The formal discipline of social work is a thoroughly modern profession, developed in the late 19th century in response to urbanization and the disparities between rich and poor. Social workers are part missionary, part scientist, and without their work many efforts to alleviate the plight of the disadvantaged by state and private means would be less effective. At Spring Arbor University we consider it a moral imperative to train the next generation of empathetic, ethical and innovative social workers through our online Bachelor of Social Work program. This article takes a look at the current market for social work jobs.
Where Do Social Workers Practice?
Social workers practice in a wide variety of settings. They can be found in hospitals, community centers, schools, Native communities, prisons, non-profit organizations, religious institutions, government and private industry. Depending on your area of interest, you can find ample opportunity to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.
Much of the expected growth the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects is related to coming changes to America’s population and demographics. Although the trend is partially offset by immigration, America is aging rapidly. Retiring Baby Boomers will place an unprecedented strain on the nation’s medical and social health networks. This will also create a surge of openings in nursing homes and community centers with programming for at-risk or isolated seniors.
Examples of Social Work Jobs
Typing “social work” into any job listing service, such Monster or Indeed, will bring up a host of different jobs for those with their bachelor of social work. Some examples of social work jobs include:
- Health Educators and Community Health Workers
- Marriage and Family Therapists
- Rehabilitation Counselors
- Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
- School and Career Counselors (Guidance Counselors)
- Social and Community Service Managers
While more specialized jobs can require further certifications, a bachelor’s degree offers a strong overview of basic concepts within the practice that will come in handy during the early years of your career. A BSW typically includes a casework or placement component, helping graduates earn practical experience working with clients.
Social Worker Wages
The BLS indicates that there over 630,000 social workers currently employed in the US, and that the profession’s 16 percent growth rate over the next eight years far exceeds the national average. According to the Economic Research Institute (ERI), in 2018 American social workers earned an average base salary of $64,730 per year ($31/hour, with bonuses of $1,249). The statistics for Michigan are in line with the national average, with ERI reporting an annual expected salary of $65,557 ($32/hour, $1,265 bonuses).
In many cases, the wages for entry-level social work jobs tend to be considerably lower than this average, while senior positions in the field trend toward $75,000 - $80,000, based on experience and credentials.
Is Social Work for You?
Social workers are a special breed. Their earnings will typically be less than those of business-focused professions, and the work can be mentally and emotionally taxing. You must have a genuine passion for helping others, and a deeply empathetic understanding of people that doesn’t interfere with your ability to carry out your work in a professional manner. While social workers can adhere to any religious creed, at Spring Arbor University, our teaching is informed by Christian humanitarian principles.
In our view, Christ was the original social worker, and we feel that the love and compassion inherent to his actions provides an ideal model for the social worker of today. Our curriculum takes into account historical and modern techniques, providing students with a secular intellectual education augmented by a spiritual core.
Top 10 Social Work Jobs
When it comes to employment opportunities, social workers with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) have good prospects. A social work degree is versatile: it gives graduates access to a wide breadth of career options, from working directly with clients to advocating behind the scenes. Are you considering earning a BSW? Obtaining your BSW online will allow you to complete coursework around your schedule and responsibilities and expand your hiring potential. Social workers with BSWs from accredited programs are being hired in roles such as...
1. School Social Worker
School social workers are those who work with children or young adults in an educational setting. When you work as a school counselor, you assist children and young adults with their academic success, their long-term goals and any challenges they may face throughout the years they attend the school.
The average income of a school social worker is roughly $60,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Income may vary based on your location, the specific school and your work experience.
2. Substance Abuse Therapist
Substance abuse therapists provide the assistance men, women and teenagers need to address addiction or substance abuse. The average compensation for a substance abuse therapist is roughly $36,000 per year, according to PayScale, but the ability to help individuals recover from substance abuse is itself a reward.
A therapist helps individuals focus on their long-term goals and provides the tools needed to avoid drugs or alcohol in the future.
3. Clinical Social Worker
Generally, a clinical social worker helps men, women and children in a medical or a therapeutic setting. You may work directly with a patient or an individual to develop personal goals or to start addressing complications in the individual's lifestyle.
Since a master’s degree in social work is needed to be a clinical social worker, getting a Bachelor of Social Work is the first step. According to PayScale, the average income of a clinical social worker is roughly $52,000 per year, though you may earn more with experience and a higher education.
Clinical social workers may assist men and women with their search for a career, their living arrangements or any complications regarding the individual's ability to manage any difficulties they are experiencing.
4. Child and Family Social Worker
Child and family social workers actively participate in the community and work with families to accomplish specific goals. For example, you may work with low-income families to help the parents identify the needs of the family and start working on a long-term plan to accomplish specific goals.
A child and family social worker also identifies children at risk of abuse or neglect and takes action to ensure the safety of children. Your career as a family social worker allows you to find foster care families for at-risk children, provide the tools a family needs to improve a child's academic performance or arrange adoptions for children. The specific job responsibilities may vary based on the needs of the children and families involved.
The average income of a child, family and school social worker is roughly $46,000 per year, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
5. Mental Health Social Worker
When you want to work in a career related to mental health, working as a mental health social worker provides a chance to help men, women and children manage their disorders. A mental health social worker must obtain a master's degree, but he or she works directly with an individual to address complications in the individual's life in relation to their mental health condition.
The average income for a mental health social worker, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is roughly $42,000 per year. Your income may increase over time as you gain experience.
6. Hospice Social Worker
Hospice social workers advocate for their patients' end-of-life wishes while helping them and their families navigate the complex emotional aspects of late-stage and terminal illnesses. Working in a hospice around setting around patients who are nearing the end of their life can be emotionally taxing, but many hospice social workers derive a great sense of purpose from their work. The average salary for hospice social workers is roughly $50,000 according to PayScale.
7. Case Manager
After earning their BSW, many social workers seek to become case managers. Case managers oversee the appointments, schedules, and healthcare programs of client agencies and organizations. The average annual income for entry-level case managers is just under $35,000; case managers who have obtained their Master of Social Work (MSW) can expect to make up to double that income, particularly in certain medical and acute care settings.
8. Care Coordinator
Case managers with experience in multiple disciplines, such as social work, mental health, occupational therapy and nursing, are perfect candidates to become care coordinators. These social workers can expect to make a greater salary than case managers, as the position of care coordinator requires more experience and comes with more responsibilities.
9. Eligibility Worker
Eligibility workers are often employed by state or municipal organizations. Many work directly with clients to determine if they are eligible for resources or provisions. The hourly pay of eligibility workers is comparable to other entry-level positions for social workers with BSWs. Eligibility workers often receive good benefits packages and work predictable hours.
10. Direct Support Professional (DSP)
DSPs are social workers who work directly with individual clients. These clients often have physical limitations, intellectual disabilities or mental health diagnoses and are looking for assistance in maintaining their autonomy as they integrate into their communities. DSPs are paid about $10 per hour, though some private-paid positions offer far more pay, depending on the social worker’s responsibilities and previous experience. Some additional entry-level social work jobs for BSW graduates include the following:
- Discharge planner
- Psychiatric technician
- Community support specialist
- Advocate(such as a crime victim advocate)
- Health and wellness educator
Non-Traditional Jobs for Social Workers
There is a misconception that a Bachelor of Social Work is only good for one thing: social work! The truth is, the core curriculum and experiential practice that students receive during a Bachelor of Social Work program open up opportunities that stretch from non traditional social work jobs to extremely unexpected careers in a variety of other fields and industries.
Five non-traditional jobs you can do with your online BSW are:
1. Real estate agent
Trust is the cornerstone of a relationship with a real estate agent, and it is imperative when working with clients in a social work setting. This parallel reveals how a social work degree could lend to a career in real estate. Building a sense of authenticity and transparency is the foundation of a good working relationship, which makes these two fields more similar than different.
Agents with some expertise in social work may be able to build that trust sooner, and may be able to better predict client needs than those without this experience. The work environment can be busy and diverse, differing from day to day. A licensed broker can typically make around $56,000 annually, although experience and region impact that figure, and many are able to make over $100,000 per year.
2. Police officer
Social work training and practice can be a big part of working in law enforcement, particularly when it comes to mediating disputes and de-escalating individuals in crisis. Social work studies can teach crisis response as well as foster empathy among all populations, which are powerful skill sets for anyone in law enforcement.
The average annual income for a police officer is a little over $60,000.
3. Outdoor education instructor
While some individuals with a Bachelor of Social Work may find themselves behind a desk, this is certainly not the only option. If you enjoy spending your time outdoors, consider how a Bachelor of Social Work could open doors to some of the coolest careers out there! From outdoor recreation therapists to instructors, these professionals manage to merge the skill sets from a social work curriculum into sharing the love and therapeutic benefit of nature with their clients and students.
The work environment is likely what will attract you to this field with your online BSW; these types of positions are ideal for outdoor enthusiasts who work well autonomously, but who are also effective team members. The average income for outdoor recreation therapists, depending on the program or institution you work for, is around $46,000, based on experience and job responsibilities.
4. Sales representative
To be a great salesperson, you must be an effective communicator, so it stands to reason that stepping from sales to social work — or vice versa — is not a quantum leap. Both fields rely heavily on exemplary communication skills, both verbal and nonverbal, in order to reach and connect with your desired audience.
A social work degree may provide the tools needed to gain trust, establish a rapport and close the deal. Sales can be a competitive field, and it is not for the introverted or complacent. An effective sales manager can make well over $100,000 per year, based on industry and product.
5. Marketing strategist
Advertising and marketing professionals need to know how to best communicate and reach their desired buying audience, and social work training may give them insight into the psyche of potential patrons. They might be able to pinpoint advertising campaigns that will move and compel buyers to choose one particular product over another. Additionally, there are many different nonverbal communication techniques, i.e. body language, that could further inspire the targeted customer, client or consumer to act, purchase or contact a specific company.
If you are organized, creative and a team-player, marketing strategy could be a good fit for you. There is great income potential in marketing, with management positions often paying over $120,000 per year.
Take the Next Step
Is it time for you to pursue a Bachelor of Social Work? Open the doors to a wide range of vocations and careers with your online BSW degree from Spring Arbor University, a regionally accredited, not-for-profit institution that has been providing educational opportunities to students for over 100 years. Your online social work degree can prepare you for a host of positions in the field, and can also contribute to some exciting endeavors outside the traditional jobs in the field.
Contact us today for a brochure to find out online BSW program information, course descriptions and more about our school.