Administrative social workers serve a significant role in the social work field by fulfilling the coordination, management, and oversight requirements of social service programs and agencies. They often work behind the scenes to ensure social welfare programs operate smoothly and effectively. Administrative social workers may be responsible for developing policies and procedures, managing budgets and resources, coordinating staff training and development, and ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory requirements. If you’re interested in becoming an administrative social worker, check out the steps you’ll need to take below.

Step 1: Complete an Administrative Social Work Degree

While some social work positions don’t require a degree, administrative social workers will likely be required to have one unless they have many years of experience. Here are the various social work degrees available and how they apply to this role:

  • Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) Degree: Typically, a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) will be the lowest-level degree that an administrative social worker position can have and still get a job. A BSW degree takes four years to complete and will cover the basic information a social worker needs.
  • Master of Social Work (MSW) Degree: If a higher-level social work degree is preferred, it will likely be a Master of Social Work (MSW). The 2-year MSW degree (following a BSW) provides a more advanced education with opportunities to become licensed in a particular social work specialization.
  • Doctorate Degree: A Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) or Ph.D. in Social Work will almost never be required for administrative social workers as these degrees are typically reserved for clinical social workers or those working in the education sector. However, having a DSW or Ph.D. in Social Work can benefit those who want to move into higher roles eventually. It’s important to note that while a doctorate in social work provides a more advanced education for social workers, no accreditation for DSW or Ph.D. in Social Work programs currently exists.

Step 2: Become Licensed as an Administrative Social Worker

Social work licensure is a pivotal milestone for any aspiring administrative social worker. While specific licensure requirements vary by state, the process generally entails the following:

Licensure Examination

Upon completing your MSW degree, you must pass a licensure examination administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). The examination’s content typically covers areas such as human development, social welfare policy, intervention strategies, professional ethics, and administrative practices.

State Requirements

Each state sets its own criteria for licensure, including supervised work experience hours and continuing education requirements. It’s imperative to research and understand the licensure requirements specific to the state in which you intend to practice as an administrative social worker.

Learn everything you need to know about Getting a Social Work License in your state.

Step 3: Apply for an Administrative Social Worker Job

Armed with the requisite education and licensure, you’re ready to embark on your career as an administrative social worker. But where do you begin?

What Careers Can I Pursue as an Administrative Social Worker?

As an administrative social worker, you can pursue various careers that involve managing programs, coordinating services, and overseeing operations in social service agencies, healthcare facilities, schools, and other settings. Some common career paths include:

  • Social Work Administration: Managing social work departments, programs, or agencies to ensure efficient and effective delivery of services.
  • Program Management: Developing, implementing, and evaluating social service programs to meet the needs of clients and communities.
  • Policy Development: Analyzing social issues, researching best practices, and developing policies to address social problems at organizational or governmental levels.
  • Community Development: Working with communities to identify needs, develop programs, and advocate for resources to improve quality of life.
  • Nonprofit Management: Leading nonprofit organizations that provide social services, including fundraising, program development, and staff management.

Where Can I Work as an Administrative Social Worker?

The career landscape for administrative social workers is diverse and multifaceted. You may find employment opportunities in various settings, including:

  • Government Agencies: Municipal, state, and federal government entities employ administrative social workers to design, implement, and evaluate social welfare programs and policies.
  • Nonprofit Organizations: Non-profit organizations that serve marginalized communities often seek administrative social workers to manage programs, coordinate services, and advocate for social justice initiatives.
  • Healthcare Institutions: Hospitals, clinics, and healthcare agencies hire administrative social workers to facilitate patient care coordination, address psychosocial needs, and navigate complex healthcare systems.
  • Educational Institutions: Schools, colleges, and universities employ administrative social workers to support students’ academic success, address behavioral concerns, and promote a positive school climate.

Step 4: Learn About Administrative Social Worker Salaries

Salaries for administrative social workers vary based on factors such as geographic location, level of experience, educational attainment, and the employing organization’s budgetary constraints.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for social and community service managers, a category that encompasses many administrative social work positions, was $55,350 as of May 2022. However, salaries can range significantly, with top earners commanding six-figure incomes in certain sectors and regions.

It’s important to conduct thorough research and consult professional associations, salary surveys, and job market trends to gain a realistic understanding of earning potentials in the administrative social work field. Additionally, negotiating salary and benefits during the job application and interview process can help ensure that your compensation aligns with your qualifications and contributions to the organization.

Tara Moretti, LMHC
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