Foster Care Social Worker: Career Information and Requirements

A foster care social worker is required to have some formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Social workers who work in a foster care system help children who have been mentally or physically abused and displaced from their homes or abandoned. The minimum education requirement is a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), though many employers prefer to hire candidates with a Master of Social Work (MSW) to work in a foster care system. Licensure may also be necessary for employment.

Required Education Bachelor's; master's required for some positions
Licensure Required for some positions
Projected Job Growth (2012 - 2022)* 15% (for child, family and school social workers)
Mean Salary (2013)* $46,060 annually (for child, family and school social workers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Foster Care Social Worker Career Information

Social workers employed by foster care agencies help children become acclimated to foster homes upon pairing them with suitable families. Those in need are mostly neglected, abused and mistreated children who have legally been removed from their parents. A social worker interviews the child and prospective foster parents; he or she also runs an extensive background check. This is exceedingly important since the social worker is ultimately responsible for the welfare of the child.

Employment Outlook

According to the National Association of Social Workers, a majority of the states have a problem recruiting qualified social workers in foster care systems. The NASW also reports that more than half of social workers are employed in direct services in foster care systems, while a quarter work in supervision and another quarter works in administration (www.naswdc.org).

Child, family and school social workers, including those specializing in foster care, should see their employment prospects increase by 15% between 2012 and 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In 2013, the BLS reported an average salary of $46,060 for these professionals.

Education Requirements

To work for foster care agencies, an individual needs to posses a 4-year bachelor's degree from an accredited university in social work or in a related field, such as psychology or sociology. These majors learn to assess problems in society and how social services respond to those problems. They also learn welfare policies and methods of social work.

Further Studies

While one can get an entry-level job in a foster care setting with just a bachelor's degree, it is preferred by many employers for potential hires to have a master's degree. A master's degree is required to become a licensed social worker; it also qualifies candidates for higher positions with better salaries in foster care. Enrollees study child placement and protection; they are introduced to home-based services for foster children. In addition, students learn about mental health issues specific to at-risk children.


According to the Association of Social Work Boards, approval is necessary before a candidate can register for the social worker licensing exam; prospective test-takers should check the stipulations for their state. There are four exam levels: bachelor's, master's, advanced generalist and clinical. The test is multiple-choice, and four hours are allotted for examinees. The exam covers basic knowledge relevant to the degree that the individual holds. For example, the bachelor's exam tests on basic content knowledge that one learned in their undergraduate studies.

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