What Do Social Workers Do in Schools?What Do Social Workers Do in Schools?What Do Social Workers Do in Schools?

Students interested in becoming social workers and counseling youth in academic settings are likely to be drawn to careers as school social workers. Social workers in schools not only promote the emotional and social growth of students, but also work with faculty and parents to address issues that hinder students’ academic performance, such as truancy, bullying, and behavioral issues.

The first step toward becoming a school social worker is to complete a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such an online bachelor’s degree in social work. Upon completion of this program, graduates often find they’ve developed the foundational knowledge and skills they need to be successful.

A school social worker counseling a teenager.

School Social Worker Job Description

Social workers in schools promote students’ social and psychological well-being. They provide counseling to youth struggling with personal issues, such as bullying or the death of a family member, and they address issues that may affect academic performance, such as drug use, alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, and truancy. Professionals who choose this career path may work with students of all ages, including elementary, middle, and high school students. Although a school social worker’s specific day-to-day duties will vary based on the student population, common responsibilities include the following:

  • Assessing areas in which students may need counseling and/or assistance
  • Communicating students’ progress with parents, teachers, and administrators
  • Participating in students’ individual education plans (IEPs), as needed
  • Providing crisis intervention
  • Helping students develop social interaction skills
  • Assisting teachers with implementing behavior management strategies for students

Possible Work Environments for School Social Workers

School social workers provide counseling services at elementary, middle, and high schools. Although most professionals in this field work full time, Monday through Friday, in an office setting, school social workers may be assigned to multiple schools within a district. As such, some school social workers may travel and/or use mobile and video technology to meet with students, parents, and staff. Weekend and evening work may be required if a school social worker needs to meet with parents or attend community forums.

Qualifications for Social Workers in Schools

The first step toward pursuing this career path is to earn a college degree, such as an online Bachelor of Social Work (BSW). Although educational requirements for this profession vary by state, most school social workers possess advanced degrees, such as a Master of Social Work (MSW), from an accredited institution. Licensing requirements to work as a school social worker also vary by state. However, most states require applicants to possess licensure from the U.S. Department of Education.

Certifications, such as the Certified School Social Work Specialist (C-SSWS), are desirable, but not mandatory. Eligibility requirements for the C-SSWS certification include an MSW from an accredited institution and proof of at least two years of supervised, post-MSW experience as a school social worker in a school setting. To be certified, individuals must also possess either a state social worker license, an exam-based school social worker license, or a certification from the state of employment.

Fundamental Skills for School Social Workers

Individuals who pursue this career will be well served by developing several core skills and competencies. Examples are communication and interpersonal skills, emotional skills, and organizational and problem-solving skills.

  • Communication Skills: Professionals in this field work with students of various ages. Individuals who understand how to communicate with students based on their developmental level are likely to be most successful.
  • Interpersonal Skills: Individuals interested in becoming a school social worker should be adept at connecting with students of different ages and backgrounds. Professionals who possess strong interpersonal skills are more likely to develop strong rapport with students.
  • Emotional Skills: School social workers work with students who are experiencing difficult situations, such as bullying, the loss of a family member, and/or other types of emotional issues. Consequently, professionals who choose this career path should have compassion and empathy.
  • Organizational Skills: Social workers in schools work with multiple students at a time and, in some cases, students at more than one school. As such, professionals in this field should have strong organizational skills to keep track of their many charges.
  • Problem-Solving Skills: School social workers assist students in solving personal problems. Individuals interested in pursuing this career path should be adept at finding innovative and pragmatic

Salary and Job Outlook for Social Workers in Schools

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment of child, family, and school social workers will grow by 12% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than what’s projected for all occupations. Increased student enrollment will largely drive growth in this field.

The BLS also notes that as of May 2019, the median annual salary for school social workers was $47,390. Salaries for this position can vary widely based on factors such as location, type of school (public or private), experience, and completion of an advanced degree.

Make a Difference for Youth as a School Social Worker

Individuals who aspire to work as a social worker in schools begin by earning a college degree, such as an online bachelor’s degree in social work from Maryville University. Maryville’s online curriculum provides students with the knowledge they’ll need to address issues such as rebelliousness, social withdrawal, bullying, and other emotional and academic problems.

Upon completing the degree program, students often find they’ve attained the interpersonal, critical thinking, and organizational skills needed to make a positive impact on students’ lives. Are you ready to take the first brave step toward a career as a school social worker? If so, explore how Maryville’s online Bachelor of Social Work can help prepare you for the job you want.

Recommended Reading

Mental Health Counseling vs. Social Work

BSW vs. MSW: Exploring Two Social Work Degrees

How to Make a Career Comeback


Betterteam, School Social Worker Job Description

Indeed, How to Write a School Social Worker Job Description

Indeed, Learn About Being a School Social Worker

National Association of Social Workers, Certified School Social Work Specialist (C-SSWS)

PayScale, Average School Social Worker Salary

School Social Work Association of America, Role of School Social Worker

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Social Workers

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