Salaries for social workers vary according to the specialty and location, so the best salaries for social workers may differ from one area to another, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The term social worker describes a general occupation, but social workers specialize in different areas. At base, social workers help people cope with problems of daily living, which could include financial issues, adoptions or child abuse, domestic violence, or physical and mental health issues. They may work in hospitals and other health care settings, private practice or the government.
Mental Health Social Workers
The average annual salary for mental health social workers was $45,820 as of May 2014, although salaries ranged from $24,770 to $70,300. The top-paying states for this group were Maine, New Hampshire, California, Connecticut and New Jersey. The average annual salary in Maine was $55,790 and in New Jersey, $59,900. The top-paying metropolitan area was Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, in California, where the average annual salary was $74,180. The average annual salary in rural southwestern New Hampshire was $101,180.
Child, Family and School Social Workers
Child, family and school social workers earned an average of $46,180 in 2014, according to the BLS. Salaries ranged from $27,500 to $72,510. Most of the top-paying areas were in the east: Rhode Island, the District of Columbia, Minnesota, New Jersey and Connecticut. Salaries ranged from $58,250 in Rhode Island to $63,020 in Connecticut. Nassau-Suffolk, New York, was the top-paying metropolitan area, with an average annual salary of $69,950. Northwestern Connecticut was the best-paying non-metropolitan area, with an average annual salary of $69,980.
Health Care Social Workers
As a specialty, health care offered the best salaries for social workers in 2014, with an average annual salary of $53,590 and a salary range of $32,060 to $76,940. States in the west — Oregon, Nevada and California — made the list of the top five, as did the District of Columbia and Connecticut. The average annual salary was $61,500 in Oregon and $67,860 in California. Redding, California, was the top-paying metropolitan area at $82,040. The Mother Lode region of California offered the top non-metropolitan are salary at $71,240.
All Other Specialties Social Workers
Social workers who are not categorized by specialty are the top earners in the occupation. This group might include social workers who teach, social workers in the government or those who are consultants. The average salary for this group was $58,410, and the range was $32,970 to $84,630. New Jersey, Idaho, Illinois, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia were the top-paying states, with salaries ranging from $67,690 to $73,630. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, in California, was the best-paying metropolitan area at $85,630, while south Illinois was the top-paying non-metropolitan area at $75,130.
Although the social worker's specialty is one of the most important factors in determining salary, competition or worker shortages may also have an impact on social worker salaries. Work setting or longevity in a position may also result in a higher salary. Careful research and due diligence will help you find the best salaries for social workers in a given region.