School social workers play an essential role in today’s educational system. As indispensable advocates for students and families, they serve as helpful third parties linking homes, schools, and their communities together.
“Children today are increasingly victims of many social forces that negatively affect their role as students,” says the School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA) on its “Role of School Social Worker” page. “The family is in a state of change and until it becomes stabilized, in whatever form, children’s unmet physical and emotional needs will continue to interfere with their ability to learn and adjust in school.”
A school social worker focuses on helping young people navigate the difficulties and pressures of childhood and adolescence. Earning an online master’s in social work can provide the foundation necessary for a challenging and rewarding career in the school system.
Services Provided by School Social Workers
Children often deal with the same mental health issues, disabilities, and socioeconomic disadvantages that adults face every day. Because they are in their formative stages and have little life experience, they benefit from having social workers in their academic environment who can support them as they cope with difficulties in their lives.
“Trained as a mental health professional, a school social worker can serve as a trusted point of contact between students and their families, teachers, and school administrators,” explains SocialWorkLicensure.org on its “School Social Worker” webpage. “School social workers work with students who exhibit perpetual tardiness, aggressive or antisocial behavior, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and learning disorders.”
Social workers in American schools provide a wide variety of services. The SSWAA provides an extensive list, which it divides into categories:
- Services to Students: Dealing with crisis intervention, conflict resolution, anger management, and teaching social interaction skills
- Services to Parents/Families: Assisting parents to alleviate stress, access needed social programs and community resources, and helping families to support their child’s school adjustment
- Services to School Personnel: Helping staff to better understand the social/economic factors that affect students, and helping teachers with behavior management and assessing mental health concerns
- School-Community Liaison: Coordinating community resources to help students, advocating for improved services, and navigating the system to respond to children’s needs effectively
- Services to Districts: Developing alternative programs for dropouts and delinquents, reporting child abuse/neglect, and managing cases
- Related Services: Counseling children and families, developing positive intervention strategies, preparing developmental histories on disabled/special needs children, and participating in assessment and planning meetings
Depending on their position, some school social workers may be managers in charge of other social workers and multidisciplinary teams. Others may conduct home visits. And many will find themselves bouncing back and forth between dozens of functions.
What Can School Social Workers Accomplish?
Social workers employed by school districts or private schools can have a positive, life-changing effect on the lives of school kids, their families, the school’s staff, and even their community. Those who combine their professionalism with ingenuity, compassion, and hard work may touch the lives of countless people throughout their careers.
A social worker’s potential is limited only by his or her imagination. The International Journal of School Social Work article, “School Social Work: Now More Than Ever,” offers several examples, including:
- Helping facilitate racial equality and become influencers in addressing racial inequalities.
- Tailoring support programs to youth in schools by focusing on the intersections where racial, gender, language, and socioeconomic status meet.
- Taking advantage of data analytics to better inform social workers and promote evidence-based decision-making.
- Championing research surveys within schools to help future social workers better understand the needs of vulnerable populations.
- Studying teen depression and other common adolescent issues to identify improved strategies that students can take advantage of to improve their mental health.
School Social Work Career: The Numbers
As of 2019, the most recent year for which numbers are available, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that more than 713,000 social workers are working in the United States. Of those, more than 342,000 are child, family, and school social workers. The BLS predicts jobs for child, family, and school social workers to grow 12% from 2019 to 2029.
The average school social worker salary is about $49,000 per year, according to PayScale.com. The lowest 10% of workers in this field make about $38,000 a year. Those at the upper end of the spectrum (90th percentile) can expect to earn around $68,000. Salary varies depending on region and experience level.
Striving to change children’s lives for the better can make for a rewarding career. Social workers who continue learning and innovating will be able to thrive in a dynamic academic environment as they advocate for vulnerable children and their families.
About Ohio University’s Online Master of Social Work
Ohio University’s online Master of Social Work degree program can prepare graduates for a career in social work. Social workers help vulnerable populations handle life’s challenges in areas that include marriage and family therapy, foster care counseling, crisis counseling, and human resources.
The MSW program, which is offered through the university’s College of Health Sciences and Professions, is 100% online and does not require a GRE for admission.
SSWAA.org, “Role of School Social Worker”
ColoradoSun.com, “One School Social Worker Quelled a Girl’s Suicidal Thoughts. Colorado Hopes a Lot More of Them can Provide a Lasting Solution”
SocialWorkLicensure.org, “School Social Worker”
SchoolSocialWork.net, “School Social Work: Now More Than Ever”
BLS.gov, “Careers in Social Work: Outlook, Pay, and More”
PayScale.com, “Average School Social Worker Salary”