For most social workers, a desire to help others is more central than financial gain. But that doesn’t mean social workers don’t desire and deserve to be well-paid. Of course they do, of course they should be.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics social work page details the most recent available numbers. The Bureau predicts a nine percent increase in the number of social work jobs over the next decade–a larger growth than many other professions. The median average social worker salary (unlicensed and licensed) as of a couple of years ago was around 50K. It breaks down like this:
Local government, excluding education and hospitals, $61,190
Ambulatory healthcare services, $58,700
State government, excluding education and hospitals, $48,090
Individual and family services , $46,640
So, some social work careers can be more significantly lucrative than others. But look at salary.com’s numbers for licensed clinical social workers. They show a median post-clinical-licensure salary of $78,024, with salaries ranging up above six figures in California.
Getting licensed is a lot of trouble, but clearly it’s worth the effort.
It’s no surprise that most, higher-paying jobs are reserved for licensed social workers, which is why this warrants a post here (a licensing exam site). Here are some of them:
Clinical Social Worker. Clinical social workers provide therapy, counseling, and mental health services to individuals, families, and groups. Obtaining a clinical license opens up opportunities for private practice, which can be financially rewarding. Clinical social workers often have higher earning potential due to the specialized nature of their work and the demand for mental health services.
Healthcare Social Worker. Healthcare social workers work in hospitals, clinics, and other medical settings, providing support and assistance to patients and their families. They may help individuals navigate the healthcare system, address emotional and psychosocial issues, and connect patients with resources. The healthcare sector often offers competitive salaries and benefits, making this an attractive area for social workers.
School Social Worker. School social workers play a vital role in educational settings, supporting students' social and emotional well-being, addressing behavioral issues, and connecting families with community resources. Salaries for school social workers can vary depending on the school district and location, but working in schools often provides stability and benefits, making it a potentially lucrative career path.
Geriatric Social Worker. With an aging population, the demand for geriatric social workers is increasing. Geriatric social workers provide assistance and support to older adults and their families, helping them navigate healthcare systems, long-term care options, and end-of-life planning. Social workers specializing in gerontology can find opportunities in healthcare facilities, assisted living facilities, hospices, and government agencies, where salaries can be competitive.
Industrial-Organizational Social Worker. Industrial-organizational social workers focus on the well-being of employees within organizations. They address issues such as work-related stress, employee assistance programs, conflict resolution, and organizational development. Working in the corporate or business sector may offer higher salaries and additional benefits, although the focus of the work may differ from traditional social work roles.
It's important to remember that while these career paths may offer higher earning potential, salaries can vary based on multiple factors, including, of course, experience and location. The salary increase associated with licensure also varies depending on experience and location. The specific job role or setting also play a big part– it varies significantly from case to case.
You’re not in social work to live a life of luxury, but you can find your way to making a comfortable living. The job is hard. The pay should reflect that. In some roles, in some places, it does. Here’s hoping that becomes commonplace inviting more people into what is, after all, a rewarding profession.