Earn a Good Living by Having a Big Heart

Social Work

If you are you are working in the Lowcountry and want a career that offers a great deal of personal satisfaction, you may want to consider a career in social work. Opportunities in this growing metro area abound for the graduate with a master’s degree in social work (MSW). There are many groups needing specialized help and care. A partial list includes children, teenagers, veterans and current military workers, the elderly, people with English as a second language, families, and people suffering from illness or addiction.

Students who enroll in the University of South Carolina’s MSW program can earn their degree right here in North Charleston at the Lowcountry Graduate Center (LGC). The Health and Mental Health (H/MH) specialization offered by the University of South Carolina in the Lowcountry prepares MSW graduates to become leaders in the modern era of health, training students to use evidence-based practices to promote health among individuals, groups, families, organizations, and communities. This is the fasted growing segment of the social work profession, with the number of jobs expected to increase 25 percent in the next decade.

H/MH students are able to take classes face-to-face with a teacher at the LGC. They can study part time and earn their degree in three years while keeping their current employment. In their second and third year, they work in the field in a variety of settings, such as substance abuse clinics, oncology units, hospice facilities, family therapy centers, and geriatric residences. The emphasis is on integrated health care models and applying practical techniques and strategies that serve the community.

Why should you consider the time and expense of going back to school for an MSW degree, even if you have the calling? According to the Innovator’s Guide, “Employment of social workers is expected to increase by 16 percent during the 2008-18 decade, which is faster than the average for all occupations. The growing elderly population and the aging baby boom generation will create greater demand for health and social services, resulting in rapid job growth among gerontological social workers. Employment of social workers in private social service agencies also will increase.”

The guide also states that mental health and substance abuse social workers will grow by almost 20 percent over the 2008-18 decade. Social workers specializing in substance abuse will experience strong demand because the community they serve is increasingly being placed into treatment programs instead of being sentenced to prison and because drug addiction is a growing problem.

If you would prefer to help the elderly than those with substance abuse problems, there is good news for you as well. Job prospects for social workers in metropolitan areas who wish to work with the aging population can find employment in assisted living facilities, nursing homes, senior independent living communities, private homes, hospitals, and hospices. The demand for social workers in this specialty will increase by 22 percent, faster than the growth in many other occupations. A background in gerontology assures the MSW graduate that career opportunities will abound, in cities and also in rural areas. The Charleston area will be no exception.

One only has to look around at the Lowcountry to see that more and more people are retiring to Charleston or choosing it as a place to have a vacation home, with the thought of possibly retiring here eventually. What this means is that more and more aging baby boomers will be living here. With that will come the demand for licensed social workers who work in conjunction with the blossoming medical and overall health care community here.

With an increasing population of people in need in the Lowcountry, whether it be families, the elderly, the addicted, children, or something else, MSW candidates who study at the Lowcountry Graduate Center and make connections in the Charleston area are very likely to find rewarding employment serving their preferred population without having to move away from this wonderful city.

To learn more about how you can advance your career as a social worker, visit our program page for the University of South Carolina’s Master of Social Work.

By Stancy Merwin