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Child, Family, and School Social Workers Career Overview

Provide social services and assistance to improve the social and psychological functioning of children and their families and to maximize the family well-being and the academic functioning of children. May assist single parents, arrange adoptions, and find foster homes for abandoned or abused children. In schools, they address such problems as teenage pregnancy, misbehavior, and truancy. May also advise teachers on how to deal with problem children.

Salary for Child, Family, and School Social Workers

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U.S. $31,040
Annual figures are on top. Hourly figures are below in parentheses.
N/A = Information not available

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Career Outlook for Child, Family, and School Social Workers

Employment for social workers is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2018. Job prospects are expected to be favorable, particularly for social workers who specialize in the aging population or work in rural areas.

Employment change. Employment of social workers is expected to increase by 16 percent during the 2008–18 decade, which is faster than the average for all occupations. The growing elderly population and the aging baby boom generation will create greater demand for health and social services, resulting in rapid job growth among gerontological social workers. Employment of social workers in private social service agencies also will increase.

Employment of child, family, and school social workers is expected to grow by about 12 percent, which is as fast as the average for all occupations. Demand for child and family social workers should continue, as these workers are needed to investigate child abuse cases, place children in foster care and with adoptive families. However, growth for these workers may be hampered by the budget constraints of state and local governments, who are amongst the largest employers of these workers. Furthermore, demand for school social workers will continue and lead to more jobs as efforts are expanded to respond to rising student enrollments, as well as the continued emphasis on integrating children with disabilities into the general school population. There could be competition for school social work jobs in some areas because of the limited number of openings. The availability of Federal, State, and local funding will be a major factor in determining the actual job growth in schools.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers will grow by almost 20 percent over the 2008–18 decade, which is much faster than the average. In particular, social workers specializing in substance abuse will experience strong demand. Substance abusers are increasingly being placed into treatment programs instead of being sentenced to prison. Also, growing numbers of the substance abusers sentenced to prison or probation are, increasingly being required by correctional systems to have substance abuse treatment added as a condition to their sentence or probation. As this trend grows, demand will strengthen for treatment programs and social workers to assist abusers on the road to recovery. Opportunities for social workers in private practice will expand, as they are preferred over more costly psychologists. Furthermore, the passage of legislation that requires insurance plans offered by employers to cover mental health treatment in a manner that is equal to treatment of physical health may increase the demand for mental health treatment.

Growth of medical and public health social workers is expected to be about 22 percent, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. One of the major contributing factors is the rise in the elderly population. These social workers will be needed to assist in finding the best care and assistance for the aging, as well as to support their families. Employment opportunities for social workers with backgrounds in gerontology should be excellent, particularly in the growing numbers of assisted-living and senior-living communities. The expanding senior population also will spur demand for social workers in nursing homes, long-term care facilities, home care agencies, and hospices.

Job prospects. Job prospects are expected to be favorable. Many job openings will stem from growth and the need to replace social workers who leave the occupation. However, competition for social worker jobs is expected in cities where training programs for social workers are prevalent. Opportunities should be good in rural areas, which often find it difficult to attract and retain qualified staff. By specialty, job prospects may be best for those social workers with a background in gerontology and substance abuse treatment.

Employment Overview

Social workers held about 642,000 jobs, in 2008. About 54 percent jobs were in healthcare and social assistance industries, and 31 percent were employed by government agencies. Although most social workers are employed in cities or suburbs, some work in rural areas. Employment by type of social worker, in 2008, follows:

Child, family and school social workers 292,600
Medical and public health social workers 138,700
Mental health and substance abuse social workers 137,300
Social workers, all other 73,400

Job Zone Description

Job Zone 4 - Preparation needed

Overall Experience
A minimum of two to four years of work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is needed for these occupations. For example, an accountant needs four years of college and several years of accounting work to be considered qualified.

Most of these occupations require a four-year bachelor's degree, but some do not.

Job Training
Employees in these occupations usually need several years of work-related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training.

Accountants, chefs and head cooks, computer programmers, historians, and police detectives.

These occupations often involve coordinating, supervising, managing, and/or training others.

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Additional Resources for Child, Family, and School Social Workers Job Seekers

For information about career opportunities in social work and voluntary credentials for social workers, contact:

For a listing of accredited social work programs, contact:

  • Council on Social Work Education, 1725 Duke St., Suite 500, Alexandria, VA 22314-3457. Internet:

Information on licensing requirements and testing procedures for each State may be obtained from State licensing authorities, or from:

  • Association of Social Work Boards, 400 South Ridge Pkwy., Suite B, Culpeper, VA 22701. Internet:

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