The Rise of Corporate Social Work

Mar 19, 2024

artwork of social workers on top of buildings.

By Maren Dale

Jennifer Pelham, MSW, is a self-defined corporate social worker from Albany, N.Y., and currently serves as a senior IT consultant and change management specialist for a major health care provider. She stepped into the corporate sector in 2008, taking on a role as a career development program manager for a major technology company, after serving as a hospital-based individual and group therapist.

Other social workers often ask her about her work and wonder if social workers are needed in the corporate sector. Pelham finds it helpful to explain the opportunities she foresees by making a comparison between a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) and a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

“AI and technology are taking over many of the tasks historically assigned to MBAs, like data analysis, market forecasting, or issues related to supply chain,” she explains. “At the same time, the need for skills that MSWs bring to the table—empathy, active listening, communication and advocacy—are needed more than ever. Who better than social workers to ensure employees are seen, heard, valued and encouraged?”

Although a transition from a traditional social work role to corporate work is not something that can be achieved quickly or easily—and much more work needs to be done to help organizations recognize the value of adding social workers to their ranks—Pelham believes it’s a path where many social workers can find new purpose, passion and better pay.

A Time to Broaden Perspectives

Historically, social workers have served in advocacy and social justice roles almost exclusively outside of the business sector. In fact, there are more than a few who consider that a near-definition of the work itself.

But in recent times, significant changes and extraordinary events have had a massive impact on the social fabric of the nation and the world. For many social workers, this also has been a time of personal reflection, including thoughts on how to continue and contribute as we move into the future.

For social workers who have been contemplating making a change—or perhaps for all social workers and social work students—this may be a time to intentionally broaden perspectives about where social workers can serve and consider nontraditional places where there may be needs. This includes opportunities within businesses and corporations that both exist today and are emerging as new needs that are coming to light.

Read the full story in the NASW Social Work Advocates magazine

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