What is a Social Worker

I'm sure you've heard that social work is hard. That's all anyone has to say about it. But what exactly does that mean? As a social worker, your day will consist of provide counseling services, performing administrative duties, taking time to interview potential clients, and meeting with lawyers. This is where the hard part comes into play.

A big part of a social worker's role is to provide assistance to people who are facing challenges in their life. Social workers try to improve their wellbeing and make sure they are being treated fairly. It's the situations that you'll find yourself helping that are the tough parts. From family violence to homelessness, this job isn't protected against some sad stories.

In fact, many social workers say the hardest part of the job is seeing how cruel people can be toward each other, especially families. You never want to see a kid take the brunt of a fight between two adults, but it happens more than you know. That's the kind of sad reality you might find yourself in as a social worker. There needs to be more people like you in the world.

What Does a 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.   

Learn more about what a Social Worker does

How To Become a 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.

Education

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.

What is the right job for my career path?

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And if you’re looking for a job, here are the five top employers hiring now:

  1. VITAS Healthcare Jobs (63)
  2. DaVita Jobs (96)
  3. Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services Jobs (108)
  4. Children's Aid Society Jobs (98)
  5. HCR ManorCare Jobs (81)
Average Salary
$53,175
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
11%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
87,781
Job Openings
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Average Salary for a Social Worker

Social Workers in America make an average salary of $53,175 per year or $26 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $69,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $40,000 per year.
Average Salary
$53,175
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12 Social Worker Resume Examples

Learn How To Write a Social Worker Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Social Worker resumes and compiled some information about how to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Social Worker Resume Examples And Templates

And if you’re looking for a job, here are the five top employers hiring now:

  1. VITAS Healthcare Jobs (63)
  2. DaVita Jobs (96)
  3. Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services Jobs (108)
  4. Children's Aid Society Jobs (98)
  5. HCR ManorCare Jobs (81)

Choose From 10+ Customizable Social Worker Resume templates

Zippia allows you to choose from different easy-to-use Social Worker templates, and provides you with expert advice. Using the templates, you can rest assured that the structure and format of your Social Worker resume is top notch. Choose a template with the colors, fonts & text sizes that are appropriate for your industry.

Social Worker Resume
Social Worker Resume
Social Worker Resume
Social Worker Resume
Social Worker Resume
Social Worker Resume
Social Worker Resume
Social Worker Resume
Social Worker Resume
Social Worker Resume
Social Worker Resume
Social Worker Resume
Social Worker Resume
Social Worker Resume
Social Worker Resume
Social Worker Resume

Social Worker Demographics

Social Worker Gender Statistics

female

80.5 %

male

19.5 %

Social Worker Ethnicity Statistics

White

66.9 %

Black or African American

15.0 %

Hispanic or Latino

12.4 %

Social Worker Foreign Languages Spoken Statistics

Spanish

66.9 %

French

7.7 %

Russian

3.5 %
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Social Worker Education

Social Worker Majors

Social Worker Degrees

Bachelors

58.6 %

Masters

33.2 %

Associate

5.5 %

Top Colleges for Social Workers

1. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,584
Enrollment
10,764

2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC • Private

In-State Tuition
$8,987
Enrollment
18,946

3. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$56,225
Enrollment
19,548

4. California State University - Long Beach

Long Beach, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$6,798
Enrollment
31,503

5. Boston College

Chestnut Hill, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,464
Enrollment
9,639

6. San Diego State University

San Diego, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$7,488
Enrollment
30,018

7. Florida State University

Tallahassee, FL • Private

In-State Tuition
$5,656
Enrollment
32,072

8. Hunter College of the City University of New York

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$7,182
Enrollment
16,205

9. Case Western Reserve University

Cleveland, OH • Private

In-State Tuition
$49,042
Enrollment
5,131

10. Boston University

Boston, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,948
Enrollment
17,238
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Online Courses For Social Worker That You May Like

Social Policy for Social Services & Health Practitioners
coursera

In the U.S, social policy accounts for two-thirds of government spending. Knowing how policies are constructed, what values underlie them, and how they succeed or fail makes everyone more effective at work or in their civic role. This specialization includes an HONORS track in which learners will complete a professional social policy analysis.\n\nTeachers, health care workers, police, and social workers interact with policy daily, but all of us should care about the impact and effectiveness of t...

Strengthening Community Health Worker Programs
edX (Global)

Despite medical and technological advances, half of the world’s population lacks access to essential health services, and over 8.9 million preventable deaths occur every year. There is an acute global shortage of health workers, a gap that will grow to 18 million by 2030. Studies show that training high-performing community health workers can help close these gaps and save more than 3 million lives annually. In the past few decades, many community health worker programs across the world have...

Value-Based Care: Population Health
coursera

COURSE 2 of 7. This course is designed to introduce you to the concept of population health and related key terms. Refine your understanding of population health and what influences health care costs. Gain an overview of population health management, beginning with a high-level review of four critical areas: addressing behavioral and social determinants of health, the prevalence of chronic disease, attributes of an aging population, and key barriers of access to health care. Use the Population H...

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Top Skills For a Social Worker

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 12.3% of Social Workers listed Treatment Plans on their resume, but soft skills such as Emotional skills and Communication skills are important as well.

Best States For a Social Worker

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a Social Worker. The best states for people in this position are Oregon, Alaska, Washington, and California. Social Workers make the most in Oregon with an average salary of $76,018. Whereas in Alaska and Washington, they would average $71,016 and $67,540, respectively. While Social Workers would only make an average of $66,226 in California, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Oregon

Total Social Worker Jobs:
897
Highest 10% Earn:
$106,000
Location Quotient:
1.32
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Washington

Total Social Worker Jobs:
1,716
Highest 10% Earn:
$93,000
Location Quotient:
1.43
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. California

Total Social Worker Jobs:
6,366
Highest 10% Earn:
$91,000
Location Quotient:
1.33
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
Full List Of Best States For Social Workers

How Do Social Worker Rate Their Jobs?

Zippia Official Logo

5.0

Psychological First Aid SpecialistDecember 2019

5.0

Zippia Official LogoPsychological First Aid SpecialistDecember 2019

What do you like the most about working as Social Worker?

Serving people, impacting change in communities, never boring Show More

What do you NOT like?

pay is low for what you need to do Show More

Zippia Official Logo

5.0

Best job I’ve ever had!September 2019

5.0

Zippia Official LogoBest job I’ve ever had!September 2019

What do you like the most about working as Social Worker?

I work for myself in my private practice as a Clinical Social Worker and Couples Therapist. I love the work that I do with teens and adults to help them overcome their issues in life. Show More

What do you NOT like?

It took me five years to get to a full-time caseload of clients, but my wife supported me with her full time job while my client load increased. Now I’m booked up 4 to five weeks in advance and making an excellent salary, living abroad in Switzerland. Show More

Zippia Official Logo

5.0

AmazingJune 2019

5.0

Zippia Official LogoAmazingJune 2019

What do you like the most about working as Social Worker?

Working with people, making people happy and feel cared for Show More

What do you NOT like?

Hours and very little salary Show More

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Top Social Worker Employers

We've made finding a great employer to work for easy by doing the hard work for you. We looked into employers that employ Social Workers and discovered their number of Social Worker opportunities and average salary. Through our research, we concluded that The Salvation Army was the best, especially with an average salary of $51,262. Catholic Charities follows up with an average salary of $52,207, and then comes Los Angeles Department of Public Works with an average of $54,611. In addition, we know most people would rather work from home. So instead of having to change careers, we identified the best employers for remote work as a Social Worker. The employers include CVS Health, Cigna, and Aetna

What are the best companies to work for a Social Worker?

Dr. April Jones

Chair, Tuskegee University

The feedback from business leaders is that they wish to see a balanced mix of new graduates' skills. An unexpected gift mentioned is the ability to use spreadsheets, such as Excel. Companies do not expect to train new employees to use spreadsheets, though it turned out that spreadsheets are widely used (at varying levels of complexity) at all levels in organizations. An assumption here is that if a graduate already has good spreadsheet skills, then the graduate should also have the ability to quickly pick up on other, more complex business IT skills required by the organization.

Businesses also need to know if their new employees can effectively interact with internal or external audiences. In this regard, excellent presentation skills are the minimum expectation from businesses. Presentation skills (both formal and informal) include the ability to read people, communicate, and convey information appropriately to the different types of audiences they may encounter - and these may sometimes include bored, skeptical, adversarial, or even hostile audiences.

Every organization also requires graduates to show that they are good team-players. In addition to that, it is a significant advantage if graduates can also demonstrate good leadership skills in the context of teamwork. This is because new employees with leadership potential are viewed as those who are willing to go the extra mile, able to function with minimum supervision, can roll with the punches to jump back into the fray, and trusted to welcome (instead of to avoid) new assignments or challenges. Leadership skills are also seen as closely aligned with the possession of a corporate entrepreneurial mindset. Such employees are more willing to challenge the status quo, come up with out-of-the-box ideas, and help lead transformation efforts to guide the organization in the future.
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Becoming a Social Worker FAQs

Do social workers get paid well?

Yes, social workers get paid well. Depending on the location and area of social work, it is possible for a social worker's yearly earnings to exceed $90,000. It is much more typical for social workers to earn between $30,000 per year and $70,000 per year.

Social workers who earn salaries on the lower end of this range usually hold no higher qualifications than a BSW degree or bachelor's degree in social work. Higher-earning social workers are more likely to hold a master's degree in social work (MSW).

Learn more about this question

How do I become a social worker without going to university?

Although there are a limited amount of positions involving social work that require no degree, a bachelor's degree in social work is almost always necessary for employment as a social worker.

There are lots of different schools that offer social work programs to earn this degree. Typically, obtaining this degree qualifies a candidate for general social work positions. Essentially, this degree is the entry-level requirement for a social worker's career.

Additionally, for many social workers, a master's degree in social work is also necessary. Positions requiring a master's degree in social work, or other professional certifications, usually earn higher salaries. So, for many social workers, the extra schooling and certifications are worth pursuing.

Learn more about this question

How long does it take to become a social worker?

Becoming a social worker takes four years, typicaly. To be eligible for an entry-level career as a social worker, a bachelor's degree in social work is almost always necessary. This degree takes four years to complete. For many positions, this degree is all that is needed.

For social workers seeking to earn higher salaries, obtaining a master's degree in social work is often necessary. This degree typically takes between one year and two years to complete provided the candidate already holds a bachelor's degree in social work.

Additional time may be added if the prospective social worker intends to obtain a license to become a licensed clinical social worker.

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What is the difference between a clinical social worker and a social worker?

The main difference between a clinical social worker and a social worker is that clinical social workers have to obtain a master's, while social workers must have just a bachelor's.

Both clinical and direct services social workers perform duties that require one-on-one client interaction, but clinical social workers have more authority for diagnosing and treating.

For that reason, the requirements to become a clinical social worker tend to be stricter. All clinical social workers must have a master's degree and a state license, while some social workers practice with only a bachelor's degree. This is reflected in the pay range for each area.

Most clinical social workers practice in mental health and rehabilitation clinics, while social workers find employment in schools, hospitals, and government agencies. The main difference between clinical and social workers is what each is legally allowed to do.

All social workers can connect clients with resources and offer guidance through difficult situations, but only clinical social workers can provide counseling.

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What qualifications do you need to become a social worker?

To be a social worker, a bachelor's degree in social work is usually necessary. This degree is typically obtained via a four-year program through an accredited school. The bachelor's degree in social work prepares the prospective social worker for general social work and qualifies them for most entry-level careers in social work.

For some careers in social work, especially higher-paying government positions, a master's degree in social work may be necessary. This degree typically takes an additional year or two for a candidate who already holds a bachelor's degree in social work to complete.

For a career as a clinical social worker, a license is necessary. Licensed clinical social workers are often the social workers who earn the highest salaries.

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