Becoming a social worker is not an easy decision. Some people fall into the job and start earning based on their work and life experience, while others study for years for a chance to help families and communities work and prosper. A social worker has a very important job to do, since they are the ones that drive individuals in a certain state to achieve more than they previously have. Of course, the salary should reflect this, but often it does not.
A social worker’s salary is dependent on many things from their level of education to the amount of experience they have in the job. The type of position they choose also influences the salary, since working in a private clinic will pay more than working for the government. Private companies and governments hire social workers to take up important positions because of their people skills and their ability to motivate others. There is a lot of demand for these workers all over the world, since they have such an important role to fill and they are often found working not just in hospitals or in government facilities, but also in police departments, charities, courts and many others. To become a social worker, you need to be compassionate and have a real drive for helping people.
A social worker, in general terms, will earn between $43 000 and $60 000 a year, depending on where they work. This amount covers their ability to help anyone from families, to pregnant teens, to people who need the help of the government in getting benefits. In many cases, they will be called upon to remove children from situations of abuse, or to help families in need.
What It Takes To Get The Salary
A social worker’s education is one of the keys to him or her getting a better salary, and as such, it is vital to know what to study and for how long. A social worker usually needs a Bachelor of Science, though some positions may require more education. Some private companies will not hire a social worker unless they have a Masters degree. Of course, this is not the only influencing factor. Some of the factors that do influence salary include:
- Looking at the social worker salary by state i.e where the candidate has been educated. This includes not just the state you live in but also the college you attended. Some colleges offer a course in social work but do not have the right credentials to do so. To ensure that you earn what you are worth, make sure that the school you attend is accredited.
- Also important is your level of experience. In any career, it makes sense that the longer you work, the more money you will get based on experience. But in this case, the experience does not just mean the amount of years, but also the amount of responsibility you have taken, the tasks you have done and any accolades or awards earned.
- Attitude and confidence matter. Sometimes, a person on any career path won’t get a salary increase because they don’t know how to ask for one. This all comes down to confidence. You need to be the main campaigner for your own skills, which means knowing what you are worth and demanding a salary to match.
- Specialization assures you a different type of salary. If you have done further studies or gained more experience in a field such as mental health social work or prison social work, you could potentially earn more money.
The Social Worker Salary By State Breakdown
The salaries of social workers in all of the states have definitely increased year on year, but they are still comparatively low when compared to some of the salaries in this field. Of course, this is based not just on the individual, but also on the state in which they live. If there are a lot of opportunities for social workers in a particular state, they will be better paid because of the law of supply and demand. This law states that when there is high demand and low supply, the price is driven up, and this is very much the case with social workers.
Some of the general state salaries include:
The Lowest Paying
- Arizona comes in at about $36 500 which is one of the lowest, but is not to be beaten by some of the others.
- Arkansas for example, undercuts what Arizona offers with a surprising $35,620 a year while Indiana manages to beat both of them with a very low $34 990. Whether it is the rule of supply and demand or just general state policy, very few people will want to work as social workers in Indiana.
- Next on the list of lows come Mississippi with the lowest total of $31 910, Missouri with a scary $33 910 and Montana and Nebraska, which offer $35 390 and $35 510 respectively. Some of these totals may be surprising to those who thought that social workers were well paid. Some may even wonder how they get by on such low salaries, which is why it is so often said that social work is a calling, rather than just a career choice.
- Continuing in the category of low salaries, comes the very lowest of them all, the state of West Virginia which offers its social workers an average of just $29 390 a year for their work.
- If you are trying to make a lot of money, then do not choose to live and work in South Carolina, which offers a low $32 630 to its social workers.
- Also taking up space at the bottom is South Dakota which is only able to offer its social workers an average of $35 870 a year, but this is a little more than is offered by Tennessee, which brings up the rear with just $34 530 a year.
- Texas however, slightly improves on the situation with a total of $37 230 yearly for its social workers.
- If you want to work for love and not for money, you can do it in Idaho, the state that offers an average social worker salary of about $35 630 a year, or in Georgia, the state that pays just $36 910.
- In Kentucky, you will likely earn about $37 450, while in New Mexico, the total drops to $35 780.
- In Pennsylvania expect to earn an average of $36 790.
- Finally, in Oklahoma, don’t expect more than just $33 090 a year, one of the lower totals.
- In the category of those states that pay an average salary, Alabama makes the first appearance with a satisfactory wage of $40 760 per year. This may not seem very high, but when compared with the totals above, it is a very fair wage.
- Alaska also makes an appearance with a nice total of $44 500, similar to that of Colorado which offers $44 370. Of course, these totals are also affected by experience and education.
- Next on the list come two states that have yet to break the $45 000 mark. Florida pays its social worker $40 500 a year, while Kansas is not far behind with a surprising $41 370.
- Iowa and Louisiana also feature with totals of $39 360 and $43,660 respectively.
- Also in this category is the state of New Hampshire which just hits the average mark with a yearly total of $39 090, while North Carolina tops tat with $43 090 per year.
- Another state that only just fits into this category is North Dakota which pays just 39 480, and Ohio $38 240 comes in even lower.
- Oregon and Utah also feature in this list with totals of $39 330 and $39 840 respectively. Vermont is in the same category with a yearly total of $39 860.
- Some of the better states in the average category include Virginia with a total of $46 140, Washington with $42 200, Wisconsin coming in at $47 970 and Wyoming which comes in at $42 300.
- Maine is also on this list with a total of $40 200.
- It may be interesting to note that some of the states listed at the top of the pay scale are not what you may have expected. Hawaii for example, makes the list with $49 250 a year while California follows not far behind with $50 340.
- Next comes DC $51 290 closely followed by Illinois at $53 230.
- Maryland and Massachusetts only just make it onto this list with totals of $49 600 and $46 200 per year respectively. Fighting for space on the list is Michigan at $49 520 yearly and Minnesota which hits the average with $54 820.
- Nevada and New Jersey also make an appearance on this list with Nevada at a low $50 400 and New Jersey at $53 610, while New York and Rhode Island also feature with %50 830 and $54 170 respectively.
- And the first place trophy goes to a state that some may not have predicted. Connecticut pays its social workers an impressive yearly average of $61 690, well above some of the others and even double what some of the lower paying states will pay. So it seems the best place to make money is in Connecticut.
All of the salaries mentioned above come to a yearly average of just $41 800, which is not very high. It is easy to see then that when one becomes a social worker, either intentionally or not, the pay is not the main motivator. What then are some of the other benefits of this career choice?
Well for one, many state benefits are included in this amount, including medical and dental. Some social workers will be privy to bonuses on a yearly basis, especially if they work for private organisations. Some may even receive a government car to do their work in, or have their phone bills or petrol paid for.
At the end of the day, the amount of money you make as a social worker is dependent on your education and experience, as well as your negotiation skills. Even at the top of your game, the money is not great, which is why there is such a desperate shortage of social workers in the system. Many of them see this job as an easy way to earn money, but it should not be perceived this way. Becoming a social worker is not easy, and the work involved is both time consuming and emotionally consuming, and as such, the job requires a candidate who really cares about their community and the individuals within it.
Deciding to become a social worker is not a decision to be taken lightly. Because a high salary is not the major motivator for becoming a social worker, the motivation needs to come from those who wish to help their community and the world. This is fulfilling work, but it also can be emotionally draining, especially in those situations that involve children or abuse.
So why would anyone choose to become a social worker when the salaries are so low? Well, when people choose to become social workers, they do it not for the salary but for the job satisfaction. This is something that many people do not have in their jobs and is a major motivating factor in this instance. Of course, even an entry level social worker knows that to make more money, they will have to get more qualifications and more experience. For some, it may be tempting to move to the states that pay more such as Connecticut, but they should know that even this state will pay less for those candidates who are from out of state and hold out of state qualifications. The best way to make money in this field is to stick out the job and keep developing as a social worker and a human being.