School Social Workers Career Information

Learn what school social workers do, and find out what the education and licensing requirements are. Get the details about job prospects and earning potential to see if this career is right for you.

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Career Definition for a School Social Worker

The specialized field of school social work focuses on working with students, teachers and parents in a school system to create an environment conducive to teaching and learning, according to the School Social Work Association of America (SSWA). School social workers act as liaisons between the school and students' families to ensure that students reach their full potential; they also deal with behavioral problems, advise teachers and lead school programs and seminars to promote a healthy learning environment. School social workers may be employed by many different types of schools, from pre-K to high schools, public to private schools and small to large school systems.

Requirements A bachelor's degree is the minimum, though many employers require a Master of Social Work (MSW); state license required for clinical practice
Job Skills Mature, sensitive and communicative with the ability to multitask and work independently
Median Salary (2019)* $48,344
Job Outlook (2016-2026)** 14% (for school, child and family social workers)

Sources: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

As with all kinds of social work, a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW), psychology or sociology is necessary, and many employers require a Master of Social Work (MSW), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Interested individuals should look for programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Licensing and Certification Information

Social workers in clinical practice must hold a state license, which typically requires a master's degree in social work, two years of work experience and a passing score on an exam. School social workers may also want to pursue the Certified School Social Work Specialist (C-SSWS) designation from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), which requires professional references and completion of a qualifying exam.

Skills Required

School social workers should be extremely sensitive to others' needs, mature in dealing with emotional topics and able to communicate with and encourage communication from young people. An ability to multitask is important, and previous volunteer experience in social work is helpful. Those adept at working independently and managing a variety of interpersonal dynamics will find school social work to be an engaging career choice.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the BLS, job opportunities for school, child and family social workers are expected to grow at a rate of 14% between 2016 and 2026, which is much faster than the average rate for all jobs. School social work jobs are expected to increase due to increasing student enrollment and efforts to resolve child abuse. PayScale.com reports that the median annual wage of school social workers was $48,344 as of March 2019.

Alternate Career Options

Other careers related to school social work include:

Social and Human Service Assistant

A social and human service assistant usually works under the direction of a team of social workers or related human service professionals to help clients get the help they need. Social and human service assistants might help families sign up for food stamps. They could also help elderly clients arrange for household assistance with cooking and cleaning. Additionally, they could help returning veterans find housing and offer job placement assistance.

Jobs in this field typically require at least a high school diploma and some college experience. On-the-job training is common. The BLS predicts that jobs in this field will increase by 16% from 2016 to 2026. In May 2018, the agency reported that social and human service assistants earned a median salary of $33,750.

High School Counselor

A high school counselor helps students make preparations - through academics and acquisition of skills - for life after high school, whether that's college or employment. High school counselors help students whose personal problems are affecting their studies. They also help students figure out what their career goals are and how to attain them.

High school counselors are usually required to have at least a master's degree. State licensing or certification is also required. School and career counselor jobs are predicted to increase by 13% from 2016 to 2026, per the BLS. According to PayScale.com, high school counselors earned a median salary of $50,393 as of March 2019.

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