Advocacy in Action

Through the stories we share, the Admissions Team at Baylor University hopes to inspire and educate future leaders in the field of social work.

4 Social Work Careers in Child Welfare

Written by Baylor School of Social Work Team on 06.8.21

When someone mentions a career in social work, the first job that comes to mind for many is a child protective services (CPS) caseworker. While this is the most popular and sought-after career path, it is not the only option for those who are passionate about working with children.

The social work profession is diverse and offers many opportunities for individuals who want to answer the call to serve. According to a national study of licensed social workers, 78% of all licensed social workers provide services to clients under 21. These specialists have different jobs and careers, but all share a single objective: to ensure that children remain in safe, loving environments, which are optimal for their growth and development.

If you have a passion for helping children and would like to build a career out of it, read on to learn about four of the top social work careers in child welfare.

Get our free guide to a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree and learn about  requirements, specializations, and more!

1. School Social Worker

A school social worker is trained to work with school-aged children to help them cope with a myriad of issues, both academic and personal. They work with school administrators, parents, and teachers to help the children perform well in their studies and deal with social challenges. Their job can also entail providing psychological counseling to the children.

School social workers are frequently a part of the school community. They are full-time professionals with offices at the school, but they may also travel to serve children in multiple schools within an area.

To become a school social worker, you will need a minimum of a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree, however, a Master of Social Work (MSW) will help you advance in the career field. Most states require school social workers to apply for a social work license before they can practice.

Statistics by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics show that school social workers earn an average annual salary of $48,430

2. Child Protective Specialist Caseworker/Family Case Manager

There is a good reason why a CPS caseworker is the most popular social work career in child welfare. CPS caseworkers and family case managers have a hands-on job and often see the tangible impact of their work. Their primary duty is to investigate allegations of child neglect or abuse for an agency or the state. These workers often work alongside law enforcement officers to interview witnesses, collect evidence, and coordinate services to help children stay safe.

Additionally, family case managers and CPS caseworkers are responsible for reuniting families when possible and ensuring children grow in a caring family environment. In some cases, they are also tasked with finding permanent homes for abandoned or orphaned children or ensuring children who can live independently do so in a child-friendly environment.

To become a CPS or family caseworker, you must have a BSW or MSW or a bachelor’s in psychology or a related field. You’ll also need to have a unique set of interpersonal skills in addition to professional qualifications. Caseworkers must be compassionate, clear communicators, and have good problem-solving skills.

CPS caseworkers earn an annual mean wage of $52,000 - $58,350 depending on whether they work for the state or local government. 

3. Social and Community Service Manager

Social and community service managers typically work as part of an organization that provides programs and services for a specific population, like children and families. Depending on the size of an organization, individuals in these roles typically supervise staff (such as social workers) who provide services directly to clients and report on success metrics. Social and community service managers at smaller organizations may also perform the same work as the people they oversee. 

As is the case with other child welfare jobs, a bachelor's degree in social work or a related field is the minimum requirement for entry-level work, but an increasing number of employers are looking for social workers with advanced degrees. You must also pass a criminal history check and drug tests to be considered for this career. Additionally, you will need good communication and mediation skills to thrive in this career.

Social and community service managers earn a median annual wage of $69,600. The highest-paid social and community service managers work for local governments and earn as much as $87,720, while the lowest earned less than $42,230.

4. Child Therapist or Counselor

Child therapists or counselors assess and diagnose mental, social, and emotional disorders in children and offer help through treatment protocols and coping skills. These therapists can help children with a range of problems including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, anger issues, coping with trauma, and more. They offer children coping strategies and behavior modification tools to overcome their challenges. If you’re considering a career in child counseling, you will need to be approachable, emphatic, patient, and an excellent listener and communicator.

According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), "there are more clinically trained social workers — over 200,000 — than psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychiatric nurses combined." If you are interested in becoming a child therapist, you will need a master's in social work and additional training and certifications to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Be sure to choose an MSW with a solid clinical practice specialization.

The median annual salary for child therapists is $46,240, while the highest-paid social work therapists can earn as much as $76,080 per year.

Commit to a Lifetime of Impact — Become a Social Worker! 

Child-centered social work is not just about service, but also about ensuring a dignified life for all children. If you are ready to commit to a career that will help children prosper, then the Garland School of Social Work is here to get you started on the right path.

While a BSW can help you secure an entry-level job in social work, an MSW is your best bet for continued job security, career mobility and advancement, and higher salaries. An MSW will also increase your knowledge and skills and position you to serve others better.

If you’d like to learn more about our student-centered, hands-on Master of Social Work program, you can download our free resource below or request more information and we will be in touch soon!

Download this free resource to learn more about the MSW degree, why you should earn one, and how it can help you in your future career.


Posted by Baylor School of Social Work Team

We are the admissions team at the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, at Baylor University. We believe social work is about service and justice; it is about the dignity of individuals and the power of relationships; it is about integrity and competence, and our mission here is preparing social workers to do these things well. We hope you find our resources helpful and informative as you explore and pursue a degree in social work!