Social workers are a dedicated group as they work daily to help individuals and families resolve issues in their lives and improve their quality of life.
For most entry-level social work jobs, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree in social work. However, there are some jobs in social work that generally do not require a degree.
Below, we will review a few entry-level social work jobs and the ways you can start toward a career in social work.
Getting Experience for a Career in Social Work
There are many ways to gain experience and explore a potential entry-level job as a social worker.
Work at a Group Home or Rehab Facility
Finding work at a group home or a rehab facility are two great entry-level social work jobs.
These jobs do not always require a bachelor’s degree, but you may need a certification or an associate’s degree. You might also need to get registered with the state you live in to qualify for a group home position.
If you do not qualify for work near you, group homes and rehab facilities are always looking for volunteers. While volunteering, you will gain valuable contacts and work experience to apply for a position when one becomes available eventually.
Work as a Case Assistant
Case assistants do not have the same responsibilities as social workers, but they do help assist clients on a day-to-day basis.
Case assistants provide the necessary support to the case managers and social workers where they work. Becoming a case assistant may be one of the better entry-level social work jobs that someone looking to enter the industry can get.
Volunteer to Gain Experience
One of the primary ways you can gain experience with careers in social work is to volunteer with an organization that serves people you care about.
While there, you get first-hand work experience in the field of social work. At the same time, you will help people that you care about making their lives better through the organization’s work.
Work Under a Program Coordinator or Director
If you want to be a program coordinator or director, you might not initially qualify for the position without proper experience or education. However, you can work as a receptionist or an assistant to the program coordinator or director.
Working in these positions can give you experience and insight into how a program is organized and runs efficiently. After some time in these roles, you may be able to move up to a program coordinator or director position.
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Entry-Level Social Work Jobs
Of course, before you turn your passion for helping people into a career, you have to first find an entry-level job in social work.
Most entry-level social work jobs are extremely front-facing, meaning you will have heavy interaction with the people you’ll help. Here are a few of the entry-level careers available in the social work field these days.
Work as a Drug Counselor
In most of America, various organizations are regularly hiring drug counselors. While a drug counselor (or “addiction” counselor, in some cases) sometimes works for a rehab facility, there are other places of employment.
In some states, a drug counselor can work at a facility used in diversionary sentencing for people arrested while intoxicated. In some states, they may even teach multi-day courses for people arrested for driving under the influence of an intoxicant. Check with your state to determine any additional education, training or certifications that may be necessary to do this type of work.
Work with Children
Another entry-level job for the budding social worker is working with children who are going through traumatic experiences or who have issues at home or in their school.
Working with children in social work can also mean working for a government or charity entity, dedicating their time to helping disadvantaged children.
This is, arguably, some of the most emotionally rewarding work a social worker can find—working to help some of the most vulnerable members of society to find a pathway to success and happiness.
Work with the Elderly
Speaking of vulnerable members of society, working with the elderly—generally known as eldercare—can also be very rewarding.
Some elderly people end up in the care of the state or an organization in their twilight years, and working as their advocate makes a big difference and can protect them from those who would prey upon them for their money, their retirement fund, their property, or even their personally identifying information.
Eldercare organizations are almost always looking for more personnel and can be a great way to get your start in the field of social work.
Many eldercare organizations have deep connections with a number of other social work organizations in their area of operations, due to overlapping needs and responsibilities. Because of the need for personnel, eldercare sometimes provides a number of jobs in social work without a degree requirement.
The Growing Demand for Social Workers
With each passing day, there are more social worker jobs available. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2021 to 2031, employment of healthcare workers is projected to grow by 9%—well beyond projections for other fields in the same ten-year time period.
Social Worker Earnings
Along with a faster-than-average job growth rate, social workers also receive decent pay. As of May 2021, the median pay for all social workers in the United States is $50,390. That is about 10% higher than the national median wage of all workers.
In addition, some states pay better or worse than others. For example, Hawaii has the highest average pay for social workers, which is around $85,760. However, Tennessee pays less than every other state, with an average salary of $48,350.
Keep in mind that there are other factors that affect pay as well, such as educational level, experience, and industry. For this reason, entry level social work jobs often pay lower than those requiring a doctoral degree.
6 Different Types of Entry-Level Social Work Positions and Their Reported Pay
Here are six different popular social work positions and their average pay.
1. Teacher’s Assistant
At all educational levels, a teacher’s assistant or TA works under the supervision of a licensed teacher. They often work with children who have special needs or in early childhood education centers. During a typical day, a TA may help manage students, prepare lessons, and set up educational equipment.
Since there are some school districts that don’t require a degree to be a TA, it is a great entry-level option for those who aren’t pursuing a degree.
According to Indeed, teacher’s assistants make an average of $14.88 per hour or $31,745 annually. This is based on approximately 11,200 reported salaries throughout the United States.
2. Case Aide
A case aide primarily works with case managers in major social work organizations specializing in healthcare, social services, or even child care. They usually help collect information for case files and interview clients on behalf of the case manager.
As of December 2022, case aides earn an average salary of $43,185 per year based on 25,400 reported salaries. Entry-level case aides make the most in major cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, and Houston.
3. Community Organizer
If you have a passion for non-profits or community-based work, an entry level position as a community organizer may be a great choice.
As a community organizer, your sole goal is to make positive changes to the lives of those within your community. This means planning community projects, creating social programs, and more. These programs could be related to building social awareness, offering educational opportunities, or even coordinating food drives.
Compared to other entry-level social work jobs, this one pays relatively well. Indeed lists the average base salary for community organizers at $50,591. However, this is based on a significantly lower number of reported salaries nationwide, which is only around 355.
4. Substance Abuse/Behavioral Disorder Counselor
One of the most common entry-level social work jobs that doesn’t require a degree is as a behavioral disorder or substance abuse counselor. Essentially, these counselors help evaluate the mental and physical health of those with addictions and disorders. This is all done in an effort to come up with an effective treatment plan for the patient. In addition, counselors may teach families how to help their loved ones manage these conditions and help the patient develop coping mechanisms.
Something to keep in mind about becoming a substance abuse or behavioral disorder counselor is that educational requirements vary. While there are plenty of states where a bachelor’s degree isn’t required for this work, there are others where it is. However, you may be surprised at how many need only a high school diploma and certification.
Another benefit of this position is the pay. According to Indeed, the average salary for substance abuse counselors is $50,902 nationwide. This is based on nearly 3,200 reported salaries.
5. Group Home Caregiver
While much of social work involves helping people within their own home, there are plenty of people who live in residential care facilities. This includes at-risk populations like the elderly and children. For many, entry level social work is readily available in these group homes. As a worker, your main goal is to help residents with substance abuse disorders, mental illnesses, or disabilities develop life skills to help them live on their own. This could include showing them how to cook, maintain good hygiene, and communicate with others.
As far as salary goes, Glassdoor reports that the average for group home workers is about $38,552 per year. For those who advance to a Senior Caregiver position, average pay is around 15% higher, at about $44,354.
6. Community Health Worker
Much like community organizers, community health workers focus on connecting clients with appropriate health care advice. While they aren’t health care professionals, community health workers provide essential information to members of the community about diseases and health initiatives that could benefit them and their families. For example, they may help raise awareness about a vaccine drive or hold information sessions about affordable healthcare and preventative services.
Believe it or not, community health workers are such an integral part of social work that they receive their own category from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the BLS, they make an average salary of $47,780 nationwide. This estimate is based on more than 61,000 reported workers.
Tips for Applying to Entry Level Social Work Jobs
While starting a career in social work may seem a little daunting, there are several ways you can prepare yourself for the job search. Here are some tips to help you on your way to your new career:
- Find the right industry for you. While you may like social work, you might not enjoy working with all kinds of people. Be sure to narrow down your goals for your new career. If you prefer working with children, focus on positions in childcare.
- Don’t be afraid to consult actual social workers. Ask those working in the field what their job is like. This is a great opportunity to see if your interests align with the job itself.
- Seek part-time or volunteer opportunities. Before applying, get your feet wet in a social-work-related position. This helps you gain relevant experience and helps show your dedication.
By following these tips, applying won’t feel as intimidating. However, if you still don’t know what to expect, consider enrolling in an introductory social work course like the one offered by Stratford.
Explore a New Social Work Career
You will learn everything you need to know about entry-level social work jobs and more, including:
- The Foundations of Human Behavior and Socialization
- Attitudes That Promote Human Relations Success
- Stress and Frustration
- Introduction to Social Psychology
- Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination
- Persuasion by Communication and by Action
- Applying Social Psychology to Law, Business, and Health
- Professional Credentials and Regulations
- Ethical and Legal Issues Facing Helpers
Explore a Career in Social Work
Are you interested in becoming a social worker? Stratford Career Institute offers a comprehensive course that can set you on the right path.