Salary Guide: How Much Does a Social Worker Make?
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Editor & Writer
Editor & Writer
Editor & Writer
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- Social workers typically make from $35,000-$85,000 or more a year.
- Their pay depends on different factors, such as industry and geographical location.
- As a social worker, your level of education may influence your salary potential.
Social workers connect individuals to services. They help and guide them through major life transitions.
Their salaries can vary widely. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for social workers is $51,760, as of May 2020.
There are many different jobs for social workers. Their work environments and experience can influence their pay.
Keep reading to learn how social work salaries vary based on your job type and field.
What Is the Average Social Work Salary?
Your social worker salary may depend on your focus or specialty. Below are the median annual salaries, as of May 2020, for social workers across three categories listed in the BLS.
- Healthcare Social Workers: $57,630
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers:$48,720
- Child, Family, and School Social Workers:$48,430
Popular Online Programs in Social Work
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
Highest-Paying Social Work Jobs
Top-paying social work jobs may require advanced degrees, licenses, or other credentials. They include:
|Social Work Job||Average or Median Annual Salary|
|Social Work Professor||$78,110 as of May 2020|
|Executive Director of a Social Work Organization||$68,660 as of February 2022|
|Behavior Analyst||$65,220< as of February 2022|
|Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)||$59,770 as of February 2022|
|School Counselor||$58,120 as of May 2020|
Data from the BLS and Payscale
What Field of Social Work Pays the Most?
Social workers tend to earn the most working for the federal government. Federal social workers help guide research and develop social services, healthcare, and education policies. They earn median annual salaries of $82,490, as of May 2020, according to the BLS.
Other top-paying industries for social workers include:
- Professional organizations and industry advocacy groups
- Outpatient healthcare services
- Insurance carriers
- Local government agencies
How Much Social Workers Make in Your State
According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Pacific region social workers tend to make higher salaries. Salaries for social workers in the South Central area of the U.S. tend to be lower. However, it's important to consider the type of social work.
Below, we listed salaries for four categories of social workers.
|State||Child, Family, and School Social Workers||Healthcare Social Workers||Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers||Other Social Workers|
|District of Columbia||$69,700||$74,920||$72,770||No data|
|Guam||No data||$50,870||No data||$41,450|
|New Mexico||$43,340||$56,280||$51,140||No data|
Data sourced from the BLS
|Child, Family, and School Social Workers||Healthcare Social Workers||Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers||Other Social Workers|
#2 Washington D.C.
#3 New Jersey
#3 Washington D.C.
|#1 New Jersey
#2 Washington, D.C.
#3 Rhode Island
Data sourced from the BLS
Job Growth for Social Workers
The BLS projects that social worker employment will grow 12% from 2020-2030. That's faster than the projected growth rate (of 8%) for all U.S. occupations.
Mental health and substance abuse social workers are projected to see an even steeper increase at 15%. The BLS attributes this growth to more people seeking mental health services and policies directing drug offenders to treatment instead of jail.
More Education Leads to a Higher Social Work Salary
Bachelor's in Social Work Salary
Students in bachelor's in social work (BSW) programs learn the foundations of social work. They may complete internships assisting licensed social workers. When they graduate, they can start a master's degree program or enter the workforce.
BSW graduates are not legally qualified to provide clinical services, such as talk therapy. However, they can get hired for some social work jobs with a BSW. These are entry-level positions in direct service:
Social and Community Service Managers
Median Salary: $69,600, per the BLS (May 2020)
These professionals coordinate programs and manage staff at social service organizations. They might hire people, create budgets, and use data to improve their organization's offerings. They typically have a bachelor's degree in social work or a related field.
Community Outreach Workers
Average Salary: $44,110, per Payscale (February 2022)
Community outreach workers may work for social service organizations to spread the word about their agency's services. They may also recruit or enroll people who may need help. These professionals typically complete extensive on-the-job training.
Housing Case Managers
Average Salary:$42,440 (February 2022)
Case managers support individuals through major life transitions. They advocate for people and connect them to needed services. Housing case managers work with people experiencing homelessness. They help people apply for housing and stay in housing for the long term.
Master's in Social Work (MSW) Salary
A master's in social work prepares graduates for clinical social work, healthcare, and administration careers. You need a master's degree to become a licensed social worker.
Most social workers have master's degrees, according to O*NET OnLine, including:
- 77% of mental health and substance abuse social workers
- 70% of healthcare social workers
- 69% of child, family, and school social workers
Social workers may increase their earning potential by earning an MSW. Check out some of the jobs and salaries for MSW graduates below:
Medical Social Worker
Median Salary: $57,630 (May 2020)
Medical social workers primarily work with patients and their families in hospitals or outpatient clinics. These professionals advocate for patients and help them cope through treatment. They may provide families with emotional support and connect them to support groups or financial resources.
Geriatric Social Worker
Average Salary:$53,410 (February 2022)
Geriatric or gerontological social workers work with older individuals and their families. They may specialize in:
- Transitioning to long-term care
- Investigating elder abuse
- Coping with age-related disease or other aspects of aging
School Social Worker
Median Salary: $52,370 (May 2020)
School social workers try to understand students' lives outside of school to help students do their best. These professionals connect students and families to services when needed. They may also influence school policies to better support students' social and emotional lives.
Doctorate or Ph.D. in Social Work Salary
If you want to study social work at the doctoral level, you can earn a Ph.D. or a doctor of social work degree (DSW). People with a Ph.D. in social work may be qualified to work as professors or researchers. The DSW prepares students to perform macro-level social work, which involves solving systemic problems in society through policies and social programs.
Doctoral degrees in social work may correspond to higher paychecks. Below, check out some of the careers for these graduates.
Policy and Public Administration Researcher
Median Salary: $125,350 (May 2020)
These researchers study forces that impact society's well-being. They may specialize in housing, child welfare, or drug rehabilitation, among other fields. They design research projects, uncover best practices, and help inform policies and legislation.
Average Salary: $82,530 (February 2022)
Department chairs lead an academic department at a college or university. A social work department chair may supervise other faculty, work with the school's administrators, and help get resources for the department or social work research.
Median Salary: $71,570 (May 2020)
Professors teach and conduct research at colleges and universities. Social work professors might teach courses about family systems, public policy, or program evaluation methods. Professors who are also clinicians may instruct and advise students pursuing social work licensure.