Employment Outlook & Career Guidance for Family Social Workers

Family Social WorkerAbout 12 percent of the United State’s half a million social workers are employed as family social workers.  Factors, such as poverty, alcohol and drug addiction, child abuse and neglect make today’s families susceptible to social and interrelation problems.  Family social workers help stabilize crises in families, help to maintain and strengthen family relationships, increase coping skills and competencies, and aid in accessing support services.

Family Social Workers Career Options

In the workplace, or under he direct supervision of psychologists or other trained professionals, a family social worker will typically perform the following duties:

  • Help determine how best to help their clients – whether it be mental illness, addictions, medical obstacles, financial troubles, or stress-related issues
  • Coordinate community support services that may be available to their clients
  • Research all services available in their community to their clients
  • Help clients complete paperwork needed for assistance programs
  • Monitor clients needs to ensure any and all services are provided appropriately
  • Place abused children in safe and loving homes
  • Counsel families to solve problems
  • Find employment
  • Find housing for homeless families
  • Help pregnant women, adoptive parents and adopted children navigate the system
  • Help families navigate the welfare system

Learn more about how to become a family social worker.

Typical Employment Settings and Salary Expectations for a Family Social Worker

Family social workers typically work full time, with some work nights and weekends in emergencies. They may work in offices, hospitals, clinics, shelters, or group homes. Some family social workers may travel to see clients.

Through support, counseling, assessment, resource coordination and advocacy, family social workers work in a variety of sectors, including:

  • Child welfare organizations
  • Adoption agencies
  • Foster care agencies
  • Individual and family services agencies
  • Government agencies / programs
  • Community mental health centers
  • Community-based organizations
  • Advocacy organizations
  • Private practice
  • Schools

A growing component of family social work practice aims to make foster care services a thing of the past. A part of the system known as family preservation services, family social workers are essential members of teams that work to keep families intact.

Most family social workers are employed by the following industries:

  • Individual and family services
  • Nursing and residential care facilities
  • Community and vocational rehabilitation services
  • Local, state, and national government, excluding education and hospitals
  • Foster care agencies

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a 15.5 percent increase in employment for family (and child) social workers between 2012 and 2022.  In 2013, family and child social workers made a median annual salary of approximately $43,000.  The highest paid 10 percent earned $72,350, while the lowest paid family social workers made $27,420.

Ways a Family Social Worker Can Increase Desirability as a Job Candidate and Increase His or Her Salary

Individuals can begin a career as a caseworker or mental health assistant with a bachelor’s degree in social work. Employment in schools and in health care (including hospitals and clinics), government agencies / programs, and in private practice often require a master’s degree in social work, a minimum number of supervised hours, and competition of an internship.

Earning a master’s degree will open doors for more job opportunities in the field of family social work, as well as further the possibility of earning a higher salary.  A master’s degree will also help individuals hone skills and gain the experience needed to move forward in his or her career.

Bethany Raab, LCSW advises, “During your years in social work school, you will be expected to do internships/practicums in agencies. If you want to work with children, I would highly recommend you choose a placement that will have you working with children and families. If you want to do clinical work, it would be most beneficial to choose a clinical placement, meaning you will be doing therapy. You will learn many impactful lessons and acquire important skills in these placements.”

All family social workers must meet states’ licensing requirements.  Family social workers can pursue voluntary certifications as an adjunct to a license. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) offers several specialty credentials. Certifications are usually based on post-degree experience and continuing education. Continuing education is commonly a requirement for licensure renewal.

Becoming a member of professional organizations, participating in research, teaching, writing for social worker journals, and submitting original and relevant content to the NASW, can all help increase a family social worker’s desirability as a job candidate.

Related Social Work Education Guides

Attributes Employers Often Look For When Hiring a Family Social Worker

“In order to be a successful social worker, you will need to take good care of yourself. This work is very rewarding, but also demanding and exhausting at times. Learn to set boundaries and say no, and build a fulfilling life outside of your work/career. See your own therapist if necessary and choose to deal with your own issues in practical and healthy ways. These will all help you to be successful as a social worker!” Bethany Raab, LCSW

Family social work can be demanding and stressful, for the social worker, as well as for the family.  Therefore, there are a number of attributes necessary to succeed in this field, including:

  • Empathy – the ability to identify with another person’s situation
  • Good listener – as well as the ability to ask pertinent questions and retain information
  • Capacity to set boundaries – while accepting what can, and cannot be accomplished during a specified period of time
  • Organization – busy schedules, heavy caseloads, and mountains of paperwork demand organization
  • Cooperation – active cooperation can often provide a more efficient direction to a satisfying solution
  • Advocacy – the ability to influence or invite people (whether clients or co-workers) to take action is invaluable for family social workers

Networking Opportunities and Organizations for Family Social Workers

There are any number of organizations and networking opportunities for a family social worker to pursue, including: