A social worker's salary probably won't be your ticket to a new Beamer or a condo in the Caymans. In fact, you might even have to monitor the number of triple-flavored lattes you scarf down each week. Chances are good, however, that you're not choosing a social worker career for the money, anyway.
Consider a few variables that will impact your social worker's salary. First, you'll probably make less in a small-town human services agency compared to a large-city human services department. Next, remember each position may come with its own fixed salary range, which can limit your potential for future merit increases. Finally, remember that salary is only part of the package. If you're employed full time with a government agency, you might also receive health insurance coverage, a savings plan, and other perks that help to soften the blow of your less-than-stellar salary structure.
With all that said upfront, however, the numbers do matter. Here's a good snapshot of some social worker median salary figures: All the social workers lumped together made a median salary of about $40K annually in 2010. That means the newbies, experienced social workers, and everyone in all the agencies combined grossed that amount. For the record, a median salary means half the social workers earned more than that, and half made less. In terms of actual salary figures, an individual social worker would have grossed a maximum of $60K in 2010.
Keep in mind that your social work specialty can also affect your salary. Health care social workers' median wage topped $47K in 2010; while family-related social workers made a slightly lower $40K per year. Substance abuse and mental health social workers received the lowest median salaries, grossing about $38K annually.