You don’t need to look much further than the news to understand why the job growth rate of social workers is expected to increase 12 percent between 2014 and 2024.1 Health care reform increased access to health care benefits and mandated that treatment for mental health concerns be covered in the same manner as any other chronic disease, making it more affordable and accessible for many individuals to seek treatment.5 The growing public awareness of the mounting opioid addiction problem has heightened the demand for substance abuse treatment. Lastly, social change surrounding the stigma of mental health care is changing, especially for US veterans, as they are encouraged by peers, loved ones, and superiors to seek care to deal with PTSD and other vestiges of their enlistment.
Below is a guide to the range of social worker and therapist titles, job descriptions, and salaries.
Health Care Social Workers
Health care social workers help their clients and their clients’ families understand and deal with a medical diagnosis to obtain optimum quality of life and caregiving within the client’s current abilities and specific challenges. This overarching category encompasses three specialties. Geriatric social workers thrive on helping senior citizens find happiness, comfort, and safety within their current situation. Hospice and palliative care social workers bring comfort and education to terminally ill patients and their families, helping them through the transitions of end-of-life care. Social workers who specialize in the medical field connect clients and their families to resources and care during and after a hospital stay.
As the life span of Americans increases, so does the need to care for their mental health. Health care social workers readily find work in hospitals and other medical facilities, enjoy an above average median salary, and are experiencing a faster-than-average job growth rate.
|Career Snap Shot of Health Care Social Workers|
|Job Growth1||Faster than Average||19%|
|Median Annual Salary1||Higher than Average||$52,380|
|Top Industry to Find a Job2||General Medical and Surgical Hospitals||45,070 (# of available jobs)|
|Top Paying Industry2||Scientific Research and Development Services||$60,520|
|Top Paying Metropolitan Area to Work2||Vallego-Fairfield, CA||$84,960|
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
Mental health therapists treat those who struggle with anxiety, depression, and grief; daily challenges like stress and communication; or situational circumstances like trauma, a new career, or divorce. Social workers who further specialize in substance abuse assist clients in rehabilitation and treatment centers as they strive to improve patients’ mental health to make it easier for them to overcome their addictions.
Mental health and substance abuse social workers are experiencing a job growth rate of 19 percent and are finding a number of positions available in outpatient care centers. Salary varies greatly between metropolitan areas and industry.
|Career Snap Shot of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers|
|Job Growth1||Faster than Average||19%|
|Median Annual Salary1||Lower than Average||$42,170|
|Top Industry to Find a Job3||Outpatient Care Centers||24,430 (# of available jobs)|
|Top Paying Industry3||Offices|
of Other Health Practitioners
|Top Paying Metropolitan Area to Work3||Macon, GA||$90,630|
Child, Family and School Social Workers
Child, family, and school social workers support children and their families through struggles such as bullying, self-confidence, learning challenges, and classroom cooperation. They also help parents create and maintain a safe and happy home and assist children in adjusting to the changes or challenges within it. At times, they are called upon to act as a child’s advocate in a crisis situation and help them through managing all that it may entail, from finding a foster home to coping with a new life circumstance.
Child, family, and school social workers experience steady job growth year after year. Many find work in individual and family services, and those who work in schools typically enjoy the highest pay.
|Career Snap Shot of Child, Family and School Social Workers|
|Job Growth1||About Average||6%|
|Median Annual Salary1||Lower than Average||$42,350|
|Top Industry to Find a Job4||Individual and Family Services||69,820 (# of available jobs)|
|Top Paying Industry4||Elementary and Secondary Schools||$60,750|
|Top Paying Metropolitan Area to Work4||Springfield, IL||$75,490|
Marriage and Family Therapists
Though marriage and family therapists may work with an individual, a couple, or an entire family, they bring a family-focused perspective to their treatment plan to improve the mental health of everyone involved. These therapists help their clients overcome or adapt to issues such as improving communication between family members, adapting to the lifestyle changes of divorce, or responding to an issue a single member of the family is having, such as a serious medical diagnosis or substance abuse problem.
Marriage and family therapists see a higher-than-average median salary and growth rate in jobs. While most positions are found in providing care within individual and family services, the top-paying industry is government.
|Career Snap Shot of a Marriage or Family Therapist|
|Job Growth||Higher than Average||19%|
|Median Annual Salary||Higher than Averabge||$48,600|
|Top Industry to Find a Job||Individual and Family Services||10,110 (# of available jobs)|
|Top Paying Industry||State and Local Government, Excluding Education and Hospitals||$69,700|
|Top Paying Metropolitan Area to Work||Trenton, NJ||$75,890|
Clinical supervisors work to improve mental health care services by overseeing and developing their team of mental health care professionals — they provide supportive supervision, continuing education, and program development. They also work to find and create working relationships with those who oversee community resources such as food banks, job programs, life skills courses, and support groups so that their team can connect clients to services that will further help them.
This management position is found across all industries where mental health care providers offer care. Due in part to the overall increased demand of social workers, clinical supervisors see a higher-than-average growth rate in jobs as well as in annual median salary.6
|Career Snap Shot of a Clinical Supervisor|
|Job Growth||Higher than Average||17%|
|Median Annual Salary||Higher than Averabge||$94,500|
|Top Industry to Find a Job||Hospitals; State, Local and Private||123,210 (# of available jobs)|
|Top Paying Industry||Hospitals; State, Local and Private||$102,060|
|Top Paying Metropolitan Area to Work||San Rafael, CA Metropolitan Division||$161,350|
School and Career Counselors
School and career counselors work with children and adults at varying times in their lives to develop the skills needed to succeed in their school and career life. At the younger ages, this can include study habits, curriculum intervention, and assessing a student’s strengths and weaknesses to improve and maximize academic performance. Through high-school, and well into any stage of a career, these counselors help assess professional goals against current experience and knowledge and help create a career path to success.
Elementary and secondary schools offer the highest paid positions and the most jobs. Job growth for this group is steady, and the median salary is higher than average.7
|Career Snap Shot of a School and Career Counselor|
|Median Annual Salary1||Higher than Average||$53,660|
|Top Industry to Find a Job4||Elementary and Secondary Schools; State, Local and Private||123,030 (# of available jobs)|
|Top Paying Industry4||Elementary and Secondary Schools; State, Local and Private||$61,260|
|Top Paying Metropolitan Area to Work4||Nassau|
County-Suffolk County, NY Metropolitan Division
Need More Education?
Learn how trauma can act as the root cause of mental health challenges from anxiety and depression through substance abuse, and how you can effectively treat clients with Widener’s online, trauma-focused curriculum. To start earning your Master of Social Work degree, call 844-386-7321, or complete the request more information form and a program manager will contact you right away.
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Social Workers, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm (visited September 21, 2016).
2. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211022.htm (visited September 21, 2016, page last updated March 2016).
3. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211023.htm (visited September 21, 2016, page last updated March 2016).
4. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211021.htm (visited September 21, 2016, page last updated March 2016)
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm (visited September 22, 2016).
6. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Medical and Health Services Managers, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm (visited September 22, 2016).
7. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, School and Career Counselors, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/school-and-career-counselors.htm (visited September 23, 2016).