Social Worker Salary

Social WorkerSocial workers help people find solutions for difficulties they may be facing in their lives.  There are two main branches of social workers, direct service and clinical.  While direct service social workers help solve problems, clinical social workers can also diagnose and treat mental disorders.  All social workers must have at least a 4 year bachelors degree in order to work as a social worker.  Social workers are employed in a great variety of facilities as there are people in all areas and walks of life that at times need outside help.

National Average Social Worker Salary



Salary Range

Hourly Wage                          Annual Wage

                       Upper:             $40.69                                     $84,630

                       Median:           $28.42                                     $59,100

                       Lower:             $15.85                                       $32,970


States With Highest Salary

State                                    Avg. Hourly Wage                 Avg. Annual Wage

  • District of Columbia                $35.40                                        $73,630
  • Rhode Island                              $34.06                                        $70,850
  • Illinois                                          $33.15                                        $68,950
  • Idaho                                             $32.92                                        $68,470
  • New Jersey                                  $32.54                                        $67,690


*All statistical data is from the U.S. Department of Labor and is updated quarterly

Job Description:

Social workers are primary concerned with helping individuals manage difficulties found in their daily lives.  Much of this is done through talking to clients and working together to create structured plans for attaining discussed goals.  Their clients can be any age and have just about any problem ranging from physical abuse to not having enough money to buy food.  They also deal with drug dependency as well as other addictive conditions.  Direct service social workers have numerous responsibilities some of which are:

  • Evaluating individuals to gain knowledge and perspective on their situation
  • Work with clients to develop long and short term goals
  • Putting together a structured plan to help individuals reach their goals
  • Helping individuals manage overwhelming situations such as death and abuse
  • Directing individuals to resources such as food stamps
  • Evaluating and reevaluating the effectiveness of plans of action
  • Keeping detailed records

Clinical social workers function more like psychologists in that in addition to the above mentioned aspects of the job, clinical social workers also evaluate and diagnose specific mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.  Although they do not prescribe medications, they will work with physicians in developing an overall treatment plan which medication may be a part of.

They will more often be found providing therapy to not only individuals, but couples and groups.  There overall approach to helping is the same as a direct service social worker in that they will evaluate the issue and provide an actionable plan for helping the situation.

Like other professions, social workers will often times specialize in a specific area of treatment.  Some of these specialized areas prepare the social worker for working in schools, working with children and families, working with medical patients, or helping those suffering with mental health issues or drug addiction.


Social WorkerWork Environment:

Social workers can be found working in a variety of different places.  Some are employed by government agencies as part of a larger social service care system.  Some work in schools and work primary with students, others work in hospitals or nursing homes.

Because of the nature of the work, you can find social workers employed in many different settings, as long as people are present, there will be individuals in need of help.  Some clinical social workers open their own private practice and work for themselves.

Social workers usually have an office that they work out of, but may spend an even greater amount of time visiting with clients at off site locations.  Social workers who work in the school system will usually have several schools that they work with and will travel around to each during their work week.

The majority of social workers work regular daytime hours though it is not uncommon for them to put in time on the weekends and evenings.  Those who work in hospitals may find regular weekend shifts part of their schedule.


How To Become A Social Worker:

Education And Licensing:

To become a social worker you will need at least a 4 year bachelors degree.  Most social workers have their degrees in social work, though some employers will hire for this position if you have a degree in psychology or sociology.

Clinical social workers are required to complete a masters program in social work.  This usually will take 2 years to complete after which they will need to apply for certification.

All states require clinical social workers to be licensed.  Some states also require direct service social workers to be licensed as well, though this is often not mandated.  For clinical social workers, they must not only complete a master degree program, but work on the job for a given amount of time that is determined by the state they are working in.  For most, 2 years would satisfy the requirements.  After that they must pass a test at which point they will be licensed.


Who Should Become A Social Worker:

The main function of a social worker is to provide assistance to people.  Needless to say, you must have a deep desire to help others if you want to excel at this profession.

Social workers spend a good deal of time talking to their clients about their problems.  Having the ability to listen is something that if you don’t possess, you will need to develop.  If you are not paying full attention to a client, you may miss subtle hints that may give you clues to deeper issues.  Also, you are there to help that person, giving anything less then your full attention is wrong.  They are trusting you enough to open up about there problems so you should always be respectful.

Keeping detailed records of clients and cases that are under management is also a big part of this job.  Social workers will usually have numerous clients and if they do not keep accurate organized records, it can quickly turn into mass confusion.

Coming up with viable solutions to an individuals problems will be the most important part of this job.  Every individual is different and needs to take a different approach, even if the problem is the same as someone else.  Being sensitive enough to recognize what your client needs and what plan would work best for that person is most important, cookie cutter solutions will not work.


How Much Does A Social Worker Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual social worker salary is $58,410.  The lowest 10 percent of reported incomes was averaged at $32,970 while the top 10 percent of earners took home an estimated $84,630.  The state with the highest average salary is the District of Columbia with an annual mean salary of $73,630.

Factors That Can Influence Salary:

Many things will influence what a social workers salary will be.  As with any job, location, experience and training will play a major role in determining salary.  Some other factors include level of education, whether you are licensed, and who your employer is.  Larger facilities in large cities will usually offer higher payouts then a small government office in a rural area.  Clinical social workers will earn more then direct service social workers.


Career Path:

There are numerous career paths one can follow as a social worker.  From the basic entry level position one can complete a masters degree and become a clinical social worker.  This career can also provide a good foundation for becoming a psychologist or just about any other type of counselor.  You will already have completed many of the prerequisites and core requirements of degrees in related fields, completing a program in a related field would require little time.


Job Market:

The expected job growth for social workers is expected to be 12% between 2014 and 2024.  This growth is much faster then what is expected in the rest of the economy.  The need for healthcare social workers is expected to grow by 19% during this same time frame.  This represents an incredible opportunity as there will be ample jobs to fill and finding employment upon graduating from a program should not be a problem.

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