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Become A School Social Worker

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Working As A School Social Worker

  • Getting Information
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Resolving Conflicts and Negotiating with Others
  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Mostly Sitting

  • $37,939

    Average Salary

What Does A School Social Worker Do

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. One group of social workers—clinical social workers—also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.   


Social workers typically do the following:

  • Identify people and communities in need of help
  • Assess clients’ needs, situations, strengths, and support networks to determine their goals
  • Help clients adjust to changes and challenges in their lives, such as illness, divorce, or unemployment
  • Research, refer, and advocate for community resources, such as food stamps, childcare, and healthcare to assist and improve a client’s well-being
  • Respond to crisis situations such as child abuse and mental health emergencies
  • Follow up with clients to ensure that their situations have improved
  • Evaluate services provided to ensure that they are effective
  • Develop and evaluate programs and services to ensure that basic client needs are met
  • Provide psychotherapy services

Social workers help people cope with challenges in their lives. They help with a wide range of situations, such as adopting a child or being diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Social workers may work with children, people with disabilities, and people with serious illnesses and addictions. Their work varies based on the type of client they are working with.

Some social workers work with groups, community organizations, and policymakers to develop or improve programs, services, policies, and social conditions. This focus of work is referred to as macro social work.

Advocacy is an important aspect of social work. Social workers advocate or raise awareness with and on behalf of their clients and the social work profession on local, state, and national levels.

The following are examples of types of social workers:

Child and family social workers protect vulnerable children and help families in need of assistance. They help families find housing or services, such as childcare, or apply for benefits, such as food stamps. They intervene when children are in danger of neglect or abuse. Some help arrange adoptions, locate foster families, or work to reunite families.

Clinical social workers—also called licensed clinical social workers—diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders, including anxiety and depression. They provide individual, group, family, and couples therapy; they work with clients to develop strategies to change behavior or cope with difficult situations; and they refer clients to other resources or services, such as support groups or other mental health professionals. Clinical social workers can develop treatment plans with the client, doctors, and other healthcare professionals and may adjust the treatment plan if necessary based on their client’s progress. They may also provide mental healthcare to help children and families cope with changes in their lives, such as divorce or other family problems.

Many clinical social workers work in private practice. In these settings, clinical social workers also perform administrative and recordkeeping tasks, such as working with insurance companies in order to receive payment for their services. Some work in a group practice with other social workers or mental health professionals.

School social workers work with teachers, parents, and school administrators to develop plans and strategies to improve students’ academic performance and social development. Students and their families are often referred to social workers to deal with problems such as aggressive behavior, bullying, or frequent absences from school.

Healthcare social workers help patients understand their diagnosis and make the necessary adjustments to their lifestyle, housing, or healthcare. For example, they may help people make the transition from the hospital back to their homes and communities. In addition, they may provide information on services, such as home healthcare or support groups, to help patients manage their illness or disease. Social workers help doctors and other healthcare professionals understand the effects that diseases and illnesses have on patients’ mental and emotional health.

Some healthcare social workers specialize in geriatric social work, hospice and palliative care, or medical social work:

  • Geriatric social workers help senior citizens and their families. They help clients find services, such as programs that provide older adults with meals or with home healthcare. They may provide information about assisted living facilities or nursing homes, or work with older adults in those settings. They help clients and their families make plans for possible health complications or for where clients will live if they can no longer care for themselves.
  • Hospice and palliative care social workers help patients adjust to serious, chronic, or terminal illnesses. Palliative care focuses on relieving or preventing pain and other symptoms associated with serious illness. Hospice is a type of palliative care for people who are dying. Social workers in this setting provide and find services, such as support groups or grief counselors, to help patients and their families cope with the illness or disease.
  • Medical social workers in hospitals help patients and their families by linking patients with resources in the hospital and in their own community. They may work with medical staff to create discharge plans, make referrals to community agencies, facilitate support groups, or conduct followup visits with patients once they have been discharged.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers help clients with mental illnesses or addictions. They provide information on services, such as support groups and 12-step programs, to help clients cope with their illness. Many clinical social workers function in these roles as well.

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How To Become A School Social Worker

Although most social workers need a bachelor’s degree in social work, clinical social workers must have a master’s degree and 2 years of post-master’s experience in a supervised clinical setting. Clinical social workers must also be licensed in the state in which they practice.


A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) is the most common requirement for entry-level positions. However, some employers may hire workers who have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as psychology or sociology.

A BSW prepares students for direct-service positions such as caseworker or mental health assistant. These programs teach students about diverse populations, human behavior, social welfare policy, and ethics in social work. All programs require students to complete supervised fieldwork or an internship.

Some positions require a master’s degree in social work (MSW), which generally takes 2 years to complete. Master’s degree programs in social work prepare students for work in their chosen specialty by developing clinical assessment and management skills. All programs require students to complete a supervised practicum or an internship.

A bachelor’s degree in social work is not required in order to enter a master’s degree program in social work. Although a degree in almost any major is acceptable, courses in psychology, sociology, economics, and political science are recommended. Some programs allow graduates with a bachelor’s degree in social work to earn their master’s degree in 1 year.

In 2015, there were more than 500 bachelor’s degree programs and more than 200 master’s degree programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

Some universities offer doctoral programs in social work, where students can earn a Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) or a Ph.D. Most doctoral programs in social work require students to have a master’s in social work and experience in the field. Many doctor’s students go on to work as postsecondary teachers.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states have licensure or certification requirements for nonclinical social workers. Requirements vary by state.

All states require clinical social workers to be licensed. However, some states provide exemptions for clinical social workers who work in government agencies. Becoming a licensed clinical social worker requires a master’s degree in social work and a minimum of 2 years of supervised clinical experience after graduation. After completing their supervised experience, clinical social workers must pass a clinical exam to be licensed.

Because licensing requirements vary by state, those interested should contact their state board. For more information about regulatory licensure boards by state, contact the Association of Social Work Boards.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Clients talk to social workers about challenges in their lives. To effectively help, social workers must be able to listen to and understand their clients’ needs.

Empathy. Social workers often work with people who are in stressful and difficult situations. To develop strong relationships, they must have compassion and empathy for their clients.

Interpersonal skills. Being able to work with different groups of people is essential for social workers. They need strong people skills to foster healthy and productive relationships with their clients and colleagues.

Organizational skills. Social workers must help and manage multiple clients, often assisting with their paperwork or documenting their treatment.

Problem-solving skills. Social workers need to develop practical and innovative solutions to their clients’ problems.

Time-management skills. Social workers often have many clients and administrative responsibilities. They must effectively manage their time to provide adequate service to all of their clients.

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School Social Worker jobs


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School Social Worker Career Paths

School Social Worker
Clinician Program Director Coach
Assistant Principal
10 Yearsyrs
Medical Social Worker Director Of Social Services Therapist
Career Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Clinical Social Worker Program Director Educator
Case Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Facilitator Site Coordinator Youth Director
Children's Ministries Director
5 Yearsyrs
Clinical Supervisor Adjunct Professor Clinical Social Worker
Clinical Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Program Director Specialist Case Manager
Clinical Case Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Clinical Social Worker Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Therapist Clinician
Clinical Supervisor
8 Yearsyrs
Therapist Medical Social Worker
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Therapist Mental Health Counselor Social Worker
Director Of Social Work
7 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Co-Owner Case Manager
Family Case Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Clinical Therapist Clinical Director Career Manager
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Clinical Supervisor Nursing Director Case Manager
Housing Case Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Therapist Clinical Supervisor Assistant Director
7 Yearsyrs
Program Director Educator Case Manager
Senior Case Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Medical Social Worker Clinical Social Worker Program Manager
Service Program Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Clinical Therapist Mental Health Therapist Medical Social Worker
Social Services Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Clinician Medical Social Worker
Social Work Case Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Clinical Social Worker
Social Work Supervisor
7 Yearsyrs
Substance Abuse Counselor Family Support Worker Child Protective Investigator
Targeted Case Manager
6 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Social Worker 3.5 years
School Counselor 3.0 years
Foster Care Worker 2.5 years
Social Worker Lead 2.3 years
Top Employers Before
Internship 9.5%
Therapist 5.7%
Counselor 4.2%
Clinician 2.9%
Teacher 2.8%
Volunteer 2.5%
Supervisor 1.8%
Top Employers After
Therapist 9.2%
Clinician 5.4%
Counselor 3.1%
Internship 3.0%

School Social Worker Demographics










Hispanic or Latino






Black or African American

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Languages Spoken








































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School Social Worker Education


Fordham University


Wayne State University


New York University


Howard University


University of Illinois at Chicago


University of Denver


Aurora University


Loyola University of Chicago


Columbia University


Adelphi University


University of Michigan - Ann Arbor


Michigan State University


University of Southern California


Grand Valley State University


State University of New York Albany


State University of New York Buffalo


University of Maryland - Baltimore


University of Kansas


Arizona State University


Boston University

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Social Work


Mental Health Counseling




School Counseling


Clinical Psychology




Educational Leadership






Counseling Psychology


Special Education


Family Therapy


Criminal Justice


Human Development


Rehabilitation Science


Elementary Education


Nursing Assistants






Public Administration

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Part Time

Real School Social Worker Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Child & Family Services Agency Washington, DC Apr 12, 2010 $69,035
Child, Family and School Social Worker Queens Child Guidance Center, Inc. NY Mar 09, 2010 $62,000
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Lower East Side Family Union Hillsdale, NY Jun 28, 2013 $60,753
Child, Family, and School Social Workers SCO Family of Services New York, NY Feb 24, 2014 $60,549
Child, Family, and School Social Workers The Go Project, Inc. New York, NY Sep 10, 2012 $60,507
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Mary's Center for Maternal & Child Care, Inc. Washington, DC Nov 22, 2013 $57,637
Child, Family and School Social Workers Multicultural Community Services, Inc. Edison, NJ Aug 07, 2012 $55,765
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Applied Behavior Consultants, Inc. Rancho Cucamonga, CA Mar 11, 2013 $54,122
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Mount Sinai Medical Center New York, NY Aug 11, 2014 $52,894
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Lower East Side Family Union Hillsdale, NY Jan 19, 2012 $52,488
Child, Family and School Social Workers United Community Ministries Alexandria, VA Nov 05, 2008 $51,896
Child, Family, and School Social Workers New Alternatives for Children, Inc. New York, NY Jul 28, 2011 $51,605
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Kennedy Krieger Institute Baltimore, MD Jul 30, 2012 $49,504
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Nuevo Amanecer Latino Children's Services Los Angeles, CA Nov 09, 2007 $49,441
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Korean Community Center of Greater Washington Annandale, VA Nov 22, 2013 $44,678
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Lincoln Child Center Oakland, CA Apr 09, 2009 $44,346
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Chinese-American Planning Council, Inc. New York, NY Mar 28, 2012 $44,314
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Golden Gate Regional Center San Francisco, CA Feb 24, 2009 $43,992
Child, Family and School Social Workers South of Market Child Care, Inc. San Francisco, CA May 22, 2012 $43,826 -
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Ninat and Marcy Lekagul Larchmont, NY Oct 14, 2010 $43,514
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Holt International Children's Services Eugene, OR Dec 14, 2010 $43,222 -
Child, Family & School Social Workers Cheerful Helpers Child and Family Study Center Los Angeles, CA Apr 23, 2008 $43,117
Child, Family, and School Social Workers The Children's Aid Society New York, NY Aug 24, 2010 $40,000
School Social Worker The Quran Institute of America Detroit, MI Sep 20, 2014 $40,000
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Sanctuary for Families New York, NY Nov 29, 2007 $39,757
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Multicultural Community Services, Inc. Edison, NJ Feb 18, 2011 $39,653
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Sanctuary for Families New York, NY Sep 16, 2008 $39,624 -
Child, Family and School Social Workers Calm Santa Barbara, CA Dec 09, 2010 $39,520
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Berks Counseling Center Reading, PA May 06, 2014 $39,375
Child, Family, and School Social Workers North Suffolk Mental Health Association Revere, MA Nov 15, 2009 $39,000

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Top Skills for A School Social Worker


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Top School Social Worker Skills

  1. Crisis Intervention Services
  2. IEP
  3. Special Education Services
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Perform crisis intervention services as part of the Crisis Support Team.
  • Provided support to the child study team in assistance with IEP meetings and counseling services.
  • Provide and coordinate services to students requiring special education services.
  • Developed interventions and supports to assist children with social, emotional or behavioral issues meet with academic success.
  • Provided Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect training monthly to new hires.

Top School Social Worker Employers

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Day in the Life of a School Social Worker

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