Social Worker Salary

The average salary of social worker in US is $70,000.

What to expect as a social worker

There are so many different types of social worker – mental health social workers, substance abuse social workers, healthcare social workers, child and family social workers and school social workers, to name but a few – that it is very difficult to present salaries for a typical social worker. So these figures are a guide to the likely earnings of the broad spectrum of professionals loosely gathered under the term ‘social worker’.

Median social worker salary

  • $48,000 per year
  • $23 per hour

A median salary is not an average salary. Rather, it is the recoded salary that is exactly at the mid-point in the list of recorded salaries for a particular occupation. For a social worker this median figure is $48,000 annually, translating to $23 an hour.

Salary range for middle 50% of social workers

  • $42,000 – $54,000
  • $21 – $26 per hour

An idea of the salary range for a typical social worker is best obtained by looking at the middle 50% of recorded social worker salaries, that is, by eliminating the highest and lowest paid 25%. This leaves a representative range of $42,000 to $54,000 per year ($21 to $26 per hour).

Lowest and highest social worker salary

  • Lowest – $38,300 ($18/hour)
  • Highest – $59,000 ($28/hour)

Social workers in the lowest 10th percentile of earners are likely to be just starting out in their profession, or working in a more moderately paid location or industry sector. Their salary may be as little as $38,300, or $18 at an hourly rate. More highly-paid colleagues in the top 10th percentile can command as much as $59,000 annually ($28 per hour).

The total salary package for a social worker

Other forms of compensation should be included when calculating a social worker’s total salary package. These benefits may include a health insurance scheme, a pension plan, life insurance, and paid time away from work for vacations or illness. An average total salary package for a social worker is worth $70,000.

Factors affecting social worker salaries

Social workers are no exception to the rule that, the more education, training and experience you have, the more likely you are to be paid a salary which fits into that top 10th percentile. Experience is particularly relevant for social workers, since it is very difficult to replicate in the classroom the kind of situations they may have to deal with in real life.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes separate statistics for various classes of social worker. Mental heath and substance abuse social workers are paid higher wages in Connecticut, Wisconsin and New Hampshire and mostly work in outpatient care centers, although home health care services provide them with higher salaries.

Health care social workers operate principally in hospitals, but get better pay in health and personal care stores, and in the District of Colombia and California generally.

Child, family and school social workers achieve their highest salaries in elementary and secondary schools, although most of them work in individual and family services and local and state government. New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island are the top-paying states for this kind of social worker.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook for social workers predicts a 19% growth rate for social worker employment between 2012 and 2022. This is faster than the average growth rate for occupations as a whole.

Training and certification requirements for social workers

A bachelor’s degree in social work is the most obvious entry point to this profession, although degrees in psychology or sociology are also considered suitable by some employers. However, clinical social workers (those who treat mental, behavioral and emotional disorders) must have a master’s degree and demonstrated clinical experience before they can be licensed. The educational accreditation agency is the Council on Social Work Education.

Social workers listen to their clients, assess their needs and work out strategies to improve their wellbeing. This may involve referral or advocacy around community resources, such as health care or a food stamps program. They can also provide a response in times of crisis, such as severe depression, suicide attempts, domestic violence or child abuse.

A social worker is someone who provides a figurative shoulder to lean on when times are tough, someone to fight in the corner of the weaker members of society, or those normally strong but facing an unexpected crisis. As a result, social workers sometimes get to witness humanity’s dark side, and they need to be mentally strong individuals in order to avoid depression themselves. It is a very worthwhile occupation but only moderately well paid. Fortunately this does not deter the people who have the will and character to succeed in this caring profession.


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