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Global Social Work Career Guide

This guide is meant to serve as a starting point for those interested in practicing social work outside of the United States. International Social Work is a newer and debated field (U-M login required) with no linear process for obtaining a social work job or opportunity overseas. This guide provides you with some ideas on how to obtain a job in the global market after graduating with a degree from the University of Michigan School of Social Work.

Networking

Those who find success working outside of the U.S. usually have extensive networks they build over time. School of Social Work Career Services provides Networking Techniques and Strategies that are helpful and suggest tools like social networks (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook), and professional organizations (e.g. International Federation of Social Workers, or National Association of Social Workers). They may also be able to help identify potential employers. When first beginning to make these connections, it is important to leverage your existing contacts and build upon them. When meeting new people, focus on shared experiences or communities that connect you. Many connections can be made because of your association with the University of Michigan School of Social Work (U-M SSW).

Faculty

In some cases, it may be helpful to reach out to faculty to find out what they are working on outside of the classroom. If you have yet to meet faculty members with connections abroad, you can find those interested in international work by locating them in the SSW Directory. Faculty tend to list their international experience in their bios or resumes. SSW faculty that have experience or projects outside of the U.S. may be happy to share through an informational interview. Colleagues at the University of Nevada, Reno have created a directory of US and Canada Social Work faculty involved in International Activities.

Additionally, U-M staff and faculty experts on different countries can be found through the Global Michigan website and U-M global research projects can be found on the interactive map. The listed experts are from different colleges and schools within U-M and serve as an excellent source of information.

Alumni

Alumni may be another valuable resource as the SSW has many alums who are working around the world. As a student, you can discuss your international interests with staff members at the Office of Global Activities or Career Services who may be able to connect you with alums with similar interests. You can also connect with more than 40 international alumni contacts and alumni clubs through the U-M Alumni Association.

After graduating from SSW, you can connect with U-M SSW alumni by accessing the School of Social Work Alumni Directory (U-M login required).

Licensure

The basics of licensing for within the U.S. can be found on the Career Services website. An important consideration before making travel plans is to decide whether or not you want to obtain your licensure before working or volunteering abroad. Social workers abroad have different licensing requirements depending on the country and in some countries there may be no social work licensure. It is important that you find country-specific information on what social work practice and licensure looks like in the country of interest. Below are a few steps to get started:

  • Find a national association in social work and look at their websites for licensure information.
  • Look for U.S. government, international development or consulting opportunities that require a U.S. license.
  • Ask international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of interest if they allow social workers to practice under U.S. licensure.
  • Join the NASW International Chapter or NASW-NC International District that maintain a list of members who are available to provide supervision, virtually or in-person, to those who want to work abroad but require a supervisor to accept the position. You can be added to the list by contacting naswintl@naswinternational.org.
  • The European Social Network wrote a comprehensive guide about the social services workforce in the European countries of Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and UK. Pages 42 - 45 may be of specific interest as it outlines recognition of foreign qualifications for social work in these countries.

Global Organizations & Resources

It is difficult to compile a full list of organizations related to social work practitioners abroad. The list below will hopefully help guide your search.

News and articles

Job Search

  • The Council on Social Work Education has a wonderful resource page with directories for international careers, international NGOs, international organizations and others.
  • If currently on campus, it may be worthwhile to attend the International Opportunities Fair or stop by and visit the International Center Education Abroad Office who have resources available to all students at U-M.
  • The Fulbright Program is a fellowship opportunity for individuals from all backgrounds interested in working on a wide variety of projects in more than 140 countries Additionally, the U-M International Institute provides U-M students and alums applying to the fellowship with a variety of resources including information sessions, advising, and access to previously selected applications.
  • DevNetjobs.org has national and international job postings on international development and consulting jobs.
  • InterAction is a coalition of 150 worldwide non-profit organizations that serve as a united voice for global change. They have an interactive map to help people learn more about NGO projects around the world. They also have an updated list of humanitarian crises and ways for NGOs to respond.
  • Check out United Nations job vacancies for social workers. Go to USAJobs for U.S. government jobs abroad.
  • Wango has a worldwide NGO directory.
  • MyWorldAbroad has a plethora of helpful resources (U-M login required) including a job board (U-M login required) and "quick guide" with international work traits and skills (pg 2).
  • Going Global (U-M login required) has an online database with international job postings and internship listings. It also provides country career guides and an employer directory.

Cultural Competence and Travel

Contact Us

If you are a U-M School of Social Work current MSW student or alumni interested in meeting with someone to discuss global social work careers, feel free to contact the SSW Office of Global Activities at ssw.oga@umich.edu or for general career advice, contact SSW Career Services at ssw-cso@umich.edu.

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