Military personnel and their families, after experiencing frequent periods of transition, the rigors of combat, and exposure to traumatic events, are often in need of support services. Social workers assist with many aspects of military and veteran personnel support. They may aid retiring members of the military with the transition to civilian life, encourage children and families who struggle with the lack of consistency in their environments, or address trauma-related issues such as loss, depression, or PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder).
Specialists who work in the realm of military support often diagnose related issues among personnel and veterans, such as substance abuse or mental illness. They also connect veterans with available resources and advocate for their care. When counseling or therapy is called for, social workers may provide some treatment or may refer individuals to a specialized therapist. A military social worker’s role spans many areas of support and treatment, providing holistic care for members of the armed forces, their families, and veterans.
Typical Roles and Responsibilities of Social Workers in Active Duty or Supporting the Military
Many military social workers serve in the armed forces to provide services at military bases around the world. Others may work at Veterans Affairs (V.A.) facilities, community or local government agencies, or mental health and psychiatric clinics. Their responsibilities could include:
- Facilitating therapy for personnel and their families
- Providing transitional support for children and families
- Connecting veterans with community / government resources
- Helping families and service members to cope with grief, trauma, and loss
- Addressing related issues such as substance abuse or PTSD
Salaries for military social workers vary widely, depending on the place of employment, education level, and role. Work with the armed forces offers a competitive salary and benefits package; psychiatric hospitals pay social workers an average of $53,000 annually.
Education & Experience Requirements
As with salary, educational and experience requirements are unique to their relevant roles. Most roles call for clinical social work licensure, available to graduates of MSW programs accredited by the CSWE (Council on Social Work Education). Those who wish to focus their study on the skills needed to work with military personnel should consider a curriculum that emphasizes trauma recovery. Widener University offers this option in a fully online format. Learn more about Widener and other online, accredited options for an MSW degree here.