Social Work Administration Careers

Have you ever wanted to become a social worker, a mover and shaker in the field of helping people? Do you like the idea of waking up every morning to try and better the lives of others? Do you think you’d be better at helping to manage the day-to-day tasks of an office than working one-on-one with individual people or families?

If so, you could be a good candidate for the role of a social work administrator. This position requires that you have experience helping others improve their lives, living situations, career, social and emotional development and more. However, it also requires you to possess the “view from above” that enables you to keep track of multiple duties, departments and employees at the same time.

Because social work applies to so many situations and so many different groups of people, the role of social work administrator brings with it a wide range of opportunities. Before you explore which one is right for you, however, it pays to know a little more about the career itself.

What Is a Social Work Administrator?

Because the two roles are often confused, it is important to distinguish between social workers and social work administrators. Social workers provide direct help to families, individuals, workers, students, the homeless and more. Administrators, on the other hand, oversee some aspect of an organization, such as governmental bodies or non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

While the roles do share some commonalities, like the main focus of helping people find services or housing, an administrator’s role is at the macro level. They oversee the workers at that organization, help track case files, ensure proper documentation of various cases, and make decisions that affect individual employees or the organization as a whole.

In order to become an effective social work administrator, you will need a deep knowledge of the social policies and ethics requirements in your field, as well as human behavior and psychology. You will also need a clear vision for the future, so you can help direct the path of your organization.

What Does a Social Work Administrator Do?

Social work administrators get the opportunity to make a huge difference in their communities, which they have a huge role in fostering. They are always working toward the development of populations, organizations and programs in an effort to improve access to services and opportunities. While social workers are very person-oriented, an administrator needs a strong business background. Their daily duties vary from job to job and can range widely even within a role, including:

  • Writing grants
  • Managing fundraisers and other events
  • Analyzing tax forms and overseeing accounts
  • Reporting to funders and regulatory bodies
  • Assessing communities and identifying people or institutions that lack needed support
  • Creating program bodies to deliver services

In order to ensure all these duties get met, social work administrators need to be able to delegate productively. They assign responsibility for certain tasks to the social workers that work directly with people, as well as to the junior administrators that work under them (if any). To do so effectively, they need to be able to assign timelines for fulfillment of duties, give support needed for people to fulfill their roles, and reflect back on employee performance.

Many social work administrators also oversee budgets. This means they must be able to track and assess expenditures, plan ahead, work within the limited budgets governmental organizations and nonprofits often have, exercise discipline with program spending and ask the hard questions that make budgets effective and ensure they’re met on monthly, quarterly and annual deadlines.

In addition, most social work administrators are responsible for overseeing some or all of the community programs at their organization. This means determining where programs are needed, determining what services will fulfill those needs, establishing committees and task forces to create the programs, assigning staff to them, adhering to bylaws, managing strategies for keeping those programs within budget, documenting services and, when necessary, changing policies to account for unmet needs.

Lastly, a huge aspect of a social work administrator’s role is to help manage the case loads of individual social workers. They help input the data gathered on individual people, families or groups, and help to redistribute duties where necessary so that social workers can maximize the time they spend with their clients. Overall, they maintain excellent documentation to ensure the organization is always performing at its best and meeting the needs of the communities it serves.

Typical Work Environment & Occupational Challenges

Social worker administrators work in a variety of community settings. The biggest subset of them work with individuals and families counseling or therapy roles. This involves helping clients through social, mental and emotional challenges, and can range from helping children move past traumas to helping adults overcome disabilities and find meaningful work. It can also involve helping couples create homes in which they can meet state or federal requirements for keeping their children, helping families overcome socioeconomic challenges and increasing educational outcomes for children and adults of all ages.

Social worker administrators also work in education, providing counseling services for children, or even for teachers in impoverished settings, which can be difficult for adults to experience. They also work in medical facilities such as hospitals to ensure the disadvantaged have their needs met, to identify those who might be experiencing abuse, and to help individuals and families pay for the often steep costs of medical care.

In addition, social worker administrators may work in state, government or NGO roles, or for religious or civic institutions. They may also play roles in professional organizations, advise companies on employment equity, or helping the unemployed to find temporary or permanent jobs. Many social worker administrators work with nursing and residential care facilities, overseeing treatment and care of the elderly, the developmentally disabled and other populations that aren’t able to advocate for themselves.

Lastly, social work administrators may work in vocational facilities, rehab centers or temporary housing. There, they provide oversight of the counselors or teachers in these facilities, always working to meet needs and help people get back on their feet as quickly as possible, so that the center can help serve others as soon as possible.

All of these work environments bring different challenges. Many disadvantaged people are emotionally unstable, traumatized, angry, addicted and otherwise challenged when it comes to living a normal life. Plus, work schedules can be demanding and exhausting.

Work Schedules

For the most part, this role is a full-time job, with many social work administrators working more than full time. Continuity of care is a huge concern in the social and medical, education and community program fields – meaning, it’s important to keep the same person on the same job as long as possible, because the oversight provided and the comfort of clients is significantly extended when this is the norm. In addition, you may need to put in more hours when creating new programs, instituting them, responding to crises or meeting deadlines for reporting.

Institutions such as child welfare departments, social service agencies, family service agencies and schools frequently require “all hands on deck,” especially in the case of neglect or abuse, where immediate response is crucial. Mental health departments see a constant influx of needy individuals, and hospitals and home health agencies may frequently become overwhelmed with requests for assistance as well.

This means that many social work administrators are often required to work long hours, as well as nights and weekends to accommodate the constant need for help in communities. Many find this difficult. Overwhelm and burnout are not atypical, so it is important before committing to the role that you understand these realities and are willing to take them on.

Social Work Administrator Salary & Job Outlook

As social work administrators work in a variety of roles and may have different job titles and levels of experience, no single salary can encompass that which you might receive in this role. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social and community service managers make around $65,000 a year, which translates to roughly $31 per hour. On the other hand, the BLS estimates that medical and health services managers make $97,000 annually, or about $46 per hour.

Salary.com estimates that social work managers make about $85,000 per year, so it’s safe to say that as a social work administrator, you will make anywhere between $60,000 and $100,000 a year. As with any other role, you will no doubt make more as time goes on.

Roles of managers are growing at a rate of between 10 and 17 percent, which is much faster than average, and indicates you should have no trouble finding a job as long as you are well-qualified.

Social Work Administrator Jobs & Job Description

Social work administrators work in a huge variety of fields. These span agencies at home and abroad, as well as every state in America and its protectorates. They may work in people- or program-oriented roles, helping to Specific names or titles of roles may vary with the organization for which they work, but in general they may perform duties such as:

  • Work as school counselors or therapists to help students, teachers and administrators through difficult situations
  • Manage the cases of social workers for child or domestic welfare
  • Work to help agencies on aging better serve their elderly populations
  • Prepare reports, white papers and recommendations to superiors or regulatory bodies
  • Work with probation departments to assess readiness of people to reenter society
  • Provide support to hospitals or home health organizations

In order to fulfill these duties, you need a need a deep understanding of how to serve people, their behaviors and motivations, and the challenges of disadvantaged populations. You will also need a thorough ability to handle tasks associated with business, such as the aforementioned budgeting and financial reporting.

Moreover, you will need to be a good communicator. Much of social work administration requires speaking with your subordinates and superiors, as well as talking with governmental, non-governmental or state authorities to advocate on behalf of clients. Sometimes, you may be called upon to step in on difficult cases and speak to the individuals, families or organizations involved.

Social Work Administration Degrees & Education

The path to social work administration is somewhat long, because most organizations are looking for a master’s degree in their hires. Although you can potentially get a job without a master’s degree, it will be more difficult to find a role that suits you, and you will need to target your degree very carefully to ensure you include classes in business administration as well as just social work and human services.

If you want to be a social work administrator, you will almost certainly be able to accomplish this goal. It can help to talk to a counselor, however, so that you can make a plan that will take you through the next several years of your life in a thoughtful and intentional manner. That way, when you graduate from school, you will have the skills and resume necessary to land you a job you love.

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