Social Work Salaries and Hiring Outlook
By Maura Deering
Guided by social justice principles, social workers help vulnerable populations with the challenges they face in their occupations, communities, and family and societal relationships. Social workers seek to empower people to change their circumstances.
To obtain a state license as a clinical social worker, applicants must hold a master of social work (MSW) degree. Non-clinical licensure requires a bachelor of social work (BSW) degree. The current projected job outlook for social workers of 11% from 2018-28 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) outpaces the average of all other occupations. Social worker salaries depend on educational level, experience, and licensure and certifications. Read on for more information about salaries, along with frequently asked questions and resources for students.
In This Article
- Frequently Asked Questions About Social Workers
- How Much Does a Social Worker Make?
- Social Worker Salaries by State
- Resources for Social Work Students
Frequently Asked Questions About Social Workers
- Are social worker jobs in high demand?
Overall, job prospects indicate a demand for social workers, but projected growth rates depend on the specialization area. Healthcare social workers should see a 17% employment growth from 2018-28, and mental health and substance abuse social work positions should increase by 18% in the same timeframe.
- Which social worker field pays the most?
BLS data shows an annual mean wage of $61,750 for "all other social workers," which excludes healthcare, mental health and substance abuse, and child, family, and school social workers. The BLS lists ambulatory healthcare services, the federal government, insurance, and hospitals as the highest paying industries.
- Will social worker salaries increase?
The growth of the elderly population in the U.S. should lead to increased opportunities for gerontology social workers and could result in higher wages. A higher degree generally translates to a higher salary.
- What does a social worker do?
Social workers identify, assess, and counsel clients struggling with daily challenges, such as poverty, illness, abuse, unemployment, and addiction. They help clients access community resources, including healthcare, childcare, housing, women and children's shelters, and food stamps. They maintain case files and follow up with clients on their progress.
- How does a social worker's salary compare to a counselor's salary?
Comparing social work vs. counseling salary ranges shows that social workers make slightly higher median annual wages than counselors in the field of substance abuse and mental health. School and career counselors, however, earn more than school social workers. All other social workers' salaries exceed those of all other counselors.
How Much Does a Social Worker Make?
Median annual wages for social workers reach $49,470 and range from $30,750 for the lowest-paid 10% to $81,400 earned by the top 10% in the field. Social workers practicing individually and in family services average $41,810 per year. At the upper end of the pay scale, hospitals pay a median wage of $60,100. Generally, those with advanced education, such as a master's degree, earn more money than those with a bachelor's degree. The number of years in practice also influences salary.
In 2018, more students earned MSWs than any other social work degrees, including BSWs and doctorates. From 2008-18, the number of MSW degree-holders increased by nearly 35%. BLS data indicates a projected 11% job growth rate from 2018-28. Healthcare social workers and those in mental health and substance abuse receive an even higher projected growth rate of 17-18%.
Types of Social Work Jobs and Salaries
While social worker salary ranges vary by position, location, workplace, and specialization, earning an MSW or higher opens the door to state clinical licensure and leads to more pay. The tables below provide an overview of the education requirements, employment data, and growth for different practice areas, along with social work salaries by state.
|Practice Area||Typical Education Achieved||Number Employed in the U.S.||Average Annual Openings||10-Year Job Growth|
|Child, family, and school social workers||BSW; MSW for clinical social work||339,800||2,480||7%|
|Healthcare social workers||BSW; MSW for clinical work||180,500||3,060||17%|
|Mental health and substance abuse social workers||BSW; MSW for clinical||125,200||2,230||18%|
|Social workers, all other||BSW for caseworkers; MSW for clinical||62,000||340||6%|
|StateUS Average||Child, Family & School Social Worker Salary$49,470||Healthcare Social Worker Salary$58,570||Mental Health & Substance Abuse Social Worker Salary$49,630||All Other Social Worker Salary$62,660|
Resources for Social Work Students
- Association of Social Work Boards ASWB's website features a searchable database with links to licensing boards and applicable laws for social workers, along with information about all levels of social worker state licensure examinations.
- Clinical Social Work Association CSWA advocates legislatively for its members and provides clinical practice information and resources, legal and ethics consultations, and discounted liability insurance. Students can join for just $25 a year.
- Council on Social Work Education CSWE offers leadership positions, publications, and a directory of accredited social work degree programs, along with networking events and meetings. The website features a resource section for students who pay discounted dues.
- National Association of Social Workers NASW provides practice resources, job listings, and specialty certification. Members receive free and discounted continuing education and discounted liability insurance. NASW encourages students to join at a discounted rate.
- Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care SSWLHC hosts workshops and an annual meeting and conference, along with other continuing education and networking opportunities. Other member benefits include a mentorship program and a career center.