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Social Work Salary: What You’ll Earn

Social work salaries don’t top the charts, but you’ll more than make up for money with the rewards of the profession.


Median Annual Salary

According to the current Occupational Outlook Handbook from the 2020 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for social workers is $51,760.

Actual salaries may vary based on field specialization, location, years of experience, and a variety of other factors.

As far as earning potential, the BLS estimates that the highest 10% of social workers earned $85,820 a year or more.

How do social worker salaries compare?

Social Work CareerMedian Annual Salary
Healthcare social workers$57,630
Child, family and school social workers$51,340
Mental health and substance abuse social workers$47,660
All other types of social workers$64,210

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, 2020

The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

Is there demand for this career?

Demand for social workers will increase across all areas of specialization, but in general, the demand for social workers in health care and social services will remain high.

Demand for child, family and school social workers should remain high because they will be needed in cases of abuse and foster care or adoption procedures. One limitation to demand in this area may be budget constraints in government, and funding cuts for schools and education facilities.

Health care social workers should find ample employment as baby boomers age and families seek care for their elderly relations.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers should also find ample opportunity as people seek treatment for mental health issues and addictions. Because offenders are now more frequently sent to treatment programs rather than face incarceration, social workers will play an important role in their rehabilitation.

What is the job growth for the field?

If you pursue a social work degree, will there be jobs available when you graduate? The outlook is great! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ current Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of social workers is expected to increase by 12% through 2030, which is faster than the national average for all other occupations. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

How much competition will I face for a job?

Competition for jobs will be high with a bachelor’s degree, but those who earn their Master’s in Social Work (MSW) should find employment opportunities directly out of school. Those who attain Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) stature can maintain a private practice or work in any number of career fields and organizations such as prisons, private companies and corporations, and school systems.

What kind of companies hire social workers?

Take a look below to see where social workers are working today.

The BLS says that the following industries employ the most social workers:

  • Individual and family services
  • State and local government agencies
  • Ambulatory healthcare services
  • Elementary and secondary schools
  • Nursing and residential care facilities
  • Mental health and substance abuse clinics

How do I advance in my social work career?

Though a bachelor’s degree is the requirement for most direct-services social workers, earning a master’s degree will help considerably if you want to move up the ladder and become a clinical social worker.

Another way to improve your job outlook is to become licensed. Licensing varies by state, but all states require some type of certification, and all states require clinical social workers to be licensed.

Still, no discussion of social work salary and job outlook is complete without talking about the rewards that money can’t buy. Dollars and cents aside, social work is a career where making a difference is not an empty buzzword, but an exciting and very real opportunity.

If you are serious about changing the world for the better, consider starting your education for a career in social work now.