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Education and Training: Bachelor’s degree, advanced degree preferred
Average Salary: $52,270 per year
Job Outlook: Good

Caseworkers are the link between at-risk and vulnerable populations and the social services help they need. Caseworkers are social workers employed by government agencies, including child welfare agencies and local health agencies, who work closely with the poor, elderly, neglected, abused, molested, battered, people with mental conditions, people with disabilities, or other vulnerable populations in order to help them improve or better cope with their situations.

Caseworkers need to investigate facts, conditions and allegations, including those related to unsafe or immoral practices; find out what kinds of social services are available for each case at hand; assess situations and possible outcomes; design plans to help, alleviate or improve individual or family situations; explain the plan to the individual or family, let them know what they need to do or what will happen and involve them in the process; monitor progress or changes; and notify the proper authorities as needed.

Depending on the government agency they work for, caseworkers may be responsible for things like: helping find foster homes for abandoned children, advising the families of terminally-ill patients, finding day care for children of single parents, helping recovering drug addicts find jobs and helping poor families find affordable housing.

Education and Training Requirements

Caseworkers need at least a bachelor’s degree in social work, but preferably a master’s or doctoral degree. Degrees in social science, sociology or psychology may be accepted. Caseworkers should be state-licensed social workers; licensure requirements vary by state but they all require significant supervised clinical experience.

Getting the Job

Most caseworkers are employed at the local, state or federal government level, which can result in a slow and meticulous hiring process that starts with applying to a job vacancy announcement. Applicants must meet all stated requirements in the announcement and follow all the application directions in order to be considered for a position. Interviews will follow for promising candidates. However, internships and volunteer work are highly valued.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

The employment outlook for caseworkers is good, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 16 percent increase in the number of caseworker jobs from 2008 to 2018. In particular, there will be a higher number of caseworker jobs related to healthcare and public health, working with the elderly or located in rural communities. There will be fewer opportunities in cities, but some jobs will open up as retiring caseworkers need to be replaced. However, as a rule, employers in California, New York, and Illinois hire the greatest numbers of caseworkers. Caseworkers wanting to get ahead can advance into managing programs or open up their own private social work practice.

Working Conditions and Environment

Caseworkers work in their offices – often receiving clients, investigating on the computer or collaborating with social services staff – or meet with clients offsite, sometimes in their homes. Caseworkers typically work standard full-time hours but may experience stress due to the large number of caseloads some agencies must contend with.

Salary and Benefits

Caseworkers earn an average salary of $52,270 per year, though most earn between $29,340 and $77,260. Those who work for the federal government or for employers in the states of West Virginia, South Dakota, and Minnesota earn the highest salaries. Caseworkers receive medical, dental, and vision benefits.

Where to Go for More Information

Association of Social Work Boards
400 S Ridge Parkway, Ste. B
Culpeper, VA 22701
(540) 829-6880

Clinical Social Work Association
P.O. Box 10
Garrisonville, VA 22463
(703) 340-1456

National Association of Social Workers
750 First St., NE, Ste. 700
Washington, DC 20002-4241
(202) 408-8600

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw and Public Service