Social work is one of the noblest professions in the world, and the role of a social worker involves making a positive impact in the lives of the people they serve. Job prospects for social workers are promising, and the demand will only grow in the next few years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social work jobs will grow at 13 percent through 2028. 90,700 new jobs will be added to the field by 2029, much faster than average.
Students with a social work degree are poised for success and growth in the field. While the growth prospects are great for those with a graduate degree, bachelor of social work degree holders can also land some of the highest-paid social work jobs.
Social workers work in diverse settings like nonprofits and government agencies. They can work as caseworkers for patients assigned to them, work with related agencies to help people in distress, refer patients for social and community services. Licensed social workers and those in applied specialties have the potential to make much more.
Jobs in metropolitan areas with high costs of living also tend to pay more. However, there is rising demand for social workers in rural areas as well. Some schools offer a rural specialization option for students interested in serving those populations. Social workers in health care settings, mental health, and substance abuse programs may experience the most growth due to the rising number of cases in these sectors.
Whether online or on-campus, social work accredited programs prepare students for licensure in their respective states, which leads to the highest paying jobs in social work. This article collated the list of the highest-paid social work jobs and the related social worker salary for those looking to enter the profession. All jobs are equally important to the populace they serve, so they are not ranked. They are listed simply by low to high social worker salary.
Let’s take a look at the different types of social work jobs and salaries.
# 15 Youth Worker
Youth social workers, also called adolescent specialists, work with teens, preteens, and young adults struggling educationally, socially, or with health concerns. They provide services in a variety of settings, in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Their goal is to intervene early with the youth’s issues before they escalate, which may lead to problems with social and educational development. Youth social workers are often a part of an interdisciplinary team, which provides children and their families with support. Flexibility is the key to their work; their hours of work are determined by the needs of the families and individuals they help. Youth workers develop a supportive relationship with a child or young person and help them overcome issues by uncovering the underlying problems. For entry-level positions, a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) is the most common.
Average annual salary: $35,669
#14 Community Outreach Worker
The community outreach worker is a common choice for many BSW students. It falls under the umbrella of human services, and professionals in the field are often the primary point of contact and organizer of volunteers for the organization. They are typically members of a non-profit or governmental organization that works to engage and educate the community about the organization and its goals. They participate in community fundraising events and identify sponsors to help their cause. Their key function is volunteer coordination at various community events. In addition, they also act as a liaison with community partners to further the organizations’ goals for community and volunteer education. Their roles include providing people with a greater understanding of the organization’s cause so that they can support the organization financially. Their job is to empower local communities to effect change around cause and increase public health and safety.
Average annual salary: $44,757
Substance abuse social workers help patients struggling with addiction to achieve and maintain sobriety. As more people seek substance abuse and drug treatment programs, the demand for substance abuse social workers will continue to grow. They interact with people who live with addictions and work with them to find ways to cope with them. Mental health experts state that several mental health conditions related to substance abuse are called “co-occurring” disorders. Social workers work with mental health counselors to help patients deal with these, including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They help those struggling with addiction in many different settings like hospitals, nonprofit and local advocacy organizations, schools, outpatient clinics, courts, and police departments. Social workers working with substance abusers ensure that clients and their families and loved ones have access to the support services they need.
Average annual salary: $46,650
#12 Child Advocate/Children’s Service Worker
Child advocates or children’s social services workers help children/youth in state custody get back to normal life. They help them achieve permanency through various ways like reintegration, adoption, or custodianship. They correspond and liaise with partner agencies to link clients to resources, attend court and IEP hearings on behalf of clients. They participate in hospice and community programs and presentations to promote professional growth and understanding of hospice care and increase public awareness. Their roles also include other peripheral activities like authorizing medical necessity forms for Medicaid services, attending IEP and treatment team meetings to ensure benefits for children and their families. They ensure that federal regulations and all eligibility requirements are thoroughly followed when placing customers into a proper Medicaid program. Finally, they provide complete confidentiality of resident and facility information in every case that they handle.
Average annual salary: $47,390
School social workers provide positive academic, behavioral, and social guidance at all levels of education. They help students, teachers, and their families manage various mental health and behavioral concerns. They are trained in social work and mental health to change the school experience for students who otherwise have struggled. School social workers assist students with mental health concerns, positive behavioral support, academic issues, behavioral concerns, and classroom support. School social workers work closely with school counselors whose jobs are more academic-focused but have the same similar goal of student well-being in mind. Together, they guide students through various challenges that may interfere with their ability to accomplish their academic and career goals. School social workers also consult with parents, teachers, peers, and administrators to offer individual and group counseling/therapy and help students lead a positive life.
Average annual salary: $49110
Foster care social workers play an important role in our society. Their job is to assist children within the foster care system in addressing abandonment issues and adjust to their new foster homes. The job can be emotionally intense, but it’s equally rewarding. They are essentially advocates for children in the foster care system. They schedule regular visits to ensure that they are adequately cared for and supported by their resource families. They give important guidance and support to foster families and young people, helping them navigate the realities of living in foster care. A key component of their work is to help match a family with a suitable child. They look at various compatibility criteria, individual circumstances, and children’s needs while placing them with their foster families.
Average annual salary: $49538
Family social workers help individuals and families deal with various issues, get through difficult times, and get additional support. They work with individuals, couples, and families to address their interpersonal challenges. Family social workers’ clients are made aware that there are special services available to them to help them deal with whatever issues they are struggling with. They help clients make plans to utilize the resources and get back on the right track. They play a critical role in strengthening healthy bonds between parents and children and helping couples navigate issues at all stages in their relationships. They have the satisfaction of seeing individuals or families get better and restore harmony in their lives. A family social worker’s work varies, depending on the clients they serve, and they serve diverse populations with a wide range of problems.
Average annual salary: $50,470
Caseworkers who often work under the umbrella of social services, work with various people and situations and help clients get the care, services, and protection they need. They are caring and compassionate people who see the best in everyone and communicate well with clients, families, and caregivers. Caseworkers are trained to cope with high-stress situations while advocating for others. They help people in distress, including clients who cannot speak for themselves or become overwhelmed by bureaucratic red tape that has to be cut to get necessary services. They are often called upon to respond to crises such as a child or elder abuse and medical emergencies. In the healthcare industry, they coordinate healthcare for an individual to ensure all medical needs are properly addressed. When helping developmentally disabled adults, they ensure that their clients get needed life-skills training, appropriate employment, safe housing, transportation, and medical care.
Average annual salary: $50,952
A rehabilitation social worker typically works in inpatient rehabilitation facilities and related healthcare settings. These social workers are an integral part of the medical team, and they help patients who are recovering from disabling diseases, injuries, and chronic illnesses. Their roles include screening and evaluating patients and families. They spend time with them to help patients and families understand their illnesses and treatment options and deal with the many aspects of the patient’s condition – social, financial, and emotional. They act as an advocate for patients and families and the patient’s health care rights. They do crisis intervention when needed and help expedite decision-making on behalf of patients. One important area of their work is to help patients adjust to their inpatient rehab settings. They are key contributors to the rehabilitation and recovery of patients in inpatient rehabilitation facilities.
Average annual salary: $51,172
Adoption social workers are essential to the adoption process. Also called adoption agents or adoption specialists, they help adoptive families and prospective birth mothers through the complex and challenging adoption process. They facilitate the logistical requirements of the adoption process as well as provide emotional support and counseling. They are certified and licensed professionals who provide the necessary counseling and support for prospective birth mothers and parents undergoing a difficult and emotional journey. They provide counseling, case management, and general oversight, thus facilitating the adoption process for birth parents, adoptive parents, and children. Students can specialize in particular areas well like domestic adoption, international or foster care adoption. The job requirements of an adoption social worker are varied and complex. Their hours and even places of work remain fluid most of the time to meet the needs of their clients.
Average annual salary: $53,552
Clinical social workers, also often called mental health assistants, focus on the mental health of patients and their families. It is a specialty practice area of social work where they work directly with patients to help them cope with mental illness and other challenging life events. Some of the standard treatment modalities include individual, group, and family therapy. They work in diverse settings like hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, private practice, and group treatment programs. As with mental health counselors, their work focuses on assessing, diagnosing, treating, and preventing mental illness. They helped patients cope with emotional and other behavioral disturbances. With more people seeking counseling and treatment for mental illness, the demand for clinical social workers will continue to grow.
Average annual salary: $60,470
Medical social workers help people deal with physical illnesses, such as AIDS, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and other chronic or terminal diseases. They provide individual counseling, lead support group discussions, and help patients get the appropriate health care and other health services they need. They work in various health care settings, including clinics, hospitals, hospices, and long-term care centers. They work closely with patients and their families experiencing mental, emotional, and financial stress due to a medical condition. They help patients and their families navigate the medical system, provide short-term counseling and therapy. As Baby Boomers age, the need for medical social workers continues to grow, making this a strong field for social work students to enter. They work as case managers, therapists, or patient navigators. They are focused on making an immediate and positive impact on the lives of individuals and families.
Average annual salary: $65,470
Certified social work case managers manage a team of social work aides and officers. They focus on clients and know how best to leverage the system to help them. Their job is to assess each case by looking at the client’s social, physical and emotional needs. Often working within the social services, they evaluate those with the social system in which case operates. They have the training and experience to help their clients and families deal with severe social and economic issues. Students need an accredited bachelor’s degree in social work, a BSW-level license issued by their states, or an ASWB BSW-level exam passing score to practice as social workers.
Average annual salary: $67,053
Geriatric social workers, also called gerontology aides, coordinate the care of older patients in various settings. There is rising demand and need for healthcare social worker jobs in elderly care and geriatricians. Geriatric social workers are advocates for older adults in outpatient settings. Their work settings also include hospitals, long-term and residential health care facilities, hospice settings, and community health clinics. Their job is to ensure their patients receive the mental, emotional, social, and familial support they need. They help their clients manage emotional, psychological, and social challenges by providing counseling and therapy. They conduct intake assessments to determine patients’ mental, emotional and social needs. Then they collaborate with a team of physicians, nurses, psychologists, case managers, and other health care staff to develop patient treatment plans, which they regularly update. They also advise patient families on the best ways to best support aging loved ones.
Average annual salary: $71,076
Social policy analysts don’t work directly with patients but specialize in researching social issues. They take a broader approach and focus on social issues at the policy level. Their research aims to find solutions to issues like hunger, discrimination, crime, poverty, violence, disease, and unemployment. They use social work skills in policy analysis and development to advocate for broader policy reform and pave the way forward for change in every field of social work. It’s a great career of choice for social work graduates interested in social change and public policy. They work for government agencies, consulting firms, academic research programs, and think tanks. In most cases, a master’s degree is required to work in these positions.
Average annual salary: $74,702
Students interested in working with the broader populace and helping them lead a fuller life will thrive in this profession. Graduates can find some of the highest-paying jobs in social work once they have completed their education.
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