Globalization has radically reshaped many sectors and social work is no exception. Social workers must now keep up to date with not only with local issues but also with shifts occurring in the field across the world.

An extensive report by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) notes that the demand for recognition of the international dimension of social work has increased in recent years. It suggests that the forces behind this include both globalization and the rising number of global social work roles offering international content.

A Worldwide Workforce

No longer are social workers simply concerned with local community issues; international events can have dramatic impacts on their clients’ economic well-being, while greater global migration means that many social workers must have an intimate understanding of the unique issues facing immigrants and refugees.

In healthcare, social workers are focused on a range of issues including everything from child protection, refugee advocacy to domestic violence prevention, they have an important obligation to consider the broader context of global interdependence.

The International Commission of the CSWE states that one of the purposes of social work education is to prepare social workers to recognize the global context of social work practice.

Thankfully, new technologies have enabled the faster exchange of ideas around the world, making incorporating an international perspective into practice, research and education easier than ever before.

A Global Standard

The global definition of social work, as defined by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), is:

“A practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work. Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing.”

Social Workers on the International Front Line

Graduates with a degree in social work, particularly those with a Master’s in Social Work, are finding careers at the forefront of some of the most important international issues.

They may be helping to resettle refugees, providing essential psychosocial support for traumatized individuals fleeing war-torn nations. Or, they may be coordinating community health services for areas most affected by HIV/AIDS.

A report on Social Work and International Issues by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) observes that social workers witness first-hand the effects of global policy on individuals. It recommends that the sector must be instrumental in developing global policy initiatives, including:

  • Supporting global health solutions and strengthening health systems while mainlining commitments to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, as well as access to reproductive health.
  • Working to eradicate modern-day slavery and the growing incidence of human trafficking.
  • Replacing the current patchwork of immigration laws with an equitable and comprehensive national plan.
  • Helping to eliminate and prevent the practice of torture.
  • Bringing coherence, clarity and new commitment to the U.S. foreign assistance strategy.

International Opportunities in Social Work 

As the world becomes ever-more interconnected, social workers are bringing their unique skills, problem-solving and values of social justice to international settings.

Career opportunities for social workers worldwide span international emergency response and humanitarian aid; international development; youth work and counseling for non-profit organizations; health outreach and education, and more.

There are many global positions for graduates with a Master’s in Social Work. Stay up to date with global issues and opportunities with an advanced education.

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The Growing Global World of Social Work
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The Growing Global World of Social Work
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Globalization has radically reshaped many sectors and social work is no exception. Learn more about the global forces influencing the social work sector.
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