Social work is a highly skilled profession that requires a good understanding of the humanities and social sciences, as well as strong interpersonal and communication skills. A social work salary should reflect this but, like any other profession, it can vary widely depending on experience, seniority, field of practice, education level and location.
Here’s a quick guide to how much you can expect to earn during your social work career. We’ll also look at how social workers can lobby for better salaries in their industry.
Social Work Salary Ranges
Social work salaries differ greatly, with U.S. News reporting an average salary for the top 75 percentile of social workers of $65,860 and a bottom 25 percentile average of $41,620. The best-paid 10 percent of social workers earned around $73,400 per year.
The top-paying metropolitan areas include Springfield, Illinois; Hartford, Connecticut; and Nassau County, New York.
As reported by U.S. News, the median pay for a child and family social worker is listed as $42,350 per year with is consistent with the Bureau of Labor Statistics who lists the median salary for all social workers (as of 2015) as $45,900 per year, or $22.07 per hour.
According to Payscale.com, some of the highest paying skills associated with social workers are bilingual abilities, clinical supervision, patient counseling, psychiatric care and hospice care.
Find out more about the top paying social work jobs.
Often the most important determinant of salary for a social worker is their level of education. All social workers must hold a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) or related degree from an accredited institution.
Examples of social work jobs you can get with a BSW include (but not limited to):
- Eligibility Worker
- Teen Parent Worker
- Community Outreach Worker
- Juvenile Court Liaison
- Child Welfare Screener
- Rehabilitation Case Worker
These jobs generally fall into the category of child and family social worker — or rather, non-clinical roles. The ot
her major job category is clinical social work, which concentrates on the social aspects of medical and public health.
Clinical Social Work
Clinical social workers enjoy a significantly better median salary of $52,380, and the role is currently ranked as the fourth most desirable social service job in the country. All clinical social workers need to have a Master’s of Social Work (MSW) degree, which is usually a two-year program that requires at least 900 hours of supervised field experience.
An MSW degree gives you access to a wide range of high-tier social work jobs, in both public and private practice. These include psychotherapist, family advocate, case manager, school social worker, and advisory and administrative roles.
The career outlook for clinical social workers is positive – the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 19 percent employment increase by 2024, largely due to the comprehensive care needs of the aging baby boomer generation.
Supporting Fairer Salaries
Social work is a rewarding career for those who have a desire to help others. At the same time, you can be required to work in stressful environments and can be called on to solve difficult psychosocial problems.
Given that demand for social workers is only expected to increase, many social work advocates are concerned that without fair and equitable salaries, many future professionals will forgo careers in the field. You can find petitions supporting increases in social worker pay at change.org. Current petitions include the NASW-NYC Equitable Salaries Campaign.
It’s clear that an advanced degree is the best path to a better social work salary. Find an MSW program that aligns with your goals.