Highest Paying Social Work Jobs
Social work jobs are more than just careers, as social workers are called to uplift individuals, couples, families, children, and entire communities. These jobs can also be highly rewarding in terms of career growth and salary, depending on the career path you end up taking.
If you’re curious about how much you can make as a social worker, use this guide to learn more about the highest-paying social work jobs and how you can pursue them.
How Much Do Social Workers Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2020 the median annual wage for social workers was $51,760, with the highest 10 percent of social workers earning more than $85,820. Salaries in social work jobs, however, depend on a variety of factors, including your job title, education, experience, employer, and where you live.
For example, say you have a Master of Social Work (MSW) and supervise a team of social workers in Hawaii, which is the top-paying state for social workers, according to the BLS. In this situation, you may have higher earning potential compared to an entry-level social worker who holds a bachelor’s degree and works in a lower-paying state.
Below, we explore some social work jobs that often command higher salaries. These specific jobs are not outcomes of Baylor’s MSW Online program. Check with your state for the requirements of each job.
List of Highest-Paying Social Work Jobs
Professor of Social Work
A social work professor is one of the highest-paying social work jobs. Professors teach students at the postsecondary level, such as community colleges, professional schools, or traditional four-year public or private institutions.
To become a social work professor, you may be required to obtain a master’s degree or higher in social work. In many instances, you may need work experience within the social work field as well.
Social work professors develop instructional plans for their students and grade papers, assignments, quizzes, and tests. They may also provide students with career guidance. Some social work professors do a combination of research and teaching, conducting social work research and publishing papers in their free time.
Professor of Social Work Salary
According to the BLS, as of May 2020, the median pay for postsecondary social work teachers was $71,570 per year. The BLS also indicates a higher earning potential at colleges, universities, and professional schools, as opposed to junior colleges.
Medical and Health Services Managers
Some social workers pursue work as medical and health services managers, another one of the highest-paying social work positions. The role of a medical and health services manager is similar to that of healthcare administrators. They may also be called health managers. Professionals in these positions plan, coordinate, and direct health and medical services in work environments like hospitals, nursing homes, medical offices, and other healthcare facilities.
Medical and health services managers typically have at least a bachelor’s degree, although master’s degrees in social work and other areas are also common and may be preferred by some employers. Having management experience in an administrative or clinical position can also be helpful.
Typical medical and health services manager duties may include developing departmental goals and objectives, recruiting and supervising staff members, managing budgets, and communicating with healthcare executives.
Medical and Health Services Managers Salary
According to the BLS, the median annual wage for medical and health services managers in May 2020 was $104,280. The median annual wage for those who worked in government was $116,380. Those who worked in state, local, and private hospitals also saw a higher-than-average median annual wage for this occupation: $112,870 as of May 2020.
Social and Community Service Managers
Social and community service management positions are also some of the highest-paying social work jobs. Individuals in these roles create and manage programs and organizations that benefit communities.
Examples of programs that social and community service managers may work with include those that serve children, veterans, senior citizens, and people experiencing homelessness. Other programs may focus on addressing specific issues, such as chronic hunger or substance abuse. Responsibilities of social and community service managers may include collecting data on programs to show results and inform budgeting and hiring decisions.
Social and community service managers usually need at least a bachelor’s degree, though many positions require a master’s degree. It is recommended that aspiring social and community service managers study social work or a related field, such as public policy or social services.
Social and Community Service Managers Salary
The BLS reports that the median annual wage for social and community service managers in May 2020 was $69,600. The median annual wage for those who worked in local government — excluding education and hospitals — was $87,720. For those who worked for religious, grantmaking, professional, or civic organizations, the median annual wage was $72,860.
School Social Worker
School social workers work in the education system, providing students, teachers, families, and school administrators with resources to improve students’ social development and academic performance. Sometimes, school social workers provide services to students in therapeutic counseling environments. This type of counseling may take place with the student individually, in a group setting, or with the student’s family.
For a school social worker to provide mental health services, they must be licensed and have completed at least a master’s degree in social work. Social workers who provide services at postsecondary institutions can work in some of the highest-paying school social work positions available.
School social workers might be employed by a single school, or they might work for a network of schools in their community.
School Social Worker Salary
The BLS reports the median annual wages for child, family, and school social workers in May 2020 was $48,430. Social workers working in elementary and secondary schools are some of the best compensated, earning a median annual wage of $64,210.
Some social workers might choose to pursue a related career in school counseling or advising. The BLS reports that the 2020 median pay for school and career counselors and advisors was $58,120 per year, with those working in elementary and secondary schools earning a median annual salary of $64,960.
Clinical Social Worker
Clinical social workers are social workers who are licensed to provide mental health services, which may include diagnosing and treating mental health conditions.
In order to provide clinical social work services, you need to meet certain educational and experience requirements. The minimum education requirement for clinical social workers is a master’s degree in social work. In addition, clinical social workers have to obtain licensure for the state in which they want to practice. Specific requirements vary from state to state, but this usually involves applying for licensure with your local regulatory board and passing a clinical exam.
Because there are rigorous education and experience requirements to become a clinical social worker, this position is one of the highest-paying social work jobs. Some clinical social workers provide services in organizations such as mental health institutions or hospitals. Others work remotely through telehealth services and are able to meet with clients on their own schedule.
Clinical Social Worker Salary
The BLS reports that the median annual wage for social workers who do not fall into other categories was $64,210 in May 2020. Clinical social worker salaries will depend on a variety of factors, including where you work and where you live. The BLS reports that the highest 10 percent of social workers earned more than $85,820 in May 2020.
Last updated in November 2021.