Social workers who specialize in the needs of children, families, and school institutions fill a particular need in the social work industry. A social work position that caters to these needs comes with its challenges but can also be a rewarding way for professionals to help support the adolescents and families in their communities. Although there are numerous career paths within this field, students interested in working with children and families within an educational environment may be drawn to learning more about the responsibilities of a school social worker.
Individuals who are interested in pursuing this important role need to understand the work environments, responsibilities, and requirements of child, family, and school social workers, as well as the benefits of completing an advanced education, such as a Master of Social Work (MSW) program, to gain the skills to help others.
The Role of School Social Workers
The primary responsibilities of a school social worker involve helping students to address problems or issues that may get in the way of learning and competence, such as truancy, rebelliousness, social withdrawal, substance abuse, and bullying. Individuals who choose this career path play a critical role in educational settings, because they work with students to help them improve their emotional well-being and academic performance.
Although the job duties of school social workers may vary based on the institution they work for and the age of the students they serve, common job duties may include the following:
- Meeting with students for crisis intervention
- Developing and teaching intervention strategies to help students achieve academic goals
- Helping students learn strong social skills, as well as strategies for conflict resolution and anger management
- Working with family members and other individuals in a child’s living situation to help support their adjustment, learning, and development
- Helping parents access special educational programs and resources for students with special education needs or learning disabilities
- Offering support and education for school staff to help them improve their understanding of the cultural, societal, economical, or other factors that can impact students’ education and behavioral tendencies
- Assisting districts in developing and implementing educational programs for exceptional or advanced students, as well as alternative programs for students who’ve dropped out, are delinquent, truant, or experience other issues impeding their learning
- Identifying, reporting, and helping school districts to intervene when child abuse or neglect is suspected or confirmed
The goal of child, family, and school social workers is protecting students, other children, and their families in vulnerable situations, such as helping a student and their family apply for child care or state/federal benefits like food stamps. Additionally, child, family, and school social workers may also work with students and parents to intervene in instances of substance abuse, physical or mental abuse, and other situations that put students at risk.
Why Do School Districts and Staff Need Social Work Support?
Child, family, and school social workers engage in a number of key activities, including working with individual students and their families in school settings.
According to the School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA), school social workers bring a unique perspective to educational programs and can help students and their families cope with issues that may impact or prevent students’ successful learning.
“The best teachers with the biggest teaching ‘bag of tricks’ recognize that numerous factors interfere with their ability to reach many of their students,” The SSWAA explained on its website: “Social Workers are trained mental health professionals who can assist with mental health concerns, behavioral concerns, positive behavior support, academic and classroom support, consultation with teachers, parents, and administrators, as well as provide individual and group counseling/therapy.”
Employment Outlook for Child, Family, and School Social Workers
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that there were more than 342,000 school social workers employed throughout the U.S. as of 2019, and demand for this profession is on the rise. For example, the BLS projects that overall employment of child, family, and school social workers is projected to grow by 12% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than what’s projected for all other occupations.
Growth within this field is expected to be driven by rising student enrollments. Although job opportunities for school social workers are expected to be good, applicants who’ve completed an advanced degree, such as an online master’s in social work, are expected to have the best prospects.
Overall, the general working environment for child, family, and school social workers can vary. While professionals within this field spend much of their workday in an office, some school social workers may also be required to travel to different institutions in the district to help students and their families, or assist administrative school staff, when needed.
Technology is also having an impact on the responsibilities of school social workers, in that some social workers are leveraging videoconferencing and other mobile technology to support more remote or distance-based counseling.
School Social Worker Salary
The compensation for social work can vary greatly. The BLS reports that the median annual salary for child, family and school social workers was $48,430 as of May 2020, while earners in the top 10% reported annual salaries of more than $85,820.
Salaries vary based on several factors, such as whether an individual works for a public or private school, their experience level, whether they’ve completed an advanced degree, and the geographical region where the position is located.
How to Become a Child, Family, and School Social Worker
Some entry-level positions may only require professionals to have earned a bachelor’s-level degree in social work or a related field, such as psychology or sociology. However, professionals who engage in continuing education through an MSW program can expand their skills and be better prepared for the challenges that professional school social workers face. In addition, an MSW can help prepare students for other, higher-level positions and supervisory roles in the social work industry.
Many states also require that child, family, and school social workers be licensed after passing the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam.
Advance Your Social Work Career by Earning an MSW
College students and professionals who are ready to take their next step toward a rewarding role as a child, family, and school social worker can prepare by earning an advanced degree. The Regis College online MSW program provides students with the skills and knowledge they need for success in this challenging yet fulfilling career.
Discover how Regis College’s online Master of Social Work program can help you achieve your professional goals and make a positive impact in the lives of others.