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Public and Private Social Workers

Public and Private Social Workers


Fast Facts*
Recommended Degree LevelBachelor
Salary, Typical$54,560
Salary Range$31K - $80K
Number of Jobs, 201258,430
Annual Job Growth Rate3.7%
Job Openings per Year (est.)3,030

What's Needed:

  • In order to work as an independent social worker in either a public or private setting, you must hold a master's degree in social work.
  • You may be able to work under another professional in a public facility if you have only a bachelor's degree in social work.

What you study:

You'll study all of the following in a social work program:

  • Professional Ethics
  • Human Behavior
  • Counseling
  • Diversity
  • Social Work Practices
  • Research Methods

A Day in the Life

You help individuals from all walks of life cope with struggles.

You have many different career options when you choose to work as a social worker. You may work in a public facility or in a private practice. Where you work depends on your personal desires and the types of positions open in your specialty area. Whether you work in a public or private setting, you will be responsible for helping your clients cope with life challenges. You may be known as a clinical social worker, a mental health worker, a school social worker or simply a services specialist.

You can work with individuals or families.

Your day begins by heading to the agency or organization where you work. You check your email and voicemail for any messages from clients or updates from other professionals with whom your clients work. You don't have to respond to any pressing messages, so you spend about half an hour reviewing your appointments for the day. You've kept files on all of your clients and take the opportunity to review these so that you can remind yourself of the goals for each client.

You're responsible for staying in touch with other professionals who work with your clients.

About an hour after you've arrived at work, the receptionist at your office tells you that your first client has arrived. She is a young woman who was in a debilitating accident and is learning how to cope with her disability. You talk to her about strategies for work and her home life. You're concerned about her access to good medical care, so you also help her understand the types of public assistance programs that she qualifies for and give her all the information that she needs to apply to these programs. After you've wrapped up with your client, you make notes in her file and prepare to visit your next clients, a family whose son has recently been diagnosed with a learning disability.

You meet with the boy and his parents at their home. Instead of sitting the boy down at a table and asking him questions, you engage in creative play to encourage him to express his emotions. After you've spent time with the boy, you talk to his parents about how they can support him in school. You help them to understand special programs that he can participate in and provide them with contact information for the people who run those programs.

You head back to your office and prepare to see several more clients. You talk to each client about the challenges that they are facing and help them to formulate a plan for coping with those problems. After your last client has left, you organize your office and pull out client files for tomorrow. You quickly glance over these files and then close up your office. You check in with the director of your facility before you go so that you can share any issues or concerns with her.

Certifications and Licensing

All states require that social workers are licensed by a social work board. In order to become licensed, you must have an M.A. in social work and pass a background check. Most states also require that you complete a set number of internship hours.

Job Flexibility

Full-time versus part-time:

Most social workers have full-time schedules. You may also be required to work overtime and on-call hours on an as-needed basis.

Work location:

As a social worker, you can choose whether you'd like to work in a traditional office or travel from location to location to work with your clients.

Recommended Websites

  • The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook for Social Workers: This Bureau of Labor Statistics website is designed to offer well-rounded, basic information about careers in social work. Prospective social work students can learn about salary ranges and employment outlook projections in this field but should also consult sites that offer more qualitative content.
  • National Association of Social Workers: The NASW website provides information about all facets of social work. It serves as an excellent resource for individuals who want to explore different areas of social work.
  • Clinical Social Work Association: CSWA's website is designed to provide information about clinical social work to the general public and practitioners in this field. It contains valuable information about clinical practice and features a job board that social workers at all levels can use to find open positions.

Salaries by City

See typical salaries and ranges for this career below*. Shift click to sort by more than one column -- for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.

StateCity / RegionTypical SalarySalary RangeJob Count% of All Jobs
AKAnchorage$54,620$41K - $82K1500.09%
ALBirmingham - Hoover$63,140$30K - $75K600.01%
ALFlorence - Muscle Shoals$27,930$21K - $47KN/AN/A
ALTuscaloosa$63,150$24K - $76K600.06%
ARFayetteville - Springdale - Rogers$59,310$27K - $76K700.04%
ARFort Smith$46,130$29K - $63K300.03%
ARLittle Rock - North Little Rock - Conway$43,590$30K - $75K2700.08%
AZFlagstaff$35,570$21K - $54K500.08%
AZPhoenix - Mesa - Glendale$55,510$33K - $75K6600.04%
AZTucson$61,220$32K - $75K1800.05%
CABakersfield - Delano$76,700$25K - $92K500.02%
CAChico$54,190$20K - $68K700.10%
CAEl Centro$64,690$39K - $81K400.07%
CAFresno$58,790$42K - $75K5500.17%
CALos Angeles - Long Beach - Glendale (Metro Area)$58,710$35K - $89K3,5900.09%
CAMadera - Chowchilla$57,880$50K - $73K500.13%
CANapa$22,910$20K - $75K800.12%
CAOakland - Fremont - Hayward (Metro Area)$76,660$41K - $104K1,1700.12%
CAOxnard - Thousand Oaks - Ventura$47,970$39K - $71K4300.15%
CARiverside - San Bernardino - Ontario$60,980$40K - $83K1,2400.11%
CASacramento - Arden - Arcade - Roseville$69,650$59K - $92K9000.11%
CASan Diego - Carlsbad - San Marcos$43,690$29K - $89K5300.04%
CASan Francisco - San Mateo - Redwood City (Metro Area)$75,840$41K - $95K6400.06%
CASan Jose - Sunnyvale - Santa Clara$78,770$51K - $94K8900.10%
CASan Luis Obispo - Paso Robles$65,220$38K - $81K800.08%
CASanta Ana - Anaheim - Irvine (Metro Area)$66,180$47K - $75K6900.05%
CASanta Barbara - Santa Maria - Goleta$55,360$44K - $85KN/AN/A
CASanta Cruz - Watsonville$65,990$38K - $76K1300.16%
CASanta Rosa - PetalumaN/AN/A - N/A400.02%
CAVallejo - Fairfield$62,940$41K - $90KN/AN/A
CAVisalia - Porterville$42,780$30K - $64K9300.71%
COColorado Springs$63,140$29K - $76K1300.05%
CODenver - Aurora - Broomfield$45,870$28K - $74K4200.03%
COGrand Junction$36,330$24K - $75K500.08%
COPueblo$37,840$26K - $75K400.08%
CTBridgeport - Stamford - Norwalk$42,430$32K - $88KN/AN/A
CTHartford - West Hartford - East Hartford$42,280$31K - $86KN/AN/A
CTNew Haven$51,960$33K - $84K1400.05%
CTWaterbury$37,160$31K - $64K300.05%
DCWashington - Arlington - Alexandria (Metro Area)$67,800$37K - $90K4600.02%
DEWilmington (Metro Area)$67,370$43K - $86K1000.03%
FLCape Coral - Fort Myers$56,350$36K - $103K700.04%
FLDeltona - Daytona Beach - Ormond Beach$52,570$31K - $76K600.04%
FLFort Lauderdale - Pompano Beach - Deerfield Beach (Metro Area)$52,590$29K - $78K2000.03%
FLGainesville$71,100$33K - $85K900.07%
FLJacksonville$55,030$28K - $76K1200.02%
FLMiami - Miami Beach - Kendall (Metro Area)$63,720$37K - $88K3100.03%
FLNorth Port - Bradenton - Sarasota$58,820$42K - $73K600.03%
FLOrlando - Kissimmee - Sanford$44,820$27K - $73K3700.04%
FLPalm Bay - Melbourne - Titusville$60,270$46K - $87K500.03%
FLPanama City - Lynn Haven - Panama City Beach$28,030$17K - $65K300.05%
FLPensacola - Ferry Pass - Brent$46,070$32K - $76K1000.07%
FLPort St. Lucie$45,100$29K - $58K600.05%
FLTallahassee$36,250$32K - $65K1200.08%
FLTampa - St. Petersburg - Clearwater$65,180$34K - $80K3600.03%
FLWest Palm Beach - Boca Raton - Boynton Beach (Metro Area)$55,450$31K - $81K1600.03%
GAAthens - Clarke County$34,540$28K - $59KN/AN/A
GAAtlanta - Sandy Springs - Marietta$40,580$30K - $74K7200.03%
GAAugusta - Richmond County$63,150$33K - $78K1200.06%
GAColumbus$63,130$19K - $76K700.06%
GASavannah$61,230$26K - $82K300.02%
HIHonolulu$64,450$35K - $83K2400.06%
IADavenport - Moline - Rock Island$27,760$20K - $65K600.03%
IADes Moines - West Des Moines$64,970$44K - $76K1300.04%
IAIowa City$59,180$50K - $85K600.07%
IDBoise City - Nampa$66,970$24K - $80K600.02%
ILChampaign - Urbana$29,010$21K - $48KN/AN/A
ILChicago - Joliet - Naperville (Metro Area)$57,190$33K - $78K1,0900.03%
ILDanville$63,140$31K - $76K500.18%
ILLake County - Kenosha County (Metro Area)$65,020$35K - $85K1200.03%
ILPeoria$45,380$30K - $65K900.05%
ILRockford$19,490$18K - $61K1300.10%
ILSpringfield$62,360$28K - $73K500.05%
INEvansville$57,690$34K - $74KN/AN/A
INFort Wayne$61,230$35K - $76K500.03%
INIndianapolis - Carmel$63,430$44K - $75K1900.02%
INKokomo$35,880$26K - $72K400.09%
INMichigan City - La Porte$32,270$25K - $47K300.08%
KSManhattan$63,140$38K - $71K500.10%
KSWichita$42,350$38K - $71K1400.05%
KYLexington - Fayette$65,060$47K - $78K500.02%
LAAlexandria$61,860$42K - $78K800.13%
LABaton Rouge$51,610$34K - $71K2000.05%
LALafayette$52,010$33K - $69K400.03%
LANew Orleans - Metairie - Kenner$54,250$30K - $73K2600.05%
LAShreveport - Bossier City$66,970$47K - $80K600.04%
MABoston - Cambridge - Quincy (Metro Area)$62,760$30K - $87K3900.02%
MABrockton - Bridgewater - Easton (Metro Area)$69,030$52K - $80K600.07%
MANew Bedford$36,840$31K - $71K300.05%
MASpringfield$75,930$41K - $91K600.02%
MDBaltimore - Towson$72,020$43K - $93K5100.04%
MDBethesda - Rockville - Frederick (Metro Area)$74,930$51K - $95K1900.03%
MDHagerstown - Martinsburg$70,210$41K - $87K600.06%
MEBangor$43,810$32K - $65K400.06%
MEPortland - South Portland - Biddeford$47,230$34K - $71K1000.05%
MIAnn Arbor$47,510$30K - $80K1600.08%
MIBay City$38,030$25K - $58K400.12%
MIDetroit - Livonia - Dearborn (Metro Area)$43,000$30K - $71K5700.08%
MIFlint$36,670$17K - $65K1100.09%
MIGrand Rapids - Wyoming$34,690$26K - $61K1900.05%
MIMuskegon - Norton Shores$39,780$28K - $63K500.08%
MISaginaw - Saginaw Township North$61,230$50K - $71K700.09%
MIWarren - Troy - Farmington Hills (Metro Area)$55,950$41K - $83K3600.03%
MNMinneapolis - St. Paul - Bloomington$68,900$46K - $83K3200.02%
MOColumbia$63,130$34K - $75K500.05%
MOKansas City$44,460$34K - $75K1900.02%
MOSt. Louis$55,670$32K - $75K1500.01%
MTBillings$33,620$27K - $70K1000.12%
MTGreat Falls$31,540$22K - $49K600.17%
MTMissoula$34,500$29K - $51K900.17%
NCAsheville$57,420$30K - $76K800.05%
NCCharlotte - Gastonia - Rock Hill$38,790$27K - $68K1800.02%
NCDurham - Chapel Hill$59,170$33K - $78K1200.05%
NCFayetteville$65,080$30K - $78K1400.11%
NCGoldsboro$35,760$30K - $75K300.08%
NCGreensboro - High Point$34,270$24K - $38K800.02%
NCGreenville$31,240$18K - $59K900.13%
NCHickory - Lenoir - Morganton$29,810$21K - $35K600.04%
NCRaleigh - Cary$48,440$29K - $58K1200.02%
NCWinston - Salem$36,280$32K - $69KN/AN/A
NDFargo$61,230$19K - $75K600.05%
NELincoln$40,700$24K - $61K700.04%
NEOmaha - Council Bluffs$63,150$30K - $78K400.01%
NHManchester$75,300$59K - $88K400.04%
NJCamden (Metro Area)$62,520$45K - $85K500.01%
NJEdison - New Brunswick (Metro Area)$64,730$24K - $84K1200.01%
NJNewark - Union (Metro Area)$59,340$36K - $82K4000.04%
NJTrenton - Ewing$62,510$44K - $91K600.03%
NJVineland - Millville - Bridgeton$60,490$52K - $77K400.06%
NMAlbuquerque$46,120$34K - $69K4200.12%
NMFarmington$37,700$27K - $60K800.16%
NMLas Cruces$44,190$35K - $57K800.12%
NMSanta Fe$52,070$41K - $65K1500.26%
NVLas Vegas - Paradise$73,380$47K - $80KN/AN/A
NVReno - Sparks$65,590$42K - $78K500.03%
NYAlbany - Schenectady - Troy$53,600$41K - $71K5900.14%
NYBuffalo - Niagara Falls$53,070$40K - $69K6500.12%
NYElmira$37,400$23K - $71K400.11%
NYIthaca$49,120$41K - $60K600.13%
NYNassau - Suffolk (Metro Area)$66,000$48K - $86K1,1200.09%
NYNew York - White Plains - Wayne (Metro Area)$60,960$41K - $82K4,3600.08%
NYPoughkeepsie - Newburgh - Middletown$67,450$40K - $84K1700.07%
NYRochester$48,650$37K - $69K6100.12%
NYSyracuse$54,670$42K - $71K4500.15%
NYUtica - Rome$43,180$31K - $71K2200.18%
OHAkron$40,760$27K - $68K2600.08%
OHCanton - Massillon$42,090$27K - $69K1500.09%
OHCincinnati - Middletown$45,410$31K - $76K4500.05%
OHCleveland - Elyria - Mentor$47,660$23K - $74K3500.04%
OHColumbus$41,150$28K - $63K5300.06%
OHDayton$49,640$25K - $77K1700.05%
OHLima$38,610$27K - $58K700.15%
OHMansfield$53,700$41K - $68K900.18%
OHToledo$43,630$32K - $67K800.03%
OHYoungstown - Warren - Boardman$45,370$25K - $71K1100.05%
OKOklahoma City$36,000$27K - $73K2800.05%
OKTulsa$37,410$25K - $75K900.02%
ORBend$43,690$28K - $73K700.11%
OREugene - Springfield$43,700$26K - $67K900.07%
ORMedford$45,160$31K - $71K1300.18%
ORPortland - Vancouver - Hillsboro$48,110$27K - $71K9600.10%
ORSalem$39,870$29K - $63K1400.10%
PAAltoona$64,260$29K - $76K400.07%
PAErie$62,430$47K - $76K500.04%
PAHarrisburg - Carlisle$57,850$48K - $80K300.01%
PAPhiladelphia (Metro Area)$69,400$48K - $88K3400.02%
PAPittsburgh$63,890$31K - $86K2100.02%
PAScranton - Wilkes - Barre$65,050$39K - $85K700.03%
PAYork - Hanover$31,410$25K - $47K400.03%
PRMayaguez$23,550$20K - $68K500.16%
PRPonce$20,720$17K - $64K800.14%
PRSan Juan - Caguas - Guaynabo$26,410$19K - $45K1,0400.14%
RIProvidence - Fall River - Warwick$69,020$49K - $88K1000.02%
SCColumbia$40,560$31K - $71K3200.09%
SCFlorence$41,430$31K - $55K700.08%
SCGreenville - Mauldin - Easley$43,280$33K - $65K1100.04%
TNChattanooga$42,160$28K - $67K500.02%
TNClarksville$66,960$57K - $76K900.11%
TNJohnson City$61,220$40K - $78K800.10%
TNKingsport - Bristol - Bristol$34,150$30K - $38K400.03%
TNKnoxville$44,490$28K - $59KN/AN/A
TNMemphis$63,130$28K - $80K1200.02%
TNNashville - Davidson - Murfreesboro - Franklin$63,150$38K - $78K1500.02%
TXAustin - Round Rock - San Marcos$65,330$38K - $87K800.01%
TXDallas - Plano - Irving (Metro Area)$40,010$24K - $75K4500.02%
TXEl Paso$61,910$24K - $76K1700.06%
TXFort Worth - Arlington (Metro Area)$48,970$33K - $79K1000.01%
TXHouston - Sugar Land - Baytown$60,970$33K - $91K3100.01%
TXKilleen - Temple - Fort Hood$72,720$59K - $83K1500.12%
TXSan Antonio - New Braunfels$63,140$30K - $78K2500.03%
TXWaco$65,890$31K - $80K400.04%
UTOgden - Clearfield$38,670$35K - $51K800.04%
UTProvo - Orem$36,610$35K - $45K600.04%
UTSalt Lake City$43,130$35K - $76K2900.05%
VARoanoke$65,050$49K - $80K600.04%
VAVirginia Beach - Norfolk - Newport News$65,040$28K - $78K1500.02%
WASeattle - Bellevue - Everett (Metro Area)$47,110$27K - $77K5100.04%
WASpokane$58,690$28K - $71K700.03%
WATacoma (Metro Area)$65,170$30K - $86K3000.12%
WIMadison$58,150$42K - $76K2300.07%
WIMilwaukee - Waukesha - West Allis$54,140$19K - $75K3700.05%
WVHuntington - Ashland$63,150$27K - $78K500.05%
WVWheeling$40,440$26K - $55K500.08%