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International Social Work

How to Obtain a Job in International Social Work

What are employers and supervisors in the field of international social work looking for in an application?

In 1987, Lynne Healy (M.S.W., Ph.D.) conducted a survey involving 85 different non-governmental organizations (NGO) and asked them what skill bases they were looking for in potential employees. Here is what she found

Her original survey found that individuals wanting to work abroad needed to have some cross-cultural understanding, concern with global problems and knowledge with the profession of social work world wide

NGO’s were also looking for individuals with inter-governmental social experience (child welfare, services with the elderly etc.)

Looking for individual’s with a fair amount of flexibility

Primarily looking for MACRO practitioners, not micro practitioners

NGO’s were looking for individuals that had backgrounds in planning, community development, legislative advocacy and community education

NGO’s wanted to see if prospective employees could train local people in public speaking skills, proposal or grant writing, comparative analysis and conflict resolution

Looking for individuals with intermediate language skill capabilities

In 2010-2011, Healy revisited her research to determine if international organizations were still looking for the same skill bases in potential employees then they were in 1987. This time, Healy contacted 500 international organizations and did content analysis for posted job experience. Here is what she found

In 1987, hardly any of the jobs that were listed internationally required having a social work degree. The closest Healy could find was a social science related degree (psychology, criminal justice, sociology, social work etc.)

In 2010, Healy found that many of these organizations now require a degree in social work, particularly an MSW

Organizations are still primarily looking for MACRO practitioners

Want individuals with experience in international donor business, advanced communication skills and advanced computer skills

Individuals with strong skills in proposal writing and presentations

Looking for individuals with strong interpersonal skills and negotiable problem solving skills as well as cross-cultural awareness

Individuals with a broad range of experience from micro finance to human rights to health

Organizations still want individuals with intermediate language skill capabilities, particularly in French, Spanish, Arabic, English, Portuguese and Thai

Looking for individuals who have completed an international field placement abroad (even post-graduate), short term mission experiences and international service learning projects

Healy, L. (2008). International Social Work: Why is it important and what is it? In International Social Work: Professional Action in an Interdependent World (2nd ed., pp. 3-24). New York: Oxford University Press.