Sunday, January 6, 2013

How much do child welfare social workers make? National sample of child welfare entry salaries: An infographic

My last post on social work salaries was based on NASW data and represented mid-level workers from all groups.  The map below offers some random salaries in the child welfare field gleaned from current job openings across the United States.  Some states have title protection, which means that people can only call themselves social workers if they hold a social work degree.  In states that do not exclusively hire degreed social workers in the child welfare positions, the child welfare job titles are often "Social Service Worker" or something similar.

Child welfare workers often get 1-3% annual increases for cost of living or "step" raises, and some jurisdictions offer several different levels of employment that workers can promote in to. Annual Salaries may range, over time from the low 30k to the high 70k depending on years of experience. Benefits also vary widely; child welfare workers may have to contribute several hundred dollars to family medical benefits per month, while others may have their benefits fully paid by their employer.

I am a big advocate of child welfare work as a career path, and also an advocate of the needs of child welfare workers.  I worked in the child welfare field for many years, and interfaced with the community at every level; I made good contacts, got good at assessment and engagement, and worked with people in their environments during some of the hardest moments of their lives.  It is very rewarding work, and the policies and supports of the employing agency make a very significant difference in retention and satisfaction of workers (and thus the quality of services for clients).  I believe that professionally trained social workers are uniquely prepared to do this kind of work, and that salaries will increase where the work is professionalized.  There is little agreement about entry requirements for the work across the nation, and many states do not differentiate work tasks between Bachelors and Masters level preparation; therefore, the rewards for continued education are low, and the enhanced skils of MSW-trained workers may not be recognized. 

I collected the data below from current job ads.  If you are a child welfare worker and inclined to share (and feel free to post anonymously), post your salary, years of experience, job title, employer, and degree in the comments below to give us a wider idea about child welfare worker salaries.  If you have any corrections for my infographic below, please send me an email.

How much do Social Workers make? Social Work Salaries- an Infographic

Visual data display in the form of infographics are popping up all over the internet, for good reason.  They give you a quick glimpse of take-away facts.  Pictures help us remember information.  Certainly it's more interesting to look at pleasingly-displayed factoids than to read an entire research article.

One of my goals for the new year is to get better at sharing visual data, especially in my own research and collected data, because it is one way to help move research to practice- to get people sharing and enthused about specific findings.  I stumbled upon a tool for creating an infographics and put together my first one using NASW Salary Survey data.  I chose this data because of my interest in workforce, and also because it helps dispel a popular myth- that social workers take a vow of poverty out of their love for people.

I suspect some of my blog readers will stumble on this and guffaw at the idea that $34 an hour is the average social work salary.  If you want to know more about participants and polling of this sample, please have a look at the NASW report, based on 2009 data of over 20,000 social workers.  Also keep in mind that this is not an average starting salary ($43k is the average salary for those with under 5 years experience polled in this report)- this is the average of all people polled, with varying positions and levels of experience. It appears that all participants were members of a professional organization (NASW or another expertise-specific group); we might assume that social workers who pay professional dues are more likely to be among the higher earners or more professionally engaged.  Only data from fully employed workers is reported.  All levels of the degree (BSW, MSW, PhD) are reported together to obtain the $34 an hour mean, but data are broken down separately in the report by education level, field of social work, age, experience level, and other criteria.

Some of my research friends don't know that in my former life (20 years ago) I started a rubber stamp company where I designed and produced art rubber stamps. I made and sold stamps for many years, in fact, travelling to conventions all over the US with my wares, selling to shops all over the world.  The ability to play with data and graphics speaks to the creative part of me that still enjoys this visual way of expressing my creativity and ideas.  After trying out the site, I am most likely to take a stab with photoshop for my next infographic- the available graphics and design themes are limited at the slightly clunky site, and this small graphic took about four hours to create but this was a good way to dip my toes in the water.  Feel free to share it and let me know what you think.  What other social work issues would you like to see infographic'ed?  Did this data surprise you?  Did it make you want to know more about the research?