Socialworkersspeaks on FacebookFollow Us on TwitterRSS Feed

Social Work is Not “Fluffy”

Jeers to Time Magazine  and the Washington Post for using “fluffy” to describe a social work major.

The articles cited a new Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce study that said students who major in social work, visual and performing arts, and theology can expect to earn less than those majoring in engineering, computer science or business.

We take issue with using the term “fluffy” in the headlines (To read the Times article click here and to read the Washington Post item click here).

Social workers get years of education and training to help people overcome life’s hurdles. This includes veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, school students who are homeless or have disabilities, children who have been removed from the homes of people with poor parental skills, and patients with grave illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.

There is nothing soft or fluffy about  helping people overcome such issues. It takes a strong, resourceful and intelligent person to do that.

Secondly, the Georgetown University study only looked at earnings for people who earned a bachelor’s in social work. The National Association of Social Workers Center for Workforce Studies did a 2010 report on salaries that included social workers with master’s degrees.

The NASW study, which includes master’s degrees,  puts the median annual salary for all social workers at $55,000 a year. The Georgetown University study put the median salary for students with a bachelor’s degree in social work at $39,000.

To learn more about what kinds of jobs social workers do and what they earn visit the National Association of Social Workers’ Center for Workforce Studies by clicking here.

|   Leave A Comment
Tagged as: , , , , , , , , ,



  1. As a social work educator these kind of stereotypical headlines infuriate me! The term “fluffy” grossly misrepresents the amount of academic effort and critical knowledge it takes to get a degree in social work. When you have a life crisis would you rather have a “fluffy” social worker or a professionally educated critically thinking social worker?

  2. Ill tell ya what –I work on an in-patient locked psychatric unit for the federal government at the VA.
    I’m a MSW, LCSW

    Send me (any one) from engineering, computer science or business majors to spend a week with me on my unit. I guarantee you will be grateful you did not choose SW & most important you will have a completely different view of social workers.

    I Challenge ANY—of the above majors to come spend just one week!!! with me!!! how hard can that be doing a fluffy job!!!! LOL

  3. people are upset with “fluffy”
    How about this? I got a couch surfing ( request a few weeks ago from a young person.
    “One of the reasons I wanna stay with you is you are a social worker.. I have been doing social works for SPCA back in my country like once a week.. I clean the dogs’ poops and clean the cage”
    After I posted this as my status on my facebook page, I had numerous social work friends indicate that they thought the reference was not far off!

  4. I have a number of engineering acquaintances who feel that their salaries are justified because of their academic courseloads heavy in advanced science and math. While they feel that social work as a profession is difficult in practice, they feel that the academic portion is “fluff”.

    My own nurse mother feels that what I do at work in a hospital setting is fluff. She thinks me and the RN case managers simply “talk and sit in from of computers all day” while the floor nurses do all the dirty work. Apparently this seems to justify her 90K salary working 4 days a week with an AA degree and my much lower salary. I find it audacious that people like her (a NURSE) who actually work with social workers on a daily basis can make such sweeping generalizations about how “easy” social work is. Makes me wonder about doctors and other allied professions in the hospital setting…

    Society seems to correlate salary with intelligence and hard work. However, I can think of a number of low paying professions requiring years of hard work: social workers, non-tenured PhDs, professional musicians, PhD researchers in the hard sciences, etc. I have a number of PhD friends who have been mocked by my engineering acquaintances with bachelors degrees due to their “poor investment in education”. Unless there’s a paradigm shift if our society, I don’t know what’s going to change the mindset that salary determines one’s worth. I feel that this type of mindset deters people from pursuing their passions in lieu of a more lucrative career in something they don’t like that much. Anyway, I digress.

    I feel that the social work profession really needs to follow in the steps of the nursing profession to advocate for better pay and respect (unions?). Perhaps another idea is to make the social work curriculum more rigorous? As a medical social worker, I could have used classes covering advanced human anatomy/physiology, medical terminology, general pharmacology, and human pathology. People on the PhD track would benefit from advanced statistics and statistical software programming. Maybe even some business/economics classes for people thinking of running a private practice/going the management route. Maybe some MSW programs offer these options. However, the ones in my area didn’t.

    Anyway, this is just my two cents. I don’t think social work is fluff, but given the state of our profession when it comes to pay and reputation, we have a lot of improvements to make.

  5. this profession is so fluffy!! not enough guts to stick up for itself as a profession, too enslaved to drug and insurance companies to keep actual jobs going in recession.

    best thing I ever did was dump this profession and fly half way around the world to work in Asia. I will NEVER go back to such a emotionally draining and weak profesion, that puts the needs of the trash and filth it looks out for ahead of itself as a profession.

  6. Lets face reality. Social work is fluffy compared to engineering, computer science, and business. I never heard of anyone failing out of social work school. I could have slept through the program and still would have received straight A’s. I attended Columbia University. Half of the program was socialist and political propaganda. It infuriated me that I had to pay for required courses that shoved one sided ideology down my throat. My human development courses involved a grade based upon group presentations that amounted to theatrical performance pieces. One group served tequila and nachos during their presentation on Mexican death rituals. Not sure what that has to do with human development. The professor got intoxicated during the presentation and berated an Orthodox Jewish female student for verbalizing anti abortion opinions in her presentation. Can’t imagine the dribble that must come from lower ranking social work schools.

  7. I’m going to have to agree with DianaSP. I completed grad school with straight As. I probably only completed 25% of my reading (didn’t even buy books one semester) and completed assignments the night before they were due. To compare, while taking science classes in undergrad, I pulled multiple all-nighters and struggled to even get Cs.

    When I hear people complain that social workers should get paid the same as engineers and nurses with the same education level, I can’t help but cringe. I’m sure people getting masters degrees in these fields were struggling with their advanced science and math classes. When I was in graduate school, I was writing personal reflection papers, composing high school-esque essays describing the demographics of my hometown, and memorizing when Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue for a policy exam. Despite the liberal bias, many of my classmates could not even differentiate between conservative, liberal, and libertarian perspectives when questioned.

    Much of my grad school learning came from my internship. I also learned more from having political discussions with politically diverse friends than the one sided drivel I heard in the classroom. I do wish social work curriculum was more structured, science oriented, and challenging. With my grad school experience, I’m not surprised so many people consider social work fluffy.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.