How to Become a Social Worker: Skills, Salary and Duties

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 9 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Social workers work with communities to address several issues of society. The work they do creates a positive impact on society, directly or indirectly. Understanding the role and scope of opportunities available for a social worker can help you decide if you want to become a social worker. In this article, we discuss how to become a social worker, outline their duties, responsibilities, learn about their skills and share a list of social work jobs.

How to become a social worker

The following steps illustrate how to become a social worker:

1. Complete your education

The minimum requirement is a bachelor's degree in social work. It teaches you the concepts of social work, sociology, psychology and human development. Colleges in India conduct an entrance exam and require a minimum of 50% marks in the 12th board examination. While a master's degree is not mandatory, it helps develop the skills to become a professional social worker.

2. Gain experience

To thrive in this field, it's essential to thoroughly understand the fundamentals of a career in social work. You may gain practical experience through internships during your bachelor's programme. The field of social work is sensitive, so internships provide a good exposure to understanding the nuances of this career path. They also provide a chance to expand your network and find mentors.

3. Expand your network

A social worker builds a network of people who provide them with the right opportunities. You may also become a part of organisations like the National Association of Social Workers in India (NAPSWI) or the Indian Society of Professional Social Work (ISPSW). These organisations promote the profession and work towards improving the welfare standards in the country.

What does a social worker do?

A social worker's job requires them to work in sensitive environments with vulnerable communities like the oppressed, poor, and children with special needs. The primary objective of a social worker is to help create awareness about social issues, protect marginalised communities and empower the community they serve. The role is humbling and emotionally taxing. Social workers collaborate with agencies, seek sponsorship and develop programmes to gain public attention and facilitate gradual change.

Related: What Is Social Responsibility and Why Is It Important?

Duties and responsibilities of a social worker

The primary role of a social worker is to have a positive impact on lives and society. To achieve this, they perform several tasks. While the job role of a social worker depends on the industry they work in, here are some common duties:

  • identify the sections of the society that need help

  • research and conduct outreach programmes to spread awareness about a particular cause

  • provide emergency assistance in case of a crisis and help the victim cope with medical support or shelter

  • keep a constant check on the members of the community

  • maintain extensive case files and records that help strengthen the cause

  • provide psychotherapy sessions to victims

  • develop rehabilitation programmes and events that benefit the community they serve

  • carry out surveys, interviews and social experiments

  • partner with agencies and seek sponsorship to tackle emergencies or create awareness about the cause

Skills required in a social worker

Through their education and fieldwork, social workers develop several hard skills and soft skills. Each industry they serve requires some specific skills that they learn on the job. Some competencies in a social worker are:

Critical thinking

A social worker keeps their prejudices and emotions aside when tackling any circumstance. It helps them rationally think and make informed decisions. Critical thinking also helps them identify the right resources for the situation and not act in haste.


A social worker may support persons with mental or physical disabilities, vulnerable and marginalised sections of society and children. Seeing results in complex cases may take time. Being patient and recognising the community requirements help social workers stay calm, think rationally and avoid frustration.

Emotional quotient

Having a high emotional quotient is critical to a social worker as it contributes to high levels of self-awareness and empathy. Social workers take care of their mental health. Having a high emotional quotient helps them better understand the people they serve and ask the right questions.

Communication skills

Social workers regularly communicate with colleagues, agencies, sponsors and the people they help. They understand non-verbal communication to help the community and its people better. Social workers are mindful of the words they use and communicate with no discrimination or prejudice.

Organisational skills

Social workers have a hectic schedule, and they perform multiple tasks in a day. They coordinate with different teams and ensure their clients are doing well. A social worker manages their time well to ensure they do not overlook their client's needs and progress towards the cause.

Related: Organisational Skills: Definition and Examples

Active listening

Carefully listening to their clients and people from the community is essential to make better decisions. A social worker understands the clients' grievances and takes measures to help them. Listening to multiple people from the community helps a social worker gauge the realities of the situation and act accordingly.

Related: Active Listening Skills: Definition and Examples

Cultural competence

Social workers interact with people from various cultural backgrounds. They are knowledgeable of diverse cultures, beliefs and values. It helps them be respectful to everyone, including their clients, and speak without any prejudice.

Setting boundaries

Being a social worker is emotionally draining and stressful. Setting boundaries at work with clients and other professionals help in ensuring a work-life balance. It also helps provide ample time for social workers to cope with difficult situations encountered in the field.

Where do social workers work?

Social workers primarily help improve the social structure of society. They achieve this by working in various sectors. Some jobs that require social workers are:

  • Health care: Social workers help ensure patients get the proper care. They assist families in paperwork and provide help in decision making.

  • Non-governmental organisations (NGOs): Social workers could work to cater to the requirements of the urban or rural population.

  • Education: You may become a lecturer to impact young minds and make them more understanding of society.

  • Government: Social workers work as welfare officers in juvenile homes, rehabilitation centres and homes for women.

  • Armed forces: You could assist veterans, military officers and their families with trauma, mental health or transition to civilian life.

  • Corporates and MNCs: Corporates hire social workers as a part of the Human Resources department to look after employee needs.

  • Policymaking: Since social workers work at the grassroots, they understand the realities and work with the government to formulate policies.

Average salary

The average base salary of a social worker in India is ₹2,78,283 per year. The pay varies depending on the organisation they work for and their geographical location. A social worker may advance their career by completing their master's degree and even a PhD. Their field experience and the sector they work in also influence their pay.

Should you become a social worker?

A social worker's job is fulfilling and, at the same time, emotionally demanding. The job role may also not be immediately lucrative and takes years to get established. The work hours are irregular and may require travelling to different places. A social worker has the will to impact society positively and function in any work environment. If you find yourself fit for the role, you may consider becoming a social worker.

Career opportunities as a social worker

There are various job opportunities available for social workers. They work in hospitals, schools, correctional facilities, government agencies, and non-profit organisations (NGOs). Some of the career opportunities are:

1. Clinical counsellor

National average salary: ₹2,64,873 per year

Primary duties: A clinical counsellor develops treatment plans for patients to cope with mental health, substance abuse and emotional issues. They listen to patients and provide them with necessary resources that help them feel better. They work with individuals, families, a group of people or even communities.

Related: Counselling Skills: Definition and Examples

2. Vocational rehabilitation counsellor

National average salary: ₹2,83,475 per year

Primary duties: Vocational rehabilitation counsellors work at counselling sessions or other medical facilities. They interview patients, assess their vocational difficulties, and determine the work that would suit them. Vocational rehabilitation counsellors also maintain confidential records of the patient.

3. Medical social worker

National average salary: ₹3,18,447 per year

Primary duties: A medical social worker helps patients and their families access their mental health. They provide psychosocial assistance to patients that helps them get back to civilian life. A medical social worker also maintains the confidential patient record.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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