April 1, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Catherine Herzog: I think with all of different levels of trauma and loss associated with the pandemic, both clinical social and generalist workers and will be greatly needed for many years to come. In working with first responders, including medical professionals, police and medics, COVID has had a great emotional impact on these individuals and the potential need for treatment for secondary trauma will be great. Not only the trauma associated with COVID, but the amount of loss and grief is going to be a huge piece of clinical work for many years. Not only have many people suffered loss of loved ones and major life events, but, COVID has impacted the way people have or have not been able grieve and process their losses.
Also, the need for school social workers has already increased due to students being home and engaging in e-learning to address the many barriers that families have been facing during this time. School social workers will continue to be needed to address the many complex needs of families and school-aged children as they are coming back on site and reacclimating to the classroom setting and catching up on their social and academic development.
Catherine Herzog: The LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) is the preferred license for clinicians as is allows billing to private insurance and Medicaid/Medicare.
The LCAC (Licensed Clinical Addictions Counselor) is the preferred licensure in working with clients with addiction issues.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) an evidence based trauma invention that is used by many clinicians working with trauma victims, etc.
Catherine Herzog: As social workers have become more in demand, the starting salary for a MSW is around $45K/year and the more experience and licensure/certifications as well as administrative roles, this can increase to $65-$70.
Summer Cook Ph.D.: Absolutely. First, these graduates did not have normal college experiences for the last year and a half. There is a lot of disappointment and frustration there. They missed out a lot of classroom and volunteer experiences. Internship experiences were limited or had to be scaled back. Graduates may be skeptical about entering graduate programs with the uncertainty of in-person vs remote learning.
Summer Cook Ph.D.: Perhaps any job within the field of Kinesiology would be a good start. Students need a variety of experiences and if they missed out on normal shadowing or internship opportunities during the pandemic, any opportunity will allow them to determine what they like and don't like about certain careers. Telehealth in Exercise Science is new and a lot more opportunities in that area could be interesting.
Summer Cook Ph.D.: Experience through shadowing, interning, and working and perhaps obtaining certifications will increase earning potential for fitness professionals and coaches. The greatest increase might be a graduate degree if one wants to practice in the medical field.
Dr. Joseph Vedora: The need for people to work from home or provide telehealth services to clients, which is obviously different from services delivered in person.
Dr. Joseph Vedora: Our students will meet the educational requirements to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) exam and when they pass, will meet the requirements for licensure in Massachusetts (LABA). Our students have an average pass rate of 88% over the last 5 years, well above the national average of 66%! There is a shortage of BCBAs locally and nationally. Thus, individuals with these credentials are in high demand among public and private schools and organizations that provide ABA services in Massachusetts, and nationally. These credentials signal to consumers that the clinician is qualified to provide services and also permit them to bill insurance companies.
Dr. Joseph Vedora: Salaries have risen over the past few years as the field moved to certification and licensure. Also, the high demand and need for BCBAs has resulted in increases in salaries.
Dr. Tammy Abernathy Ph.D.: Yes, of course. There will be an enduring impact on all of us and that holds true for our graduates as well. They have lost out on lots in school time and experiences with students with disabilities. We have filled in these gaps as best as we can through virtual classes, video work and other options, but the truth is, there is no substitute for real kids, with real problems in a real learning environments. I don't think the impact of COVID will be long lasting for our graduates. They have chosen teaching as life's work and they work diligently in class and out of class to be prepared. They may find some gaps in their knowledge or experience, but these will fill in very quickly. Our graduates know how to advocate for themselves and they are skilled at reflective practices that will help them overcome the challenges they may find.
Dr. Tammy Abernathy Ph.D.: Young graduates will need to linked to the host of resources that are available to them. To they will need to continue to be learners and willing to spend the time to hone their craft. Young graduates may need some financial assistance to join professional organizations that offer resources that will keep them on the cutting edge of policy, research and implementation. It is important that young graduates learn how to get and how to use the most current information and not rely solely on colleagues or their school district for information.
For example, the most cutting edge information for teaching students with disabilities in a COVID environment came of professional organizations posting information weekly and not from their employers. These organizations have been responsive to questions from educators and supportive of innovation from teachers. Young graduates are already technologically advanced and they know how to learn independently in some cases. We anticipate that they will be able generalize these skills into teaching practices for their own students. Young graduates must be knowledgeable in the content areas, but social emotional learning and trauma informed practices will be essential.
Dr. Tammy Abernathy Ph.D.: Experience with students with disabilities in a variety of settings. A degree, a major and teaching license are important, but experience with students and their families matters. This is where the love of the profession and children is born. Special educators believe in their students. They set high expectations for students and they tirelessly push for these outcomes. We are not a sympathetic lot. We want our students to reach their own hopes and dreams and we can't do that unless we set high expectations and build self-determined students. Also, evidence that you are a strong collaborative partner, and you can show evidence of collaborative work will be noticed. Special education services are not provided by one teacher only. Being able to work within a group to serve students is essential. Advocacy skills are a plus. Experience advocating with and for students with disabilities will get attention. Further, demonstrating that you can teach students to advocate for themselves is also important.
Lynette Reitz: The coronavirus pandemic will impact graduates in several ways. The pandemic has forced social service agencies to embrace technology and to find innovative ways to deliver services to clients. Our graduates completed field education hours in agencies during the pandemic so they have seen how to pivot and build meaningful relationships with clients and coworkers under these extraordinary circumstances. With the overwhelming challenges that marginalized and oppressed populations experienced both before and during the pandemic, there are many unmet needs and graduates will be part of developing, implementing, and evaluating new programs. Social work graduates also need to be engaged in advocacy for social, racial, economic, and environmental justice.
Lynette Reitz: The most important skills that social workers need are in relationship building, effective communication and practice, technology, and advocacy. In all areas of social work practice, it is crucial that social work graduates embrace the values of the profession and their ability to be culturally-sensitive in interacting with all constituents. Many social service agencies are utilizing technology in delivering services to clients and for workers to do their jobs effectively. Graduates need to learn how to incorporate technology into their practice and adhere to the profession's ethical standards for use of technology. Flexibility and adaptability in building and sustaining relationships are important characteristics for social workers because of the complexity of the people and systems where the work occurs.
Lynette Reitz: Resumes that stand out are those that demonstrate that the graduate has experience in the field. Because social work is a profession that leads to employment in many different types of settings, it is important for the graduate to highlight his or her unique experiences including the knowledge and skills honed and gained from those experiences. Social workers work with marginalized and oppressed populations, so employers are looking for practitioners who are culturally sensitive, empowering, and dependable.
Teresa Reynolds: Due to the pandemic, many agencies have had to become well-versed in Telehealth/Teleconferencing and/or Zoom/GoogleMeets/GoogleHangout. I believe that this is going to be a new norm for many service related agencies, so students will need to become familiar with the various platforms used for telehealth and perhaps even receive certification in telehealth.
Teresa Reynolds: Graduates who have had a variety of field experiences and not simply worked with one particular population definitely stand our as having more experience/skills. In addition, students who have a variety of leadership positions in extra-curricular activities or have demonstrated service through volunteering tend to "stand out" among his/her peers.
Teresa Reynolds: The unique feature that social work provides to its graduates is that there are a variety of settings to which graduates can apply. There are a variety of positions for BSW graduates in agencies such as Department of Social Services/Human Services, Nursing homes, hospice, foster care, probation & parole, domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, prevention agencies, child advocacy agencies, early intervention programs and more. The trends are showing that the job market will seek social workers to work with the older American population, as our society is aging. Students are encourage to seek experience with a variety of populations so that he/she will be marketable.
Long Island University-Brooklyn
Department of Social Wok
Dr. Telvis Rich: With the worldwide presence of COVID-19, there has been arise of career opportunities for undergraduate and graduate level professional Social Workers. For example, there is an increase of case managers to level set the intake process in short and long term care faculties where bachelor level Social Workers fill a great need. Further, there is need for master-level Social Workers to serve diverse populations in rural and metropolitan areas providing telehealth therapies, financial Social Work services and support, and community based practice leadership where housing needs have been dramatically been impacted in the United States.
Dr. Telvis Rich: For a 21st century professional Social Worker, the following skills are essential to highlight on the resume: details of the roles, responsibilities and tasks completed during the bachelor level and/or master level Social Work practicum (internship), the interprofessional skills of working with diverse clients, communities, supervisors and colleagues during the practicum, and a clear vision of the population the applicant seeks to serve in an agency or organization. In short, today's workplace is very competitive; thus, a concise list of skills that highlight professionalism, diversity, service, competency in a practice area, and respect for others are truly essential. These required skills align to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics and employers will seek to see such on a well written resume. Further, a quality cover letter outlining the skills will enhance the resume in a competitive and ever changing Social Work marketplace.
Dr. Telvis Rich: Social Work is a very 'in demand' profession. Hence, Social Workers are employed in small to large cities and in each state and territory in the United States. Further, there are opportunities to work in private and public agencies to government, personal care facilities and corporate America. In recent years, professional sports teams have hired Social Workers. Therefore, the opportunities are endless. Therefore, considering a career in Social Work allows a recent graduate to work with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities, while having the awesome consideration to pivot from one population of interest to another, while not having to return to school to do so.
This is unlike other health care profession. It is advised that recent graduates consider state Social Work licensure to increase marketability and career mobility as the Master of Social Work degree is the terminal degree in the profession, and the licensure adds tremendous value to the candidate seeking employment in an state, territory and other global career pursuits. For example, I have served as a Social Worker in corporate America, School Social Worker, lead Case Manager, a CEO of a large non-profit, and commenced a college teaching career -all with the Master of Social Work degree. The career opportunities are truly vast and limitless with a Master of Social Work degree!