Welfare Case Worker Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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A welfare caseworker's median annual salary is around $44,000. Is it worth the education requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a welfare caseworker is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Welfare Caseworker

Because the career has a faster-than-average expected job growth and an average salary, becoming a welfare caseworker could be a solid decision. Continue reading to learn about the pros and cons of becoming a welfare caseworker so you can decide if it's a good fit for you.

Pros of a Welfare Caseworker Career
Higher-than-average employment growth (19% between 2012 and 2022)*
Can help children, adults and families in difficult situations*
Only a bachelor's degree is required*
Many employment opportunities (government, healthcare and social service agencies)*

Cons of a Welfare Caseworker Career
Can be stressful in terms of an emotional toll**
Some employers may prefer a master's degree*
May have heavy caseloads***
Need to be able to make life-changing decisions**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ***National Conference of State Legislatures.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Welfare caseworkers may provide protection to individuals in situations of abuse, neglect and violence; help with medical issues; and assist with behavioral problems or academic struggles. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), child welfare caseworkers are assigned to help families implement a plan to maintain their children's safety (www.ncsl.org). You'll assess the children's needs, make sure they're being met, conduct regular assessments and hold their parents accountable for their health and well being. In circumstances where you feel the children aren't being protected properly, you'll need to act to protect the children immediately, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Family Services (www.childwelfare.gov). Other responsibilities include appraising the family's progress, making sure children are receiving proper nutrition, attending court hearings and helping the family meet higher income levels.

Salary Information

According to Salary.com, the median annual salary for caseworkers is about $55,567. Social workers have similar responsibilities and academic requirements, and their median annual salary is comparable. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that child, family and school social workers made around $42,120, healthcare social workers made approximately $51,930 and all other social workers made about $59,110 as of May 2014 (www.bls.gov).

The BLS projected that the employment of all social workers would increase by 19% between 2012 and 2022, which is faster than average. Career opportunities for caseworkers exist within healthcare services, child welfare agencies, social service agencies, schools, hospitals, substance abuse clinics and the federal, state or local government.

Education and Training Requirements

To become a welfare caseworker, you must have at least a bachelor's degree in human services or a related field, such as social work, psychology or counseling. This will prepare you to help people who are suffering from abuse, identify mental illness and provide treatment for behavioral or emotional issues. A bachelor's degree in social work can train you to make decisions that can help children and families, understand human behaviors and identify the effects of sexual relationships. The degree programs also incorporate fieldwork, where you can continue to develop other qualities you may need for this role, such as:

  • Listening skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Compassion
  • Time-management skills
  • Interpersonal skills

Job Postings from Real Employers

Caseworkers may work with children, men, women or families to help them overcome issues pertaining to sex, abuse, neglect or mental health. Most employers include information about the benefits and the qualifications, while only a few mention the specific job duties of a caseworker. The following job postings for welfare caseworkers are from May 2012:

  • A Pennsylvania healthcare company specializing in family services wants to hire a caseworker to improve the lives of families by working with children and adults in their homes. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree in social work, child welfare, psychology or counseling and a year of experience in mental health treatment. After being hired, the employee will complete additional on-the-job training.
  • A nonprofit social services company in Des Moines advertised for a caseworker who has a bachelor's degree in human service or a related field, such as social work or counseling, and experience working with families and children to supervise at-risk youth in a school setting who are under jurisdiction of the court. The caseworker would address misbehaviors, help the students' families and report to the court.
  • The state of Pennsylvania's government is seeking an eligibility caseworker to assist working families who have children to determine whether the families are eligible for public welfare assistance, such as food stamps, subsidized day care programs, Head Start programs and supplemental nutrition programs. The ideal candidate would have good communication and interpersonal skills and at least an associate's degree.
  • A Brooklyn human service agency is looking for someone who has at least a bachelor's degree in social work or a related field to work with children who have been abused or neglected. The employer prefers candidates who have at least a year of experience and training in family dynamics and child development.
  • A healthcare service center in Michigan is searching for a crisis intervention caseworker and youth advocate to help people who are victims of domestic or sexual violence. The ad stated that the employer would prefer someone with a bachelor's degree in a field related to human services and experience working with kids.

How to Stand Out in the Field

One way to stand out in the field is by earning a master's degree. Although it can be an expensive decision, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that studies show that individuals who have a master's degree are more prepared to work in child welfare situations and less likely to leave the field.

Since certification isn't required for caseworkers, earning it can help you stand out. The qualifications vary depending on where you live and work. For instance, you must complete a counseling seminar and pass an exam in Michigan. In North Carolina, you must take a 2-day training class, complete patient applications, pass an exam and issue a self-assessment of your skills. You can also earn licensure as a social worker. You must have at least a bachelor's degree and pass an exam offered by the Association of Social Work Boards (www.aswb.org).

Alternative Career Paths

Social and Community Service Worker

If you'd like to pursue a similar career with slightly higher pay, becoming a social and community service worker could be right for you. These professionals coordinate, direct and manage social services and community programs that help people. The BLS projected that employment in this area would increase by about 27% between 2010 and 2020. You can pursue this career with a bachelor's degree in social work or public administration. As of May 2011, social and community service workers made a median annual salary of around $57,000, according to the BLS.

Mental Health Counselor

There is a strong demand for mental health counselors, especially those focusing on marriage and family needs. The BLS projected that between 2010 and 2020, the employment of mental health counselors would increase by 36%, which is much faster than average. The rate for those specializing in marital and family needs was 41% for the same term. But more preparation is necessary to follow this route than to become a welfare caseworker. According to the BLS, mental health counselors must earn a master's degree in counseling or a related field and pass a licensure exam. They made a median annual salary of around $39,000 as of May 2011, the BLS reported.

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Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Psychology - Gerontology
  • Master of Science in Child and Adolescent Developmental Psychology

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • BS - Criminal Justice - Human Services

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American InterContinental University

  • Bachelor of Healthcare Management - Gerontology

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Seton Hall University

  • Master of Public Administration in Non-Profit Management

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • M.S. in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Childhood and Adolescence Disorders
  • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science with an Emphasis in Childhood and Adolescence Disorders
  • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science with an Emphasis in Family Dynamics

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Penn Foster High School

  • High School with Child Care Professional Pathway
  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

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View High School

  • High School Diploma
  • High School Credit Recovery
  • High School for Homeschoolers

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Sacred Heart University

  • Master of Social Work - Clinical Specialization
  • Master of Social Work - Community Specialization

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