alabama, Branscome started as an assistant to the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives. She went on to work in the US Children’s Bureau, Department of Labor, and finally the United Nations Social Services Division, where she was the Chief.

Eulene Hawkins (1906-1999)

Born in Alabama, Eulene Hawkins received an MSW degree from Columbia University before returning to Alabama to work in the Child Welfare Department from 1932-1942. After moving on to work with the Red Cross and Social Rehabilitation Service, she returned to Alabama after retirement and volunteered her time with several social work degree programs in the state.

William C. “Bill” C. Pugh (1921-1989)

William C. “Bill” Pugh graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. After getting an MSW from Florida State, Pugh returned to Alabama where he dedicated his career to improving the quality of life for those in his home state. In addition to creating the first management training program for welfare administrators in the nation, Pugh established a legacy while working with the Alabama Department of Pensions & Security and the department of Academic Development at the University of Alabama.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver (1921-2009)

Eunice Kennedy Shriver worked at the Penitentiary for Women in Alderson, West Virginia before becoming director of the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation. During her career, she established a day camp for individuals with intellectual disabilities and was a key creator of the Special Olympics.

Barbara Mikulski (1936- )

Barbara Mikulski has made a significant mark in politics. After earning an MSW from University of Maryland, she became “the first female Democrat to serve in both the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate…and she is currently the longest serving woman in the history of Congress.”[1] Mikulski continues to fight for social justice and advocate for issues on women’s healthcare, and she has been integral in bringing more women into the U.S. Senate.

John Amos (1939- )

John Amos worked briefly as a social worker at the New York Vera Institute of Justice before launching a career in acting. Amos starred in the CBS sitcom Good Times (1974-1976) and the award-winning miniseries Roots  (1977). Since then, Amos has made guest appearances in over 50 television shows, such as The West Wing and 30 Rock and has starred in more than 30 movies, including Coming 2 America.

Alice Walker (1944- )

Alice Walker is best known for her writing. However, before publishing her books, Walker earned an MSW from Sarah Lawrence College and was active in the Civil Rights Movement. Her continued work as a social activist lives on through her writing. One of Walker’s best known novels is The Color Purple, which was made into a movie in 1985. Walker was also responsible for rediscovering Zora Neale Hurston, an African-American female anthropologist and author who wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God, and revitalizing public interest in another author whose works covered issues such as social oppression and slavery.

Although best known for her novels, including The Color Purple, Alice Walker began her career with an MSW from Sarah Lawrence College and subsequent public advocacy during the Civil Rights Movement. Walker was also responsible for rediscovering the literal grave and reviving the literary reputation of Zora Neale Hurston, an African-American female anthropologist and author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, and thereby returning public attention to a precursor author whose works also addressed America’s past practices of social oppression and slavery.

Susan Davis (1944- )

Susan Davis is another social worker who launched a career in politics. She served 19 years in the US House of Representatives for the state of California and was a strong advocate for women’s health issues.

Read more about these amazing individuals and others at

50 Notable Social Workers in US History – Best MSW Programs

The 30 Most Influential Social Workers Alive Today – Social Work Degree Guide

Social Workers of Our Time (

Where Can I Find More Information About Social Work?

For more information on the School of Social Work at the University of Alabama, explore our main website.

For more information about social work as a profession, you can visit the National Association of Social Workers.