Social workers help people in need. They can assist people who need government benefits, like the elderly or disabled who need to find a place to live. These professionals could see more sensitive situations like child abuse or aid people who are victims of domestic violence. Their median salary is $58,650. The social worker job description will cover the responsibilities, essential skills, work schedule, education required, experience needed, and their job outlook. After reading this article, you will understand the social worker requirements and how to become one.

social worker job description and definition

What Does a Social Worker Do?

These professionals help people in a time of crisis or when they need additional help with life situations. They need to practice privacy and confidentiality laws. At the same time, they need to report to authorities when the situation requires.

Social workers experience a high degree of work satisfaction but can see discouraging or sad contexts with their clients. They may have to work evenings, weekends, or holidays when needed. A bachelor’s degree and license are the minimum requirements for a social worker.

Social Worker Job Description for Resume – Responsibilities

Social workers live out a commitment to helping people. Their responsibilities detailed below reflect this commitment. These professionals will work in different settings, so not all of the bulleted points apply to all. There are several types of social workers. These will only cover the general aspect of the job.

  • Assess the immediacy of a person’s situation and provide them with the assistance they need.
  • Maintain knowledge of community services, resources, and aid to provide materials to people who are recovering from abuse, addiction, or illness.
  • Refer people to appropriate places of contact if their office is not able to meet the needs of that person.
  • Assist elderly or other people who are unable to live on their own with finding an assisted living facility.
  • Keep alert for possible signs of child abuse or spousal abuse and take action to prevent further abuse.
  • Develop positive, goal-based behavior modification sheets, evaluate a person’s progress according to these goals, and provide feedback.
  • Establish support groups and moderate the program, discussion, and participation.

Social Worker Required Skills

Listening skills. These professionals need to understand all aspects of a situation, discover the person’s perspective, and develop a relationship with the people they are helping. Being an attentive listener can help accomplish these steps.
Self-reflection skills. Social workers will get feedback from a variety of sources. However, it is important for them also to be able to reflect critically on their job performance and make adjustments to improve.
Empathy skills. The people who need to find a social worker are in a situation where they cannot work their way out of a crisis. It is important for these professionals to have empathy for varying life situations. Perspective with empathy is important to make sure they do not become too emotionally invested.
Change agent skills. Social workers will often be the spark that a person needs to improve their life. Being a change agent, you need to be effective at making it happen, can drastically increase positive outcomes.

These skills were adapted from this University of Southern California List.

How to Become a Social Worker

The minimum social worker education is a bachelor’s degree in social work. Clinical professionals need their master’s degree. All social workers need to have licenses and certificates to practice in the field. They will work in a variety of settings. However, being attuned to human actions and predictable behaviors in response to situations will make them competent professionals.

Education & Training Requirements

In order to fill in the requirements of the social worker job description, you need anywhere from four to twelve years of post-secondary education. The minimum requirement is a bachelor’s degree in social work. It is typical for some positions. In particular for those clinically oriented, a master’s degree in social work should be a must. If you want to work in higher education or research, a doctorate is preferred.

There are accredited programs to choose from, and the Council on Social Work Education provides a list of these programs. The types of positions that someone with a bachelor’s degree could get are those dealing directly with people such as a caseworker. Those with a master’s degree can take a leadership role and direct the management of cases or analyze clinical cases. A doctorate demonstrates the minimum qualification to teach or research in academic appointments.

There is mandatory licensing and certification to practical social work. Prior to taking a licensing exam, the individual must have their degree in social work. There is optional training that results in certification offered by the National Association of Social Workers. This provides an extra level of validation of skill and offers a chance to show competency in various specializations.

Work Experience

The work experience required depends on the degree a professional has. Those with a bachelor’s degree do not need prior experience to be a case worker. However, obtaining an internship in college and having evidence in serving others can give a competitive advantage over others. Many times, an internship is required to graduate college.

Those who have their master’s degree do not need experience to fit into the social worker job description. However, taking the exam to become a licensed clinical social worker requires two years of experience. This licensure will vary by state. Therefore, if you have your license in one state, it is a good idea to investigate if it transfers to another state.

If you earn your Ph.D. in social work, it is helpful to have practical knowledge of the field but not required. However, education and learning how to teach others about social work is more important than working in practical settings. If they conduct research, they will be interacting with caseworkers and their clients. Therefore, they should gain the necessary experience to understand the day-to-day responsibilities of social workers.

Work Schedules

Social workers are often at the mercy of their clients when setting work hours. They may have to do evening, weekend, or holiday shifts. It’s not something written in stone as part of the social worker job description. The majority of these professionals will work full-time.

The most common industry for social workers is in government at the federal, state, or local level. They also work in family services, ambulatory health services, hospitals, and nursing homes. The industry will affect their schedule. For example, those in government positions will have federal holidays and weekends off while those who work in hospitals may have to work nights or on shifts.

Career Prospects

Social workers receive a low salary for their level of education. The median salary is $58,560. School and mental health social workers have lower median salaries of $42,350 and $42,170. Those who work in hospitals average $56,650 while those in family services average $38,760.

The job growth for social workers through the year 2024 is 12 percent. This will differ by industry. For example, family and childcare social workers will see a six percent growth. In the meantime, healthcare and mental care social workers will experience a 19 percent increase.

Advancement opportunities for social workers are significantly associated with educational levels. This is a field where degrees, licenses, and certificates matter. Those who have the necessary licenses and certificates will be more likely to advance than those with only a bachelor’s degree.


Part of the social worker job description is that you will work with people who are often at their most vulnerable state. These professionals need a stable mindset and the ability to decompress when they are away from work. Overall, there is a positive job outlook and a variety of industries to work in. Just like the nurse job description, a lot of what they do requires empathy and caution.