According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social workers in a school setting are among the highest paid in the profession. School social workers are employed by elementary and secondary schools at state, local and private institutions. All salary and employment data below derives from BLS, unless otherwise stated.
School social workers serve as liaisons between students’ home and school lives. They facilitate communication between parents and teachers to ensure that children’s needs are being met. Social workers in schools may help address behavioral problems and learning disabilities, as well as organize truancy prevention programs, sexual and health education and crisis intervention for students facing issues such as mental illness, abuse, bullying or homelessness. Some social workers may aid special needs students with integration into mainstream classes or work to help gifted students achieve their academic goals.
Most social workers work in an office. However, school social workers may be assigned to multiple schools, necessitating travel throughout the school district. School social workers may also travel to their students’ residences to meet with the entire family or investigate reports of abuse or neglect. The job often becomes stressful due to understaffing or a heavy case load but can often be very fulfilling, as social workers help guide others in achieving their goals.
Entry-level jobs in social work generally stipulate that candidates hold a bachelor’s degree in social work. Most school social workers are expected to have earned a master’s in social work. An MSW program generally takes two years to complete.
In addition to academic requirements, those wishing to enter social work should be compassionate individuals who enjoy working with people. Social workers need good listening and people skills, as well as a strong grasp of problem-solving tactics, organizational skills and time management.
Salary and Outlook
As of May 2010, school social workers employed in elementary and secondary schools had a median annual salary of $54,260, the highest median wage within the profession. The BLS includes school social workers with child and family social workers in their employment growth projections. Employment for child, family and school social workers is expected to increase by 20 percent over the next 10 years.