Citizens at every corner of our globe rely on social workers to tirelessly work at correcting poor living conditions and advocate for human rights. As of October 2017, our world is sheltering 7.5 billion people from the deserts of Eastern Africa to the rainforests of South America. The UN even predicts that population growth will surpass 11 billion by 2100. International social work is a growing niche where kind, compassionate practitioners trek across borders to address humanitarian crises. According to ASH Berlin, international social workers are “earthpeople” who protect others’ well-being regardless of nationality and race. If you’re yearning to contribute more to community betterment in foreign nations, the following are the steps for fulfilling international social work job qualifications.
Start With a Bachelor of Social Work
International social work jobs virtually always mandate at least a Bachelor of Social Work, preferably from high-quality schools with CSWE accreditation. After your secondary school diploma or GED, you must enter a four-year college or university with a BSW major. Your curriculum sequence will include 120-130 credits, including general education courses like composition writing and world history. Upper-division juniors and seniors will then dig into social welfare policy, human ecology, sociology, anthropology, social justice, and more. Every accredited BSW comes with at least 400 clock hours of practicum at human services organizations. Since tuition can be expensive, BSW students should look for financial aid, such as the Cenie “Jomo” Williams Scholarship and more.
Broaden Your Global Cultural Knowledge
Developing a global mindset is another of the biggest qualifications for international social work employment. Employers abroad want to see your experiences learning about and respecting other cultures because life can be very different outside the U.S. Your college years are an excellent time to go global by joining clubs that celebrate campus diversity. Take foreign language classes, especially in the widely spoken tongues of Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, and Portuguese. Jump on study abroad trips that will immerse you in another country’s culture. For instance, the University of Texas-Austin offers BSW majors the “Modernization and Social Change” course in Amman, Jordan. Taking voyages will also help you master the process of applying for visas.
Gain Domestic Social Work Experience
Working abroad requires the same set of social work abilities and then some. BSW grads can begin applying for domestic jobs right after passing the Association of Social Work Board licensing exam. The United States is projecting a 15 percent uptick in hiring through 2026, so your social work opportunities are ballooning. According to the NASW, there are currently job openings at domestic organizations like Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Hanna Boys Center, Sonora Behavioral Health, Catholic Charities, Fred Finch Youth Center, and hundreds more. Many agencies overseas require four to eight years of generalist practice among their qualifications. Use this time to sharpen communication, analytical, problem-solving, and intervention skills before transitioning into international social work.
Consider Pursuing an International MSW Degree
Although this qualification isn’t always required, getting a Master of Social Work can set you apart on the world stage. Universities increasingly offer International MSW program benefits that will deliver advanced specialist skills, satisfy LCSW licensing, provide added practicum, and open leadership doors. Already holding a BSW means you’ll also become eligible for Advanced Standing tracks of 30-42 credits for fast completion. The CSWE directory currently lists 21 degrees for international social work. These accredited graduate schools include Ohio University, Tulane University, Abilene Christian University, Fordham University, University of Connecticut, Washburn University, and Dominican University. Keeping your grades up is critical since the majority of MSWs require an undergrad GPA above 3.0.
Research Social Work Organizations Abroad
Now’s the time to put your international social work qualifications to the test by applying to and interviewing with multinational service agencies. Social work jobs are most abundantly found at nonprofit organizations (NPOs) with specific humanitarian purposes. For example, the International Rescue Committee has over 8,000 employees who deliver lifesaving services after conflicts and disasters across Earth. Since 1946, UNICEF has provided emergency food, water, and healthcare to children in 190 countries with offices from Brussels to Tokyo. HelpAge International partners with AARP to specialize in curbing social issues impacting the planet’s elderly citizens. Research overseas organizations carefully to find which align to your aspirations and tailor your résumé.
Statistics from Global Issues paint a bleak world picture where 790 million people are undernourished, 1.6 billion live without electricity, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation. Children are particularly vulnerable with 2.2 million dying each year because they’re not immunized. The need for international social workers is tremendous from Ukraine to Vietnam and Ghana. Fast-growing job titles abroad include family reunification specialist, disaster response director, adoption coordinator, gender advisor, child welfare specialist, humanitarian affairs officer, refugee shelter administrator, and more. The right education, experience, and cultural competency are the universal qualifications to begin making a difference beyond borders in international social work.