Social workers are underpaid. I mean really underpaid. In my job search I came across a social work position working as an alcohol and drug abuse Prevention Specialist in South Austin public schools that paid a less than mind blowing salary of….drum roll please….grab your kleenex….hold your partners hand…..$29,000 annually.
WHHAAAAAATTTT??? Why is it that the greatest helping professions, excluding doctors and ethical lawyers, get paid less than scraps? How is this fair?
There is a saying in the social work field that “Nobody goes into social work for the money” but I am here to tell you that we don’t pursue our masters,additional licensure and continuing education to get paid a single persons restaurant waged salary the rest of our lives either. We too have families and needs to be financially stable. We are impacting the lives of people you love, work with, study with and trust as baby sitters.
We do understand that the world of non-profits exists on federal, state and private funding. Because of the scarcity of funding from these sectors social workers are not inclined to ask about salary stipulations and there is a lack of conversations about salary raises in this profession. We are not intentionally taught to be silent about this, however we are also not educated or encouraged to learn the art of salary negotiation.
One potential reasoning I have for this is social workers value additional funding for services for our clients over our increase salary rates. We see our client’s devastation and need as a higher priority than our own financial stability, but I am here to challenge this thought.
Burn out is of the highest nature in this profession. Could it be due to the fact that we are underpaid and overworked? Perhaps not solely, but at least partially. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers earned on average an annual wage of $42,480 in May 2010. That is a lower annual salary of human resource specialists, teachers and guidance counselors. Although initially frustrating I offer another perspective. Social work employment is growing, which equates to job stability in the profession in healthcare, mental health, substance abuse, and school settings.
However, do not get fret and turn away from social work because of the seemingly lack of monetary kick back. There are options for social workers to make a decent living while still upholding the values of community and generosity.
1. Become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice and take mostly private pay patients. This will allow you flexibility to offer a few sliding scale and low-cost sessions.
2. Learn how to negotiate salary offers.
3. Become employed as a Director or Supervisor in for profit organizations and companies.
4. Work in healthcare providing direct service and clinical work to patients.
5. Get a dual degree in law and work in social justice, legislature, family law and human rights law.
The more information we have the better equipped we are to advocate and negotiate our salaries in for profits and not for profit agencies. The Social Work Podcast gives us some great insight about how to negotiate compensations in the social work field. We value our clients and patients; let’s all take a moment to value ourselves and take time to work out what we are worth and then do the research to find out the best way to verbalize this. We owe it to ourselves and our profession. We too can become more financially stable and have a better outlook for our financial futures.