Community Social Workers

Communities are made up of diverse groups of people. Individuals who share a culture, a hobby, attend the same school or even use the same park can all be considered types of communities. The role of a community social worker is to unite members of these groups to work toward a common goal, so the community can function effectively.

Community social workers achieve this by working alongside with individuals and groups. Those working within the field of community social work may conduct needs assessments, plan or administer programs, or allocate resources to the community.

Community social work is unique because the community often actively works alongside the social workers. The group of people who are affected by the issue in question are naturally invested and passionate in reaching a resolution.

If you’re wondering whether a role as a community social worker is the right choice for you, you might find this National Association of Social Workers (NASW) quiz helpful.

Sponsored online social work programs

University of Denver


Master of Social Work (MSW)

The University of Denver’s Online MSW Program is delivered by its top-ranked school of social work and offers two programs. Students can earn their degree in as few as 12 months for the Online Advanced-Standing MSW or 27 months for the Online MSW.

  • Complete the Online Advanced-Standing MSW in as few as 12 months if you have a BSW; if you do not have a BSW, the Online MSW Program may be completed in as few as 27 months.
  • No GRE Required
  • Customizable pathway options include Mental Health and Trauma or Health, Equity and Wellness concentrations

Fordham University


Master of Social Work (MSW)

Fordham’s skills-based, online MSW program integrates advanced relevant social work competencies, preparing students to serve individuals and communities while moving the profession forward. This program includes advanced standing and traditional MSW options.

  •  Traditional and advanced standing online MSW options are available.
  • There are four areas of focus: Individuals and Families, Organizations and Community, Evaluation, and Policy Practice and Advocacy.
  • Pursue the degree on a full-time or part-time track.

Hawaii Pacific University


Master of Social Work

The online Master of Social Work prepares aspiring social work leaders to develop a multicultural social work practice, advocate for social and economic justice, and empower diverse communities affected by systemic inequities within civilian and military-focused areas. 

  • Learn how to develop a multicultural social work practice.  
  • Pending accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
  • Complete in 18 months full time, or in 36 months part time on the traditional track.
  • Complete in 12 months full time or 24 months part time on the Advanced Standing Track. 

Simmons University


Master of Social Work (MSW)

Aspiring direct practitioners can earn their MSW online from Simmons University in as few as 9 months. GRE scores are not required, and the program offers full-time, part-time, accelerated, and advanced standing tracks.

  • Prepares students to pursue licensure, including LCSW 
  • Full-time, part-time, and accelerated tracks 
  • Minimum completion time: 9 months

Howard University


Master of Social Work (MSW)

The online Master of Social Work program from Howard University School of Social Work prepares students for advanced direct or macro practice in culturally diverse communities. Two concentrations available: Direct Practice and Community, Administration, and Policy Practice. No GRE. Complete in as few as 12 months.

  • Concentrations: Direct Practice and Community, Administration, and Policy Practice
  • Complete at least 777-1,000 hours of agency-based field education
  • Earn your degree in as few as 12 months

Syracuse University


Master of Social Work (MSW)

Syracuse University’s online Master of Social Work program does not require GRE scores to apply and is focused on preparing social workers who embrace technology as an important part of the future of the profession. Traditional and Advanced Standing tracks are available.

  • Traditional and Advanced Standing tracks
  • No GRE required
  • Concentrate your degree in integrated practice or clinical practice

Case Western Reserve University


Master of Social Work (MSW)

In as few as a year and a half, you can prepare for social work leadership by earning your Master of Social Work online from Case Western Reserve University’s school of social work.

  • CSWE-accredited
  • No GRE requirement
  • Complete in as few as one and a half years


Learn more about social work degrees:


Where Can You Find Community Social Workers?

Community social workers lead the charge when problems occur involving community members. They work with existing organizations or groups of concerned citizens to solve problems such as addressing inadequate living conditions, or helping to fight the placement of a toxic landfill.

In many cases, community social workers must be aware of policy, engaged in political advocacy, and encourage the community they’re working with to become politically aware too.

Who Employs Community Social Workers?

Organizations that employ community social workers include community centers, governmental agencies and advocacy groups. Programs that require community social workers often have titles such as organizational or community practice, community empowerment, or community development.

What Does a Community Social Worker Do?

Just as the groups employing a community social worker vary, so do the day-to-day responsibilities. Much of what these social workers do depends on the type of organization he or she works for. Generally, responsibilities fall under the banner of community organization or outreach.

For example, a social worker employed by an advocacy group might spend time applying for grants, while someone employed to oppose the development of a waste treatment plant might spend more time researching alternatives and talking to local politicians and citizens.

If a community social worker works internationally, he or she might create programs to help the local community or research infrastructures that could beneficially shape the area. Job titles vary immensely, but generally include director, coordinator or specialist.

What’s the Difference Between a BSW and MSW?

Community social workers will require a minimum of a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW). Those seeking more advanced positions will require a Master of Social Work (MSW). There are some differences in what types of jobs someone with a BSW is eligible for versus someone with an MSW.

Generally, a BSW allows you to work in entry-level jobs. The degree allows students to become generalists in their field and they might end up working for a nonprofit, for the government, or for a community. According to NASW, approximately 12.5% of BSW graduates work directly with communities.

An MSW is required for students interested in more specialized fields, work that is more advanced, or working abroad. Those with a master’s degree are able to offer advanced mental health services to the community — assuming the program has a clinical focus, and the graduate obtains the appropriate license to practice. Individuals with MSWs are often the leaders of community movements, using their expertise to guide the community.

Graduates with a BSW more commonly play critical roles within community movements.

What Kind of Salary Can a Community Social Worker Earn?

Salaries depend on a social worker’s employer, the geographical area they work in, their experience, and the role they hold.

2017 workforce study conducted by the NASWnotes that a social worker with a BSW working directly with communities can expect a median salary of $43,333. An individual with an MSW will have a median of about $45,588. As with most jobs, experience is key, and those with considerable experience in their field can expect to earn significantly more per annum.