For the "people person"
Most social workers will find themselves in public service or education, but there are several different career paths available under those umbrellas:
- Health care
- Social assistance
- Government agencies, such as family and youth services
- Criminal justice, such as probation, court support and counseling
Social Workers in the Criminal Justice System
Social workers involved in criminal justice focus on reduction of crime and safety of the community. They're responsible for assessing offenders and providing courts with sentence recommendations, and also for implementing and supervising imposed sentences. Further to that, they'll often provide assistance to individuals leaving the criminal justice system, in the form of counseling, education or support in family and work responsibilities. Sometimes a social worker will act as a probation officer, but most often they stand as an independent consultant.
Many social workers will also get involved with research initiatives, investigating and analyzing the social problems of a community. This is typically done in a team situation (sometimes referred to as a committee or commission), and results in the implementation of community plans or programs aimed at decreasing crime, violence and substance abuse.
Academic Social Work
The research and testing done by social workers in the academic field is also important to the criminal justice system. While the work is typically done in a university setting, the focus is on the community or society at large and addresses common problems that are also put forward in the court.
Research may focus on positive trends such as the increase of women in post secondary education or it may address negative issues such as substance abuse. Social workers analyze situations and attempt to establish both a cause and a solution. The solutions found are easily applied by the criminal justice system, through sentencing and community planning initiatives. The result is a focus on rehabilitation and successful community relations, rather than punishment.
Social work is another field where expected salaries can span a wide range. Depending on the type of position you accept and the area you work in, you could find yourself receiving anywhere from $30 000 a year to over $60 000 a year. Your salary will likely be determined by a number of variables, including whether you're in the public or private sector, and also your choice of academic or practical applications.