Social Work Careers and Salary
The category of social work encompasses a wide variety of careers, all of which have the general focus of helping people address and deal with problems in their day-to-day lives. Social workers may hold a range of job titles, from mental health counselor to social service manager to healthcare social worker. They are employed by community and service organizations, schools, hospitals, clinics, and other types of community and health based groups. Social work is not a field one generally thinks of when considering high-paying jobs, but many social workers earn a good salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the median salary for all social workers was $49,470 in 2018.
Highest Paying Social Work Jobs
There are a number of social work careers that pay salaries higher than the national median. The median annual salary for all occupations was $38,640 in 2018, according to the BLS. This article highlights several careers that can be pursued with an associate's degree in social work or a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW), many of which pay above the national median salary.
Earning a master's of social work (MSW) will expand career options and typically lead to even higher salaries. An MSW generally provides higher pay, status, and responsibility in the bachelor's level careers listed below. An MSW also opens more career paths, such as school and career counselor, that are not available at the bachelor's level.
|Job Title||Median Salary (2018)*||Job Growth (2018-2028)*||Minimum Required Education|
|Social and Human Service Assistant||$33,750||13%||High school diploma|
|Preschool Teacher||$29,780||7%||Associate's degree|
|Healthcare Social Worker||$56,200||17%||Bachelor's degree|
|Child, Family and School Social Worker||$46,270||7%||Bachelor's degree|
|Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker||$44,840||18%||Bachelor's degree|
|Substance Abuse and Behavior Disorder Counselor||$44,630||22%||Bachelor's degree|
|Social and Community Service Manager||$65,320||13%||Bachelor's degree|
|Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialist||$53,020||3%||Bachelor's degree|
|School and Career Counselor||$56,310||8%||Master's degree|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Associate's in Social Work Salary
Social and Human Service Assistant
Social and human service assistants help connect individuals and families with aid and services that they need. This may include informing people about benefits such as Medicaid and food stamps, helping to fill out paperwork, or connecting people with resources on housing and jobs. Social and human service assistants often require only a high school diploma, but an associate's degree in social work or a related field can help job prospects. In 2018, according to the BLS, the median wage for this career was $33,750.
Preschool teachers work with children age 5 and younger who have not yet started kindergarten, helping them develop both social and academic skills to prepare them for school. An associate's degree (not necessarily in social work) is typically the minimum educational requirement for a preschool teacher, though this may vary based on location and type of school. Preschool teachers earned a median salary of $29,780 in 2018, according to the BLS.
Bachelor's of Social Work Salary
Healthcare Social Workers
Healthcare social workers often work in hospitals and help individuals coping with illness. They can advise patients on how to modify their environment to cope with their condition once returning home and educate them about services that are available to them. Healthcare social workers earn one of the highest median salaries of all bachelor's level career options in social work. The BLS reported a median annual income of $56,200 in 2018 for healthcare social workers.
Child, Family and School Social Workers
Child, family and school social workers investigate suspected child abuse and help meet the practical needs of community members by arranging for services such as childcare. The BLS reported that in 2018, child, family and school social workers earned a median income of $46,270 per year. A bachelor's degree in social work is required for entry-level positions in this field.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
The focus of a mental health and substance abuse social worker's career is to help people who struggle with addictions or have mental health issues. Their role is to provide these individuals with the services needed to cope with their condition. With a bachelor's degree in social work, graduates will qualify for positions as mental health and substance abuse social workers. In 2018 the BLS reported these social workers earned $44,840 per year.
Substance Abuse and Behavior Disorder Counselors
The educational requirements for substance abuse and behavior disorder counselors can vary from a high school diploma to a graduate degree. With a bachelor's in social work it's possible to qualify for work in this field. These mental health professionals work with clients to help them avoid destructive behaviors, using a combination of group and individual counseling to help their clients develop effective coping strategies. Their median annual salary was $44,630 in 2018, according to the BLS.
Social and Community Service Managers
Social and community service managers enjoyed a median annual income of $65,320 in 2018, according to the BLS. This is one of the highest-paying career options for individuals with a bachelor's degree in social work, and pursuing a master's of social work will increase career options and earning potential in this field. Social and community service managers help identify community needs and create programs designed to meet those needs. This could include things such as providing services to veterans or individuals with special needs.
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with criminals to help them reintegrate into society after incarceration or develop treatment strategies to help individuals prepare for careers. They must have a bachelor's degree and it is common for these professionals to study social work. The BLS reported that in 2018 parole officers and correctional treatment specialists earned a median annual salary of $53,020.
Highest Paying MSW Jobs
School and Career Counselors
School and career counselors need a master's degree and a license. The BLS reports these professionals earned a median annual income of $56,310 in 2018. School and career counselors help students determine which courses to take to prepare for college or for a specific career, and also address personal issues with students, such as social anxiety, bullying, or suspected abuse.
What Area of Social Work Pays the Most?
Pay can vary greatly within each of the areas of social work described above, based on factors including level of education, years of experience in the field, and type of agency or organization where one is employed. Therefore, it's difficult to name one specific area of social work as the highest paying field. However, looking at all the types of social work careers described above, the highest median pay was earned by social and community service managers ($65,310), school and career counselors ($56,310), and healthcare social workers ($56,200). These are areas to consider if you hope to maximize your earning potential within the field of social work.