Can I Work for the Government with a Social Work Degree?

Working for the Government with a Social Work Degree

Social workers play a crucial role in the United States government. From working in cabinet-level agencies as supervisors and project managers to helping foster kids across the country, these professionals have a unique set of skills that make them invaluable to the government. Below is a summary of social work positions and settings for professionals in this field.


According to the National Association of Social Workers, there is at any given time 8,000 positions for social workers in the federal government. This does not include positions at the state and local level, which would add thousands of jobs to the number above. To make things clearer, there are over 26,000 social worker positions within the Social Security Administration, 9,000 in the Veteran’s Administration and over 5,000 working for the Department of Justice. In fact, the United States government is the largest employer for these professionals in the country.


Social work is generally seen to be a position that takes care of foster kids or the elderly. This is just a portion of what these professionals do, however, and limits the societal perspective of the field. Social workers find jobs in the military, the Department of Defense, hospitals, the criminal justice system, and even the Department of Housing. Their skills are required in schools, hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, retirement homes, and more. And because they can work either as practicing social workers or supervisors, they can take on a wide arrange of careers, providing them with more options when it comes to federal positions.

Careers Based on Degree Level

Careers in the federal government are decided based on a candidate’s work and education experience. For example, professionals with a bachelor’s degree in social work can work as social service assistants, which is considered an entry-level job. This position, as well as practicing social worker positions, is found throughout the federal government and is popular among pre-service professionals who have a good volunteer and work history. Most positions, however, will require a master’s degree in social work; a majority of practicing social workers already hold a master’s degree, making positions competitive. Additionally, administrative and supervisory roles are available at this level.


The federal government pays its employees on what is known as the “General Schedule Payscale.” Approximately 70 percent of all federal employees, including social workers, adhere to this schedule. According to the United States Office of Personnel Management, a social worker’s base pay depends on two factors: the pay grade for their position as well as their performance. This means that most professionals will find themselves with a base pay of $35,000 for an entry-level social work position. However, that pay can go as high as $100,000, provided they continue working for the government and receive performance-based raises. It should also be noted that the GS schedule adjusts to cost of living, meaning social workers who have a position in expensive cities will make more than their rural counterparts to ensure they can make ends meet.

Related Resource: Top 10 Affordable Master of Social Work Online (MSW) Degrees

Social workers are an important part of the way that the United States government works. The National Association of Social Workers even has a pamphlet that describes all the ways in which a social work professional can find jobs working for the government. The vital thing to remember, however, is not that social workers can work for the government; it’s that they are desperately needed to take on these jobs.