Child Social Worker Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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A child social worker's average salary is around $46,000. Is the job worth the education requirements? See real job requirements and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a child social worker is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Child Social Work

A day in the life of a child social worker often has both ups and downs. Read the pros and cons listed below to see if this sounds like the career for you.

Pros of Being a Child Social Worker
Can help ensure the safety and wellbeing of children*
Favorable job prospects (15% growth from 2012-2022)*
Workers aren't stuck in an office, and may travel locally to visit clients*
Variety of specialty positions available (may work at adoption agencies, hospitals, government agencies, police departments or schools)*

Cons of Being a Child Social Worker:
Some evening and weekend hours*
Emotionally challenging**
May have many clients and cases at once (up to 200)***
High turnover rate for first-year workers (15%)***

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Social Work Policy Institute, ***The Princeton Review.

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Child social workers are also known as children's social workers, child welfare social workers and child protective services social workers. They often work for the government but may also be employed in hospitals, schools or private family services agencies. These workers often work long hours (including evenings or weekends) and often split their time between being in the office and out working with their clients.

As a child social worker, you have the opportunity to help both children and their families by providing support services. You often need to manage the needs of several clients at one time, since experienced social workers may be responsible for over 200 cases at any given time, according to The Princeton Review. Specific duties often include assessing the needs of clients, providing psychological and social counseling, managing child welfare cases, reviewing requests for social services and arranging foster care. You may also be responsible for preparing court reports, testifying in a court trial or conducting on-site visits to check on potential foster homes.

Areas of Specialization

Some child social workers choose to specialize in one area of child social work, such as adoptions, child welfare or abuse/neglect cases. Job duties also vary depending on where you work. For instance, a child social worker working within a police department may help investigate reported cases of possible child abuse and provide educational services to the public. In a hospital setting, child social workers work with families to understand the illnesses or injuries their children are facing and provide some counseling, as well as help them find support services and financial support if needed.

Salary and Job Growth

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) grouped child social workers with family and school workers (www.bls.gov). This group earned an average salary of about $46,000 as of May 2014. This field was also expected to see an above-average employment growth of 15% from 2012-2022. This predicted growth was due to an increase in child abuse investigations, as well as a heightened need for school social workers to match the greater number of students enrolled around the country. However, according to BLS, the growth of school social workers may also be impacted by the budget constraints at the federal, state, and local levels.

Career Requirements

Education

According to the BLS, the minimum education requirement to work as social worker is typically a bachelor's degree in social work; however, some employers may look for candidates who have a master's degree. Bachelor's degree programs in social work typically cover human behavior, social welfare, interventions and ethics in social work. If you're planning on becoming a child social worker, you may take elective courses in children and the legal system, child welfare and community services. A Master of Social Work (MSW) may be required for advanced or leadership positions. These programs can be found with a concentration in children's social work, and classes may include topics in special needs adoptions, foster care systems, sexual abuse or family violence.

Licensure

After completing an education program, you want to secure state licensure to work as a child social worker. All states require some sort of certification or licensure, but the requirements to earn this designation vary. Most states allow you to apply for licensure after completing a bachelor's degree approved by an accreditation body, such as the Council on Social Work Education; however, some states, such as Florida, require you to have a master's degree in social work. Other requirements include passing a national licensure examination and meeting a minimum number of hours of supervised practice.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Child social workers may also need to gain work experience and undergo physical examinations before securing employment. Below are some common qualifications that employers may look for. These job listings were found in February 2012.

  • A state government agency in Idaho prefers applicants who have two years experience with child welfare or have completed a state training program on child welfare. Job candidates also need their social work license and a valid driver's license.
  • A non-profit organization in Arizona looks for job candidates who know Spanish and have experience working with diverse groups of families. Applicants must have their MSW or a related graduate degree.
  • An advertisement for a private company in California asks applicants to have a valid driver's license, hold a clean driving record and pass a physical. Candidates also need a master's degree or a bachelor's degree and two years of experience with casework.
  • A Maryland non-profit organization prefers applicants with superb written and oral communication skills, as well as leadership experience. Individuals must also submit to a background check and drug test.

How to Stand Out

Education and experience are two important ways to stand out from the crowd as a child social worker. Completing a MSW program focused on child and family social work allows you to learn more about giving psychological recommendations or assessments, as well as prepare you for positions with more responsibility. You furthermore might be able to substitute prior work experience by holding this graduate degree. It is also important to participate in continuing education classes to keep up to date with the types of programs available, current industry trends and new ways to help your clients. These programs are available through organizations like the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB).

While enrolled in college, you may want to get a head start on accumulating experience by choosing to complete a practicum or field work under a licensed social worker. Some schools may require this as part of the degree program. You may also wish to join a student organization, NASW or your school's individual social work organization. Many of these student groups participate in community service or other volunteer opportunities that allow you to gain relevant industry experience.

Related Career Options

Healthcare Social Worker

If you wish to stay within the field of social work, you could become a healthcare social worker who works with senior citizens or individuals who have illnesses like cancer or Alzheimer's disease. These social workers support patients and their families by arranging at-home care, providing counseling, making referrals and helping them secure medical services. Healthcare social worker positions were predicted to grow much faster than average, at 34% from 2010-2020. Healthcare social workers earned an average salary of almost $51,000 as of May 2011.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker

There are also social worker positions available for those who wish to work with individuals with substance abuse problems or mental illnesses. In this job, you may help stage interventions, arrange for counseling and help patients cope with day-to-day problems or tasks. These careers offer many of the same pros and cons as a child social worker position; you still get the benefit of helping others improve their quality of life, but you may find yourself needing to make tough decisions regarding stressful situations. Jobs were expected to grow 31% from 2010-2020, which was faster than average. These professionals made an average yearly wage of about $43,000 as of May 2011.

Social Services Assistant

Another career alternative in the field of social work that requires less education is that of a social services assistant. In this role, you assist social workers and other human services professionals. You don't necessarily need a bachelor's degree to apply for positions in this field. The BLS reported that social services assistants made an average salary of almost $31,000 as of May 2011. However, employment was predicted to increase more than average (28%) from 2010-2020. As a social services assistant, you still provide support to clients and patients, but you can leave many of the high-stress decisions and problems to a social worker.

Popular Schools

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    1. Kaplan University

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      • Bachelor: Human Services/Child and Family Welfare
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    2. Johns Hopkins University

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      • Master of Liberal Arts
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    3. Regent University

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    5. Colorado State University Global

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      • BS - Human Services
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    7. Colorado Christian University

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      • General Studies - Bachelor

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • MS in Human Services
  • Bachelor: Human Services/Child and Family Welfare
  • Certificate in Human Services

Which subject are you interested in?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Liberal Arts

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • M.A. in Human Services - Human Services Counseling
  • M.A. in Human Services - Addictions Counseling
  • Bachelor of Science in Business - HR Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies

What is your highest level of education completed?

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Psychology - Gerontology
  • MS - Child & Adolescent Developmental Psychology (MSPSYCAD)

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • BS - Human Services

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster

  • Career Diploma - Child Care Professional

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Colorado Christian University

  • General Studies, A.A.

What is your highest level of education completed?

Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

  • Master of Arts in Health and Human Services Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?