What Is an Eligibility Worker? Job Description and Skills

Get Program Details
. When are you looking to enroll?
When are you looking to enroll?

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, over half a million people in the U.S. were experiencing homelessness on a given night in 2019. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 10.5% of the country’s households were food insecure at some point during that same year. Additionally, healthcare access remains a challenge, with about 43% of Americans ages 19 to 64 being underinsured in the first half of 2020, according to the Commonwealth Fund.

These statistics illustrate the social and economic issues that many people in the U.S. face today. Social services strive to make an impact on the lives of struggling individuals and families, but enrolling or staying enrolled in these programs can be complicated.

Eligibility workers use their training and skills to inform people seeking assistance about programs they qualify for and help them navigate the application process. Individuals interested in pursuing a career in social services can benefit from earning a Bachelor of Social Work degree.

An eligibility worker meets with a client.

Work Settings for Eligibility Workers

Government agencies at the local, state, and federal level employ a vast majority of the country’s eligibility workers. These professionals often meet with individuals and reach out to potential applicants.

Their work settings often involve interacting with vulnerable people or groups, many in desperate need of assistance. Therefore, eligibility workers may find themselves in stressful, contentious, and emotionally draining situations. However, helping people in need can be highly rewarding.

Healthcare and nonprofit organizations also employ eligibility workers. In these settings, they often work in call centers and office facilities, where most of their interactions with individuals are primarily via phone and email.

Eligibility Worker Job Description

The primary responsibility of an eligibility worker is to help people enroll or stay enrolled in social programs. As part of the information-gathering process, eligibility workers collect and interpret individuals’ information in interviews, through references, and by verifying personal and financial data. Additional responsibilities include providing resources and materials to clients, setting up appointments, following up with enrollees to determine progress, and interacting with agencies to learn about services or changes to programs.

An eligibility worker compares an individual’s profile with established requirements. The information they collect will help determine what benefits someone is eligible to receive. There are numerous public assistance programs available, each with its own set of eligibility requirements. For example, in working with Medicaid applicants, eligibility workers must keep abreast of changes in healthcare laws and regulations that impact eligibility.

Below are common types of public assistance programs and examples of their requirements.

Unemployment Insurance

People who lose their jobs and have difficulty finding new ones may qualify for unemployment insurance. This benefit can help individuals remain financially afloat until they find a new job.

Baseline requirements include being separated from previous employment through no fault of their own. Another factor determining eligibility for unemployment benefits includes work and wage requirements, which vary by state.

Eligibility workers explain eligibility requirements for these programs, guide individuals through the application process, and communicate legal rights to applicants.

Housing Assistance

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, roughly 1.2 million households live in public housing units.

Each of these households had to go through the eligibility determination process. This process includes reviewing an applicant’s annual gross household income and considering other factors, such as a person’s age, family status, and whether they qualify as having a disability.

Along the journey, eligibility workers provide applicants with information and guidance. Their work also includes checking an applicant’s references to make sure they will be good tenants.

Fundamental Skills for Eligibility Workers

As evidenced by the eligibility worker job description, professionals in this role work closely with clients, many of whom may be experiencing personal challenges. Therefore, eligibility workers must be able to exhibit compassion and patience to people from all walks of life. Additionally, critical thinking and problem-solving skills enable them to find resolutions to often-complicated enrollment issues.

Eligibility workers may have to deny benefits to an individual or family, which can create a contentious situation. The ability to form trust-based relationships and stay composed in stressful situations can contribute to positive outcomes.

Core essential skills for eligibility workers include the verbal communication skills necessary to engage with individuals. Verbal communication competencies come with active listening skills, which are vital to understanding individuals’ needs and demonstrating compassion. Written communication skills are necessary because social services often require a lot of paperwork. Additionally, eligibility workers may need to reach out to or follow up with individuals through email and other electronic forms of communication.

Make a Positive Difference for Individuals and Communities

Eligibility workers use their knowledge of social work to address inequity one individual and family at a time. Earning a social work degree teaches them the skills to help marginalized individuals, families, and groups access programs and tools to overcome struggles with homelessness, employment, healthcare, and more. They use their compassion and wide breadth of communication, problem-solving, and analytical skills to help people find the help they need to improve their lives.

Discover how Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Social Work can help you develop the skills to become an eligibility worker and have a positive impact on people’s lives every day.

Recommended Reading

BSW vs. MSW: Exploring Two Social Work Degrees

Social Work vs. Sociology Degrees: Explaining the Difference

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) Careers


The Balance Small Business, “You Must Meet These 4 Requirements to Receive Section 8”

The Commonwealth Fund, “U.S. Health Insurance Coverage in 2020: A Looming Crisis in Affordability”

Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Food Insecurity

O*NET OnLine, “Summary Report for: 43-4061.00 – Eligibility Interviewers, Government Programs”

National Alliance to End Homelessness, “State of Homelessness: 2020 Edition”

PayScale, Average Eligibility Worker Hourly Pay

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Social and Human Service Assistants

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Security in the U.S.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD’s Public Housing Program

U.S. Department of Labor, Unemployment Insurance

Zippia, Eligibility Specialist: What They Do