School Social Worker Job Profile

School social workers have one of the most important, and sometimes one of the most difficult, jobs in social work. They work with kids in need, adolescents in crisis and the social fallout of domestic situations which can be very grim indeed.

The Work Environment

School social workers usually work for state or local government. They act as troubleshooters, helping young people deal with their problems. The work may be a combination of case management and incident responses. Their responsibilities include:

Counseling: This is a primary role, serving both young people and their parents and guardians. The work consists of:

  • Assessing situations on a needs basis: Many school issues are managed by the school social worker.
  • Advising young people and parent/guardians regarding problems and options. This can involve a range of issues from academic performance to disabilities or other personal issues.
  • Helping with issues of stress, emotional problems and related situations.
  • Advising teachers: The problems may include difficult students, behavioral issues, truancy and similar cases.

Active support roles: The school social worker also provides a lot of practical support for minors and their families, devolving from the counseling role. 

The school is an area where actual social work in the traditional sense is often required. Problems like drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, homelessness, domestic violence and other serious situations are also part of the school social worker’s mix of duties.

  • Coordinating and liaising with social services like day care, family support services, crisis support and other important domestic problems
  • Arranging support for abandoned children, like foster care
  • Dealing with support issues in the case of teenage pregnancies
  • Advising and arranging for drug rehabilitation treatment and other services
  • Coordinating protective services measures where students are considered at risk

Community related work: It’s common for school social workers to be the working link between the local community and the school. They’re well oriented to the local issues, know the people and know the problems. They can operate very well as de facto advisers with community relations issues.

Wages: $54,000 is the US average.

Hours: School hours, but may also include after hours work because of the nature of some situations.

The Career Environment

This is one career which can reasonably be described as “for dedicated people only.” It can be a harrowing, difficult line of work, even by social worker standards. School social workers perform invaluable services on a daily basis, helping people who often have no other form of support. The job is a character developer, in the classic sense of the expression. Career advancement is driven by personal commitment.

Like other social workers, school social workers tend to progress in their careers along lines of specialization. The career path often leads to senior professional roles as trainers, passing on valuable experience to the next generation.

In the wider spectrum of school social work, senior professionals are also commonly used as advisers and consultants by government and community organizations. Their front line experience is often the driving force behind innovation and improvement to school social services.