Definitive Guide to Alternative Careers for Social Workers

Updated July 22, 2022

A social worker's career primarily focuses on providing support and aide to others in need within their communities. Social workers typically perform tasks in their jobs that fulfill various support and assistance roles, including community outreach, direct-care services, advocacy and counseling.

However, if you're a social worker considering an alternative career, there are a variety of different fields your social work credentials will qualify you for. In this article, we'll look at what kinds of alternative careers for social workers are out there, what kinds of transferable skills you'll need to make your career change and several different jobs you can do with your background in social work.

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What are alternative careers for social workers?

Alternative careers for social workers include roles that require many of the skills and knowledge that you developed during your education and training and throughout your career. For instance, a degree program in social work often includes coursework in psychology, sociology, human development and even political science. With this educational background, you could pursue a career in one of these fields, or you could pursue a higher degree level that builds on one of those specialties to transition into an alternative career.

Related: How to Make a Career Change

What are some transferable skills that social workers have?

Social workers possess backgrounds and skill sets that they can easily transfer to alternative career fields. Many of these transferable skills include soft skills, however, with the increase of technology use and computer applications for many on-the-job tasks (like data entry, record-keeping and other applications), technical skills are equally as important. That being said, social workers typically have the following transferable skills that are applicable for many types of roles:

  • Interpersonal skills: Social workers are highly adept at navigating social situations, whether positive or negative in nature. Your abilities to understand others' needs, remain compassionate, have patience and resolve conflicts will be extremely important in any career you decide to pursue.

  • Communication skills: Public speaking, negotiating, active listening and effective writing are communication skills that social workers use regularly to perform their jobs and are transferable across many different career fields.

  • Critical thinking skills: Social workers help others solve problems and rely on their critical thinking skills to analyze details and make logical decisions. These skills are easily transferable to alternative jobs.

  • Organizational skills: Managing documents, schedules, appointments and your ability to manage your time and priorities are organizational skills that many employers will look for outside of social work.

  • Technical skills: Your proficiency with basic computer skills—like maintaining a digital database for records—are also transferable to a variety of alternative careers. Additionally, these hard skills are beneficial to keep developing, no matter the alternative field you enter.

Related: 10 Top Job Skills for Any Industry: Transferable Skills You Need

Tips for finding alternative careers

Transitioning to an alternative career outside of your social work field may appear challenging, however, there are several ways to make your job search easier and more effective. When you start looking for different jobs, consider the following tips:

  • Update your resume: Include work experience that showcases your transferable skills and qualifications. Be sure to include your achievements that highlight these transferable skills, too.

  • Start networking: Network with professionals and any close acquaintances you have that work in fields you're interested in pursuing. For instance, if you're interested in marketing and communications, seek out others in the field who you can learn from and discover jobs through.

  • Ask for referrals: Reach out to professionals in your network who you know or to clients who you worked with and ask for a reference or referral that highlights your success and qualifications. Similarly, if you know someone who works for a company you're interested in, ask them to refer you to the employer.

  • Use appropriate resources: Online job boards can be excellent resources for finding your next position, however, it can be more beneficial to use resources that provide job listings and opportunities in the specific field you're transitioning to.

  • Attend career fairs and seminars: Look for opportunities to build your network, find open positions and share your skills and expertise through job fairs, career development seminars and other professional conferences. These types of events can help you find alternative jobs.

  • Develop your hard skills: Keep working on your hard skills, such as your computer proficiency, technical capabilities, presentation skills and analytical skills, as many career fields may require you to have some level of experience with these types of skills.

Related: Tips From a Recruiter: How to Stand Out When Changing Careers

Are you looking for a job now?

Alternative jobs for social workers

Here are eight alternative jobs for social workers to explore:

1. Career counselor

National average salary: $32,980 per year

Primary duties: Career counselors rely on their interpersonal, communication and problem-solving skills to help others identify and assess their interests, skills and abilities when they are pursuing their career goals. This type of alternative job requires many of the same skills social workers develop in their careers.

2. Paralegal

National average salary: $48,905 per year

Primary duties: Paralegals conduct legal research, draft court documents, correspond with lawyers and court professionals, review documents and file records. Many of the organizational, research and analytical skills social workers develop are transferable to this profession.

Related: Learn About Being a Paralegal

3. High school teacher

National average salary: $49,419 per year

Primary duties: High school teachers are responsible for educating and managing secondary school students in a classroom setting. Caring for, mentoring, supporting and teaching teenagers requires the same skills as social work does, so a career in education makes an excellent transition for many social workers.

Related: Learn About Being a High School Teacher

4. Outreach coordinator

National average salary: $50,522 per year

Primary duties: Outreach coordinators usually work in nonprofit and community organizations and support the organization and planning of fundraising events and promotional events. Time management, organization and attention to detail, along with your ability to speak in public and build relationships, are several skills in social work you can transfer to this role.

5. Mediator

National average salary: $63,444 per year

Primary duties: Mediators, such as legal mediators, act as a neutral party to facilitate discussions, negotiations and legal proceedings between opposing parties. Negotiation, conflict resolution and excellent communication and interpersonal skills are necessary for this profession, and many of these skills are transferable from social work.

6. Human resources manager

National average salary: $71,949 per year

Primary duties: Human resources managers are the leadership professionals who coordinate, plan and direct the overall administrative processes of a business or organization. Recruiting, interviewing and hiring are typical work responsibilities for an HR manager, so interpersonal, communication, organizational and critical thinking are all transferable skills social workers can use in this role.

Related: Learn About Being an HR Manager

7. Educational consultant

National average salary: $76,730 per year

Primary duties: Educational consultants assist parents, students and school organizations with educational and academic planning. Interpersonal skills, effective communication, organization and problem-solving skills are all traits you can transfer from your career in social work to a career as an educational consultant.

Related: Learn About Being a Consultant

8. Real estate agent

National average salary: $82,503 per year

Primary duties: Real estate agents use negotiation skills, communication techniques, interpersonal skills and social skills to assist buyers and sellers in purchase and sales transactions of properties and homes. The skills you use in your role as a social worker (like your ability to negotiate and interact with people in your community) are also essential in real estate professions.

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