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What Can I Do with a Social Work Ph.D.?

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If you are interested in going all the way in the field of social work, achieving a terminal degree is the right path forward. The field of social work is a good bet, as it is clear it is not going anywhere any time soon. If it were, it would be a sign that there is no more need in the world. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of social work is only expected to grow 13 percent between the years 2019 and 2029. This outlook suggests that an investment in this terminal degree is only going to improve your chances of obtaining a career in a leadership role in social work. There are so many Ph.D. social work job opportunities that can give you the tools for a meaningful career. Let’s look a little closer at the ins and outs of the social work Ph.D. job market. 

PhD in Social Work Jobs

Non-Profit Director/ Executive Director

These social work Ph.D. jobs are not for the faint of heart, though I guess in this field many jobs are not. These are the positions that are responsible for steering big ships in the right direction. They lead all kinds of organizations that are designed to advocate and support various populations. They are generally experts in a particular specialization that is emphasized in the organization. This can include: child welfare, addiction/drug abuse, homelessness, and food scarcity, just to name a few. Not only is this role responsible for making big decisions, but they are also the ones that ensure the programs are running smoothly and are in line with their ultimate vision. 


Unless you are wanting to teach at a two-year/ community college, you will not be able to teach in the post secondary sphere without a terminal degree. Many times people explicitly go into a Ph.D. program with the ultimate goal of teaching at the post-secondary level. Professors are able to impact the discipline by training future social workers in an academic context. This is definitely meaningful work when it comes to a Ph.D. in social work jobs. 

Child Welfare Worker

Child welfare workers are the ones charged with the exponential task of getting children out of situations that are dangerous. They are leaders in the field that are responsible for overseeing specific cases that are specifically concerning, including any cases that appear to be potentially dangerous to children. They often oversee professionals that conduct home visits to ensure the child’s safety, or they do them themselves. They are also responsible for finding a safe placement for a child in danger and following up to ensure it is a good fit. 


Social work is of course based in the social sciences and is driven by research and best practices. The field is always evolving and the researchers are the ones to propel the field forward. Those in research positions are the ones who are contributing to the data that relates to the future of the field’s best practices. 

Services Administrator

The services administer position is someone who ensures that business is functioning properly. They are the ones that act as managers in a variety of sites including centers for health and human services, nonprofit and for-profit institutions/ enterprises, among others. They make sure everyone has what they need to effectively run their programs and all bases are ostensibly covered. 

Government Official

Many government officials that are working to reform laws that are in service of bettering child welfare and improving the quality of life for many populations, including psychiatric care, have terminal degrees in social work. Some have achieved a masters and are able to find success. In many cases, these positions have worked their way up the ladder and have been on the ground as social workers prior to assessing the current legislative needs. Government jobs offer a great deal of stability and stellar benefits, though that is generally not why people go into this particular career path. 

The good news about this academic path is that there are many Ph.D. in social work jobs that are simply not going anywhere. In addition, once you have your foot in the door there are many places you can go with such credentials. Many times people move between positions, as it is not uncommon for someone to move from a services administrator to an executive director position. One may then move from executive director to government official. You really can’t go wrong by choosing this terminal degree path. 


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Ready to start your journey?

Ready to start your journey?