What Is Social Work Administration?

Working at the macro level is a different side of social work, but one that is every bit as critical as providing direct services. The social work administrator is focused on the future. Administrators are decision makers, concerned about the well-being of a total system versus one particular client.

This work requires knowledge about social policy and the delivery of social services. Administrators must have an understanding of human behavior, a commitment to social work ethics and values, and a vision for the future.

Today’s agencies and human services organizations are more complex to run than a traditional business. Having a strong social work administrator to steer the direction of an organization is crucial. This means working on budgets, designing programs to fulfill the needs of the population, evaluating the effectiveness of existing programs, identifying areas that lack support, managing overarching strategy for the community or department, and working on policies.

Social work administrators must also have an understanding of social services, human behavior and social problems as social work as a profession is still rooted in its commitment to being consumer-oriented and servicing disenfranchised populations. It’s important that prospective administrators have a sophisticated understanding of business and feel the call to be a leader.

Social work administration is a rewarding field that allows social workers to make a difference in the communities they serve.

Social Work Administration Jobs

Those with a background in social work administration have unique skills that create a range of job opportunities. These job opportunities include:

  • Family service agencies
  • Child welfare departments
  • Social service agencies
  • School personnel departments
  • Area agencies on aging
  • State mental health departments
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Probation departments
  • Hospitals and home health care agencies
  • Public welfare agencies

Social work administration is a growing field, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics citing expected job growth of 12 percent between 2014 and 2024. As the country struggles to deal with a large aging population, these jobs will become more popular with agencies looking to ensure they are prepared to serve this demographic.

The country is also at a point where there is recognition that mental health programs are necessary health services that communities must provide, further increasing the need for administrators.

The median annual salary is $84,163 and the top 10 percent of earners make more than $106,269. Though the salary will vary depending on the geographic location, organization, skill set and education, social work administration is a growing field with plenty of potential.

Become a Social Work Administrator

Given the varied responsibilities of a social work administrator, the job requires a broad understanding of many different areas. It’s crucial for those seeking to work in the field to have a proper education.

Historically, administration jobs were filled by social workers with exemplary leadership and management skills. While communities still look for these qualities in a social work administrator, in recent years there has been a greater emphasis placed on finding candidates with an advanced education in the field.

Now, these jobs generally require a Master of Social Work, as well as real-world field experience. Programs like the MSW@USC offer concetrations like Community Organization Planning and Administration, which specialize in preparing students to work in urban communities by providing classes that focus on macro practices.

Understanding the big picture is imperative for those working in social work administration. Social work programs offer classes in management and finance, program development and evaluation, and community organization to prepare students for this field of work.

Further Reading