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New York Health Careers

Social Workers

What Do Social Workers Do?

Social work is a profession for those with a strong desire to help improve people’s lives. There are two main types of social workers: direct-service social workers who help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives, and clinical social workers, who diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.

Direct-service social workers assess their clients’ needs and situations and develop plans to improve their clients’ well-being. They may help clients adjust to changes and challenges in their lives, such as illness, divorce, or unemployment, and may also respond to crisis situations, such as natural disasters or child abuse. They will also advocate for and help clients get the resources they need to improve their well-being such as community and government benefits, food stamps, child care, and health care. These social workers help clients cope with difficulties at every stage of life, from childhood to old age, and through a wide range of situations such as job loss, adopting a child or the death of a child, addiction issues, to being diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Clinical social workers, also called licensed social workers, may diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders, including anxiety and depression. In addition to many of the tasks that a direct-service social worker may do, clinical social workers also provide individual, group, family, and couples therapy; develop treatment plans to best help their clients, work with clients to develop strategies to change behavior or cope with difficult situations; and refer clients to other resources or services, such as support groups or other mental health professionals. Important qualities include empathy, problem-solving skills, organizational skills, and communication skills.
Both direct-service social workers and clinical social workers may specialize in a number of areas:

Child and family social workers provide social services and assistance to improve the social functioning and psychological well-being of children and their families. They help families in need of assistance and protect vulnerable children. Clinical social workers provide mental health care to help children and families cope with changes in their lives, such as divorce or other family problems.

School social workers help teachers, parents, and school administrators to develop plans and strategies to improve students’ academic performance and social development. They may also help to deal with problems such as aggressive behavior, bullying, or frequent absences from school.

Medical and public health social workers provide psychosocial support to individuals, families, or vulnerable populations so they can make necessary adjustments to their lifestyle to cope with chronic, acute, or terminal illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, or AIDS.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers assess and treat individuals with mental illness or substance abuse problems. Such services include individual and group therapy, outreach, crisis intervention, social rehabilitation, and teaching skills needed for everyday living.

Other types of social workers include social work administrators, researchers, planners and policymakers, who develop and implement programs and regulations to address issues such as child abuse, homelessness, substance abuse, poverty, and violence.

For more information about social workers, go to: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm.

Where Do Social Workers Work?

Many social workers work in private practice, either solo or in a group with other social workers or mental health professionals. Some social workers also work in hospitals, outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers, school districts, and nursing and residential care facilities. Although most social workers work in an office and often handle their own recordkeeping and billing, they may also spend a lot of time out of their offices visiting clients in their homes or wherever they may be and traveling to schools, institutions, or other locations.

What Do Social Workers Earn?

According to the 2019 BLS, the average salary for full time social workers, all other nationwide was $61,750, varying by specialty and geographic region. Average annual salary also varies greatly across New York State, depending on location. The NYSDOL reports that social workers, all other in New York earned an average annual salary of $61,470, (entry level-$37,980, experienced- $91,860). Child, family and school social workers, a distinct specialty, earned an annual salary of $57,570 across New York state. While mental health and substance abuse social workers earned an annual average of $61,400. Finally, the mean salary for health care social workers in New York State was $61,620.

Supply and Demand

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2016 and 2026, employment of all social workers in the U.S. is expected to increase by 16%. As with annual wages for social workers, the percentage of growth varies with type of social work, although all social work professions are expected to grow faster than the average of all occupations.

According to the BLS, between 2016 and 2026, child, family, and school social workers are projected to grow 14.2% in the U.S. and 18.4% in New York; mental health and substance abuse social workers are projected to grow 19.3% in the U.S. and 27.3% in New York; health care social workers are projected to grow 20.1% in the U.S. and 27.3% in New York; and all other social workers are projected to grow 8.3% in the U.S. and 8.8% in New York.

Growth in the social work professions will be due to an increase in demand for health care and social services in a variety of ways. For example, more social workers will be needed in schools to respond to rising student enrollments; and employment of health care social workers is expected to grow as baby boomers age and they require help to find the health care they need.

For more information on employment projections of child, family, and school social workers by New York labor regions, 2014-2024, click here.

Educational Requirements

Social workers typically have a degree in social work from an educational program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) is the most common minimum requirement to qualify for a job as a social worker; however, majors in psychology, sociology, and related fields may qualify for some entry-level jobs, especially in small community agencies.

A master’s degree in social work (MSW) is usually required for positions in health and school settings and is required for clinical work, as well. MSWs generally take two years to complete. Some programs allow those with a BSW to earn their MSW in one year. MSW programs prepare students for work in their chosen specialty and develop the skills to do clinical assessments, manage a large number of clients, and take on supervisory duties. All programs require students to complete supervised fieldwork or an internship. A BSW is not required to enter MSW programs. In fact, a degree in almost any major is acceptable. However, coursework in psychology, sociology, economics, and political science are recommended.

A doctorate in social work (DSW) is usually required for college and university teaching positions and research appointments.

New York Licensure Requirements

In New York, there are two professional licenses for social workers, with different qualifications. Only licensed social work professionals may legally use the title Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) or Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in New York. The LCSW may provide all social work services, including clinical services such as the diagnosis of mental, emotional, behavioral, developmental, and addictive disorders, the development of treatment plans, and the provision of psychotherapy. The LMSW may provide these clinical services only under supervision of an LCSW, licensed psychologist, or psychiatrist. Social work services may also be provided by an unlicensed person with a BSW degree, under the supervision of an LMSW or LCSW, although non-licensees cannot diagnose or treat mental illness.

In order to be licensed in New York, MSWs must receive a master’s degree from a graduate school of social work accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and pass a national licensing exam. CSWs must complete an MSW degree that includes clinical courses, have three years of post-degree supervised experience in clinical social work, and pass a clinical licensing examination.

LCSWs must complete an MSW degree that includes clinical courses, have three years of post-degree supervised experience in clinical social work, and pass a clinical licensing examination.

For more information on New York licensing requirements, or to verify a license,  go to: http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/sw/swbroch.htm.

Financial Support

The National Association of Social Workers offers scholarships to social work students. For more information, go to: http://www.naswfoundation.org/fellowships.asp.
The Council on Social Work Education provides a number of funding opportunities for students. Check the Web site for information: http://www.cswe.org/.

Social Work Education Programs in New York (subject to change)

Note: Please click on each school’s name to view its Web site for information about which social work degrees the school offers.

  Adelphi University
1 South Ave.
Garden City, NY 11530
(516) 887-4300
*Adelphi Social Work programs
are also available in Manhattan,
Poughkeepsie, and Hauppauge
Binghamton University- SUNY
University Downtown Center
67 Washington St.
Binghamton, NY 13902
(607) 777-5999
  Buffalo State College-SUNY
1300 Elmwood Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14222
(716) 878-5705
College at Brockport- SUNY
350 New Campus Drive
Brockport, NY 14420
(585) 395-2324
  College of Saint Rose
432 Western Ave.
Albany, New York 12203
(800) 637-8556
Columbia University
1255 Amsterdam Ave.
New York, NY 10027
(212) 851-2300
  Concordia College
171 White Plains Rd.
Bronxville, NY 10708
(914) 337-9300
Daemen College
4380 Main Street
Amherst, NY 14226
(800) 462-7652
  Dominican College of Blauvelt
470 Western Highway
Orangeburg, NY 10962
(845) 848-4078
Fordham University
Lincoln Center Campus
113 W. 60th Street
New York, NY 10023
(212) 636-6656
SUNY Fredonia
280 Central Avenue
Fredonia, NY 14063
(716) 673-3470
Hunter College-CUNY
2180 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10035
(212) 396-7500
  Iona College
715 North Avenue
New Rochelle, NY 10801
(914) 633-2471
Keuka College
141 Central Avenue
Keuka Park, NY 14478
(315) 279-5000
  Lehman College-CUNY
250 Bedford Park Blvd. West
West Bronx, NY 10468
(718) 960-8192
Medgar Evers College-CUNY
1650 Bedford Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11225
(718) 270-4853
  Long Island University
Brooklyn Campus
1 University Plaza
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 488-1025
Long Island University
C.W. Post Campus
720 Northern Boulevard
Brookville, NY 11548
(516) 299-2750
  Marist College
3399 North Rd.
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601
(845) 575-3000
SUNY Plattsburgh
101 Broad Street
Plattsburgh, NY 12901
(518) 564-2000
  Molloy College
1000 Hempstead Avenue
Rockville Centre, NY 11571
(516) 323-3880
Nazareth College
4245 East Avenue
Rochester, NY 14618
(585) 389-2753
  New York University
Silver School of Social Work
Ehrenkranz Center
1 Washington Square North
New York, NY 10003
(212) 998-5900
Niagara University
5795 Lewiston Road
Niagara University, NY 14109
(716) 286-8520
  Nyack College
NYC Campus
2 Washington Street
New York, NY 10004
(646) 378-6170
Rockland Campus
1 South Blvd.
Nyack, NY 10960
(845) 675-4555
Mercy College
Dobbs Ferry Campus
555 Broadway
Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522
Bronx Campus
1200 Waters Place
Bronx, NY 10461
(914) 674-7301 (for both)
  Roberts Wesleyan College
2301 Westside Drive
Rochester, NY 14624
(585) 594-6400
Siena College
515 Loudon Road
Loudonville, NY 12211
(518) 786-5046
  Skidmore College
815 North Broadway
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
(518) 580-5428
University at Albany-SUNY135 Western Avenue
Albany, NY 12222
(518) 442-5320 or (518) 442-5815
  SUNY Buffalo
685 Baldy Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260
(716) 645-3381 or (800) 386-6129
Stony Brook University-SUNY
Health Sciences Center
Stony Brook, NY 11794
(631) 444-3141
  Syracuse University
119 Euclid Avenue
Syracuse, New York 13244
(315) 443-5555
Touro College
43 West 23 Street, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10010
(212) 463-0400
  York College-CUNY
94-20 Guy R. Brewer Boulevard
Jamaica, NY 11451
(718) 262-2613
Yeshiva University
2495 Amsterdam Ave.
New York, NY 10033
(212) 960-0810 or (212) 960-5400

Additional Web Links

For more information about social workers, please visit these websites:

The American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work www.abecsw.org

The Association of Social Work Boards www.aswb.org

The Council on Social Work Education www.cswe.org

The National Association of Social Workers www.naswdc.org

The National Association of Social Workers, New York City Chapter www.naswnyc.org

The National Association of Puerto Rican/Hispanic Social Workers www.naprhsw.com

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