How to Become a Social Worker

Social Worker Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $69,050
Avg. Pay / hour $33.20
Education 3-4 Years
Job Outlook 8.3%

A social worker’s job is to promote the welfare of those in need, and to instigate social change that benefits the greatest proportion of the community.

When you become a social worker, you may find yourself working one on one with a client, with a family, a school group, or even an entire community.

There are many tasks that a social worker could take on board to help improve the lives and circumstances of groups as well as individuals.

Working as a social worker will certainly have its challenges.

However, you’ll also be rewarded with the satisfaction that comes from spending your day helping people to make positive changes in their life, and building stronger communities.

To become a social worker, you’ll need to be trustworthy.

Your clients will need to be able to speak with you about personal problems.

They will also have to respect you, in order to accept your help.

Good interpersonal skills will come in handy, as will patience, tolerance, and empathy.

Education Requirements to Become a Social Worker

While the education needed to become a social worker varies from state to state, in most states you will need a four year bachelor’s degree in social work or a human services degree.

This will allow you to become licensed, and qualify you for an entry level role.

If you want to advance up the career ladder, you will need to complete a social work master’s degree or MSW.

You can complete these in social work, counseling, or a similar course which relates to your work.

If you’re currently in high school and are looking in to your college education, a good resource is the Council on Social Work Education’s, or CSWE website.

They offer advice on which courses have attained accreditation, as well as state specific licensing information.

Social Worker Job Description

When you become a social worker, your job is to help people solve problems.

You act as a resource, to provide advice, information, and help them to get through difficult periods of their life, or to set goals and improve their lives.

Working as a social worker, you analyze the challenges a person, or group, are facing.

You consider their background, culture, experience, and resources, and then work with them to implement a plan to overcome their issues.

Here are some of the tasks of a social worker:

  • Meet with clients
  • Discuss their current situation and reasons for visiting
  • Provide counseling to clients
  • Make an action plan for clients to use
  • Provide information and resources which are of use
  • Follow up with clients to measure their progress

Social Worker Salary and Career Path

When you become a social worker, there are many different career paths within this field that you may choose to take.

Many social workers work with clients in the roles of a counselor or therapist.

Others work in community of school groups.

Some work in corrections facilities or for a support agency.

Most social workers begin their career working under others more experienced in the field.

With a bit of experience, you will find yourself working on more challenging assignments with greater responsibility.

Many social workers go on to work in supervisory roles, or to other jobs within the welfare system.

Some become researchers, or campaigners for social change.

Others become involved with education.

Here are some examples of other roles a social worker may move on to later in their career:

The median salary for a social worker is $40,000 a year.

Those just starting out could expect to earn around $30,000 a year.

The top 10% of earners make over $68,000 a year.

Employment prospects are excellent for those that decide to become a social worker, and this industry is growing faster than average when compared to other sectors.

If you are looking for a career that will offer you variety, as well as a chance to work within the community then you might like to become a social worker.

With good employment prospects available, as well as the chance to contribute to social change, it is an attractive career path.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$68,880
New Hampshire$77,630
New Jersey$69,440
New Mexico$61,000
New York$73,710
North Carolina$62,450
North Dakota$70,320
South Carolina$72,480
South Dakota$74,410
West Virginia$67,290
Puerto Rico$40,210

The top earning state in the field is Hawaii, where the average salary is $85,760.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Hawaii - $85,760
Massachusetts - $85,730
Washington - $79,210
Nevada - $78,120
New Hampshire - $77,630
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Social Workers, OCC Code 21-1029, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a social worker do?

A social worker is someone who can work in a variety of settings – schools, hospitals, mental health clinics or privately.

Basically, there are two types of social workers – direct-service and clinical.

Direct-service social workers help other people solve and cope with their problems in their everyday lives.

A clinical social worker is a professional who diagnoses and treats behavioral, emotional, and mental issues.

Depending on the type, the typical duties of a social worker will vary; however, those usually include assessing the other people’s situations, needs, strengths and support networks; determining their main goal; developing plans to improve the well-being of the client; helping them adjust to changes and challenges in life; responding to crisis situations; following up with the clients to ensure that the situation has improved, and so on.

How much do social workers make?

On average, a social worker can make a little more than $55.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to choose this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $31.000 and $99.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the location, and so on.

Social workers that work in the District of Columbia, Rhode Island, and Nevada, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level social worker can earn around $15 per hour, while a top-level specialist with plenty of experience can make $47 and more.

How much does it cost to become a social worker?

You can decide to go for a bachelor’s degree in political science, sociology, psychology, economics or a related field, in order to become a social worker.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

In most cases, you would need to enter a master’s degree program in social work (between $14.000 and $36.000 per year).

All states have some type of licensure or certification requirement for a social worker.

It will cost you over $500 to obtain a license in New York, for example.

What is the demand for social workers?

The social worker job market is expected to grow by 8.3% between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is close to the national average for all occupations in the United States.

The candidates that have a relevant master’s degree, a license, and plenty of experience will have better job prospects.

The industry is mainly concentrated in Illinois, New York, and California.

How long does it take to become a social worker?

You would need 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

However, you can enter into a master’s degree program in social work even without a bachelor’s degree in social work; in case you possess a bachelor’s in social work, you will be able to complete the master’s program in only a year (instead of 2).

To obtain a license, you would need to have (in most cases) a master’s degree and at least 3.000 hours of supervised clinical experience after graduation (for clinical social workers).

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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