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Social Work: Low Pay, High Stress


A headline depicts social work and several related careers as “stressful jobs that pay badly.”  However, the actual article highlighted the dedication of social workers and how they provide valuable services to families and their communities. And back in August a CNN article advised readers to pursue a career in patient advocate social work because that line of work is expected to grow 24 percent. Photo of social worker Heather Griffith courtesy of

Social Workers, what do you think?  Leave your comment and join the discussion below.

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  1. “stressful jobs that pay badly”

    I wonder how many social workers would use those words to describe the work they love to do. Not me.

  2. I would love to have Mary Lee’s optimism, but the social workers and chemical dependency counselors I know are as frustrated and weary as I. I’ve worked in many settings in my career and virtually without fail, administrators are out of touch or simply not qualified to supervise/manage social workers (particularly in hospital settings).

    While I applaud the efforts to offer loan forgiveness and have fought for it–those of doing mental health, chemical dependency, forensic and aging social work/AoD seem ignored in the process.

    I have a great deal of difficulty with the fact that some high school graduates have higher incomes, better benefits, less stress on the job (eg. no threats; bodily injury), have no CEU/licensure/malpractice insurance expenses and never have occasion to take their work home with them (eg. mounds of documentation/group prep/workshops).

    It might be easy to say that what I’ve written is a sign of burnout but what I’ve written is truthful and painfully accurate for many of us. I have friends and acquaintances who are changing career directions and leaving the field altogether. As a famous man once said, “Houston, we have a problem.”

  3. I see a lot of stressed out/ burned out social workers, and if anyone says otherwise then they are kidding themselves. When I see these social workers, I pray that isn’t the future I’m headed for- but I also remember there are stressed out burned out people in other professions with higher pay- the only difference is- they have a higher pay…

    I am currently working on my MSW in macro work, and as a student, it is such a slap in the face to see people who haven’t been trained or educated as social workers given the title ‘social worker’- this is where title protection comes in…it protects our profession, our livelihood and could raise the pay for ALL the work we do.

    The clerk at the human services office isn’t a social worker- the intake counselor who hasn’t been trained nor educated should not be called a social worker- this threatens our reputation- the role/title ‘social worker’ has become a universal name like ‘band-aid’ or ‘Kleenex’-
    Just because I work in a medical office, I’ve worked with people in the medical field, does not- DOES NOT make me a doctor- and if I tried to work under that title, without the proper education, I would have some consequences- and the same should happen for people who call themselves social workers, but lack the education.

    Another thing that has to happen is educating people on what you can do with an MSW-
    Social work does not start and stop at ‘taking children away’ or ‘sitting in circles running groups’- I do not have a strong interest in DCFS, Mental Health ,and I have absolutely no interest in clinical work/ private practice- but I will be a social worker-

    I am more interested in policy development, quality assurance, health care, international services, and program evaluation- these are things you can do with a social work degree (Laura Chick- look her up)- and with these skills you can actually receive a nice salary-
    However, because society sees social work from one side, to strengthen my degree, I have to do a certification program in Non-profit management/ Policy/Public Administration….sad i know- but I want to make a nice salary-

    Also- I think it’s in the best interest of all social workers and the profession to take some business/ management classes-
    It’s a sad day when I am competing for a job in a social work setting against a business student- but because the business student can do financial management, mission statements, and strategic planning, i’m passed over, solely because I lack the skills and knowledge about business- I will not be passed over for a job, or given lower pay because I don’t understand the business side of social work-

    Face it people- social work is a BUSINESS- and having those business and financial skills/ knowledge would strengthen our profession- I firmly believe this-

    There are social workers who are not interested in the macro side of the field- they are solely interested in the clinical side, and without them, we would have a lot of broken people walking around- but our profession needs respect- and that respect comes in the form of $$- sad, but true- I really think it starts with setting some ground rules, title protection, and getting social workers to understand the business side of the profession-

    Prior to going into the profession, I wanted to ‘help’ people, now I want to help people and make money- sorry- it’s a fact of life- I”m not looking to be rich, but I have worked hard for this MSW and I’m going to make it work for me-

    If I’m going to be stressed- I’m going to get paid-
    You can’t live off of stress, you die from it-

  4. The field is one I come to as a career change from being a paralegal. Of course many have questioned my reason to leave a field that has the potential to be lucrative to join a field that is not respected and pays pennies. In the beginning of the career change I challenged others to see my decision to change careers as a personal choice due to wanting to have a purpose in life.

    With very little time in the field and working in conditions that requires one to almost give their blood to service a population, I find the field to be a huge disappointment. So much so I have decided to give it 5 years and if no improvement I must change careers again. This time unfortunately thinking about the financial payoffs to the work that is done.

    Unfortunately, social workers are not deemed worthy of high pay. In fact, most grants that are written for agencies that require social workers are written with low pay scales in mind. And if their not written with low pay scales in mind most agencies are using the money towards other aspects of the agency due to the poor infrastructure and lack of resources that already exist in a next to impossible working environment.

    How do we fight a system that refuses to recognize that work that’s done? If you are already starting from a mindset of disrespect and your government agencies have very little involvement in the implementation of how the grant monies are spent who do we fight? If you are advocating for your place in a system where management does not consist of social workers, but MBA alumnae whose mindset is to make money and keep it to one self, then who are you fighting for higher pay from? In fact, how do we advocate for higher pay when the agencies themselves refuse to follow the salary standards of NASW? You attend an interview trying to negotiate for yourself stating NASW standards and the response is, well I am sure that is the standard but unfortunately we just do not have that kind of money, meanwhile the agency REQUIRES a license social worker. What are we to do as social workers? How are we to compete, let alone demand high pay scales for the ardous work we do in these times (recession) when we all need a job to survive day to day.

    Any suggestions/thoughts?

  5. It’s easy to say that social workers are underpaid, underappreciated, poorly supervised, and stressed. But aren’t there lots of professions that could say the same? Teaching is a perfect example here.

    I think the important thing here is this: we don’t have to do this job. None of us has to do this job. Thinking about leaving the profession? It’s your choice. If you can’t reconcile the stress and negative aspects of this, then leave. If you’re taking tons of work home, think about your self-care and make changes. Either you manage all the down-sides, or you’re doing more harm than good when it comes to your clinical care.

    If you’re feeling like you aren’t paid enough attention to, well, you aren’t. Our society doesn’t value a lot of things that it should, but isn’t that part of the reason that we’re needed so deeply? We’re social workers. What we do matters. I know some days it seems too much to bear. I get those days too. The fact is, either you’re a social worker or you aren’t. We need to keep advocating for ourselves just as fiercely as we advocate for our clients, to advance the profession. Other than that, be a social worker. Do what you can do, and put forth your best effort to be content with where you are in life.

  6. I agree with Jackson, LMSW and evidently so do many others who are leaving the field. I look at the cost of higher education today and graduating MSW are faced with mounds of debt that will not be paid back with the small salaries that are offered for the education required. If we want to push debt forgiveness then why not empower the social worker and pay enough so that he/she can simply pay the debt. Surely if you could finish grad school then you should be able to figure out how to send a check to every month. I read an NASW report on the face of social work and it concluded that the profession is getting older and older and no one is stepping up to replace those leaving. Again, people are voting with their feet.

    I also agree that we should put more emphasis on the policy and business aspects of the profession because if we do not make policy and oversee agencies then who will be there to advance our agenda. I say that because I once worked at an agency where the person I reported to had a degree in NUTRITION but was seen as qualified to make decisions regarding social work policy at the agency. The directives she came down with were beyond scary but gives an indication of the regard held for our profession.

    Finally, for the person who mentioned comparing us to teacher; we all know the high esteem to which they are held…high stress and low pay. I for one prefer the MBA comparison! One has to ask, how can we expect to empower our clients when we ourselves are NOT empowered?

  7. What other profession requires the level of education, hours of clinical supervision for licensure, and continuing education only to be the recipient of lower pay that teachers, lack of respect, and no title protection?

    While I didn’t get into the profession to get rich, it would be nice to make a living wage in accordance with the level of education and experience I have achieved.

    It is also worth mentioning that core social work values of person in environment, client centered care, self determination and self sufficiency are now being hijacked by medical and other health professionals. We have operated with that model for decades, now the other professionals have “discovered” and claimed as their own these principals.

    When a licensed masters level social worker does not make as much as a two year nursing degree there is something very wrong with that picture.

    The social work profession loses many very good social workers due to the state of the profession. We advocate for everyone but ourselves as a general rule.

  8. Matt: I respect your views but unfortunately your opinions are the very same leading to the exodus from social service work. You poo-poo real issues by suggesting clinicians leave the field. Rather than shooting the messengers, how about if we, collectively, work to CHANGE the status quo?? Just because the facts are laid in front of you and they happen to be less than pretty, doesn’t make those of expressing them any less competent in our daily work or any less compassionate about what we want to do in our chosen field.

    Talk about easy–to tell people to “just leave” is taking the easiest road possible when issues are “too hard” to face. It takes real courage and stamina to STAY and try to effect change–and it makes us tired and frustrated along the way. It’s folks with opinions such as yours that make it all the more frustrating. It sounds to me as if you might be coasting…

  9. Well said, Matt Butler

  10. I agree with Vickie! That is how we get left with the dregs in a profession. If we care about quality social work, wemust advocate for ourselves and show the benefit, on micro and macro level to society at large.

  11. Coasting? I’m coasting? Okay. I’ve been in this field for ten years, which admittedly probably isn’t as long as you. At the same time, why is it taking the “easy way” out to suggest that people who display nothing but bitterness for the conditions we work under might be better-off in another profession? I’m not minimizing what we go through, rather, I’m saying it can be very hard. But if you aren’t able to love what you do and make it past the bad stuff, then you’re advocating for staying in social work anyway, regardless of the impact your negativity has on your clients? Really?

    You’re arguing that having such a view of social workers has no effect on those you work with? Really?? You talk about shooting the messenger and then insult me with your ridiculous “coasting” comment…seems pretty juvenile, really.

    As for Angie’s comment, we “get left with the dregs in a profession” by keeping those who are really committed to it? That’s incredibly counter-intuitive to me.

  12. The reality is that we work with populations that many folks in society don’t want to even acknowledge. If society does recognize the issues, they certainly don’t want to pay fix it; just make it go away. If a person suffers from Chemical Dependency or Mental Illness, society still sees them as weak willed and “lazy.” I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people ask me, “How can you work with ‘those’ people.” My response is that any one of us, no matter your education, affluency, income, heritage, etc. could some day be in the same position. It only takes one car accident to cause a traumatic brain injury; one trauma to instigate psychiatric deterioration or addiction, etc.

    I would like to be able to see an increase in my income. It has gone down over the last ten years. I spend much of my day trying to figure out how to get paid, justifying my job, rather than providing much needed advocacy and support. I went into Social Work because I believe I have a lot to offer and also want to achieve the American Dream. My income was poor before the recession; it’s worse now and I’m praying to keep my home.

    I don’t wish for anyone to feel sorry for me as I know many folks in all professions are in the same boat or worse. I would just like the country to know that there are great people out there doing good things and we deserve to be reimbursed adequately.

    Kassandra Scott, LSW

  13. Our profession suffers from conflicting values- it was founded to help the disadvantaged by volunteers, but over time it became evident that there was a legitmate role for a profession. And profession means professionals, with professional incomes- which can contradict the initial goals.
    Sad truth- it takes money to make money, and our profession is officially dedicated to helping the poor. You can make money off the poor, but all too often that involves exploitation- pay day loans, cut-rate liquor stores, house flipping, etc. – the very opposite of social work. There is little to no money in helping the poor better themselves- it’s an act of charity, not a business, and often this work is supplemented heavily by unpaid volunteers- which drags down salaries. But helping the poor was never supposed to be about enriching yourself monetarily.
    Where decent salaries are involved, it involves another type of service- medical services, court-ordered assessments, clincal mental health treatment, business management services for an agency, etc.- services you need a skilled professional to offer, not a volunteer. Note- these are still good, legitimate, helpful services.
    The practice standards of where you live matter alot- in Maryland, several local state child welfare agencies (DSS) only hire licensed, MSW line-level workers, which has pushed up the salaries for the workers and for private child welfare agencies that want to compete for workers. In states were CPS workers can have high-school diplomas the salaries for social workers are overall quite poor. Another expample- in states were you only need to be an ex-addict with a certificate to provide addictions treatment, the salaries for addicitons counselors are quite low- when Maryland added the need for a degree and a license to be an addicitons counselor, their salaries went up.
    If you want hirer salaries- Fight for state-level licensure, and fight for agencies to hire only credentialed social workers- fight to get it into state law. And if you want a high salary, choose a branch of social work that pays one- you can’t work in a homeless shelter and expect a huge salary, despite the good you do. But- you can still do ALOT of good helping people with medical discharge planning, providing child assessments for divorce attorneys, providing therapy for veterans via the VA, etc.- and command a living, even quite respectable, salary.
    I’m a supervisor for child abuse investigations, and I command a very good salary and benefits, with an MSW. When I desire to help the poor directly, I volunteer. I used to work for a homeless shelter, and was nearly homeless myself. I changed my career direction within social work, and now have a decent income and can still provide the “charitable” aspect of social work- I just don’t expect to earn a living off that aspect.
    In conclusion- we need to define the professional aspect of social work as something different and apart from the chartiable aspect if we want salaries to reflect our professional standing.

  14. At the moment I would welcome low pay and plenty of stress. I finished grad school then moved out of state where qualification for social work continues in the new state with tests, and approvals and registrations and that’s before any hours can be applied toward licensure. Can’t even volunteer without registering (financial burden). Thus no jobs in social work, a masters means very little here. Now I have to find a job not in my field to afford the registration that works on an approval system and a qualification system and the fee is non-refundable. Sure wish there were a national standard for a national position. Colorado requires registration with the Mental Health Board, then a state test (and schools for profit are offered at selected time as a refreshment course) for an LSW, then over 3600 hours prior to an LCSW and those hours need be in specialty categories. It will take me another 4-5 years to apply for a license. There are exceptions for the specialty programs such as mental health, and as many of others have stated; nonprofit does not make ends meet.

  15. We have to make sure people know how much effort and work is put into becoming a professional social worker. Lawyers and doctors serve people and they are compensated very well for their serves; we have to demand the same. Social workers take on a lot of stress and due to the economic standing in our country we maybe taking on more because people that did not need our services will begin to need our support in handling the challenges that will come with an unstable economy.

  16. Right now, that discribes me. I am highly overworked and underpaid! I love what I do however; the burn-out rate for me is hard to fight. Sometimes I feel like taking my expensive education and using it to volunteer rather then be underappreciated and valued in the agencies I have worked for. I am hopeful that this will change when the economy improves and when my record of hard work and skill set gets some more meat on its bones…

  17. Yeah, this topic makes me so angry- fueled, but angry.

    I have friends who are acquiring MBAs from top schools and are going into social entrepreneurship, social development by using business to make the changes needed in our society- that’s social work- this is a capitalistic society so it kind of makes sense to get an MBA- although I’m going into macro work- I chose MSW with an emphasis in macro work, but I’ve been thinking about getting an MBA- but what stops me is the fact that I love people- and an MBA schools mindset is different- they don’t emphasize profit tests to see if the organization is providing a wealth of interventions and assistance, but solely a profit test to make sure dollars are being made-

    I don’t know- future social workers need to come together and raise the standards of our profession, get NASW to get organizations to hold to salary guidelines, and get our social workers to understand the business side of this field- (you’re fooling yourself if you don’t see it- DMH, DCFS, VA, NPO, Int’l Social Work) that’s where the future is- if we want more money- and the system isn’t going to bend towards our side, or appreciate ALL the work and training we have to do, we have to get on their level- acquire those skills needed to be competitive so a NUTRITIONIST isn’t running an npo-
    That’s just ridiculous–

    We have to strengthen our skills and learn to present and market ourselves and tell them why they need a social worker- one that can engage, build relationships, understand the organization, the business and finances, and one that is NOT afraid to make a decision-

    We have to get on their field because no matter how much we complain, our professions history and reputation follows us- and it isn’t one that is held at the highest esteem-

  18. Also, there is such a divide between micro and macro social workers that needs to close and strengthen- each should learn the benefits of the other, and why the other is importance and necessary- they work hand-in-hand- each have to understand that they need one another-

  19. I am reading some of the comments about the profession. I enjoy being Social Worker, but I am frustrated with the lack of respect we get. I think that we definitely need title protection because many people think because they do certain roles of a Social Worker, that makes them a Social Worker. We are definitely underpaid and overworked. I can say where I work we are always having to pick up the slack of other folks in other disciplines. One of the biggest problems I see in this profession is that we do not advocate for ourselves. We do a great job advocating for a clients/patients/consumers, but do a terrible job advocating for ourselves. I am realizing that if I want to make some decent income, I need to start my own, do consulting work, or maybe write a book. If I continue to only base my income on working for other people, I will be overworked and underpaid.

  20. I have said it before and I will say it again a zillion times more probably, if one got in to social work for the money than a social worker one should not be, the core of social work is to save the world and the people in it that the money and greed are destroying, it’s a helping profession definately not a get rich one, so if that is what you wanted then you should have gotten a degree in accounting instead.

  21. The core problem for social pay- as Meeka aptly demonstrates- is social work a charity, and therefore seeking profit from it is “shameful”, or is social work a skilled profession, which should be aptly compensated?
    As a skilled profession- we have a variety of very marketable skills in human assessment for clinical and legal arenas and resource connection and organization, and we are paid more in localities that license and enforce licensure laws to restrict the “social work” title to trained professionals. We are treated and paid more like professionals in settings that expect and demand skilled work that others cannot provide. (And there are decent jobs for MSWs with good pay, mainly in the medical field- I have several friends that make over $70,000 a year in the medical field as licenesed MSWs, my wife and I, both licensed MSWs, make nearly that much as State CPS supervisors- but these jobs reward people performing a required and unique skill set with particular credentials.)
    As a charity- homeless shelters, non-profits (the name says it all), etc., THERE IS NO REAL MONEY TO BE MADE- unless you’re the director and get juicy grants- and if the media ever find out that a non-profit director gets a high salary, the non-profit often goes under- “Why am I donating money so that guy can drive a Mercedes- I wanted it to go to HIV patients!”. Culturally, making money from charity work is considered abhorrent and morally corrupt.
    Also- you don’t need an MSW to be a charity worker- the MBA mentioned above is doing it, and probably better than a social work model would- you can’t go wrong giving people gainful employment with a corresponding skill set. Charity work needs no degrees or credentials; volunteers often do the bulk of it.
    This will be controversial, but it needs to be said- For social work to advances as a skilled, highly respected profession we CANNOT be considered charity workers!
    There should be 2 seperate tracks- those who wish to serve the poor and take vows of poverty (or, more often, have very wealthy spouses), and those that want to make a living as skilled professionals providing mental health, medical, and legal assessments and interventions- there should actually be 2 seperate titles for these professions; one could be “Professional Social Assessor or Interventionist”, the other, “Charity Worker”, and the degrees can be BPSA/MPSA and BCW/MCW.

  22. Meeka: You’ve missed the point. No one said they expected to get rich, but we are entitled to make a decent living in safe, worker-friendly jobs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with expecting a reasonable salary for work above and beyond the norm. I certainly cannot do a good job helping others if I’m worried about how to meet my own expenses (eg. college and ongoing licensure costs, raising my sons through college, my own healthcare expenses (cancer treatment doesn’t come cheap), beginning to help care for my aging parents and making the charitable donations (some official; some not–eg. journals for my patients out of my pocket because it’s important) I make–in addition to working 45-55 hours a week.

    If I had wanted to get rich, there were many other ways to do it, but I went back to school in my 40’s after working in the public sector from ages 17-45, was on the Dean’s List 9 times, earned a bachelor’s degree with honors, a master’s degree with a 3.7 GPA, was awarded the Woman of Distinction Award, was President of the School of Social Work Activity Committee, while working part-time as a church secretary and raising two sons nearly alone. I began my second career with one of our toughest populations (juvenile sex offenders), worked many years with SMD/AoD consumers, worked as the sole MH social worker for our county CIT police team, worked as a medical social worker for rehab and oncology units and for many years (and currently) in home-based social work.

    Are you suggesting that I have no basis on which to ask for and expect a salary on par with other professionals who are required to do less to maintain their positions in their fields? If so, I can only surmise that you simply haven’t had enough life experience yet to be open-minded enough to see that even though we are working in “Social Work” that doesn’t mean that we deserve less pay, fewer benefits or unsafe/unfair working conditions. I wish you well but I hope you begin to expand your views with age and maturity.

  23. I think people are missing the point about Social Work. Nobody ever said that they were trying to get rich from being a Social Worker, but we do deserve to have a decent pay to live our lives in the world. We are professionals. Yes, the history behind Social Work is Charity Organizations and helping the poor, but Social Work as a career has developed beyond this. Also, Social Worker’s are no longer older white women with their black book (LOL). If I hear one more person say that you don’t go into Social Work to become rich, I am going to scream. We all have our reasons for going into the field and I guarantee we did not do it to become rich. Most of us probably went into Social Work because we do enjoy helping people and I personally feel rewarded when I can help one more person to better their life. Regardless, we still should be compensated for the hard work we do. We are no different than a Lawyer, Doctor, etc. by the way, Lawyers and Doctors do not go into the field to become rich. They enjoy helping folks too. Also, they did not always get paid the big buck either and some of them don’t necessarily today get paid big bucks. It is a little insulting when people continue to think we are supposed to be expected to get low pay. Higher pay does not mean rich and also when you continue to work for someone else, you most likely no matter what Profession you work, you are not going to get rich. Again, we need to advocate for ourselves instead accepting thing the way they are because that is how it has been traditionally. Social Work has evolved so much since the Jane Addams days. I think it is a little scary when you have folks who still think it is acceptable to be paid low salaries. Again, I love being a Social Worker and I have been in the field for over 10 years and will continue for many more.

  24. Hey GW,
    Thanks for the information, I am definitely going to check this out.

  25. Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), a social worker, is using this article to support HR 795, the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Social Work Reinvestment Act. Check out this letter he sent to fellow House members today:

    From: The Honorable Edolphus Towns
    Sent By:
    Bill: H.R. 795
    Date: 11/6/2009

    Dear Colleague:

    I wanted to call your attention to an article on highlighting the top 15 “stressful jobs that pay badly.” The number 1 job listed — social work. This article highlights one of the key problems in recruiting and retaining qualified individuals who will “step in when others step aside.”

    My bill, HR 795, the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Social Work Reinvestment Act, aims to solve this problem by establishing a commission to study the policies needed to recruit and retain qualified social workers in a time when they are needed the most. Social workers focus their practice on those who are most vulnerable in society. With the economic downturn, their caseloads are only increasing, while salaries and positions are being cut.
    Please join me in cosponsoring HR 795, by contacting Emily Khoury on my staff ( or 5-5936), and help us make a historic investment in our country’s future.
    For more information, here is the article from
    Social worker
    Median pay: $43,200
    % who say their job is stressful: 72%

    Social workers step in when everyone else steps aside to help people and families in vulnerable situations. They provide patients with education and counseling, advise care givers and make referrals for other services. And with social workers in short supply and programs underfunded, few must juggle the work of many, while reaping little reward.

    Just ask Heather Griffith, a social worker who works with children in intensive foster care in Boston: “You’re getting paid $12 an hour and kids are screaming at you, telling you that you are just in it for the money and you’re just like, really?”
    Edolphus “Ed” Towns
    Member of Congress

  26. The the lady who commented that clients look to you like your loaded, I totally agree, and it’s really depressing. My first job I made what is considered to be the poverty line in Philadelphia. I worked for a community mental health day program and listened to the money issues of my clients day in and day out, meanwhile I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay my own rent. Its truly disgusting that you spend money and time in school to make nothing. It’s pretty much a done deal that you have to invest at least another 2 years and considerably more money to obtain a masters degree, which is important yes, but really quite a large investment considering I know people with less than a bachelors making more than a MSW makes. I’m in it to help people 100%, but I hope that the government starts getting hipper to the understanding that we, much like school teachers, are severely overworked and very much underpaid. If we are pretty much giving our hard work away for free, you’d think there would be a bigger move to help school us. Smart and dedicated people can only take so much until the come to realize they have bills to pay and a family to raise. We don’t need to make 6 figures, but I’d settle for at least what bus drivers make.

  27. Hello and Hafa Adai from the Islanders

    I would like to share what other people are doing and how Social Work is no longer a past time hobby or adventure when it comes to helping families in our Community. The work has grown much challenging as we are facing more off-island visitors to the island. Once a very small population is now an over populated place to find shelter for families. We are beginning to see homeless families in our shelters and the need for places to live are still growing. We are seeking in our area how we can get Parents to see the bigger picture if we can only get their help when working with youth and families in our educational system. Families are not around to be available when it comes to their child’s education but we do know why. Health Care cost and benefits are very limited and are not flexible to meet the needs of all families. We are working with Senators to inform Congress that Guam needs a much better health care system in place. We do not have enough doctors and specialists available so this provides residents but no choice however to seek medical help and treatment off-island. We only have one hospital care facility for the local population and one for the military population. Most families chose health care that only their providers can afford. All others are out of pocket expense to the patient and their families. We are hoping that the new recent reform will better provide us not only the funding support but also the equipment needed for patients so that we no longer have to travel for off-island treatment. This is a tackle that will far more be a major problem if we continue to allow free access but no benefits or affordable housing cost for these families to stay. It all begins at home.

  28. I am SO sorry I went into social work. I have TWO Master’s degrees – an MSW and an MS in Nonprofit Management. I am paid about as much as the manager of a Starbucks (without the weekly free pound of coffee). I work with occupational, physical and speech therapists who like me have a Master’s (though they have only one). They make FOUR TIMES my hourly wage. This is not right and I am tired of hearing how dedicated we are. I am also tired of NASW crying about our clients. If the NASW does not advocate for us, there will be NO ONE to serve the clients.
    What could be good sources of income dried up. NY State formerly required that a social worker perform a comprehensive family assessment for every family receiving Early Intervention services for delayed children. This requirement was rescinded and the assessment has become a “parent interview” and is now done by anyone – a special educator, a bachelor’s level service coordinator, a psychologist. The NY State Education department once required that any child receiving related services be seen by a social worker for a social history. Now anyone can see the child and write the social history. If NASW could advocate to have these laws amended so that a licensed master’s level social worker would be the ONLY ones able to perform social histories and assessments, there would be so much extra work, we all could do better. I work FOUR jobs. This is not right. A porter in maintenance makes more than I do. With a GED.

  29. Thank you on behalf of social workers everywhere, Mr. Towns.

  30. From Social Workers Speak! Facebook Page:

    Joseph P.: Ironically, Social Work has also been rated as one of the most personally rewarding careers. We need to find a way to get the pay to go with it, and we’ll be cooking.

  31. One of the most appalling stresses in social work is the unprofessional treatment that social workers receive from their supervisors. I retired after more than twenty years as a police officer, detective, and patrol sergeant in a male dominated field before becoming a licensed master social worker. My clients in mental health and in substance abuse were challenging but rewarding to help. However, I witnessed social work supervisors literally yelling at and demoralizing their staff. If any boss had talked to police officers with the lack of respect social work supervisors display, the supervisor would soon be receiving mental health counseling. All of these positions are stressful but the question is whether social workers are allowed to be disrespected because of the predominance of female social workers. My associates in teaching express similar disrespect by administration. Natural stress imposed by the position is to be expected but artificial stress due to lack of courtesy imposed by unprofessional supervisors and blind administrators is rarely, if ever, highlighted as a major factor in burnout. No one should talk to a child or an animal in the manner that some social workers talk to their subordinates.

  32. Thanks, Alice. I think for whatever reasons social work is often minimized and it never ceases to amaze me how many individuals attempt to do social work without a license. I have rarely been supervised by a social worker which is even more challenging. I believe this is just one reason why, if we don’t start being more proactive in our field and promoting our worth, social work and workers will continue to contribute to their own demise as a profession.

  33. My Fellow Social Workers,

    We are here as advocates, protectors, defenders. . . .we are given the honorable and arguous task of straightening the way and evening the playing field for the less fortunate.

    Let’s use our GREAT SKILLS to advocate for OURSELVES!!!


    If you can’t fight for your self then you DONT have what it takes to be a Great Social Worker.

    Be who you say you are and what you invested time, effort and study to be. . . .a SOCIAL WORKER!!!


  34. By the way, there is a national credential from NASW, it’s called “ACSW” (Academy of Certified Social Workers). It used to be one of the only credentials out there for social workers, before states began their own licensure process.

    Reading all of the above comments have been extremely validating. Over the past 20 years, I’ve experienced almost all of the war stories – the frustration with putting heart and soul into helping others (and not necessarily the poor); the ignorance and lack of respect from other highly paid professions where a fraction of the training is required (yes, I know, it was our choice and for many of us, a “calling”) and low salaries in comparison to investment to become and maintain a master’s level social worker credential. The longer one stays working in the field, the probability of demoralization and infuriation increases, and, perhaps, a tad bitterness. Despite all of the fulfillment gained from knowing you have made a positive difference in others’ lives, you realize you could’ve also achieved similar goals in many, many other decent paying professions, as well as volunteer work. And, in a career with a better salary with the same set of ethics and values, you possibly could’ve made a more significant difference in the world while providing a better standard of living for your family.

    What I’ve learned from being a social worker is that as your skills, wisdom and knowledge base become strengthened and expanded, you know that salary and professional validation will remain relatively flat, as you watch other professions, many requiring no more than a high school degree and little else, either skyrocketing past you or, at least, catching up. And, despite having to work 2-3 jobs evening and weekend jobs to supplement f/t salary…just to have lower middle class lifestyle, you become grateful you have some skills to work at a nursing home before you have to go into one because you know you most likely won’t be able to retire until your health fails. You also realize that you’ve been able to work so well with the poor because you’re often just a heartbeat away from being in the same boat. So, until the social work profession can advocate for better working conditions and salaries, the new grads better make sure they either “married well” or have a good inheritance or retirement account or made plans for a different career for the twilight years…just in case things do not change anytime soon.

  35. Oh, I forgot to mention the fact that most master level social work jobs include a significant danger risk! It really is ashame that the profession was never given another name or title before becoming formalized. Repackaging/rebranding/remarketing image experts must be hired to redirect the profession into a more valuable public commodity!

  36. Greetings Colleagues,

    I feel tremendous compassion for fellow social workers and believe that we must fight for the future of our profession! I am sorry that so many are overworked and upderpaid! However, I would like to offer an alternative perspective to the low paying, high stress situations that most have expressed.

    While a lot of social workers are financially struggling, others are doing well–by anyone’s standards. I make as much my friends who are accountants, PR reps or IT professionals and some of my associates are making 80-100K a year (they market their highly transferable skills in multiple environments).

    The range in salary often, not always!, comes down to ability and competence. It appears that some schools of social work have an unspoken “open admissions policy”–anyone willing to pay the tuition is accepted. For instance, there are numerous LCSWs in my organization, in their early 30s and 40s (not 50/60+, before computers were prevalent), who can hardly send an e-mail, type a Word document or work the telephone system; these people lack basic technological and computational skills, but wonder why they are not taken seriously. Really?!

    Respectfully, having a bachelors or masters degree says little about intellect, competence or professional ability these days…depts and schools that don’t even have accreditation are starting on-line, weekend, summer (you name it), BSW, MSW and PhD programs! Many folks who can’t make it in other majors in college or industries become social workers because we are so compassionate that their lack of ability is overlooked or swept under the rug.

    If you are competent, dress and present professionally and have the necessary licensure in your state and are still not commanding a competitive salary: get yourself a therapist or a life coach! Work on assertiveness and confidence and demand what you are worth.


  37. AP:
    (I find it interesting that you feel the need to use such a benign alias as “Alternative Perspective”); I’m afraid you’re addressing a very, very small percentage of the those in the social work field. While I agree that some social workers–just as some nurses, therapists and other clinicians–could use remedial reading, writing and spelling classes, very few social workers, despite education, experience, work ethic and professionalism are able to command the salaries of which you speak.

    A social worker can be assertive and confident until the cows come home, but if social work isn’t valued, the salaries simply aren’t there. For instance, the local hospitals in my area have now decided that RN’s can act as nurses, social workers, therapists and discharge planners! Two social workers in another agency cover five (5) counties! What’s wrong with this picture?

  38. I think we all can agree that there are many issues and concerns within our profession, but we must not only take care of those who cannot fend for themselves, but we must stand together and demand respect and compensation for what we do.

  39. Wow. I have to say I have parts that agree with pretty much every thing that has been said. Even “Alternative Perspective” has really good points. Schools of social work do have an open door policy, as well as an open class policy. One of my professors in GRADUATE school could care less if we came to class, and had difficulty separating his Motivational Interviewing skills that he used with his own clients from his students, which were his responsibility to educate and prepare for future practice. I have met many like him. Therefore we are graduating some incompetent, un-skilled social workers that, in some states, are able to practice with no license at the masters level. No other counseling degrees offer the same freedoms as social work. Again, this is all dependent on what state you live in. We’ve got to come up with some cohesive ideas about how to transfer licensure laws, etc from state to state. I agree that there are many alternative social work jobs that still involve helping that pay a decent salary. However, the sad part is that many gifted social workers and therapists are therefore left with no choice but to abandon the populations that need them most in order to put food on the table. Those are just a few of my rantings, but again, you all have very valid points and change is needed on many levels to address these issues. I agree with whoever mentioned sacrificing our professions that involve direct service to the underprivileged, for jobs that put money on the table, yet still giving of our time and talents in another way, I have to say that I feel honored to be a part of this profession simply by reading all of your above comments. We sure are a passionate bunch, differences and all!

  40. Well, I have been in the social work profession for 33 years now. I have seen changes along the way. One of them was the liscensing in 1986 in the state of Ohio. Unfortunately, many individuals are also allowed to continue to call themselves a “social worker”, even though they are not liscensed…..take The Department of Families and Childrens’s Services—-AKA: The County Welfare Department with a new name. In the state of Ohio, it is legal for an employee to call themselves a “social worker” from the above agency, even though they are NOT licensed. What other profession allows this! If you are a psychologist, you have a Ph.D (otherwise, even with a masters in psychology, you are a psychological assistant), medical doctor’s must have a MD after their name, a nurse ust be a RN or LPN—oterwise, they are called a nursing assistant or nurse’s aide…but not a “nurse” amongst their own peers! We look out in the world and talk about how our profession is viewed by others—we can’t even draw the line as to who is a “social worker’! I am an outpatient therapist in a medical setting and like what I do……….BUT..our field needs to get on board as seeing ourselves also from a business perspective……….if not for ourselves, then who are we? No wonder the pay scales are abysmal for “social workers”……..historically, they don’t even begin to hold steady salary wise…….ever falling behind………standing up and being counted about this as a profession is needed—-if not for ourselves, then who are we?

  41. One can love what they do and still recognize the problems/barriers that need to be improved in the profession. I agree there needs to be more respect and increased pay provided to social workers. We need added support from our professional organization (NASW) to assist with licensing boards, title protection, public service announcements, etc. to assist in further the legitimacy of the profession. I work very hard for minimal wage but love what I do. Another issue we need assistance with is immunity for frivoulous licensing complaints by consumers that are lead to file these costly complaints by their pathology. A highly ethical colleague with decades of experience recently spent this past decade fighting these issues. Our litigious society is one more costly stress to social work professionals with very little suport support from the NASW. I often hear comments when I am negotiating contracts, sitting in school meetings etc. that “I am just a social worker.” When we hear these comments it opens the door for us to educate those that are not aware of what we do. Have some stats handy or attain emails so that you can provide input to educate those who devalue our profession. I think the reinvestment act is a step in the right direction but it is only a step.

  42. Every response makes good points and has merit. I didn’t expect to get rich in Social Work but neither did I expect to be paid so poorly that my son with half the education starts at the same income right out of school. Social Work is a profession that requires many professional skills but carries very little in recognition, prestige, or wages.
    One area no one talks much about that is somewhat a stumbling block for the profession is the structure of many of the agencies. Agencies especially non-profit agencies rely very heavily on “student interns” many of whom do jobs they are not yet qualified to do even though the professional guidelines state they shouldn’t be. The students are often put in risky situations as an expected part of their education… Most often they start internships at the same time they enroll in their first semester. There are horror stories there too. If all the students were to evaporate many agencies would be severely crunched… because they are valued as “free” help. In many agencies the policy seems to be take your work home with you, work through lunch and don’t waste any time during the day or you’ll be on notice. Most of all don’t complain.
    If the “actual” social workers (LMSW and LCSW’s) feel under appreciated and underpaid they truly are. It has nothing to do with loving your work, because everyone has family and bills to pay, unless you expect only wealthy folk to go into the profession. There are no easy solutions to elevating the profession from the catch-22 situation it seems to be in.
    The only ones that make a decent wage are those that have worked many, many years up to it, are in charge of a program or were doing “private practice” on the side or in their own office. The guidelines have made it all but impossible to do private work in many states.
    You are told in the beginning with a smile that you won’t get rich in social work and every one of the students think “But I’m sure with all this education and licensing I’ll make enough to pay the bills.” In many cases the pay is short of ridiculous and the responsibilities enormous.
    I’ve also noticed an inclination to hire BSW’s for almost everything but direct counseling… except of course when they are doing counseling they aren’t supposed to be doing.
    I’m not sure what the future of this profession is but it definitely is changing. If less people go into Social Work at the Master’s level, and the vast intern system dries up, the front line Social Workers could end up even more overworked then they currently are. And that is a scary thought.

    I don’t know where Alternative Perspective works but non-profit front line agencies are not going to offer that kind of salary, probably not in my lifetime anyway unless something drastic changes. The front lines are where workers are needed the most to help those in need. Unfortunately they’re often sent out with bandaids to fix what needs so very much more.

  43. I have skimmed through most of the comments here and in the past I have had many of the same feelings about the profession I have chosen. However, when I found that I was unsatisfied with my pay, and realized that this was contributing to my burn out, I did something about it.

    I could not accept that I was worth as little as I was being paid in previous jobs. I researched and found Social Work jobs that do pay well while also fulfilling my need for my job to have a purpose beyond a pay check. I developed a plan to move into one of these jobs and then move up within the organizational structure. My research and planning have paid off and I continue to work as a Social Worker, in a job that I enjoy with what I consider to be very good pay (well above the national average found in the CNN article). I did not get into Social Work for the pay, but have found that income does play a role in my job satisifaction and took action to be sure that I am paid what I feel that I am worth.

  44. I have worked as a LCSW in four states and each of them so different in the way they view us. This is hard work but I do love it I am 62 years old now and as much as I love what I do if I had to do it over again I would not I would be a teacher I would have my summers off and I would make more money after I have worked for a while and I would not need as much education . we are unpaid and not respected most places for what we do. as much as I do love the work I do which is mental health for foster kids for a while I was doing well privately but last month we had to take a 40 dollar session in pay if we are working with the kids in there home CPS whats us there to be there eyes and ears but now do not want to pay us for the extra time that it takes to do in home work things are not getting better

  45. WOW!! After reading the above comments I’m concerned that I have picked the wrong profession. As a current MSW student, in my almost my golden years, I’m fearing for my future as a LCSW with a concentration in Addictions. Please someone give me some hope!!!

  46. While all this is profound and informitive, what can be done about a profession where an Associate”s degree is worthless and a Master’s degree is entry level. I have a Bachelor’s degree and less then a year of experience, no employer will give me a second look. The Bachelor degreed individuals should be used to fill in the gaps left in care when a higher educated person feels the work is not part of their job discription. Because of the exagerated perceptions gaps are left open and needy people are falling through.
    It is my job and my desire to help all people in need, no matter how small their problems may be, yet I am not given that chance because my funding has run out and I was unable to obtain a Master’s. I find it extremely frustrating that this profession is so upside down and backwards. Perhaps I should move in another direction where a profession sees worth in all levels of education.

  47. No matter how much many in the social work profession get some satisfaction from their work….I don’t think that any other profession starts out with saying………”well, I love what I do”…..without qualifying that the individual is on board with accepting that within a profession, there are levels of expertise and training and required liscenses and specialty certificates in order to embark in many area of social work. Just like being an MD of a RN or a pysician’s assistant—–professionals have areas of competence and that is not all encompassing in terms of being qualified to work with everyone because someone “wants to help.” We have to raise our own bar as to who is a social worker—and YES!……..I whole heartedly agree with the person who commented that NASW MUST take a more active role in shoring up the professionalism of our profession……….would teachers of lawyers or doctors be having this same conversation about who is a professional in their field and what their area of experitse is? NO! They are clear about what their areas of competence and expertise is and they have the liscensures and training to back them up. As it needs to be in social work—-areas of expertise with the expectation of appropriate training and liscensures and certificates and mentoring in order to take on any specific role as a social worker.

  48. I absolutely agree that social work is a high-stress, low paying profession, BUT I will also say there is probably more job security in this field than in most right now.

    In my own case, my job is stressful because I basically am told what to do by various heads of other departments (I work in health care) and don’t have enough time in which to do it. However, I do have some flexibility with scheduling, and can manage my own time to some extent.

    So there are trade offs — I certainly make more money right now, as a social worker, than I did as a secretary, and there was a great deal of stress in that job, too!

  49. Obviously all of the research that NASW does stating how much the “average” social worker makes is a little skewed. I didn’t keep the most recent article, but from memory, I believe it stated that 80% of social workers have a master’s degree, and that master’s degree social workers make over $50,000 per year. (If someone has the actual numbers, feel free to post them). Something seems a little off, then, because where I come from, $50k isn’t a bad salary (I didn’t make that much until this year, and that’s 14 years in the field and being promoted to Deputy Director). So are potential recruits being misled? They must be, because who in their right mind would spend $40,000 to get a degree knowing how much social workers really make, which according to many of these responses must be considerably less. Apparently it is the social work professors who are making all of the money which has caused tuition to be so much.
    When my boss tells me I can stop being Deputy Director anytime I want because of how much extra work I now have to do for only a little more money, I tell him I didn’t get into the field for the money. When I started out 14 years ago, I was only making $6.55 (that’s when minimum wage was like $4.25). It was tough work and I made a lot more as a pizza delivery driver, but the job satisfaction was “priceless”. Knowing that you’ve made a difference is often more than most other professions will ever make.
    As with most things, I blame it on psychology. In my experience, many people who make more money to do the same job get spoiled and entitled, which leads them to do a poor job. The low pay along with the stressful environment is very much like a hazing process. “I must really be committed to helping people to put up with this much stress for this pay” we unconsciously tell ourselves. While I’m not saying social workers should join their clients in the welfare lines (which I have heard stories of from collegues), if you got into the field because you were promised you could make good money, I have some property in Florida for you.

  50. I did not use my real name because, as a public forum, there are all sorts of people reading these posts (I am easy to locate on the internet and do not want unsolicited e-mails). In response to statements about where I work and how long I have been in the field:

    1) I work in a community mental health clinic. I am NOT in private practice or a for-profit company.

    2) I have less than 10 years of experience–I have NOT been doing this work for 30 + years.

    For people just entering the field: THERE IS HOPE. You need to have skills that will enable you to demand a high salary. Ask yourself these questions: do you have the writing skills necessary to write grants and generate funding for your organization? How efficient, organized and productive are you?

    If you can find ways to make yours and other staff’s paperwork less time consuming or redundant (researching new technology that saves $)… just guaranteed yourself a raise.

    ALSO, posters keep talking about various professionals who make more than us. Personally, I would never choose to be a nurse (not even for 30 dollars more an hour); I have no desire to change bedpans or adult diapers. Do any of you? Generally speaking, the more boring, gross and difficult a job, the more money you have to be offered to do it.

    Also, many teachers lose their jobs or are put on probation when their kids score low on standardized tests. Are any of us losing our jobs when our clients re-offend, relapse after hard won sobriety or get pregnant after attending one of our teen prevention groups? I don’t believe so.

    I am not saying that we don’t have to fight for higher wages, but I am saying that the grass is always greener on the other side. I have never and will never regret choosing social work!

  51. I have worked in the mental health field for 17 years and now also work as an emergency room social worker. In the ER, I have to have the second highest amount of education and am likely one of the worse paid direct care staff. As a mental health worker, I have been assaulted, threatened, and paid under $40k a year. Though I love my work, the low wages have made it tough at times. I have usually dome so working two jobs and never getting ahead.

    The reason seems to be that, though people want and appreciate what we do, no one wants to pay for it. Couple this with the fact that our clientele are often marginalized and I’ll-eqipped to advocate for their needs; we end up with chronic underfunding and a sad state of devaluing what is done. Any efforts to rectify this is necessary. For those of us in practice and those we serve, a reconciliation between what we need to get to practice and improve can only benefit the whole.

  52. I appreciate the article and the efforts of a few to point out the work we do, the educational requirements we face, and the connected pay that goes along with it. I have two sons who did not go past high school. I’m very proud of what they’ve done with themselves and for their families. However, I did go to school and I did earn dual degrees and I did serve a three-year post-graduation internship before I was allowed to take two very comprehensive exams, one written with 250 questions and the other oral at a time when that was being fazed out by one of the country’s last die-hard oral exam requirement. And for that we get the privilege of starting out at $30,000. Of course, we have student loans to pay for and are trying to catch up on some kind of life.

    I absolutely love my work and wouldn’t trade it. But back when I first got out of grad school (1992), I was very fortunate to go to work for the Los Angeles County child welfare agency, first doing adoptions and then working from sheriff’s stations and hospitals to respond on emergencies. And for that I got paid $32,000 per year. I don’t know of another job that is required to have a Master’s degree in Social Work that starts out at that rate. And I got REALLY lucky when I was making $70,000 by working overtime, to the tune of 60 hours a week.

    So now that I’ve hit my early sixties, I have had to slow down by about 75 percent because my health is giving up from working so hard for so long. If we could be put on parity with MBAs or MPAs or Masters in criminal justice, public administration, probation department even, we would have started out at like $45,000 and gone up from there. I just don’t see any evidence that most people in this country, one, ever notice us; and, two, give a real concern about how much money we ake and whether a shortage of social workers that is on the horizon really means anything. What about being on par with engineering, that only requires a Bachelor’s degree? Social workers fill so many roles: geriatrics, children, adolescents, couples, families, individuals, case management, diagnosis and treatment planning, creating resources where none exist, in order to serve our clients and help them to be citizens with a future. Hello, anybody out there?

    Linda Lipscomb, LCSW
    Ventura County, California

  53. Alternative Perspective is right on. That’s exactly what I did to get promoted. I made myself necessary, or rather, the skills that I acquired made me necessary for the business that I work in. (Adult corrections/substance use/mental health). The funny thing is, I didn’t do all of that to get promoted. For me, not being too concerned about money and doing the right thing by the clients even when I wasn’t getting paid extra for it then made me more money.

  54. I chose social work over two similar, but better paid professions, the ministry and psychology. I was interested in these three professions because I wanted to create change in the world. However, I chose social work because I wanted to create change where the rubber meets the road. I knew going in to it that I wouldn’t be making a mint. At the same time I also believed going in to it that I would sleep well each night, knowing, in some small way, through something that I had done for a stranger, that the world would be a better place. And this is true. I usually sleep well. What does keep me up at night, now and then, are my student loan payments…

  55. What a great thread! Thank you to all that have contributed.

    If this topic creates frustration for you, one question that may be worth considering is “am I trying to work with what should be rather than what is?”

    We each do have a choice to “work with what is AND towards what should be”, as challenging as that may be. I would offer that this calibration of thinking is one strong difference between successful and not successful choices in how to handle this topic.

  56. ALL SOCIAL WORKERS need to read the contribution from Lynne Mays. Regarding protection of our profession and professional roles.
    I recently spoke with the “social worker” of a nursing home. Prior to her 4 day training she was the cook. I find that offensive in that she can be a social worker after 4 days and I am a Social Worker with a load of student loans to pay.
    My daughter is a MSW, too. She works for DHS Child Welfare and everyone in that office calls themselves “social workers.” There are only 2 with actual social work credentials. She finds the difference amazing. Our education and profession are specialized. Like Ms. Mays said, “just because a person works in a medical setting providing medical care does not mean that person can just call herself a doctor.”
    I’m really surprised there is not more attention to this matter by the Social Work Profession.

  57. ………and yes! …there is definitely much satisfaction in being a “liscensed” social worker…….however, the article is talking about social work being a low pay profession……….no matter how it is sliced or diced, until our profession is able to get a better handle on over seeing and monitoring and yes! even enforcing who calls themselves a “social worker”………just like all of the other professions………..we will continue to have a problem with pay scales for the most part. It’s not that social workers don’t have an impact on their fellow man…THEY DO!!…….there is something definitely wrong with a profession that still is struggling with pulling in the reins and determining who can call themselves a social worker………….and get away with it!

  58. This is the way I see it —– I serve the underserved and, in turn, I am underserved. Is that fair? Of course not— not to me the professional who has $70,000 in student loans nor to the many people that I serve that often run out of money on the 15th of each month.
    I left a 20 yr. career in the corporate world of banking to go back to college and get my MSW. I was under the assumption that once I achieved my LICSW that I would be making at least my salary upon leaving my banking career. So much for assumptions!!??**! I am making as much an hour today as I made 20 years ago in the banking industry with an Associates Degree and no student loans to pay back! Yet, I stay in this field. I recently left a private practice to return to a community mental health clinic I had worked in years before. Two reasons: 1. To serve and work with the chronically mentally ill ( who, by the way always give me back as much as I hopefullly give them—their resilience amazes me!) and 2. To have a weekly salary that I could count on and have dedicated colleagues around me daily. I am 60 yrs. old with a strong work history. On the one hand, my salary is humiliating. On the other hand, I feel humble to be of service to the many people I work with. I live pay check to pay check—-yet, I have a roof over my head, my credit is great, I sleep good at night. I feel quite fortunate. I also feel that we must have a voice for ourselves to be compensated, acknowledged and appreciated in a more just manner. This fight for our own justice will in turn result in more justice for those we serve. We must speak up whenever and whereever possible for the hungry, the sick and the dying. We are social workers—what a gift!
    Thanks to all for your thoughts.
    Happy holidays to all you wonderful, dedicated people out there! We do make a difference!!

  59. One important point that hasn’t been mentioned is that all of us have different standards of what is a “reasonable” salary, depending upon personal resources, i.e. parental support and/or inheritance, wealthy spouse, living in area with lower cost of living, (esp. housing), size of family, spending habits, budget skills, college loan debts, etc. Also, would really like to know what kind of community health clinic can afford to pay $80-100k/year, like Alternative Perspective mentions. Most of the ones I know from a major metropolitan area struggle each month while clinicians must supplement their income with private practice and/or per diem work at hospitals, etc. or have partner with a more “reasonable” salary which affords them to practice their “glamour job”/social work. On the bell curve of social work, of course, there will always be the select few (usually men who are more easily promoted to management ranks, despite having little to no more experience or talent than female social workers) who will command good, competitive salaries. However, the real truth is that the average, dedicated, hard-working, intelligent/literate, masters level prepared social worker will only hope to achieve $50-60k in the course of their career, if lucky and if employed in just one job at a time. As many have mentioned, until the profession is repackaged, the generic job of social worker will be viewed by society as an ancillary service somewhat equivalent to a blue collar office clerk position.

    Moreover, I want to validate the gentleman who confessed to identifying himself professionally as a psychotherapist with a masters degree in social work, rather than a social worker. This is a viable option for gaining more respect in the work force and health profession, although not the ideal solution to the bigger dilemma.

  60. I understood from a staff member at NASW that the title of psychotherapist can only be used by Psychologists. It came about when we fought for the law that only degreed social workers could call themself a social worker. I’ll admit – and wonder if others will too – that when I say I am a social worker – I don’t feel like I will get the respect I deserve. It is such a generic title. I am a LCSW that does psychotherapy. Anyone else feel similar?

  61. That’s interesting about the Psychotherapist thing because I had never heard that before so then I went to look it up. I do understand what you are saying about people feeling like they would get less respect by saying they are a Social Worker, but Social Workers can be Psychotherapist. Here is the link that I found this information: The bottom line is the big problem is people calling themselves Social Workers when they do not have a degree in the field. We need to have a law or something to not allow someone to call themselves a Social Worker without the proper credentials. This problem makes it difficult for other people to understand what we do, being respectful of our profession, and the low pay that we receive. I can go on and on because it so many different reasons. Social Workers continue to help our clients/patients/customers/consumer help themselves. Also, we need to do the same for the profession. Social Work is a wonderful profession, but we need to show other people that we know this ourselves by advocating for our profession.

  62. There IS CURRENTLY a LAW in the state of Ohio, that DOES allow individuals working for the Cuyahoga County Dept. Of Family and Children’s Services to call themselves “social workers” (although they are actually Social Services Workers—as their business cards reflects) in the line of their daily work as a county employee. I was floored several years ago when I saw an article in the newspaper about an individual working for Cuyahoga County in the above department and the writer of the article called her a “social worker”—-I corresponded via email for a period of time with the Plain Dealer reporter and gave me facts and specific Ohio laws that were struck between politicians and the county to arrive at this agreement…..where was the licensing board through all of this? End result…..the profession became murky and lost integrity…..and yes! the salaries of the county employees could be dummied down with the lack of credentialing and required education in order to be a licensed social worker. I have spoken with several professors at CWRU—about this concern……as have others—–think abouot it—-going to Case for a masters at the tune of almost $30,000 per year—a 2 years program and coming out and making about $30,000 per year—-shy a Social Services Worker at county in Cuyahoga can make much more than that with over time and all—and never have to go for that degree of licensure………now!………THAT is nuts!!!…….and YES!…….”licensed” social work is a wonderful and rewarding field………but the reality is……….our field needs to wake up and advocate for the professionalism of out field.

  63. In response to who can call themselves a PSYCHOTHERAPIST—that is a generic term that no one discipline has a strong hold on—-licensed counselors, social workers and psychologists and psychoanalytically trained psychiatrists can refer to themselves as a psychotherapist. In terms of a psychologist………..only a Ph.D psychologist can call themselves a “psychologist”—-someone with a masters degree in psychology has to refer to their title as a “psychological assistant.”

  64. Florida recently passed a law after ten years of trying that makes the term “Social Worker” a protected Title just like “psychologist”. You must have an MSW or a BSW and/or be licensed. Remember only an MSW or a BSW (And sometimes the PhD in Social Work) are really social workers. Don’t be afraid to ask someone who calls themselves a social worker, “Where did you complete your social work program?”. If they have not completed a social work program, don’t be afraid to follow-up with, “Oh, you are a social service worker, not a social worker. Only BSW’s and MSW are social workers!.” (Not the mention the PhD in Social Work)
    PS.. No extra points for stating this in a snobbish manner. It is simply a statement of FACT!

  65. Right on, Harvey!! It is not being a snob to ask someone if they are a (licensed) social worker—vs. a social services worker—or has a masters in social work or counseling and are not yet licensed—-those are BBBBB—-IIIIIIIIII——GGGGGG differences!!

  66. I don’t like these threads… I am like some of the comments and contributions, such as enhancing your degree with other skills from the business world or obtaining a certificate in nonprofit management, advocating for having a protected title, etc…

    I feel threads like this set us up against each other. In some of the posts, even though this is my first time posting, I felt attacked. I feel like it is okay to voice your thoughts and opinions, but don’t do so in a way that demeans or belittles others.

    I love social work. Yes, I think we are underpaid, but rather than gripe and complain about advocate for fair treatment in the field. Do not attack one another.

  67. We live in a capitalist society. While the thinking is flawed (saving money is making money), people who “generate” revenue are paid more than people who do not. College coaches will probably always make 200% more than well-respected scholars because colleges want the money generated by winning football teams. Very unfair considering that the former has 6-8 years less formal education than the latter.

    Naming every industry that requires less years of education than ours and insisting that, because they just have an associates or BA degree and we have Masters Degrees, is not only an ineffective strategy to improve our situation, it is also ill informed.

    The course work to get a BA in engineering is incredibly difficult and requires hours of intense studying. I had a tutor in college who was an engineering student….he easily studied 3 to 4 times the amount that I did. While he spent less years in higher education than me (he stopped after a BA), his intellectual achievements and ability, in many respects, are far superior to mine.

    Invalidating other’s worth stems from a scarcity mentality and the need to make others less than to feel better. We can acknowledge that others deserve a high standard of living while also fighting for better standards for ourselves.

    I am not advocating for engineers or other industries (I love being a social worker!), I am just trying to add a rational, alternative perspective to a predominately emotional and anecdotal discussion.

    Lastly, it is amazing how some posters are trying to explain away my abundance and beliefs. I am not rich, upper class, a straight white man or even a man. I also have no reason to lie about my salary or that of other social workers…what would that accomplish? **I have trained myself to save my money (even when it was only $1 a week), spend wisely, and ALWAYS work smarter and not harder.**

  68. In general, I agree that social work is a low pay, high stress profession. Conversely, I feel that many people that go into the field are motivated by the intrinsic rewards of helping others.
    For social workers who are mental health providers, NASW has done a great job in lobbying and helping licensed providers in achieving greater parity.
    Thank you to all those in NASW who do an outstanding job in advocacy, lobbying and pushing thru legislation that not only supports social workers, but also supports the clients that we serve!

    E. A. Wahrburg, MSW, LCSW (NC, NY)

  69. To be a Registered Nurse only takes an Associate Degree and two years and they start making $62,000. They are encourage to pass their license exam. In their school they are tested over and over to make sure that they pass it. In Social Work at least the school where I attended states that they were not responsible to prepare the student for the test. I have failed the test numerous times. In graduate school we did more essay papers that did practice test like the one required to do the license test. Yet still I have to pay my student loan, pay my rent , auto insurance. I always wanted to be a Social Worker but if I was younger or just came out of high school I would of preferred to be an Registered Nurse. I wish the School of Social Work in the entire nation. I hope they get the number of students interested in Social Work. in the future. Because first of all you better have a job before going to Social Work School because when you graduate if you haven’t pass the license exam you will not get a Social Work job. The license test, the low salary, the internship, the thesis, the papers that are required the Association of Social Work should advocate for Social Workers. Instead they are just there to make money. The cost for the license test is going up from $175.00 to $260.00. Message to future Social Work students: CONSIDER IF YOU REALLY WANT TO BE A SOCIAL WORKER.

  70. I completely agree with JDRY. I have been a medical social worker for 24 years. The person who hired me 20 years ago was a social worker and also had an MBA degree. She told me 20 years ago that she was only in her position of authority because of her MBA, certainly not her MSW. She moved out of town to another hospital and her MSW degree did nothing to assist her in obtaining a similar position of authority. Her MBA degree again is what allowed her to obtain a second job, rather late in her career. I became disgusted after several years of working 4 jobs to make a decent living and decided to obtain my MBA degree. Best decision of my life!!
    Employers have responded to me by raising their eyebrows and arranging interviews for me because of my MBA degree, NOT my MSW degree. Their response to the MSW is “oh, that’s nice” but employers are looking for the skills that an MBA program affords for any supervisor level positions.
    I have enjoyed the work that I have done however if I were to do it all over again, I would certainly invest my money in an MBA or MHA program instead of an MSW.
    When I graduated with my MSW degree, I professed that I was done with school and would never enter another educational program again. I thought it would be “enough”. Over the years, I found that all that I had hoped this MSW would do for me, was not happening. It took some time for me to accept the fact that I needed something more in order to advance my career.
    It is difficult to compare one profession against another, however I can confirm that even in a social work administrative position in a healthcare setting, I have three times the education of nurse directors and not only earn significantly less than they do but I have subordinate nursing staff with less education who report to me and earn more than I do as their director, all because my position is still classified as a social work administrator.
    It is the image of the profession that causes this disparity in pay to occur. I have the business skills, the degrees and a million credentials at the state and national level behind my name but in order to be paid commensurate with my education and experience, I have had to abandon any position even remotely associated with social work.
    People will continue to leave the profession or think twice about entering it with limited advancement, and pay that does not value the skills utilized by someone with a MSW degree.

  71. I’m finding this thread very enlightening and validating…and somewhat, sad. It’s sad to conclude that the profession really has not been able to develop throughout the years to address societal needs, both financially and socially, as well as others. M.B.A.’s input really says it all and puts the state of the profession in modern perspective. Again, the real challenge ahead will be to redesign the whole social work mission to better fit the needs of the cultural and market demands. Would be interested to hear the opinions of NASW, Schools of Social Work administrators, staff, etc. and other governing bodies, about the feelings and concerns that have been addressed here and a realistic (capitalist-focused) analysis of future plans for the profession.

  72. If you have your Masters, work for the VA. they pay their social workers awesome, have great benefits and on an on. I started at 33K in 1999 and now make 88K as a Supervisory Social Worker in a small town in Texas. Make the Change!

  73. Let me add further to my comment. The Department of Veterans Affairs also offers it’s Social Workers CEU’s, LCSW Supervision, Annual Leave, Sick Leave etc. You can work various jobs from working with combat Veterans to counseling to outreach to homeless Veterans. They offer many rewarding careers and the ability to travel around the country. I wouldnt change a thing!

  74. This has been such an enlightening thread! I have been a social worker for 26 years, and work for the US Army, in substance abuse counseling. I started out life as a Medical Technologist, the folks who do your lab tests, and their work can have immediate life/death consequences (like cross-matching blood). We were paid less than social workers back then! So I made the decision to go back to graduate school. I work for the Army; what I’d originally planned to do with the MSW was changed because of my experiences will the military, and I can truly say, despite some crazy decisions that have been made by the “Powers that Be,” I love my work, I love my patients, and I’m grateful for being a social worker. Federal Service pays well, as LCSW says above. The benefits are great: I spent over 20 years living in Italy and Germany! Annual leave, sick leave, training. And yes, social workers don’t get the respect we think we deserve, but if that’s why someone went into the field, they need to rethink their reasons. But what I’m seeing in these letters is that we need to advocate for ourselves! We need to learn how to present ourselves as professionals. The army is having great difficulty getting qualified licensed, substance abuse credentialed providers. And even social workers for mental health treatment. Consider checking out, type in 185 for the job series, and either social worker or supervisory social worker for the job title. So if you don’t think you are paid enough, then get involved with NASW at the local, state or national level, or change jobs in social work. The federal government is hiring.

  75. I have been a Medical Social Worker for 6 years and I enjoy every minute of it. I went into this field because of the gifts God has given me such as encourager, motivator, advocate, and empowerer. I couldn’t find any better field to use my gifts than Social Work, but at the time I expect to be compensate for what I do. I agree with Donna who mentioned that people have different standards when it comes to what you consider making enough money. For instance, a Social Worker whose husband is a physician does not have an issue with how much $ she makes because her husband can very well support her financially. I also think overall were not paid enough for all that we do. We must advocate for ourselves and stop picking on each other. People have the right to voice their opinion and still be respected for their beliefs. Let’s be mindful of others and be more professional. I also think we need to be more involve in professional associations such as NASW and local chapters that involve in changing policies, regulations affecting our profession. I strongly suggest we empower one another and become more supportive of our colleagues and co-workers and also of our profession. We have many good qualities to share with other professions. Let’s count our blessings. We are in a good profession. I also agree that we need to add some business courses to the SW programs which will enhance our profession.

  76. Great points. I am trying to get into Federal Government. I just have one comment about respect. I am first and foremost a human being so if anyone disrespects me I will put them in their place. I don’t care what profession you are working because nobody has the right to disrespect me. I don’t care how much you make and how many degrees you have. You do not have to put up with anyone disrespecting you whether you are a Social Worker or any other profession.

  77. What was I thinking?
    I am seriously in a social work job where I work 10 + hrs. a day and take paperwork home just to try to make sure “the “state” doesn’t come down on the facility. Management seems to have no clue how hard we work. I can’t believe I thought getting my master’s degree was going to give me the quality of life I so want, for myself and others.
    I tell ya, I heard a joke once that a doctor retired to sell t-shirts on the beach in Cancun. That is sounding pretty good right now.

    I wish you all well.

  78. Linda Lipscomb-
    Trying working in a child welfare agency with an MSW and LSW-starting out at $20,000 a year and after 6 years working there making about $25,000 (with on-call/overtime money). You wanna talk about burn out and secondary traumatic stress!!?!!? That’s on top of the fact that along with the fact that we are doing social work, we have to carry the hat of soooo many areas of the field. I agree with many who say, we got into this field knowing that we wouldn’t get rich, but it’s not right when you are working 2-3 jobs just to support your family after you got your graduate degree…or making only above what the poverty line is (thus not allowing you to qualify for assistance in the state of PA) which is a whole other cluser f*$# of system besides child wefare!! People need to take more effort in advocating! 🙂

  79. Good afternoon,

    I am not sure if anyone is still reading this thread, but I have been thinking a lot about the administration and the MBA comments.

    Currently, my state is going through a major budget crisis and my organization is about to have a second round of layoffs. We are doing much worse than many other local behavioral health departments because of the poor decisions made by my boss….an incredibly hard working social worker and great therapist (years of institute training).

    A skilled LCSW was selected to run a business; she has ZERO business training and has run the center headfirst into the ground.

    ***Question: would we let an MBA, with no social work training, be a therapist?*** NO! Why then, do we allow social workers with no business training to run agencies? Shouldn’t administrators be trained in effective business models/strategies?

    There is a major need for social workers with business sense to step up and fill this growing need.

    Oh, and happy 2010,

  80. While I’m glad to see that so many people are adamant about how much they love what they do for other people, I can’t help but feel discouraged at the thought that people don’t feel we should be compensated appropriately. Helping others and loving to help others gives a great sense of satisfaction, but it doesn’t pay my bills. How long will it be before I’m going to be the one that needs help?

    Not to mention, I’m appalled at some of the people that are allowed to obtain MSW’s sometimes. It’s like we’re doing it to ourselves. I hear a lot of talk about advocating for ourselves, but who’s actually doing something about it? Let me know, because I want in. I’m tired of being overworked and underpaid.

  81. This is for the previous post. What you can start by doing is read and send this letter to your Senator or Representative. Here is the name of the letter: Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act (H.R. 795/ S.686, This is a start to advocate for the profession.

  82. To social workers, Stephanie (from December, 2009), I’m seeking the truer picture on salaries. The $20,000-$25,000 for MSW, starting you quote is a far cry $38,000 to $50,000 cited in the NASW 2010 Compensation and Benefits survey–and from the 2009 National Labor statistics…and from, which says a BSW averages $43,000 yearly. In Indiana, so far, I’m hearing low salaries as actually $28,500 for a BSW; and $26,000 in Kentucky. Anybody else know what the lowest salaries for social workers are in other states? I think if we are going to advocate for improvement we have to know how bad the “damage” really is. If the salaries are as good as some of the studies/surveys are stating–and I don’t think they are for most–then who benefits from saying we make more $$. And, if we do actually make more money, then why are we complaining? Just think it helpful to talk about it to get the real story.

  83. I am currently unemployed. I have an MSW. I am proud that I have a master’s degree from a well-known university. However, the pay is so poor, I will never go back to the field. We are SORELY underpaid in this country. I worked my butt off for this? *ugh*

  84. “What I’ve learned from being a social worker is that as your skills, wisdom and knowledge base become strengthened and expanded, you know that salary and professional validation will remain relatively flat, as you watch other professions, many requiring no more than a high school degree and little else, either skyrocketing past you or, at least, catching up. And, despite having to work 2-3 jobs evening and weekend jobs to supplement f/t salary…just to have lower middle class lifestyle, you become grateful you have some skills to work at a nursing home before you have to go into one because you know you most likely won’t be able to retire until your health fails. You also realize that you’ve been able to work so well with the poor because you’re often just a heartbeat away from being in the same boat. So, until the social work profession can advocate for better working conditions and salaries, the new grads better make sure they either “married well” or have a good inheritance or retirement account or made plans for a different career for the twilight years…just in case things do not change anytime soon.”
    yes yes yes. I have been thinking this same thing. We are the most underrated and underpaid profession yet more and more I get subpoenas to make life altering recommendations to the court and for what, so that I can be sued for malpractice by angry clients who thought they had confidentiality? Basically I too regret ever spending all the time money and love I have on this profession although it never ceases to amaze me how much the clients themselves appreciate me. But can’t live on love need food and shelter and yes, retirement money.

  85. Okay, I have a question to you social workers. What can you do with social work besides case management/coordinated care or therapy? Thanks for any advice.

  86. I am in my 50’s (and yes I am computer savvy) and here i find myself in a scary situation. This is my third time that I am training for a career. I worked in school administration and in construction project management. In both cases, I had to call upon my business skills to make things work. I have written grants and successfully raised significant funds for one of the schools in which I worked.

    With this said, although this is my resume, I have chosen social work for a very specific reason. I wish to aid oncology patients, empower them and help see them through what is a very turbulent path of treatments and procedures. I want to be able to give them hope and the resources that they need to maintain that optimism.

    What I am trying to say is that I want to help others. I am not a 25-30 year old who has the option to complete the LMSW process and then pursue an MBA so that I can polish up my business skills in order to market my self as an hi-profile, business savvy social worker who run the organization while helping patients (or clients) as a side dish. how many hours are there in a day? How many days in the week? One person should not be expected to do two jobs in order to make a salary that can pay the mortgage.

    I am in my second year of graduate school pursuing an MSW. I have a year and a half to go. After that I will have to work for 3000 hours in order to qualify to take my licensing exam. Once I am an LMSW, I will two more years and many hours in the field to attain certification as an osw-c, certified oncology social worker. After that, if I choose to focus in more to palliative care and pain management to better serve my patients, I will have to put in at least another year or two in training, including special programs, seminars and other continuing education.

    The bottom line is, by the time I actually finish my training, I will have put in almost as many years (if not the same) as an oncology physician and probably sleep less hours than he/she does. And, for all that, I get to anticipate probably 1/3 of the salary that the doctor will make for treating the same patient (if I’m lucky).

    I find this so discouraging because I am presently doing 21 hours of field work for which there is no monetary compensation, am not eligible for unemployment benefits, and am accumulating loans that I will never be able to pay off because of the low salary base that I will be subjected to when I am actually fully licensed and accredited.

    Retirement is out of the question, because there will not be a penny to save. My Social Security checks will not be enough to sustain me. So I guess that at that time I will need my own social worker to redeem me from poverty and social injustice.

  87. Hi all

    I work in foster care for almost two years now. Imagine going to court, doing an enormous amount of paperwork, the home visits (usually in horrible areas), the long hours, the stress,dealing with the schools, the foster parents, the parents, the children themselves and times that by the 22 kids on my case load. All for 42,000 a year and a student loan of 65,000. Hmmmm then they wonder why people burn out so quickly….things need to change, case loads need to get smaller, the pay should be a little higher etc etc. In NYS the law states that a case loaxd should be no higher then 12-14 kids. HAHAHAHA thats funny on what planet do these people that make these laws live on. Ideally, its nice but there are to many kids in the system and not enough workers…

  88. I have been a social worker for 20 years and I would not change it for any thing I have had old clients that I saw when they where children find me and thank me for helping them to change there life that is better then money any time but money is good to have lol

  89. I do not have the pay problem that most social workers have. I am fortunate enough to have a very good paying social work job. Although I realize how fortunate I am to have it, I hate this field so much that I am willing to take a pay cut to get out of it. I admit that I am burned out and it happened in only 6 years. I have a great respect for the social workers who are good at what they do and help many people. This profession was definitely a mistake for me. I used to be a caring person who just wanted to help people. I never thought I could “save the world” but it was enough to help the ones I could. Now, after 6 years, I am cynical, hardened, on antidepressants, and anxiety medication. I have worked with too many people who want a hand out and not a hand up. Too many people who do not want to help themselves. Too many people who make excuses for their behavior and blame others. Too many people who lie to me and try to manipulate me when I am only trying to help them with very very very limited resources. My hat is off to all of you and I’m sorry if I come across as downing the profession. I applaud the work that you do and I admire your dedication in the midst of all of the obstacles that you face. I will continue to defend the profession and the wonderful people who choose to stay. However, I made a mistake going into this field and am becoming an entirely different person that I don’t want to be because of it. I must go before I need a social worker myself.

  90. I am currently in my freshmen year of college and I am wanting to major in social work. I am wanting to work mainly with children so I am considering becoming a CPS caseworker. Everyone’s thoughts on social work are very discouraging. Helping children is my passion and knowing that I could maybe save just one child’s life seems to me like it would make it worth it. Then again I am still somewhat of a child myself. Reading everyone’s thoughts on social work makes me want to reconsider my major. Is the profession really that bad? Any advise anyone would like to offer would be very helpful.

  91. This thread has been eye-opening, disheartening, and so valuable to me. Thank you all for your comments, especially those who made suggestions about how to make social work a more lucrative career.

    After reading all of these comments, I’m not sure this is the kind of life I’m looking for. It seems that unless you find a niche (CPS supervision, VA, doing assessments, interventions, etc.) or have some business credentials, you’re consigned to a life of poverty and feeling under valued.

    I am in the process of applying to two MSW programs, but now I have to re-think that decision. I don’t want to spend the time and money on something that won’t allow me to have a decent living, regardless of how much I will love the work. I’m in my early 40s with a master’s degree in a foreign language, so I know I can do the work in an MSW program, but I don’t have years to spend in the field slowly working my way up just to make pennies and have nothing saved for retirement.

    I want to help people in the ways a social worker can, but I can’t completely sacrifice myself in the process. It’s a very unfortunate situation; those who have the desire to do this kind of work are forced to either find that narrow avenue within social work that will bring in a decent salary or get an MBA to augment their MSW. Ugh.

    Thanks again for your candid and honest comments.

  92. Thank you to all that have contributed to this thread. While at the moment I am only more confounded as to what path my career will take, I will probably credit this thread for making me aware of realities that lie before me. Step one; get accepted into any masters program that will take my paltry undergrad gpa!

  93. I was a social worker for 16 years. When I started I was young and thought I could change the world. I always loved the families I worked with but the managers who almost always never had appropriate training. Were flat out ignorant. To make matters worse they were grandfathered into social work. Meaning they were given a license by the Board because they worked so many years in the profession but how could they supervise a person who had to take the test and past the test board and degrees were in social work and counseling? Many times supervisors never had any experience providng services to clients. They always tried to control what you were suppose to think. Minority social workers had it worse because they fought battles for their clients related to discrimination and internal battles within the agencies they worked for. I know I am a good social worker because I kept my cell phone on 24 hours a day to ensure I was available for emergencies and would do what was necessary to stablize crisis situations. Whereas my co-workers sat around and complained all the time and nothing would ever happen to them. It was the people who worked their asses off that got burned. So all the supervisors in social work in Toledo can kiss my
    ashy knee caps…………………….

  94. There may be some private offices that are paying 26,000 a year for a BSW in Kentucky, but just looking at the state job sight for entry level social service workers classification 1 the starting is 32,042.40 yearly at 37.5 hour work week, that doesnt include the on-call, this classification can get up to 42,656. Depending on what college you go to in kentucky can vary tremendously on costs and debt. but as general rule anything starting above 30k in most communities in kentucky isn’t too bad not enough to rais a family and I hear plenty stories about people struggling in cities where the work loads heavier and the cost of living much much higher. Housing alone can vary tremendously 40 minutes from my home you can rent a house for aboout 300 or so a month. Drive to Lexington a smaller house will rent for 8-900 a month, i dont want to even think about louisville’s prices, so in my home state an entry level social work job in a small community isnt bad at all. That starting salary is state standard does not vary from county to county.

  95. Social Work, historically, has been a high stress profession. Helping those who are in need and trying to locate resources and funding sources for them has never been easy. I worked in healthcare for 20 years and thoroughly enjoyed it. I made pretty good money. It was a job that I really enjoyed. My concern is the cutback in Social Work services in the local hospitals and the state freeze on hiring which has caused a deficit in Social Workers. One hospital cut 9 social workers in one day in 2009. My position was eliminated in 2010 and I have been unemployed for 8 months. Very few job openings have come up. Hospitals are using nurse casemanagers instead of social work discharge planners. This is unfair to the patients and the families. How do we as social workers stand up for our profession? I would simply like to go back to work.

  96. I went into private practice because I could no longer tolerate the grueling and unrealistic demands of working for an agency. Even the agencies that employ social workers do not respect their skills, the demands of the job or the need for self-care. Fortunately, social work was my second career and my first career gave me considerable business management experience…everything from marketing to accounting, strategic planning and networking skills…so I’m managing pretty well. When I need time for self-care, I just schedule accordingly and I don’t have some out-of-touch-with-reality supervisor breathing down my neck or holding me over a barrel with the threat of my annual performance evaluation. I love what I do and from my experience, doing it as a self-employed practitioner is the only healthy way to do it…even our professional helping systems are dysfunctional.

  97. Hello all,

    Im very very confused as to what to do far a choosing my career,I just recently had a child,and im still a child myself. I’m very drivin and hard working. any decision I make right now will surly effect my child.Yes I enjoy the social work feild but I must live. I want a promising career first thing first. people are my passion from learning how humans operate to how I can be a positive helping light in there life. I’ve grown up in proverty and watched all my family grow up in the system. I want to change what I i was thinking is there any other certificatins i can get towards this feild? is there any other profession I can have? that way I will study my second choice and get involed in some other way but have a degree that will garuntee some money,and my certification can be towards what I love. I’m only being honest. I dont want to end up like some of the people here 40-60 and…….PLEASE HELP EMAIL ME SUGGESTIONS ANYTHING BFOR I FINISH SCHOOL

  98. How can someone that spends time and money for a bachelors and masters degree end up making only $40.000 a year on average in the social work field? My mail carrier went to high school and makes a lot more and better benefits………..good for him……….bad for me……….

  99. Statements about acceptance of the condition of financial stress and at the same time attending to the “business of social work”, are all created in an economy within a culture of privilege. One of the hardest issues as a social worker is the continued political disparity in this country and the loss of the middle class. Social workers are at the bottom of the middle class and are sliding with most of their clients in into an every deepening abyss of loss of financial power. We originally conceived our profession as advocacy for the poor, then became part of the established education and governmental process of education and regulation. We are now unable to afford the education and are part of a governmental push to eliminate the programs that social workers helped to create, watching the despair increase around us. Eventually, we will become part of the sea in which we swim, and will become again grass roots organizers of the very poor and unpriviliged and now non existent middle class. Burn out for social workers is fueled by loss of the ability to remain in the middle class financially, the loss of affordable health care, the loss of ability to pay for our own education, loss of the hope of organizing with other workers, and the ever increasing push by local government and others to produce whatever results feed their agenda. When social workers are once again leaders, advocating against exploitative practices of international corporations and governments, then we’ll move from burn out to burning with passion.

  100. Unfortunately, things are not going to change until we unify as a profession and advocate as a profession. As a profession we need to stand up for ourselves and stop accepting these low pays, which are driving down out wages as a whole. Look at nurses for instance. They are able to collectively bargain for better wages and benefits thanks to being unionized. Many nurses I know credit their unions for their 3-4 day work weeks and six figure salaries (I live in California).

    One of the problems I have with this article is that the person in question is technically not a social worker, yet she calls herself one. Looking at other professions, non-nurses and doctors would probably be fined and jailed for referring to themselves as these jobs and acting accordingly. We need to fight for title protection for our fields so those without social work degrees cannot refer to themselves as social workers. Another thing driving down our wages are individuals without degrees working as “social workers”.

    If one wanted to make better money in this field, there are options. Working in the medical field pays pretty well, though I will admit that my job duties are similar to the RN case managers with the exception of the RNs knowing exponentially more about medical diagnoses. If you look at the history of social work, social work in the hospital setting originated when a a nurse was asked to evaluate psychosocial areas in a patient’s life that were making treatment difficult. Many times, I do feel that nurses are better able to relate to a patient because of their ability to discuss the intricacies of their medical diagnosis in addition to obtaining psychosocial information. I feel that medical social workers are responsible for not only social duties, but becoming competent in the complexities of medical diagnoses and terminology. Otherwise we run the risk of our profession being replaced by RN case managers and mental health nurses, and being relegated to discharge planning and other clerical type duties (which is already happening). Anyway, despite this, medical social work tends to pay better than social work in other settings. If you work per diem, you’ll also make $5-7 more per hour, and have more job flexibility. However, the work is inconsistent (with most per diems working at multiple hospitals for full hours) and you don’t get benefits.

    Another field that pays well is government. The highest jobs I have seen are those with the VA. In California, VA jobs start at $56K straight out of grad school. CPS workers also get paid pretty well, I know people who were hired at $70k/year straight out of the MSW program. Then again, everything is more expensive in California…

    Ultimately, things are not going to get better for us unless we start doing more. The NASW should really look at what the nursing unions have done the past few decades and perhaps follow their lead. However, if you’re looking to make more money now, there are certainly options. They may not be the ideal job for some, but ultimately it’s about balancing what you love to do with how much money you feel you need to live the type of life you want.

  101. I agree with advocating for the field. I believe that social workers should be paid equivalently to nurses. Nutritionists, nurses, MBA’s and others alike have not gained the same training as social workers, therefore they should not be able to be called “social workers”. They should not be allowed to be considered professional experts in the social work field either. Social workers should be allotted a decent wage comparable to all of the aforementioned fields, especially two year RN’s. NASW standards, government policies, and agency practices need to be altered to reflect a higher salary. Also, this salary should allow for public service forgiveness options and other perks that other fields receive. Social workers bust their buts to make things work for clients, families, and others alike. Without their dedication to their work, which is absolutely indisputable, other practitioners (nurses, lawyers, doctors, businessmen, teacher, etc.) would not be able to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. I was in an MSW program in Buffalo, then I went for an online graduate degree in education and now leaving for an MSW program a few hours from home. I am nervous about my debts and potential to pay them off when I leave school. We are all in this boat. In the past, I was asked what I would suggest in order to improve the social work profession. I answered by saying that all social workers should peacefully strike, become unionized if necessary, and demand higher salaries, more respect, and more autonomy. One person mentioned empowerment in this post. This is empowerment in my eyes. I do not see any social worker protesting this action because I am not saying that we should give up, but come together and demand change. With change we will achieve our goals, which will in turn will allow us to best serve our clients. What do you all think? Does anyone have any suggestions or input? If you all favor this idea please let me know. I will work towards this goal in graduate school now to get the ball rolling.

  102. I too decided after graduating HS that I wanted to help disenfranchised people to empower themselves and live their best lives. I majored in social work in college and obtained an MSW thirteen years ago. I can still recall leaving my very first interview after completing my graduate degree, I went straight to a public phone (way before the days of cell phones) called my sister and began sobbing hysterically about how I had wasted my time and money majoring in a field that was not willing to pay me what I owed in student loans. I was lucky enough to obtain a supervisory position as my first post graduate employment and as a result earned a little more money than your typical line worker however the salaries even for social worker managers are a flat out disgrace. Most line social worker positions require that an employee do the work of at least two people and administrative positions offer more stress and aggravation than they are worth and the salaries are still not up to par. All of my social work friends are currently exploring other career options. None of them are willing to continue to be overworked and grossly underpaid. They are worried about the impact the field in having on their health and many of them have goals and aspirations that can not be fulfilled with the to put it midly “modest” salaries. Our friends with BA have been out earning us for years and we refuse to continue to use of skills and talents in a field that is obviously not respected. I would discourage anyone from majoring in sw. There are many other ways to help people that don’t require one to be overworked and undercompensated.

  103. I have been in social work for almost 10 years and I want out, like two years ago. I am tired of making little to no money with high stress and zero appreciation. Long gone are the days of ” I want to change the world.” Now I just want to be able to sustain my own family, give to my own kids emotionally, spiritually and financially. I no longer wish to give to others so much that I have nothing left over. I also want to be able to pay these high student loans back, go on vacations once in awhle and otherwise enjoy my life before I die. It used to be enough to know I was helping someone else…not anymore..not anymore. I am over it. Yes, I am. I am over giving my all and basically being undervalued and marginalized by administration AND the people I am helping. The one or two people that I may help are no longer making up for the 20 people who are attempting to beat the system, manipulate, feel the world owes them and generally wants me to jump over 40 moons and like it while getting paid nothing to do. The whole “I didn’t get into this for the money” argument is null and void as well. No…I didn’t. I didn’t take a vow of poverty either.

    So, I am going back to school as soon as I can get there. I will continue to do therapy on the side to keep my clinical skills sharp and training to keep my license up to date..but that is it. It is time for me to move into an area where I can garner some respect and compensation to go along with the respect. I have 25 more years to work. Its time.

    Good Luck to all who choose to stay.

  104. There are many people with high-stress, low-paying jobs. Something tells me that this sense of entitlement stems from an intellectual elitism that many middle class, college graduates seem to have. THEY have a college degree so THEY deserve higher pay than the measly, uneducated, blue-collar masses. Pssh.

    How many professors told you in college that social work was a high-paid, low-stress profession? Why enter a low-paying profession that has a well-known reputation for being extremely stressful? This couldn’t be something that you figured out the second you grabbed your diploma.

    Sadly, social workers have flooded the market and we are now experiencing a surplus. A MSW is almost entry-level requirement because they have a ton of BSW lining-up for the jobs. Therefore, agencies can afford to be more choosy, thus raising the bar.

    Welcome to what the working class has been dealing with for a very long time. Overworked, underpaid, unappreciated and debt-riddled. Not too mention that they are also expendable due to the large amount of people willing to do their jobs (surplus issue).

    I feel for you all, I really do. But most of my sympathy will always gravitate towards the working poor. It’s really hard to feel sorry for college graduates.

  105. Mark-no one here is asking for sympathy. As college graduates and holders of advanced degrees we have invested a lot of time, hard work, and money in our education. It doesn’t just stop there because being professionals, especially a profession subject to licensure, we have to be dedicated to life long learning and 3000 post-MSW hours of training & supervision so that we can advanced to independent practice–which requires that we invest even more money! It’s not about entitlement, it is about equity in pay and respect in comparision to other professions that require the same amount of education! We are advocates for the working class, the poor, & the middle class, so I believe that counts for something and that we deserve more respect and better pay for our efforts. No one complains about doctors when they stand against health care reform because they believe it will put a “cap” on their earnings because the work that they do is held in higher regard and seen as worth any costs patients may have to occur–even if it means excluding some patients from recieving services!

    I am tired of being thought of as unreasonable or “entitled” because I want to earn a living wage, which means a salary that will allow me to pay of my student loans of $85,008.17 which steadily increase and grow due to interest & to be able to provide for my daughter and family.

    As a graduate student I was awarded a Hartford Partnership Practicum in Aging Education (HPPAE) Fellowship which required that I make a life long promise to being a leader in the field of aging. I took that promise seriously but I cannot fulfill it because our society does not care about the aging as much as it does other issues/groups. Our society’s priorities and values are misplaced–social work can advocate & educate society in order to bring about change BUT we can only do so much! I cannot afford to wait for change to happen and am taking steps to improve my situation without compromising my dedication to the profession of social work.

  106. A friend moved back to her home state of Washington and happily discovered this:

    Governor Christine Gregoire signed SB 5020 on Friday, April 15, 2011, which will protect the professional Social Workers. NASW WA Chapter and it s members have worked for many years to enact this legislation.

    The legislation will prevent someone without a degree in Social Work from working in a job titled social work. Only those with a degree in Social Work from an accredited School of Social Work will be able to fill those positions.


  107. I am one of many who are leaving the field. There are many reasons including: incompetent and downright abusive supervisors, more and more we are being sent into dangerouse environments, contract work (resulting in income loss when each contract ends), part-time jobs, lousy hours, salaries going down, educated and experienced workers forced to take entry-level jobs … Need I go on?

    I went into the field hoping to help people change their lives for the better and get to the root of their problems but it has turned into a bandaid profession, having a 20 minute talk with someone, referring, coordinating services, etc. Not surprisingly, the field fosters dependency and encourages bad behaviours and people remain clients for decades.

    Time to go back to school and get a REAL job.


  108. Interesting comments. I survived the treatment of inmates for 20 years and now I have a private practice, do consulting work and clinicalsupervision & training 2 days a week. Still going strong thanks to an intergrated self care approach that keeps my energy flowing and not holding as this promotes disease. My question to this group is what is your greatest frustration and if you had a majic wand what would be the solution that would solve your stated real problems.

    I found treatment was not valued in the correctional system so I learned to self-validate that it made my job all the more important to be there. A little light in a very dark place. My clients and later staff appreciated me and that was enough. As long as I looked for custody staff and the system to appreiciate me it was like looking for water in a dry well. I learned to take time off and enjoy my personal life or lose my sanity.

    Helping professionals are so great at caring for others but not themselves sounds like it could be a transference issue. touch jobs call for even tougher self care strategies. Remember to breath and stay in the moment. Your all inspiring me to stay focused, such an awesome group of professionals.
    take care. Rick, CT

  109. I really appreciate other social workers being honest about what they are feeling and experiencing. I often find we censure one another the most in this profession-that is most unfortunate.
    When I went into social work, I fully expected to not make as much money as other professionals. I grew up poor myself. I know how to live on less. I really felt called to the profession. I still do.
    I was not prepared however, for how much of a lightening rod/scapegoat I was going to be. I am amazed at how badly we are viewed and treated. I guess I was idealistic and naive.
    Part of what initially drew me to this profession was my introspective nature I think. I hardly ever got into trouble as a kid. I did not necessarily learn how to advocate for myself as a result-and developing these skills has been a struggle. I have learned, healed and developed a lot personally and professionally as a result of being a social worker-for this I am grateful.
    However, it can make it hard to accept the low pay when you now have the responsibility of supporting a family and you have to deal with these kind of working conditions. I often wonder if I could make more of a difference in the world by not being a social worker. This is not due to a lack of confidence in my skill set or ability to help others. I really do love my patients(I work in a for-profit health care setting at present) and I know they appreciate me and what I do for them.( I know I am the last stop for them and that they are being really exploited by the business I work for). It’s because of the constraints placed on my role and how it is perceived, exploited, manipulated, controlled,oppressed and undervalued.
    I often wonder if we are really helping people-if we are truly empowering them. I think we are actually doing a lot of enabling much more than we want to face or admit. I am also amazed at how much this enabling has come to be expected from others(I think this is really bad in my present job) and I don’t think this is a good thing. Growing up(truly) poor myself and understanding how hard it is to come out of poverty while valuing my struggle and achievements; this has become personal for me-not just professional.
    I hear a lot of people talking about how we need to develop a better business sense, better business skills, etc. I am the first to admit I don’t have much of a business sense(but there should be a place for people like me in the world too!) I have a concern I need to bring up to the profession, however. I am seeing my profession and our ethics completely run over by the for profit business (dialysis) I work for at present. Maybe we are trying to have “good business sense.” Honestly, I think we are letting ourselves be intimidated and run over by this business model, and we are not utilizing the power we do have. As good as we are at advocating for others, I wonder if we are unable to advocate for ourselves. What is happening is a total conflict of interest and we are not standing up to it. I am very disturbed by this(it is unethical and I don’t see how we can rationalize this!) and wonder how much of this is our fault and why are we letting this happen.
    I so often feel my role is seen as being expected to maintain the dysfunction and do what everybody else does not want to do, and I am simply not able and willing to do this anymore because of my own journey toward health and well-being(which yes I can have and am worthy of having like anybody else). I can’t sacrifice my mental and physical health (much more valuable to me than money) anymore-and there are ways to achieve this balance successfully I am learning. I am amazed at how hard this journey has been(and that I have ultimately survived and even thrived), but I am still grateful for it.

  110. I am currently going for my MSW. For now, I work as a counselor for an intensive home-based program. I make $24,500 (quite stressful). When I look for jobs that require a Master’s level degree the salaries tend to be in the low $30,000 range. Why is it that people are earning ASSOCIATES degrees in nursing from community colleges with NO experience in the field and are making $40,000 to START??? To add, they only have to take ONE test to become a registered nurse!!! These are people who work directly with the health and lives of people!!! Why do social workers going for their master’s level need 4,000 hour post-degree of supervised work plus pass an exam to become “licensed”??? Not only do they want to pay us low wages, but then they have to further extend the time we will be able to actually make a decent living be being “fully licensed”. Can someone please explain this to me???

  111. Holly,

    I can only theorize as to why nurses make more than social workers. While I don’t necessarily agree with everything on this list, here’s what I’ve brainstormed:

    -Liability: Perhaps nurses are paid more because they directly impact the lives of patients. Injecting the wrong medication dosage, not using proper sanitation methods, and other such mistakes can severely hurt of kill a patient. Furthermore, nurses face many occupational hazards such as direct exposure to diseases, bodily fluids, needlesticks, etc. I did not go to nursing school because I did not want to handle wounds, clean bodily waste and commodes, and whatnot. I’m willing to pay the nurses to let them deal with that.

    -Curriculum: My social worker friends me that they cannot handle nursing curriculum because it is too difficult and rigorous. I do not know if this is true, but I can attest that curriculum-wise, my MSW program was significantly easier than any science class I took as an undergrad (though my brain is probably just not wired for science). At work, I am frequently impressed by the breadth of knowledge the nurses have, even the ones with an AA degree. These nurses are individuals that make recommendations to doctors as to how to treat the patient. Even with an MSW, I find myself feeling like an idiot at work due to my utter lack of medical knowledge compared to nurses. Furthermore, I feel as if I apply very little of my grad school curriculum at work.
    Where I work, RN case managers lead the discharge planning process. This seems to make sense to me because RNs are capable of obtaining psychosocial information while also being knowledgeable about the medical aspects of the patient. It’s much more efficient, as social workers like myself often have to defer to RN case managers when getting insurance authorizations, explaining why a patient needs a certain treatment, reading lab/PT/OT/x-ray results, and even determining if a patient is discharging. When coordinating care between the various allied health fields, I’d trust the nurse to do it over myself because I simply don’t have the medical knowledge a nurse does. I feel I work best when brought in as a consultant to handle the psychosocial aspect of care affecting discharge.

    -Unions: Nurses have a very powerful union and are able to bargain for their wages. I know of hospitals with nurses that threaten to strike every year unless their demands are met. If social workers were to do the same, I’m sure the wages would go up.

    -Economics: Nursing schools are severely impacted. At some schools in my area, there is a 5 year wait list to get in. By keeping nursing schools capped, this keeps the number of nurses entering the workforce low. With such a high demand for nurses, these hospitals with snatch up these new nursing grads and pay pretty generous salaries too.
    Unfortunately the field is saturated with social science type majors who can get hired to perform “counseling” type work. Until social workers can ensure national title protection, we’ll have high school/college grads doing our work for cheap and driving down our wages. Nursing does not have this problem.
    It seems like the high paying jobs these days are in health and hard sciences: engineering, computer programming, technology, medicine, etc. If you look at salary figures, those who studied the health/hard sciences tend to make more than humanities/social sciences. That’s because those in the former tend to work in profit-driven companies. Most social workers on the other hand end up in the non-profit sector.

    I’m not trying to say that nursing is better than social work. However, I don’t think we should be talking about an AA in nursing like it’s cake. Many RNs I know with AA degrees are as knowledgeable than BSNs. Also, nurses should be our allies, not our rivals. At my job, the bedside nurse spends significantly more time with the patient than the social worker, and is hence an excellent resource when it comes to psychosocial issues.

    Instead of comparing ourselves to other professions, we should look without our own field and see how we can improve. If we must compare ourselves to nursing, remember than decades ago, nurses were as overworked underpaid as social workers. By unionizing, advocating, and empowering themselves, they have grown to be a powerful profession in the medical field. Nurses have worked their way up since the days of Florence Nightingale. Social worker have the capacity to do the same.

    Hope this explanation helps!

  112. I decided it was time to leave social work. I am overwhelmed, not earning much money, and it seems like the economy has changed so that in order to even find a new job I have to magically become bilingual. I just do not enjoy doing this anymore, and I do not have it in me to put myself out to learn another language. Some of these job postings look downright dangerous to be in, as well. More and more home visit types of jobs. Is this a new trend or increasing? I have had the gamut of experiences from therapist to case manager, to settings ranging from non-profit agency to hospital to out patient services to senior care centers. The passion is gone and has been replaced by piles of documentation. The good news is that I am re-entering a former career that is now in high demand. This new career just requires several units of college credits to update my skills at the community college level, and that pay will most likely be better and the stress much less. It seems ridiculous to have put in all these years of education, along with clinical supervision, just to be in a low paying and stressful job. I have to care about what my retirement years are going to look like at this point,, and that means earning a good salary and having lower stress to maintain my good health.

  113. I have read several of the comments posted here, and am impressed by the passion expressed throughout. I think that it is this passion which makes social workers an integral party of societal change. However, we tend to neglect ourselves and our profession. Many stay in denial when experiencing compassion fatigue (also known as secondary trauma or burnout) because – in many agencies or among certain professionals – it is seen as weakness. And we are the helpers – we must stay strong for our clients. The fix? More self-care. It’s not about making more money… it’s about acknowledging what we need to fill the glass so that we aren’t running on empty all the time. Besides, there are job opportunities as a social worker where you can make a pretty penny. As far as neglecting our profession… There are a lot of social work professionals who do not want to do research for whatever reason. However, social work is a business and in order to get funding you have to be able to provide results. Someone in this string of comments mentioned the need to protect our title – and that not everyone should be able to call themselves a social worker. I agree with that. A bachelor level SW cannot do the same duties as a Master’s level SW who cannot do the same duties as a Licensed SW. I commend everyone for their strong opinions posted here, and encourage you all to put those thoughts into action. If you want to see change, then get off the couch and start a revolution 🙂

  114. I am a social worker in a local mental health clinic where all I do is see clients, and then have a laundry list of paperwork to do for “billing”. I spend more time doing paperwork thanks to NYS and the OMH 599 regs than I get to see my clients and provide the necessary care that they require. One of “newest ” tasks is to do concurrent documentation. Now, when I was in graduate school I was encouraged not to write my notes while I was seeiing a client becuase it might make them uneasy and I might miss some very important non verbal cues. Well, in NYS that is the expecation. shame on them…. I understand we all need to make money, at least to meet payroll and make the clinic run, but, at whose expense …. I went into social work to help people. I did expect that yes paperwork was a necessary evil, but this goes beynond that.
    Many of my colleuges feel they need to look at other professions or jobs using their MSW so they won’t feel so drained.I spend almost 7 days a week at work, I do have a family whom I would like to see once and awhile, I want to provide good quality care and meet my obligations to my clients. But with a case load of 175 I find this very difficult.
    Soical workers are overworked, underpaid and most of them LOVE thier jobs, becuase they help make a difference to others, including me but, something needs to be done to protect the standard of care and make it more manageable to do the work that we are passionate about.
    The other problem is unlicensed para professionals doing the work of trained social workers, why did I get a Masters, take out student loans and end up go through ASWB tests if BA in who knows what can do my job. We need to have national standards about who can practice our craft to ensure good care for the public and to hold our profession to a high standard.
    I hope all social workers take time to look at how they are practing and try to make time for themselves, get ongoing education and continue to do the wonderful service they provide.

  115. I do love the manner in which you have framed this issue and it really does present me personally a lot of fodder for thought. On the other hand, because of what I have seen, I really hope when the opinions pile on that folks keep on issue and not embark upon a tirade associated with some other news du jour. Yet, thank you for this outstanding point and while I can not really agree with the idea in totality, I respect your standpoint.

  116. The social work career is the last in payment and one the first on stress. Ido not know what the Social Work Association does but seems like is colluded with the unjustice, because this institution does not stand up in defense of the profession.
    In NY for example the initial package for the intake consist of more than 50 pages. This is totaly insane!. If talk about salary, we get less money than an apprentice worker!.

  117. Well, just getting ready to graduate. I’ve had job interviews and offers. I’m so disillusioned. I LOVE this work so much. I’ve never been happier in my whole like than being a therapist. However, as I search for jobs I have found I really was not ready for the super low pay for a new MSW. I have a family, a mortgage and am middle aged and am finding I can’t afford to be a social worker. Everyone says to me “oh we all have to do our time” and “After you get your independent license you can earn more” and “we don’t go into this for the money.” Well I knew that, but in my research before hand I read from NASW that it would be in the $40,000’s with an MSW after grad school. I wish I could find that. It the low, low $30,000’s. And some employers don’t have the student loan forgiveness even though they are in the designated area. I came to Social Work because I was burned out on my corporate job – tired of working 60 – 80 hrs per week doing meaningless, souless work that does not fit my personal values, I knew I was trading in high salary for a more meaningful life. But I did not plan to take out loans in order to work at a job I enjoy with meaning on top of my student loans. So, unfortunately, I feel I will have to turn my back on my dream. Not sure how I can make it work financially. Well, I loved what I studied. Now back to the corporation…..

  118. I think the letter writing needs to be to the NASW. They are super at advocating – I am just not sure what plan they have for advocating for better pay and working conditions for our profession. I received my MSW in 1992 and sat for the exam in my state – making me and LMSW. My highest pay after six years primarily in the healthcare field was $34,000. I left to become a stay at home Mom….and moved to Florida. My kids are older now and I am divorced and attempting to head back into the field. There is not a “LMSW” licensure level in Florida prompting many hiring managers to ask, “You don’t have your license?!” Apparently in Florida…you go straight for Your LCSW (Clinical License). In order to start the two years of supervision towards my LCSW in Florida…I had to take Psychopathology at the graduate level from a Florida university at a cost of $1500. (I had already had this course in my MSW program, but it is required from a Florida university here.) I have been hired by a home health agency finally where I will be paid $50 per visit and my clients will be located across four counties…some more than a two hour drive away – one way. I will be reimbursed for gas, but no benefits. No paid vacation and no health insurance or any other benefits. I will be supervised by an RN. I was told that home health agencies were no longer required to have a social worker on staff because nurses and other staff could handle referrals to outside agencies for social problems. What do you want to bet that advocates and lobbyists for home care agencies are behind THAT money saving move? I love my work, but it is difficult to manage on the low pay and I think agencies do not have a clear perspective on all that social workers do. If it were not for child support, my children and I would be below the poverty level. I am working on that LCSW in hopes that it will improve my job outlook, but there are way more social workers here than there are jobs. Competition is fierce. Most agencies hire BSWs and pay them betweeen $24,000 and $28,000 a year to do work that only MSWs where doing back in the 90s when I took a break from my career. There was recently ONE hospice opening here and there were hoards of applicants…mostly LCSWs – when the job only required an MSW – because the pay started at $38,000 with good benefits. Personally, I think the NASW needs to step it up…

  119. I enjoyed reading all of your posts. As a child welfare social worker for the last 5 years I have come to feel as thought I am burned out. I have recently looking into going back to school for nursing. I am currently just about finished with my MSW and I can not think of one thing that I want to do with this degree. I feel as though I spend so much time worried about billing, cramming in the visits, and trying to find resources that I feel like I need to run NOW. I am constantly working at home, at school, everywhere… I truly with all of my heart love serving children and their families but I feel so stressed, so tired, and so underpaid that I am thinking of just walking away. I was once very passionate about social work 🙁

  120. A headline depicts social work and several related careers as “stressful jobs that pay badly.”

    In my own opinion Social Workers are amazing! Most people hate them because they are not confident in their own parenting skills.

    It takes a compassionate individual to stop and say, “Somebody needs to save that baby.” Regardless of how much money they WONT make for rescuing that helpless person.

    Never mind the stress or the money. Every morning when that sun rises they wake up with the sweetest satisfaction of knowing that they are real life heroes. How anyone can see an innocent child being abused and not do anything is just beyond me…..

    I cant think of any other career that could give my life more purpose.
    I’m a senior in high school and I’ve had my heart set on this career for a few years now.

  121. NW- BSW

    You have to follow your heart.
    No one would blame you if u went back to school for nursing.
    No matter what you’ll still be a real life hero. =]
    I don’t plan on doing it my whole life.
    I want to work with CPS but later go back and get my masters and work with special needs people.
    If your getting frustrated and down you could take a break.
    I’m really just trying to comfort you.
    ….what do i really know about the real world?

  122. This is all very interesting to read. I am not a social worker, but my partner is, and he is EXTREMELY invested in his career.

    He says that many people in the field of social work do not have the resources or knowledge or habits necessary to combat compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, burnout, and all of the other various things that can happen to people who are working with so much trauma and stress.

    I actually stumbled upon this article because I am looking for resources for people who are married to social workers, and having to deal with their symptoms of all of the above conditions on a regular basis.

    Any of you have any insight into how you can make relationships work in the midst of having such a high stress lifestyle? How can your partners support you, and how do you still support your partner’s needs? Or is it just impossible to protect your partner from the overflow of stress?

    AND, big props to all of you for working in such a challenging profession, and interfacing with bureaucratic policies that can seem to just create dependency rather than health (as has been mentioned here). I think that there is room for growth as individuals and in the institution as a whole, but I know it will be slow, so I admire everyone for having so much patience with how challenging the process is.

  123. Hi, I agree with everything each of are saying. This field is stressful and people don’t seem to respect us. However, I feel that its time for us to stand up and fight for equal pay. We are as important as any other professional.

  124. Hello All,

    I am a UK social worker with 17 years practice in various disciplines. I have viewed many American sights in relation to Social Work. I am very much aware of the protection of the Name Social Work and it appears from state to state to be different as with pay. In the UK there is not the difference if in receipt of BA/MA level we are all Social Workers and have to keep up with CPD. Off course the type of work and complexity will be shared depending on experience.
    I presently work in Mental Health with the most enduring and severe of the mental health discipline. I note one of the post that we work in one of the most dangerous fields for little pay and certainly one of the most stressful areas of social work I have had the pleasure of working in.
    I like many of the post am burnt out and looking for a change, but note there is the same problem especially in North America unemployed Social workers. In spite of the difficulties every one may be experiencing we need to remember that we do a lot of work that we are not given credit for. All the negative headlines can pull us down, however, as individuals we are all professional even if other professions do not see us in on the same footing. I know many of my social work colleagues are qualified in other professions but when one qualified back in the 80’s my first BA, there was not work.So of course one turned the hands to any work one could get experience in hence Social work in an unqualified position, followed by professional qualification.

    We need to look at the work we do and give one a pat on the back as many would not do what we do. More pay would certainly feel as if it is making things better, certainly a reduced case load would certainly go a long way, so that one has time to actually do social work spend time with people instead of all the paper work and targets to be met. Of course there is certainly a role for this but at what cost to the social worker, their life. Who cares for those who care. Just a thought I would finish with. Wishing all the social workers all the best in the continued profession.

  125. It’s an amazing article designed for all the online people; they will take advantage from it I am sure.

  126. I have been out of the work force for 12 years; staying home with my youngest who is now 13. I do not regret this decision, he needed me and I was able to be there. But now I need to work out of financial necessity. I am 50 years old with an MSW but no license for my state which is PA. I moved here from GA where I was licensed, but as I said, I have been out of the work force. I find that almost every job I have looked at requires licensure. My background is in counseling, specifically individual and families with teen parents. I spent the last 5 years when I was working as a college counselor in their counseling department. I have no idea how to pursue getting back into the field. I have no connections of any persons in my area (Philadelphia) and would love to get any feedback from this forum.

  127. I’ wanted to be a social worker because i want to help kids out and I love pschogly and I wanted to major in sociology and pschogly to become a social worker but If it doesn’t pay good then why should I be one , I want to get pay good money because I want to travel the world iwant to cee places, but this job seems that all that school all that studying isn’t going to pay off at the end then it’s not worth it and I’m still in hiqqh skool & now I have no clue what I wanna be

  128. All jobs have a degree of stress. I love this very important work. The rate of pay is not a concern. I have always wanted to have my career be congruent with my values, so Social Work it is!!

  129. I find this forum very interesting! As a LSW, I enjoy helping people and enjoying the process of seeing change in people. With that said, the field does not allow us to really see the change due to large amounts of documentation and at times poor supervision and support. I believe that social work is needed in our society. However, we need to advocate for ourselves. I find it difficult to find positions where I see myself grow as a professional and really see change in people as well as the systems we work in. Now, I have decided to return to school and enter a field where I know my skills will be valued while I continue to help people. I know my background as a social worker will follow me in whatever field I choose. However, I cannot continue to experience low paying positions, lack of respect among colleagues and supervisors, as well as continued debt by repaying my student loans. I wish those who love this field to continue their passion and help others. For those, who do not like this field, there are many additional fields where we can use our skills to make an impact in people’s lives and create social change in fields like nursing, counseling, medicine, psychology, technology, science, public health, etc.!

  130. After graduating with my masters degree in social work & $100,000 or so down the drain I started out making $10.10/ hr. I thought why go to school I could of worked as a caregiver without the expense. All everyone kept saying is you go into social work for compassion. Well where is the compassion when i couldnt afford my rent, gas or water. After ten years of working in social work i have found that i have had to work 2-3 jobs at a time to make a normal salary. My friends get bachelors/ masters degree in other fields and see $10,000 a year raises while i see 20 cent raises. No one tells you this when you are going to school. At one point in time i gave my resume to a school adviser because she said she could find me something that paid better. Well guess what i never heard from her again. I applied for a job in a different area (in a nursing facility level of care) against people with only bachelor degrees/ less experience and was told that they did not have a social worker job available. When i ask someone how did they get out of social work they said easy i never got into it. I am asking for suggestions now. Is there anything you can go into with a MSW that is not social work? Its been twelve years and i am burned out. Sadly, i feel like my friends/ relatives that went into other fields will have 401k’s/ retirement and i will have nothing because of this choice for compassion at one time. Unfortunately in this field you are constantly having to switch jobs to afford your bills and just make it with the economy; which is just sad and not good for patients/ consumers.

  131. Yes! Finally someone writes about money.

  132. I guess the low pay in this stress equals not doing a good job taking kids from family they should not be taken from and not really care anymore maybe you start out with the best of intentions but once you are burned out you no longer really care about the true reason which is the children it becomes all about money for the state I am very disturbed and concerned about the way the CPS social worker is going about taking frivolous information and using it to take children out of loving homes because of someone else that does not know what is really going on inside said home I hope that 1 day they will be a legislation change or a better set of rules that will have to be a body by it is ridiculous that social workers have no 1 to answer to they can just take a child out of the house and it is done it is disgusting and I cannot believe we allow it in America

  133. In grad school for msw, deciding on concentration……mental health vs business?
    Job opportunities, pay etc… Thoughts anyone????

  134. Definitely business or medical if you’re looking at job opportunities and pay. Business knowledge is a must, especially in an economy where the focus is providing quality services at the lowest price possible.

  135. Attention Student @ usc
    I have a masters and have worked in acute care in the past. I think it depends on the state you work in and the hospital you work for. Where i worked the pay was pathetic; in fact i was working two jobs to get by. It was 12 hour days with lousy pay. The RNCM made awesome salaries with raises/ 8 hr days. All i ever heard was that i hit my ceiling when it came to a raise. Also, in the past I worked with someone who had a degree/concentration in administration and she was making less than me. I think however she worked for a nonprofit; giving an explanation for the lousy pay. Additionally, i tried working in mental health and the pay was awful ($13/hr with a MSW). However, after ten+ years in mental health my ex is making $20/hr. Additionally, In terms of mental health i have been told if you get your licenses and start practicing privately you can bill the insurance and make more money. The most money i have seen was by working in hospice. Consider however that i live in PA & the pay may vary by state. If i had to do a masters degree again i would consider an RN or MBA. RNCM can make really nice salaries. Keep in mind even if you concentrate in business with a degree in social work you will most likely be working with a not for profit; lousy pay. Most for profits are run by MBAs. I hope this helped you. I wish i could go back, ask questions and reevaluate my decision to go into social work.

  136. I think that if you can only think about how unfair life is as a social worker receiving low pay you are in the wrong field. You should be empowered to know that your job has so much meaning to it because the work you do makes a huge difference in peoples lives. I think a lot of social workers come into the field with unrealistic expectations to change the world, that is great but it is a mind set that will get you hurt and burn you out. Make a smaller goal but still reach for the stars.
    I seen a someone wrote that if we ourselves were not empowered we cannot empower others and that is our job… they are right. If you are having this much of a struggle with the field then you probably need to leave and let the newbies in.

  137. Melissa-
    I think its a little late after a $100,000 or so in student loans to think you went in the wrong field. I mean lets be realistic that debt ain’t disappearing because of good deeds. The other issue is even if you wanted to go into another field who would hire you. I am up for suggestions as anyone else probably is. When your in your 20s your paying back the student loans you accrued for that BSW/MSW; maybe $600-$800 a month which is hard to pay back when your making maybe at the most $800-$1000 every 2 weeks if your lucky. Now when your in your 30s hopefully the loans are paid off & now you want a to buy a house and start a family and now your making $2 more an hour with 10 years of experience. Still no idea what other field will hire you; i have looked & applied. Tell your kids no a few times to things or skip paying basic bills/necessities its hard. I think regardless of the field when you go to school the goal is to come out making a living. Maybe at one time ones goal was to make a difference but society/ the system diminishes that goal gradually. I am sure we make a difference to the lives of others but it is very hard to make a difference when you can’t meet your own needs. So before you tell people to leave the field maybe you should tell them where to go.

  138. Here is something to think about when your pursuing your MSW and planning to empower others. When i applied for a government job in social work with a MSW not only was i told i had to sit on a lists/wait to hear but i was also told when i received a call the starting salary was $18,000/yr. Needless to say when they called and said 18 I thought they meant $18/hr. I bypassed this big opportunity. Sadly, i have friends with masters in other fields that are making 3-4x that yearly figure for the government. Now i will do you a better one. The pay today for a government job with a MSW is still $18,000/yr; however now the government is discussing the increase of minimum wage to $9/hr. Well if you do the math the starting salary of a government social worker pays 30 cents more than a minimum wage employee, nice. However, if you have student loans also & your making payments between $600-$800/mo then your making between $700-$900/mo; now this figure does not include taxes either. With the cost of living renting is even out of the question. Might as well have the poorest paid worker helping the most needy. Keep in mind to I live in the state of PA; maybe your state is different. This is how the NASW recognizes us here. If there is a MSW in PA that wants to form a union Im with you. Sadly, when i was obtaining this MSW i was told that i would make $30/hr; sure looks more like $9/hr if your lucky. I guess my NASW dues will be a real priority then. Of course no one tells you this when your going to school; why would they professor want paid like anyone else.

  139. Guys you should come to the uk, yes the cost of living is higher,however the benefits are 28 -33 days annual leave per year not including bank holidays of which there are 10 and 13 flexi days per year. This is if you are a permanent member of staff or fixed term contract. Salary at least 55,000 – 65000 dollars for basic social workers, thankfully no distinction between masters and degree social workers. Plenty of social wok jobs in the Uk.

  140. Lady90-
    It sounds like the UK really compensates their social workers both with pay and benefits. I reside in PA and the pay is marginal and the benefits are minimal plus the health insurance is costly. You all must have an NASW that represents you. Unfortunately, the representation here seems minimal and not beneficial. I for one am constantly looking to leave the field due to financial restrictions and limitations. Maybe our government here could learn something from the UK. I appreciate your comment and am somewhat envious. Sadly, after years of education and a not so lucrative pay i am left to feel let down..

  141. I often wonder why many Social Workers seem to get defensive when their colleagues speak of the low wages and high stress of this field. Its true, we are gravely underpaid in comparison to other profession that we work along side of. Its attitudes of defensiveness such as these that allow employers to treat Social Workers with little respect and unworthy of decent living wages. Most Social Workers have MSWs and huge student debt yet we receive wages that won’t allow us to make the minimum payment on our educational debt. I’m calling all Social Worker to realize their worth and advocate for our rights.

  142. LaToya
    I agree with what you’re saying. A lot of professionals in this field get defensive when anyone acknowledges that the pay is bad. Unfortunately, there is no denying it. Sadly, even the NASW is accepting that the profession doesn’t pay. When they preach and push for loan forgiveness they are not addressing the root of the problem. What they should be saying is our professionals are not being paid adequately for the cost of the educational investment. Dollars can be spent better in other fields. This discourages the best away from this important sector of society, hurting all. The system is fundamentally broken. The educational institutions are too separated from the real-world application of these degrees. Maybe if the educational investment was brought into line with the ten or fifteen year income outlook there might be at least some relief. This is where “loan forgiveness” fails as a concept. It is too uncertain to encourage greater selection of the profession. Forgiveness will need to be guaranteed for long term effect. And frankly, with state governments financially strapped, such a committed policy is inconceivable. States are short sighted however; our national aging population represents a clear and present danger to our common interest.

  143. hey I am Gwen and I’m doing a project on my future profession. I’m a junior in high school and I chose social work because I thought they cared more about the human race than money… I want to be a social worker because I see the pain in abused kids, families, and things I’ve been through and saw how social workers cared…I didn’t think that behind the scenes they complained about the low pay, and with all this research I’ve done I can see that they are underpaid, but you guys really have to think about it like this; why are you a social worker? for money or for help? you have seen the worst and you should be here to help out of the kindness of your heart. wanting to help should be something that you carry in your heart, not something you clock in and out right? I mean… that’s why you wanted to be social workers, yes?

  144. Gwenn-
    I have been a social worker for greater than a decade. I will be honest with you. When i was younger the expectation was to graduate and help others. Keep in mind though once you have student loans, car payments, rent or mortgage and goals for marriage, family and kids it changes. Your values change along with your expectations. Furthermore, your parents have to be able to retire they can not be left to worry about how you will make it financially. After, you view your lower income as something that hinders on giving your child a future if not yourself a future. I dont stop anyone from helping others but please know what your in store for. I highly recommend a university that is less costly, is being paid for by some scholarship funds or even starting at a community college. The cost of tuition is high and to get out making $8.75/hr is uncomprehensible when you consider the expense and time invested. I wish you well on your future plans.

  145. Social work jobs pay badly because it’s a low skill profession.

  146. @Zack: Low skill? Many entry level social work jobs require a masters degree. Getting licensed requires hundred of hours of supervision and passing exams. By that logic, nursing jobs which require a 2 year associates degree are low skilled and should pay even less than what social workers make.

  147. Zack obviously does not have a clue what time and resources a social worker invests towards their education.

  148. I was told if a degree does not consist of Math or Science it is useless! With that being said I was excepted in the BSW program but I will turn down the opportunity. Sadly I started off with trying to become a RN and my 3.6 did not set me into the program. I will be starting LPN school in the fall!

  149. Leana-
    A friend of mine became an LPN and made a nice income. Also when i worked in the nursing facility a LPN i knew worked with the RNAC with care plans/MDS assessments and made pretty good money. Keep in mind though i am from PA. You can always get your LPN and see if your employer will send you back for your RN. Or if after your situated financially go back for your BSW. Its good your investigating this early on. I wasnt aware of everything i am aware of now.

  150. Hello, just wanted to say, I loved this article.
    It was helpful. Keep on posting!

  151. Great comment for the pro and con of social workers. I might add that I am not a ‘Social Worker’ as described by the education listed above. In this entry I am referring to social workers as those that are experienced in the helping professions. I have been in the field for 38yrs. It is my experience that those ‘social workers’ whom do not have the education are also dedicated persons that truly wish to make a difference, to assist those in need and create a better community. It is also my experience that this is a continued pipe dream – our system of monitory importance does not value ‘social workers’ (educated with an MSW or not) and is unlikely to change. Helping the disadvantaged does not make money and does not directly contribute to the overall financial success of society, i.e. it costs a great deal of money for little or no return. Yes, it costs in the long run as individuals and groups are marginalized and these costs are eventually get paid through social deportment – think of those unfortunates that wander the streets or beg at traffic stops. My point? If it does not “Directly Contribute” through financial success’s it is deemed a low social priority. Thus, those that serve in this helping capacity are also of low priority. I talk to those that wish to serve and be of benefit and I attempt to dissuade them from entering the field of social works. Why? I suppose because I am bitter at the continued lack of resources, the continued disregard for social workers as beneficial, the continued of obliviousness of policy makers and the continued dearth of financial reimbursement for those who choose to serve – who are themselves are suffering financially. I hope change will happen but must declare I feel it unlikely to come to pass. I applaud those that continue on but support those who choose to move on.

  152. Wayne,

    I agree with a lot of what you are saying; particularly the low priority of the populations served & the disregard to the profession. I will say, after I had my son I really felt discouraged by the profession. I felt & still feel that the profession & workload was very demanding with minimal reward. Maybe my priorities changed. Now it is ‘what can I give my kid?’ And not ‘what can I give others?” So I left the field & make the same but could have the job I have with an associates degree. It’s not as demanding & I am happier. When your alone or in your twenties your needs aren’t as great. I will say I was mislead when it regards this career path on a lot of things. I was told its a woman’s profession & they would be compassionate towards a mother in this professional. But that is really not the case. No one cares. Secondly, I was told with years of experience your income will continue to increase. Not the case. At times, with 10-12yrs of experience I kept getting offered less& less. It is what it is. Maybe the future will be different for this profession; somehow I doubt it.

  153. Holy crap you guys. I never thought anyone holding a Master’s degree could make 40k. That’s as much as my dad would make driving a bus. I know people with Associate’s that make more, let’s not even get into Bachelor’s 🙁

    I’m so sorry to hear this, and yes, you’re completely right, this is unfair. Also, I can’t believe anyone is free to call themselves “social worker” just because they work in a particular setting (imagine if anyone could call himself a medical doctor).

    I’m still considering the MSW just because it’s something I would enjoy doing but I am an LPN right now and am shocked to think I’ll probably make the same amount with an MSW LOL.

  154. Dana,
    I had a MSW & couldn’t even make 30k. So 40k is a pipe dream to me. People working at Sheetz we’re making 8.75/hr which is what most of the people I new graduating with this degree made & continue to make. From what I saw the starting salary with an MSW was 18,000/year. If they drop the pay a little more we can all apply for medical assistance & food stamps with this degree. Also having experience didn’t mean anything. Multiple times I was told we don’t pay for a Masters. Wow, it appears they didn’t pay for a bachelors either. We are probably poorer than the people we were helping. They need to readjust the salary; it isn’t the 1970s. All I can say is McDonalds employees want 15/hr; well so do I. Maybe when minimum wage goes up will make more. That will be the only time will see a pay increase; it certainly won’t be because of the support of the NASW. Also the license recommended for this field is a joke; it just a $$$ maker for the NASW to pay their big wigs. I was tired of hearing you went into this for compassion. That was just an excuse to pay minimum wage. The NASW should be ashamed of themselves for their poor representation. Maybe the pay rate is different in the state your from. However, with my MSW I made less than an LPN. Keep in mind though with the cost of living I discourage entry into this field. I advocate against it because “compassion does not pay the water bill”. Good luck; at least you have your LPN license to fall back on. I always wished I had something else to fall back on.

  155. I can’t help from gag when I see McDonald’s protesters asking for $15/hr. How about all the MSWs out there who are making less than that??? Sorry, I find it hard to get behind causes that increase other jobs’ pay while we barely scrape by. NASW CAN YOU HEAR OUR CRIES FOR HELP?

  156. Burned Out Social Worker,
    I agree with you. Unfortunately, even McDonalds employees have better representation than we do. I am very disappointed in the NASW. Parents & students make many sacrifices for their children & themselves to pursue a bachelor and/or masters degree. Professionals & employers don’t want to recognize that the BSW & MSW are of value. All you ever hear from the NASW is about loan forgiveness. If the NASW encouraged others to recognize our value as a profession loan forgiveness would not need to be mentioned. The NASW does not fight for us interms of respect and pay. People can not afford to go into this profession if they are going to make minimum wage or just above minimum wage. A lot of the jobs I had in this field expected me to work for free on weekends & evenings. Ya that makes real sense when I have to pay for a baby sitter. Unfortunately, the NASW does two things: 1) Lie about what the average BSW & MSW is paid. 2) Collect dues for nonexistent representation of the profession. The major players in the NASW need it to exists so they can make nice pay checks. They should step off their throwns & come make what the rest of us make. Be in the profession 10- 15yrs & get offered $10-$12/hr. It is a disgrace. People in this profession don’t want to say anything but they know it’s the truth. I know too many BSW & MSW out there that can not even afford their rent. It seems ito be getting worse for the social worker; not better.

  157. I agree with this article. The point is we do put up with low pay, long hours, and the system is, some could say, stagnated. And yet, so many of us enjoy changing lives, if only one person at a time, for the highest good. We are congratulated for our service…(thank you all) yet sometimes we feel more like “urban helmuts” than a social worker making a difference. There are rewards, though, and they keep us going, despite the odds, despite the uncertain demands, short staffing, budget demands, turnover, and the unrelenting forces of crisis and immediacy.

    There is a maxim in our profession, “there are no perfect jobs, but you will always have a job.” This may be true, but what we see also is burnout, which is real, and we try to avoid it. We avoid it by learning to take care of ourselves, so often easier said than done. There are even trainings (not enough) on this, though it can be said the first line of defense is a strong constitution. Yes, social workers are remarkable people, community soldiers who go out into the field…with no uniforms… wearing only a good heart, compassion, and a breastplate that represents their faith in humanity. They often do the work no one else wants to do, in a country that’s becoming more and more complex, unfamiliar, and diversified, every single day. Let’s recognize their contribution, respect them, salute them. Let someone know today how you respect their contribution, no matter how big or how small. We are all in this together.

  158. You are right about the low pay & the system being stagnate. Your also right about there being no perfect job & we do the work no one else wants to do. We deal with populations other professions do not want to deal with. However, I feel when it comes to burnout no one cares. Other social workers & professionals I have worked with only cared about being stuck with more work. When I was nine months pregnant & due any day and was in & out of labor and delivery I decided it was time to go on leave ( my OB even said it was time). Particularly since my social work job required a lot of travel & I could not fit in the car any longer & I was having dizzy spells/ my blood pressure was dropping frequently. One of the employees; an HR employee said to me ‘we don’t understand why you can’t work til your water breaks’. Meanwhile a friend of mine; her daughter has a business degree; worked from home for months. Sadly, not only is the pay not there but neither is the respect. I have since left the profession & I pray I won’t have to return. When I was going for my BSW & MSW I was told it was a woman’s profession & woman are sympathetic to other women in the field and work together. From my own experience I don’t believe this is the case. I found if one social worker was over whelmed or burned out the others would say at least it ain’t me and take off. I really feel for those going into this profession. The expectations (from clients & employers/other employees) just are not realistic; the workload is intense & existence cost money which is not there. In my opinion a woman with children in this field will struggle greatly both physically & financially. I wore a good heart & compassion and came out crushed. At one point working 3 jobs and in & out of the ER just to make it. Of course college & the micro/macro classes never taught me this. When other professionals don’t respect our contributions why would the populations we serve. Yes, you will always have a job with this profession but it might not be a job you want for a desirable pay.

  159. I live in san joaquin county, legal blind, going with a lady who takes meds for depression and is doing much better since we met. her social worker came to see her the other day and in this report is what this worker asked concerning sexual questions and this worker said a few things about me that is uncalledfor, i may seek an attorney, a supervisor was called yesterday and as of yet no call. i may file a complaint with the state. noone says such things about me, this worker does not evin know me. but her remarks are uncalled for and unprofessional. here is what took place.
    Austin, stockton ca

    AUGUEST 27, 14









    7. Debbie told me that her social worker said to her that i was probly fucking somone else on the side.

    8. Debbie also said that this worker asked if i was useing herfor her money, and also asked if she was giving me any money?.




  160. I am currently rather disgusted by the way some (not all) Case Manger RN’s -many of whom who only have AA degrees in nursing, (a two year program) treat mastered social workers, Msw’s or Lcsw’s in the acute hospital setting. Though a new component of social work these days is Discharge Planning- we ‘tried and true’ social workers are trained to be critical thinkers,thinking outside the box,use our multiple skills set to problem -solve at the highest level.Social justice is a main core component in our work.
    Nurses seem to have no interest in general about what out true role is as very educated social workers.
    It is very insulting to be lumped together with often less educated nurses who have no idea what we really do.We are NOT and will be act as Case Manager RN assistants.
    Things must change and turn around.No nurse should be allowed to be the supervisor or boss of social workers in hospital settings,social work departments are critical to makes these changes.
    NASW , please back us up, move to increase our pay scale and make things right.Show us your power that you supposedly claim to have as a big lobbyist organization.
    Do not allow us to not anymore be subordinated and mistreated well in our very important role.
    I am waiting to see results.
    Thank you for your time and consideration.
    Lauren Levin Hyman, MSW ACSW
    Oncology Social Worker

  161. I worked in acute care for 6 years & understand completely what you are saying. A lot of the other professionals; physicians & administration included did not want to deal with the dynamics that came along with getting patients out of the hospital. There only concern was get them out. Sadly, we make them & save them money with our knowledge & are still so under valued. At one point I was working 12 hour days & even contracted a staph/ MRSA abscess. At the same time I worked with hospice. The one thing I learned was as much compassion & dedication you could give the more that was expected both from your colleagues & patients. I left the field a year ago. I loved working in acute care & with hospice but if I didn’t leave the field I would of continue to work 15-16 hours a day making myself sick. At one point getting sick once a month & ending up in the ER at times. I just didn’t know how to set limitations & as time progressed more/ more became expected. I have since went to work with my husbands business. At first I was hesitant to make such a career move but am now glad I did it. I have come to realize that the level of respect, appreciation & income was not going to change in social work. I appreciate your comments & maybe if a few of us speak out we can make a difference. I use to go home everyday & cry / pray that I would be able to leave the field; being physically, mentally & emotionally drained. I speak out for others. I was fortunate to have my prayers answered. Best Wishes.

  162. I really think that social workers should unionize somehow.
    Most of us work for host agencies with other professionals seeing us as
    bleeding hearts or wondering what it is that we really do.
    After more than 25 years in the field, I am dedicated to my profession but weary of
    being marginalized.

    Unless we continue to work on upgrading the value of our profession and looking at unionization, I believe that those in our profession will continue to suffer from burnout, and role ambiguity.

    Many nurses and “lay people” are now acting as care coordinators, case managers and advocates with very little training in the values, ethics and training that professional social workers possess.

  163. Having had a 12 year intimate view of a hospital social worker, I am left with the following: 1) until professional social workers themselves come to a consensus on professional standards including, treatment in the work place, there will be no change 2) business managers in health care will continue to take advantage of social workers to obtain cheaper labor costs 3) business managers in health care will continue to misuse or mold the role of social work (particularly in hospitals) to suit their own business model needs 3) the health care system and patients/clients will continue to be deprived of the positive impact of the use social work interventions (at all levels) on unraveling the inevitable confluence of social/environmental and familial factors and health outcomes. I, personally, have to move on. The impact of being in this role for an extended period in my life has left me angry, but wiser. Not wanting to spend any more time in this mindset, I am making changes to my own life in terms of employment and lifestyle. I don’t know what else to do. Society does not value social work and we have not owned our value.

  164. im studying to become a social worker right now still have a while to go but im going to finish cause honestly all the negative stuff some of you post then you can find a different job if its that bad…and honestly i have had people tell me the exact thing yall are talkin about but you know what it sounds like. sounds like most of yall are just in it for the money and if thats the case study to become a doctor or a lawyer or anything like that ( nobody is making you work as a social worker) im studying to become a social worker because i like helping people and being involved with people not for the pay the pay can be can be $20 an hour and i wouldn’t care because its what I wanna do… I just think those of you that are social workers already on here talking shit about how bad it is, its easy go find another job come to texas we have plenty of jobs in this state…and for those reading this that are studying social worker dont give up let all these negative comments be motivation to make you finish and get your masters. People always remember money doesnt make you happy it makes things more complicated….and most important there is always someone out there with less then you and couldn’t be any happier with life just because they have god or maybe something as simple as a dog that keeps them company and those types of people are way better off with nothing and being happy than have everything and be sad. so people be glad you have a job that pays something and that you can help people as well..there is no better feeling then help others…hopefully i dont get as negative as yall do once im working as a social worker lol god bless

  165. I agree, way too much documentation. I am not even a social worker. I sort of wandered into the field, many places are understaffed and working more than the recorded hours. I am at a counseling center and we are understaffed and overworked. Having one boss that only cares about the financial aspect of profit for the company and documentation to prevent any future backlash.

  166. All I can say if I was offered $20/hr I would have fell over. I couldn’t get that wage with a MSW & 15 yrs experience yet alone a BSW & no experience. More like $8.75/hr to start (salaried also) & lousy benefits. Maybe after a year if your lucky $10/hr. If we all made $20/hr to start no one would complain. Good luck. I wasn’t making that after 15 years in the field. Yep it pays something; more like minimum wage. I was burned out from having to work 3 jobs to make it. $20/hr yah right; where??? Maybe it’s the state I live in but from what I’m hearing in this field you can’t make that after 15-20 yrs of experience.

  167. who would you call about social service will not call u back not even their supervisor I have 2 cases open and both workers have quit . I have tried for 3 weeks to get a superviser to call me back .
    would I call frankfort Ky .being one case is in Kenton and the other in campbell county
    I was think that’s who I would call go above there heads and talk to the big guy ..
    this is not right I have asked to to assign another worker or close the cases . I can I get answers I have drugs test . and I have done everything .. they have asked and I can’t get no answer from them they can drug test me anytime I told them that and they can give me a lie detector test …
    I am like @ a stand still . because they don’t want to do thier job … And I understand why they are quitting yes it stressful because of the addiction that has taken this country over and they can’t deal with the addicts and they are scared .. to even go into a house anymore which is very sad .. I am sure they have seen alot .. Don’t pay enough for them to have to deal with crazy people .. I have a clean record drug free so why can’t they talk to me I am very upset with this .. I live in the state of Kentucky I am thinking that i will call Frankfort Ky . Mondayy morning .. Does anybody have a answer for me on here plz comment

  168. I have been a masters level social worker for nineteen years. The salaries for social workers are going down. If I were offered $20 an hour, I would take it. Currently, not being offered that and not making that. I use to make that amount, but it seems that the value of social work is declining. I have loved working with clients through the years. The part that is so frustrating is the unethical and criminal element within so many agencies and companies around now. And yes, I have reported them and nothing happens. And to those of you social workers, who think it won’t happen to you, just wait………it will. Your brand new good heart is the perfect victim for unethical culprits in agencies/companies. And being smart and wise, had nothing to do with it. They will take your job from you. So try to be observant about your surroundings, and get ready to administrative assistant duties, secretarial work, clean toilets, sweep floors, dust, use your car and gas for the company (no reimbursement), oh….and do counseling (well maybe, depends, lots of times they will tell you what you can and can’t say to clients, even if it is unethical). One company could not make payroll and we only got half our paychecks for months, due to the owners bad spending habits. A couple of other places threatened to fire me, because I wouldn’t do things that were outright unethical and illegal. If you are brand new getting into this field, you have no idea what you are in for. Sure, some of my jobs were better than others, but people in other fields of work seem to have faired better than lots of us, even if they only had a high school diploma. So, watch out. Seems that people in private practice seem to fair better than others. I didn’t have that luxury before, due to needing group plan health insurance benefits. I would love to hear from some of you newbies in 10 yrs.

  169. I am compelled to speak out against the disparaging wages University graduates are receiving after leaving college. My first job in the human services from a major corporation offered me 9.25 for my services. The next offered me 12.00 an hour. Not only was it almost impossible to find a job in the field of my expertise, I could only find a job that I was completely OVER qualified for. I worked 60 Hrs. some weeks volunteering my time. I barely made 15,000 working 60 hours a week for 6 month. by then I was on burn out and had to quit. I then maintained a job working in a light industrial setting for a pay cut of .90 and was so relieved just to be out of the field. I decided I wont even practice social work anymore. I volunteered my time for 13 years of my life to my communities youth, only to be slapped in the face when entering the workforce. Not to mention the two children’s pastoral certificated and other 10 certifications I had to obtain to even take the 12.00 job. I’m done with social work. I am going to my faith based community to seek solace on this matter. Our home health aides are being paid wages that I can go to Mcdonald’s and fry up something that has MSG in it and is killing our country. That makes no sense and is disparaging. Why are our officials putting more importance on the earning of a dollar than the health of our children and our community? That is my question.

  170. I am an honor graduate from the Ohio State University top 10 percent of my class.

  171. The problem with this whole hierarchy system is that Social Workers are so valuable. They are not ashamed to call people out on their mistakes and underserving the community with resources. They are like the voice between the community and the corporation. That is what corporate American knows. In college we study all the disparaging areas of our own community and issues that go on in the world. We are educated to review ALL aspects that may affect an individuals life. Problem is corporate America knows this. They know social workers have knowledge about their injustice in the community and world, Thank The Lord for Jesus, or I would not be alive today to tell my story. I almost died everyday going to work, in the most gang infested area in our greater city. I could have been shot every day but I went to work everyday, thinking if I just help one kid. 30 kids 50 kids. I have to help those kids. Did I do it for the money, no. I do have a family of my own though. I did not acquire 2 degrees and a 2 pastoral certificates and 10 certifications to starve and miss my own children’s beautiful and gorgeous existence to serve a community that doesn’t care how they treat each other. Matter fact Let God handle it. He has more power than any of us. Also if I wanted to pass out tons of meds maybe I would become a nurse or LPN or get some lesser degree . If I wanted to do that I would have not went to one of the best schools in the entire country. The Ohio State University with an Art degree to fall back on. That doesn’t get me anywhere either, except a day care teacher job. I wanted to be a teacher once. I don’t think I need a degree to be a teacher. I just need faith and God, clean hands and a pure heart. I’m tired of no fiscal responsibility and to high moral expectations. Where is the fiscal responsibility? Why on earth are you paying a nurse 20.00 to pass these CHILDEREN medications, yet pay a skilled advocate 9, 10 12,00 on the hour. I can explain it. Its corporate greed. Also, Good Social workers have so many avenues for your community to get out of poverty you should be paying them more than anyone making a building. They are the communities greatest asset next to Men and Women of God. I hold these truths because I am done dealing with the lies and deception some people regard themselves as better than when the truth is we were all created equal. We were all created for a purpose and therefore I believe no matter what anyone tries to do, God will always protect his children. If we just trust the Lords plan, it is so much better than ours. I believe my college degree was just a stepping stone into the faith based community. They will accomplish more than any of these Nimrods doing whatever they want to get a buck. Thanks God for separation of church n state. I would rather work for a good bible based church than the state any day. God doesn’t want his people living off welfare dollars and government cheese and I’ve had my fill. I’m ready to see God move on this matter, No more stigma in our giving. NO More labeling on our children. Lets not call it welfare, lets call it brotherly love. Lets get the heart back in our cities. Success doesn’t just come in dollar signs. If used properly it can help heal a whole city. If put in the wrong hands it can destroy a community. I pray that God raise up good Godly men and Women to go into the governments and raise the moral and fiscal responsibilities that its people deserve. NO one deserves to be labeled a welfare recipient. We are ALL GODS children. We deserve better, Our children deserve better, Our community deserves better. Visit your local church. We are ONE. One community, ONE Current One can change it all HIs name is JESUS!

  172. I went to school with one of our mayors sons. He was telling me he enlisted in the army for the cost of college. I know there are good officials out there, It takes more than a handful and Im just so done dealing with it. I met him while getting an Associate of Arts here in the community on some stairs by a sculpture. Very attractive gentleman. I mean if a mayors son is enlisting in the army to pay for his education why all the greed going around. Why? Maybe that kids was telling me white lies I don’t know. I know there are good people out there being taken advantage of. I wont discredit anyone until I know enough information. He was a really gentle spirit. I love that family. Where is the responsibility in the nation at capital hill.

  173. I chose the field of social work because I wanted to utilize my skills and characteristics as an empathic, insightful and optimistic person to help others. After spending fourteen years in the field, I have been laid off from grant and clinical positions eight times. Mind you I was never fired, but each time I was either laid off or had my hours cut, due to over hiring, failed grant projects and lack of work. I have also been subjected to neglect from supervisors and frightening physical and emotional harassment from clients. Since the recession, the last four years of my career have been the hardest for me economically. Many of the mental health agencies only hire fee for service clinicians now and hospitals can “make do” with part time and per diem social workers. This might be doable if I wasn’t divorced and/or if I lived in a second income household, but I don’t . Like many of my clients I now know and understand poverty first hand. I am not quite at the point of giving up and transitioning to a new field, but it is getting tough justifying why I keep trying when the agencies and their administrators can’t or won’t provide a livable wage and they remain irresponsible and unrealistic in their hiring practices.

  174. I completely agree. After 15 years in the field I saw several things occur: 1) less money for the same
    Work done. 2) the wage did not keep up with inflation. 3) clients started
    Expecting more & for free. More younger population demanding more for free.
    4) hours of working for free seem to increase. I even had a company tell me during an interview that I couldn’t have a 2nd job to compensate for the lousy wage they were going to pay me because I had to devote all My free time to them. 5) the expectations & demands became more as the
    Pay became less. 6) as this all occurred your coworkers (other socials workers) really
    did not care if their colleagues became overwhelmed or burned out; as long as
    they weren’t stuck with additional work. Keep in mind doing more work for no
    additional pay; forget it. When you were off if the phone rang you were thankful for caller ID & if by
    chance you did answer the phone it became I’m not getting paid to come in or don’t bother me on
    my day off. I can remember hearing a social worker saying to a colleague I don’t get paid
    to work weekends; leave me alone. I at one point even said myself ‘your taking me away
    From my 2nd job that paying me now or Money talks & bullshit walks. To think 15 years ago I had an
    eager to please the world attitude. It’s funny how not affording anything or having to work 3 jobs to
    afford anything can change your attitude. There is only so much saving the world you can take
    when it comes to being broke. Hell I was so desperate to get out of the field (or just burned out) I got
    remarried & told him upfront how badly I wanted to leave this
    Once loved career behind. Now I work in an office. Same $ not as much demands. Definitely, a much
    needed relief.

  175. Social Workers are having a difficult time standing up for the profession, because they are in such high survival mode (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs), on a consistent basis. It is almost impossible to move forward with such emotional, mental, financial, and physical demands on the human body and brain. I am in search of employment outside of this field. It feels like such a healthy thing to do, wish I would have done it sooner.

  176. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the field almost 20 years. I started as a Crisis Counselor, then Case Manager, Hospital Social Worker, Private Practice, and Counseling SMI clients in Community Mental Health Agencies. In all those jobs I was overworked and underpaid. The experience in the hospital was one of abuse-mental and emotional abuse by my supervisor, my RN coworker and other nurses. I even worked in a prison for several days, and now I have found Nirvana! I work for a private, not-for-profit Continuing Care Retirement Community. Take my word for it, social worker Newbies! Government funded social work is a “use them up, wear them out and toss them out” game. This is the best job I have ever had and ever will have. I use my spare time in writing books, using the many outrageous experiences I’ve had in social work as my material. Read my novel The Well, and the one I’m working on (working title Heaven’s Fire) to get a real picture of what you face.

  177. Sharon I will look for your books. It’s nice that your books educate new social workers on the realities of this profession. I can recall coming home from work & crying on a daily basis because I was physically, mentally, emotionally & financially drained. I had a number of trips in & out of the ER due to burnout; I developed staph/ Mrsa infections from being burned out/ run down and working in a medical setting. They say if you work in a hospital for 5+ years your at high risk for acquiring these & I can confirm that is true. Sadly, I developed huge abscess on my neck from these infections. I can still see myself working in the hospital incredibly sick & with large pieces of gauze & bactram on my neck. No one cared all that mattered was the employer & those served got what they wanted. People don’t realize when they select this career how it can consume you & tear you down. I became desperate to find a partner; my husband that could get me out of this once loved career. Even when I was pregnant & my OB ordered me to go on bed rest because I was in & out of labor and delivery my employer was mad because I wouldn’t work until my water broke. It is sad that we are supposed to have compassion for everyone else but no one has compassion for us. I pray everyday that I won’t have to return to this once loved career.

  178. I want to study social work but I feel discouraged, hearing these comments.

  179. Indubitably I find it interested to read the opinions of social workers who feel they do more than their wage’s worth of pay. However, I have been scouring the internet to see how other staff in the health services are affected who work alongside social workers; those that a social worker would not function at all without.

    Thus far, a multitude of comments amongst this thread appear to have been written by people who appear to be brimming with self-importance. I myself work as temporary-administration staff for social workers. My pay, in comparison to the “low pay” social work receives is not even comparable. In my job, I minute 120 plus meetings per year, so all the filing, finance forms, invitation/distribution etc. more recently I’ve been doing the social worker jobs for them as their work is too overbearing for them; and the lack of insight into the workloads or administration further builds a rift between these two professions. Often, I read social workers classifying admin staff as below them, and their own job as a professional. Such snooty comments are unjustified. The comments here mentioning the uneducated people who are names social workers; well if we’re going down that road, my extensive education throughout many fields and subjects in higher education and degrees should mean a lot of social workers are definitely not as qualified as me.

    Anyways, this is not a rant about the profession; I’m merely ensuring the other people working in this field have their say.

  180. I’m wondering how many commenting on this thread are licensed. I have been looking into going back to school for social work and have read hundreds of threads such as this. Many say that an LCSW is a good salary and makes more than Marriage & Family Therapists, School Counselors, and Licensed Professional Counselors. There also seems to be more options for social workers than other therapist/ counselors. It does appear that MSW’s without a license are less in demand and have lower pay, but in all the job searches I’ve done for LCSW’s, the pay does not seem inadequate, particularly Federal jobs (VA), hospital positions, community college counselor positions and even community mental health centers. Am I missing something??

    (Btw, I have a Master’s in Library and Information Science and am no stranger to being over educated and underpaid in a profession that is pretty much belittled by everyone so I do understand these issues. But, where there is a will, there is a way. My first job out of graduate school as a librarian I only made $36k but I was able to make in the $50k’s after 5 years.)

  181. As I read the last few comments I wanted to
    Make it clear that I never had any staff or
    administrative staff to do paperwork for me. I
    Would of been thrilled to have the help. Forms
    & paperwork was hours of my day. Also
    every job I applied for the first thing they said
    was they did not pay a Masters level. Keep
    in mind in Pa one can not obtain their license
    until they have their MSW. So basically jobs
    I applied for said they did not pay for that level.
    Surprisingly, acute care did not pay great &
    hospice level of care took years of 50 cent raises
    When I tell people the pay is lousy it’s these 50
    cent raises & salary ceilings imposed that make
    It lousy. I have friends whom education & experience
    have lead to $10,000 raises (such as going from 50,000
    to 60,000 a year. In social work you couldn’t dream of that.
    The only think I could see doing with a license would
    be private practice. I’d imagine an expense to step
    into. Interms of a VA position veterans have priority
    For these positions; at least that’s what I was told when
    I inquired. I worked in acute care an the most I
    saw was $18/hr. How you can make more in this field
    is work 2 jobs & when your contacted for a position
    you calculate your wage (with both positions; of
    course different levels of care) and demand a wage
    close to that total.

  182. I’ve been in social services for 14 years and a social worker for 7 years. Like many of you, I had dreams of helping others and making a difference and getting personal satisfaction from my job. Unfortunately, this has NOT been my typical experience as a social worker.

    With all the paperwork and insurance phone calls, I’m lucky to spend 25% of my time with clients. Furthermore, working in an inpatient substance abuse treatment facility, many of the clients i serve are not exactly willing or motivated participants and have been asked to come to treatment to save their job or appease the courts and so they are merely gping through the motions.

    Furthermore, I am amazed to see the dysfunction within my organization. The workload is unevenly distributed and policies are often based on what’s good for the company, rather than what’s in the best interest of the client.

    I had dreams of opening my own practice one day, but my energy is so low from the toxic environment i work in, that once I get home from being gone 10 plus hours per day, I just flop on the couch. I suspect that i have not only burnout, but likely secondary traumatizing from this environment.

  183. I believe that part of the problem with modern mental health care goes back to the division of h care between classes. In order to become licensed as a LICSW or an LMHC in the state of MA, it is required that a clinician works in the field for up to three years after graduation from their MA program. This work must be identical to the work that licensed clinicians perform albeit 1 hour of supervision per week, and 5 dollars less an hour. The problem is, in MA, the only HMO that will pay for the services of an unlicensed clinician is MassHealth, a provider that insures exclusively low income populations. Because MassHealth serves low income populations, they will not allow providers to charge for missed appointments which means that if a pre-liecensure clinician has a load of 20 clients, and 10 don’t show, they only get paid for 10, and often loose their benefits if they dip below agency standards for productivity. This makes it impossible to make a living serving this population as issues of poverty cause many no-show appointments- patients may not have bus fare, child care, or may simply not have cellphone minutes to call in advance. Additionally, by disallowing agencies to charge for missed appointments,HMOS not only insure that there will be a high turnover rate as new clinicians will not stay past licensure due to financial constraints, which can cause clients to become discouraged due to constantly having to change providers. This policy also de-values the services that are provided. If something costs nothing, then it is expendable and is viewed as such, even if clients were charged a dollar, the services they received might mean more to them, and thus make mental heath a priority. If the clinicians providing these services were paid in accordance to stress level and complexity of cases, and given proper benefits there would probably be more experienced clinicians as well as less turnover once clinicians gain licensure and are free to go to private practice.

  184. Social workers must demand more. Imagine a hospital, hospice, DSS or other human services agency without us. We matter and we are needed. When we negotiate a salary with a prospective employer we must go to the negotiation table knowing what we are worth and not settling for any less. We are actually setting the standard for our profession. Money talks. I recall an acute psychiatric hospital where I worked. We were not treated as professionals and I learned that people will treat me with the same respect that I give myself. I look at job opportunities for social workers and they rarely have a starting salary in the information but they do have a long list of all the duties for the position. Now look at the nursing positions. I believe that the often low salaries offered to social workers also reflect the archaic mentality that medical professions are superior to human service professions. We need a strong public relations campaign rather than lobbyists in Washington DC. We can take our cause to the people and push it from there. We can change the public image of social workers as sacrificial lambs into professionals who provide a very needed service for which they deserve compensation. We could start by informing people the amount of education that is required to become a social worker. A lot of people still call those with a high school diploma social workers. The NASW can do this and I exhort them to think outside the box. The lobbying has given us crumbs.It is time to move and take our cause to the national forum. I would gladly help pay for that, NASW.

  185. Ana you are right. As a profession we need to demand more. The NASW does not stand up for us when it counts. I was tired of being walked all over & left the profession. We invest too much into our educations to have nothing. The image the NASW gives our profession is not positive. We look desperate & for that no one takes us serious. The NASW needs to step up & make us be counted and not hide and only collect dues. I will tell you I tried starting my own geriatric placement services & the minute I say I have a MSW people try to use me for free work. They don’t recognize my time & knowledge as being worth anything. We need to fight the image of a social worker as being a charity & not a profession. This image they have let mask us is defeating us as a profession.

  186. I found this website after googling disrespect of social workers. I’ve been in the field for 14 years & have worked as a MH case mgr, outpatient drug/alcohol counselor, homeless shelter case mgr, employment case mgr, inpatient psych SW, & now I work 3 jobs (2 per diem) as an ER SW for 3 different hospitals. I mostly conduct psychiatric evaluations, then other SW duties. Anyway, I was raised poor & initially started in the field w/ a matryr complex, in it to help people not for the money. I was talking w/ my coworker last night & we both discussed feeling burned out due to constantly being disrespected (in addition to threatened & assaulted) on all sides by the clients, family members of clients, the facilities we’re trying to coordinate care with, doctors, nurses, etc. I had a mother of a 25 year old client tell me she was going to hold me personally responsible if her son relapsed on heroin because I told her there were no detox beds available in the county that day. Our only county detox for uninsured & medicaid individuals also recently closed due to lack of funding. Then an inpatient admitting medical doctor yelled at me about an AFH dump from the community who left a pt in the ER & refused to take him back, that needed to be a social admit for placement. I’m just tired of receiving the brunt of anger for a system I can’t fix. It used to be enough to to know I was able to make a difference in just one person’s life , but I don’t know that it’s worth it anymore. My mother was a nurse and changed mid career to computer programming which paid so much better. I’m considering the same. I think the last straw for me was the ER unit secretary was looking at med tech jobs which have a 6mos-1yr schooling requirement & the top of the pay scale was what I started at with my master’s degree in my position just 2yrs prior. Funding keeps getting cut for programs for the neediest people resulting in more demands on SW w/ less staff & stagnant pay. I think I’ve had enough, especially when struggling to make ends meet in a job where people constantly disrespect the work you do.

  187. Seattle MSW,
    I can completely relate. I left the profession September 2013. To be honest it was the best thing I ever did. I lived with the burn out, the lack of respect & the lousy pay for a long time. What did it was I had my son that June & while you were off duty people, staff, clients & families kept bothering you. So basically I am not getting paid & I am losing this time with my son. Pretty much to be used for free. The other problem I had with the profession was if daycare closes at 6 pm that means I pick my son up at 6 pm. Not management or someone of no importance is calling at 430pm saying I needs you across town. Then I’m left paying $2/minute & my pay is lousy to begin with. Be 40 minutes late & it’s working for free. Not only did I run into this issue but in this profession they want you to work for free on weekends. So I am paying for someone to watch my son. So I am paying to work. Yep, that makes sense alright. People that work at Sheetz at least get paid. Too much was expected for free. My gas, water & electric aren’t free. Leaving the profession definitely necessary.

  188. I have been a social worker for about a year and already the people that were hired with me have quit I feel like its survival of the fittest. I never in my life knew how hard a social worker job is. The media trys to portray how horrible a social worker is if something happens to a kid at the hands of their own mother or father. But you dont see how much paperwork and things a social worker has to do . People shouldn’t judge without knowing what its like to be a social worker.

  189. I did not read all of the other posts before I submitted this, so I apologize if this is repetitive. I have been a social worker for over 20 years. I have a masters degree, and I work in Nebraska. I just have to say it has been one of the most rewarding jobs of my life, but at the same time I had been subjected to the tormenting devices of the Department of Health and Human Services. Health and Human Services whether we want to admit it or not is the governor’s bitch. Whether or not I will have a job, or the funding to be able to do my job is always subjective to the funding that is available. Good decisions about how we take care of our children, how we take care of our elderly, and how we support our social programs are al depending on who’s in office at the time. I remember learning about this is a very young naive 18 19 20 year old. But when I saw it in action I was blown away. Don’t fool yourself if you go into this career, you will have to play nice with people who you do not agree with at all about a lot of things. And I’m not talking about little things I’m talking about really really big things, like whether or not a child should be placed back with a father who sexually abused her, or whether or not elderly should be given the right to choose whether or not they live or die or suffer for years on end. Those decisions ultimately be made, by whoever has the almighty dollar to get themselves in office, and boats to support a program that will or will not provide those services.on the other hand, I have worked with and helped more families and I can even possibly counted this time. Some of them I have seen your children grow up and do great things. Choose wisely

  190. Since this article was first posted on 11/2/09, nearly 200 comments have been posted. The majority of these comments are from social workers struggling due to low wages and stressful work environments. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this blog post is probably the most active one on

    I really hope that the NASW is taking notes and coming up with a gameplan (using the pricey dues we pay each year) to mobilize the profession and help us out. We are losing lots of good social workers due to high stress and low pay.

  191. I’ve been in social services for 14 years and a social worker for 7 years. Like many of you, I had dreams of helping others and making a difference and getting personal satisfaction from my job. Unfortunately, this has NOT been my typical experience as a social worker.

    With all the paperwork and insurance phone calls, I’m lucky to spend 25% of my time with clients. Furthermore, working in an inpatient substance abuse treatment facility, many of the clients i serve are not exactly willing or motivated participants and have been asked to come to treatment to save their job or appease the courts and so they are merely gping through the motions.

    Furthermore, I am amazed to see the dysfunction within my organization. The workload is unevenly distributed and policies are often based on what’s good for the company, rather than what’s in the best interest of the client.

    I had dreams of opening my own practice one day, but my energy is so low from the toxic environment i work in, that once I get home from being gone 10 plus hours per day, I just flop on the couch. I suspect that i have not only burnout, but likely secondary traumatizing from this environment.

  192. The situation is particularly grim in California, especially if you move here from another state. In CA there is no separate Social Work Board to lobby for us. We are under the thumbs of the psychologists who seem to consider social workers with master’s degrees as inferior and poorly educated.

    Unlike in other states, in California, social workers with a Master’s Degree are Registered, not Licensed and still considered an “intern” though not always referred to by that name. We are not considered to be professionals. We are allowed up to 6 years to complete our hours towrd LCSW. (in other states most MSWs finish their LCSW hours in two years). But in California, If you don’t finish your hours in 6 years, you have to start counting them all over again. I have heard countless stories of people who have had to start over or who have given up and obtained jobs in other fields. The employment situation for entry level MSWs is, I believe, partly responsible for this predicament.

    I have seen some jobs posted that expect MSWs to work for free. One position required me to work at a 30% commission, pay for my own advertising materials, write my own blogs (without being paid) and recruit my own clients. The cost of living in Orange County is very high. A modest 700 square foot apartment costs $1450 a month or more. Many MSW entry level social workers are paid less than $40,000. Here in Calfornia, that iqualifies you as low income. And it makes paying your bills very difficult, living from paycheck to paycheck hoping nothing will go wrong with your health or your car.

    In college and grad school, professors told us that our “generalist” MSW would get us jobs in any branch of clinical social work. That is not true in CA.. Dialysis centers will only hire social workers with 1-2 years post grad experience in renal social work. Hospices only want to hire MSWs with 1-2 years experience in hospice work. Addictions treatment centers are even worse. They only want to hire people with CADAC or MFTs.

    Most job descriptions for MSWs in CA require “2 years experience” but don’t state where that experience is to be obtained. After appplying to countless jobs without success, I finally decided that this means “2 years post graduate experience.” However, I only have 6 months post grad work experience. Both my parents died wthen I was working on my degrees. My supervisors told me to take a year off to deal with bereavement–because my specialization is in Aging. I did just what they recommended. As a result of the time I took off for bereavement and the fact that I moved to CA after graduating, I only have 6 months post grad work experience.

    Employers here in CA do not consider internships as valid experience. I completed four internships in various agencies, which total up to 2 years experience– in an addictions treatment center, a psych hospital, county health department and in a hospital. In between all of this I was a paid caregiver for my elderly parents. But none of this counts.

    The fact that few, if any, California agencies want to hire MSWs with less than 1-2 years post grad experience has created a Catch-22 at the entry level.. If employers only want to hire MSWs with 1-2 years post grad experience, then how do recent graduates get the experience necessary to get hired? This catch 22 has sent me into a downward spiral towards becoming the very image of a typical social work client-jobless, homeless and poor. My savings are running out. I am now on Food Stamps and I have applied for other assistance as well. The spectre of homelessness hangs over my head.

    I am so disgusted with this situation that I have begun looking for jobs outside the field of social work. Yet when I apply for these jobs, I am told I’m either overqualified or underqualified. As a result, I feel trapped by my own profession and the agencies connected to it which blindly cling to numbers and rigidly pigeonhole job applicants– failing to recognize that a person who does not fit in neat little pigeonholes can still become a valued employee.

    What is being done about this dismal employment situation for entry level MSWs in California? I called the CA chapter of the NASW and asked them this question. After various evasive answers that had nothing to do with my question, the person admitted that nothing is being done. Then I asked if anyone at the CA chapter lobbying to create our own Social Work Board? The answer was” No.” I hung up in disgust. No wonder there is a great shortage of social workers here in California….

  193. The NASW could learn a lot from the American Massage Therapy Association. Their lobbying (and other ) efforts did so much for the status of massage therapists. Incredible job, they tackled the whole image problem that massage therapists have (being confused with masseuses etc).

  194. It seem that society has forgotten about us a social workers and the affect that we have on our communities. We work extended hours, no extra pay, disrespected from superiors, undervalued and I feel used we are used as commodity. I have several friends that has left the field of social work because of the high volume of stress. I am also considering taking a different path. I have neglected my own children to be at the beckoning call for someone else’s children. I do not feel that the agency we work for has considered the amounts of sacrifice that we have to make. They has not offered any relief, but they can constantly state what it is we have done wrong or what they want more of. I don’t believe we will ever elevate the problem because they refuse to ask the ones who is doing this work; What is it you need to be more productive on the job? Nor, has they considered hearing what we feel, as front line workers, can bring about progress to the field.

  195. Great and inspiring comments. I too share a lot of what is mentioned but two amazing things surprised me in some job adverts for MSW social work positions ” that the social worker be able to provide toilet assistance to clients” and the other “that a social worker be available to do client transfers of clients from bed to wheel chairs or vice versa”.

    Need I say more? Social workers and MSW have to do something at lease to acquire some basic respect as professionals if not plain human beings.

  196. So, given what’s been discussed, it seems that there are several systemic problems identified by direct providers. Would it be helpful to see more social workers with clinical experience move into administrative roles? Clinical and administrative staff in many agencies have firm boundaries that include gate-keeping on information on productivity, billing, and the agency’s overall solvency. Are there any ideas on how clinical social workers might professionally work themselves into positions where they are able to advocate for other clinicians? I am mainly asking about the crossover from clinical to administrative work in a for-profit agency setting. In my observation, social workers social workers have a hard time NOT working, and private agencies will take advantage of that. Thanks for any feedback, I have to get back to catching up on my progress notes.

  197. I am an LCSW with 12 years experience. My first job after graduate school earned me a whopping 26.5k a year. I made more money delivering pizzas. My second job landed me at 31.5 by the time I left two years later. Next gig was in community mental health for 36k. From there, I went to into private practice. I work in an average size time of about 70,000 people. The area is inundated with therapists. I specialize in EMDR and Hypnosis. I have 43 people to see this coming week. If they all show up, and if I keep these numbers regularly, I will bring in over 170k. On average now, I see anywhere between 30-35 people. I should gross this year around 125k.

    Learn how to market yourself, and you will be fine. Took me two years to get to 100k.

  198. Absolutely, I have worked in the field of Social work since 1998. My overall salary has been between 28,000-53,000. Now mind you I have never pursued a position as a program manager. I currently work as a Skilled Nursing facility social worker. That is a nursing home. I do not like it and I have been doing this work for about seven years. Hospitals and schools refuse to look at my resume because I lack in the experience they are looking for. All I get is a lot of grief stress and low pay. With this salary I cannot take a yearly vacation nor afford to drive a decent car. I want out of this profession. I would not leave it entirely. I would consider per diem or part-time. I will be turning 41 this month. I pray to god to get me to a job where I can make decent money and offer skills that are relevant.

  199. Nikki,
    I wanted out of the profession so bad I met my husband
    & married him after 5 months. Now I work for his office
    Everyday I pray I will not have to return to this field. I
    Tried starting my own business which has been something.
    At one time in my life I was working 2 jobs in acute care &
    Hospice. This was to make it or basically make a descent
    Income. I would get home at 1am, throw up, finish some
    work, and sleep a few hours. I would do this every day
    Until I ended in the hospital & used my vacation days to
    Recover. While other people & friends could afford their
    cost of living with one job in a different field here was I.
    I left very disgusted over the pay, exhaustion & burn out.
    These companies throw this compassion crap in your face
    Because the profession built itself on that. Something
    needs to give degrees are expensive & so is cost of living.
    For now I pray I won’t have to return to social work. Hell
    some times I fear it.

  200. Social work is a pathetic job. I feel so bad that it took more than 20 years to realize. Shame on me.

  201. No one talks about the liability involved when working with the mentally ill, substance dependent, impoverished and desperate individuals ON THE FRONT LINES. Talk about stress. These folks can pick up and hone in on any emotional vulnerability a social worker inadvertently displays. I don’t care how experienced and professional you claim to be. We all have tells. Clients who have had to use what ever they can to survive in a cruel world have a “gift” for recognizing and exploiting any weakness they observe in their clinician for personal gain.

    I am a licensed master’s level social worker, who case manages chronically mentally ill adults with medical vulnerabilities.. I visit the clients where they are at. This means meeting with people in their homes, in dangerous neighborhoods, in unsafe housing, in bedbug/scabies/roach infested places, in homes where violence is normalized. These are people who others refer to as the “dregs of society”. No one wants to deal with them, think about them, or address their issues. However I am expected to magically wave a wand and empower these folks to fix decades worth of dysfunctional choices in a short amount of time. The pressure I feel from other social workers and society who refer these clients to me “the last stop” is overwhelming.

    Not only do I have to spend time thinking of my physical safety when in dangerous neighborhoods, but also my emotional and professional safety when working with mentally ill people. Many clients are distrustful of outside intervention, most likely due to past bad experiences. I know a client’s hostile reaction is not about me, but a commentary on a larger issue. hostile reactions, in addition to clients recounting their trauma, chaos, and horror, are a day to day job resposnibility. How can these stories and experiences not vicariously affect you? You would have to be a sociopath or completely disassociated/numb not let it vicariously traumatize you. Not to mention, God forbid, you MISS something (no doubt because you are preoccupied with safety concerns, not bringing home bedbugs, and your emotional armor is fully engaged) and that one of your clients gets sick, or DIES while you are involved. You are now ENEMY NUMBER ONE, on the front page of the newspaper, in the news, suspended from your low paying job. Society blames the social worker for the client’s poor lifestyle choices because you failed to fix a problem no one wants to think about or acknowledge. Their own mortality..

    Social work in the front lines has completely destroyed my faith in humanity. When I try to take a situation at face value, or am optomistic about self-reported good occurring, without fail I later I find that I have been conned and misled. My good impressions means more help, more money, more resources. As a result? It’s hard for me to believe anyone anymore. In personal life and professional

    The answer? I don’t know how to do anything else. $50,000 spent on 2 social work degrees and 13 years in the front lines. I need to go into MACRO social work. Where I can become removed from the day to day realities of the impoverished, sick, and uneducated. I will then have a big old desk and a title as a barrier between me and the bedbug ridden. Better yet, I can become a supervisor and mandate my staff actually deal with these undesirables in person. I will now never come down from my “out of touch with reality” throne, and thankfully never bring home bedbugs again.

  202. 10/24/2015


    I work in a NY state psychiatric facility and been attacked by patients a number of times. I also see here in NY that LMHC are now doing jobs that social worker would do which means less jobs for social workers. I feel that social workers are not paid enough, never given the chance to make overtime, as not considered essential like nurses and therapy aides . Given the education you are required to have, the violence and low pay in relation to others, I would never suggest to anyone to anyone to enter this field.

  203. Very informative posting.

  204. I’m really ready to strike out on my own and develop a private practice. There’s no reason why with all the training (formal education and hands on work) that we can’t use out expertise to do what we excel at and love. I’ve been told that in private practice you can be selective about who you work with and I’m ready to work with more of the motivated population…I’ve ‘served’ my time working with the mandated client and it’s time for me to move on.

  205. I’m considering pursuing an MSW. I’m in my late 50s and received a Business Undergraduate degree in my 20s. I have spent my career successfully over the last 35 years in Sales management. I have wanted to go into Social Work since high school. However, I did not follow that path for fear that I would not find a job. I followed the advice of others instead of my own intuition. Through all of that that time, I have taught yoga and recently I am facilitating a support group. These works are resonating with me and pulling me intently to do what I wanted to do over 40 years ago. More than ever, I feel I am being called to do what I originally knew I was meant to do. I would like to work for myself, so I plan to pursue the avenue of social entrepreneurship. I really feel you need to know yourself and follow your inner voice. If you do that, you will make the choices that are right for you. Monetary reward will follow in any profession. Do not let the designation of a degree or title decide your potential income. I have to tell you though, I am so scared and I really don’t know where to start:) I just know I need to do it!

  206. I have entered this thread really late, and arrived here after googling “burned out social worker “. I am overcome with disappointment and dismay that this field I loved with all of my heart has become a liability. As a LSW, I have worked with children, families, the elderly, domestic violence victims, the homeless, etc. I had so much passion and drive which has all but evaporated after years of stringing together part time jobs without benefits or stable income to attempt to find financial security. I have feared for my safety on a regular basis in most of my positions, from neighborhood issues, to exposure to contagious disease, to clients with erratic behaviors. Making this fear more stressful is knowing that I don’t have health insurance or sick time if anything were to happen to me. Working with clients has given me life but has also made me reevaluate life, because many don’t want to or refuse to change while blaming me for their lack of progress. I have also experienced this while simultaneously working for corrupt agencies and verbally abusive management that were offering meager salaries but demanding on call responsibilities, nights, werkends, and completion of work regardless of it being billable leaving me to work for free. I am tired, overwhelmed, and sad. I just needed to get that out.

  207. Hi, I’m a LMSW. I believe social workers should be paid better salaries. Social workers work very hard with difficult populations. We deserve better. We deserve a saleryytgat can cover all of our bills. Yes, I love helping people but I can’t help my self and my family with such a lie salary. It’s really depressing and demoralizing.

  208. I got here by googling “social worker conditions.” I have been considering pursuing a MSW after I graduate in less than a year with my Bachelor’s in Sociology. I credit these comments for helping me rethink this big decision. This was very valuable information, as many before me have noted, and I think I will choose to volunteer rather than choose this as my career.
    My hat’s off to those who do this work and follow their hearts. I know many talk about the benefits, but reading descriptions and realities of those who have been in the field for 10+ years, this isn’t for me. Let the brainstorming for other Master’s programs/careers begin!

  209. Worked in the social work and mental health fields for about five years. I left for a number of reasons. First of all, the field has become dominated by “The Medical Model” which forces social workers into a position where they cannot do their jobs without shuttling people into the mental health system, giving them a stigmatizing and often false DSM diagnoses, and then drugging them on psychoactive, psychiatric pharmaceuticals with a slew of negative and debilitating side effects. I found the work to be rewarding only when I would break the rules and find creative means of actually giving my clients the help they needed, usually financial help, practical aide in daily living, and emotional support. However, my disgust with the field reached a peak, and I have never been able to go beyond that point. I became to horrified by the sheer number of people being prescribed one after another drug, being given diagnoses upon diagnoses, and caring deeply about these people on a heart level, also knowing that their situations were in NO WAY reducible simply to a chemical imbalance and had more to do with social injustice, inequality, dangerous family situations, etc. In short, I would NOT recommend social work as a career. I would recommend radical social change. As a social worker, you end up sitting there witnessing gross injustice and being able to do next to nothing to really reach the root of the problem and give your clients a truly good life.

  210. Matt – I am glad you are not my social worker. I really would be quite worried.

  211. Stressful and low pay. Yes yes. This describes our profession for sure. Yes, there are intrinsic rewards in helping others. Yes, we work along side some amazing people. Yet, we make less than most teachers and are required to have master’s degrees. We work long hours and seldom get any thanks from either our clients or our supervisory staff or agencies. Many people say to us oh, you’re just a social worker. Most people think all we do is provide access to social supports such as food stamps. There is a very large misunderstanding of what we do by the general public. There are people out there calling themselves social workers who are NOT social workers and do not hold degrees in social work. If I had a quarter for every time someone told me, I couldn’t do what you do and it must be soooo rewarding. Yes, sometimes but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t like to be paid a livable wage. Working with people who are addicted, suicidal, homicidal, incarcerated, having major crisis can be stressful and often is. Yes, this is a stressful and low paid profession. Would I trade it? No, I love what I do.

  212. All of you part-timers, burned out social workers, etc…. It is not your fault.

    Look at your employers, your ex-employers, your supervisors and managers. Look at their salaries. They still have a job and you don’t, and that says everything about where the root of the problem is. Corporate culture in a social service delivery setting hurts social work the most because it is such a high stress job. No matter how much your boss sugar coats it, they are more than likely doing less work than you and getting paid more, either in salary, benefits, job security, or all of the above. They are paid to control, not to lead. Not all are like this, but a quick look at the executives running nonprofits and many other social work settings shows how broken the system actually is.

    This will not happen soon, but it will one day as more social workers realise the truth about the broken system they work in: the field will rot and implode on itself without us, because we are talented, genuine, and important contributing citizens that can do so much better than work for these ungrateful social work agencies. Every time we take that low paying entry-level social work job, we are feeding our profession’s biggest system of oppression while trying to fight off multiple other systems on our own.

  213. “I am not burnt out” and “I am not overwhelmed”

    I have been working in the field of Social Work since 2003 and it is my opinion, after continuously deciding that I was not going to give up on the field, that maybe this is just not the organization for me, that there is an issue with the entire system as a whole.

    I agree with most of the comments above that may appear to some to be negative or a sign of burnout. I have had the same issues as some have mentioned above with every position that I have held in the field from 2003 until 2016. This is always the response when an issue exists within a system that those in leadership positions do not want to face. The response always suggests that there is something wrong with the person who has identified the issue. “You must be overwhelmed” or “You must be burnt out.” My response to that is that I know it can’t just be an issue with me when there are so many others from walks of life much different than my own who have never met me to have had the same experiences within this field. I was not burnt out or overwhelmed in 2003 when this journey began and I have had the same experience in 2016 that I had in 2003.

  214. I have been in the field of social work for almost 35 years. I work in a non-profit and earn less than many of my peers who do not have advanced degrees. The average janitor in the school system make around $109K. Sanitation, construction workers, even teachers make more money. My salary is too embarrassing to mention but I am so fed up hearing people say the work we do as social workers is so important. PAY US A LIVING WAGE! I fell into this work because I really care. Must I choose to take a vow of poverty????
    We are great at advocating for our clients? It’s time we take a stand and start advocating for ourselves!

  215. I don’t think it’s right for people to say rude things about other people’s business. I understand you can have your opinion on social work, but if it hurts someone else, then why say it? My sister has been thinking about going into social work, but I’m not too sure how I feel about it yet.

  216. I would say this—-don’t work any harder than your salary grade. If you give your employer more than they are giving you—why would they feel a need to raise your pay? I feel that if Workers are being underpaid, then the Workers’ output should only reflect their salary level. You under- pay me—I’ll under-work you. If that doesn’t light a fire under any agency’s “you know what” to figure how to get you the salary level that will suit your NEEDS (and I do say Needs….for sure the salary does not need to be extravagant)….if a Worker’s under-performance doesn’t motivate the agency to raise the salary, then in my opinion the pairing (worker to agency) is not a good match.

  217. *I am an LMSW

  218. I’m not a social worker, but my spouse is and over the years I’ve seen the lack of understanding of what social workers bring to the table and the disrespect. I’m reading a lot of focus on pay, and while I wholeheartedly agree, my observation as more of an outsider is the larger issue of being denied opportunities to grow and upward mobility. It’s pretty clear when I look at the job opportunities out there for social workers. 90% seem to be entry level dealing heavily with mental health and drug abuse. In other words, social workers are valued as a cheap resource for handling patients with psychosocial issues and that’s it.

    In the hospital setting, I think the pay is a bit better, but it’s clear that nurse case managers are paid better and, most importantly, have more career mobility. They try to delineate the roles, as if nurse case managers are more equipped to handle overall patient care and discharge planning while social workers are supposed to be for consult for psychosocial issues. Yet I see time and time again, float and resource social workers end up filling in for absent nurse resources. On the other hand, nurses are not filling in for social worker resources.

    The more adaptable and capable the social worker, the more management wants them to ride them and keep them where they’re at. And they can get away with it, because the types and quality of opportunities for a social worker is poor. Want to move into informatics? Almost all informatics job postings require a nursing degree. What about utilization management? Same thing. As a result a social worker cannot meet the minimum qualifications for these opportunities, even though they are fully capable of excelling at them.

    Sorry for ranting, but my point is that focusing on pay is not going to drive change or perception of social workers. The goal should be getting “MSW/LMSW” and “social work experience” as options for meeting the requirements for a wider variety of job postings/titles.

  219. Matt: Social workers with your mindset are part of the problem. We need to stop repeating this mantra of “Well, no one goes into Social Work expecting to get rich”! Or “If you’re burnt out, leave!”

    It’s BS! Of course, no one expects to get rich. However, given that the amount of education and hoop jumping necessary to become an LCSW is NOT commensurate with the pay, we should OUTRAGED by how low our pay is. And being Social Workers, we should also recognize the sexism we are combating as so many fail to recognize “women’s work” (teaching/SW) as valuable.

    And NASW, our frenemy, needs to stop making so much money off us underpaid SWs by demanding too many CEUs and then overcharging us for them.

  220. Despite social workers’ invaluable contributions, their salaries continue to lag behind those of other helping professions such as nurses, police and high school teachers, according to the Bureau of Labor of Statistics. In addition to low pay, social workers face 30+ caseloads. Social workers are the advocates for the children whose parents/guardian are unable to do so. As a society we have stripped children’s ability to self-advocate for their wants and needs. We have labelled them as too underdeveloped to be decision makers for themselves. This underlying social force of needing advocates for children in need implores us to ensure that their rights are taken care of adequately. How can we do this? By supporting those that advocate for those children, the social workers. Let’s help advocate for our social workers and helping them get the pay they deserve!

  221. I have felt for the last 2 decades that the salary does not meet the demand of the career
    Once I had 2 children I really started to feel resentful of the profession. The way I handle
    It now is I work my 8 hours and go home. I make it very clear that I can’t afford to do much more. I also make it clear if something needed done that is going to cost me money it’s not happening. At this point in my life any salaried job in this profession that requires beyond 8 hours is costing $ because of daycare expenses etc. I’ve learned to
    Set boundaries and limitations & say no. At one point I was giving 60 hours a week with a 40 hour pay. Those days are long gone. The representation by the NASW to me seems so minimal. I’d imagine their administrators & officers are getting nice salaries especially with the dues we are paying. I’ve come to accept the salary by respecting the boundaries & limitations I have set. Sadly with this profession, a family and other factors that have come in to my life I could be a client needing assistance so I don’t say no to others. I say my family comes first these are my boundaries. Some of the demands of this career started to feel like it was taking away from my family & children. So I had to decide what was more important.


  1. Stressful Jobs with Low Pay | NASW Advocacy Blog
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  4. Examining the Gender Pay Gap in Women Dominated Work : Conscious Life News
  5. Should “Glee” Be Required Viewing for School Social Workers? | Social Workers Speak

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