male social worker meeting with two clients

5 Tips to Help Social Workers Move Up the Ladder

Most professionals want to transition into better job opportunities. For those who work in the social services industry, better social services jobs don't always mean better pay. However, money isn't the core motivation for most professionals in this field. Social workers typically want to progress to a position that allows them to help more people.

Job opportunities in this sector are higher in number than ever before, and experts expect the industry to grow 12 percent over the next 10 years. So, this is a great time to dust off the resume and move up the ladder to a new social worker position. Here are five tips to help you do it:


Start Planning Early

Don't wait until the last moment to plan for a promotion. Start your social work career planning as early as possible so you gain relevant experience and skills. Research opportunities in the area, and don't focus exclusively on the traditional government jobs. Investigate opportunities at local hospitals, charities, and counseling services.

Think outside the box, and look for openings that match your interests and expertise. Job counselors, health educators, and teachers aren't technically part of the social services field but can provide valuable management experience and transferable skills.


female social worker meeting with elderly woman


Ask a Veteran Social Worker to Mentor You

Mentors can not only help you move up the job ladder, but they can also teach you shortcuts to helping clients. A mentor can help you refine your social services career approach, land promotions, and search for unadvertised positions.

Select your mentors carefully. Don't choose a mentor based solely on time with the organization. Also, consider the person's success in social services and career achievements. Ask for advice on dealing with difficult clients or locating hidden resources for a single mother and her child. Mentors aren't just helpful for your career. They can also help you help others.


female social worker meeting with mother and children in their home


Take on More Responsibilities

Few social workers dream of sitting in an office pushing paper. Take on new job duties, and volunteer to help co-workers when your caseload is complete. The fastest way to any promotion is through dedication and hard work.

You also can't expect to receive any new responsibilities without going above and beyond in your current role. Pay attention to your own deadlines, and look for ways to improve your work.


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female social worker helping elderly woman use computer


Solve Problems

Social workers rely on their problem solving skills to help clients. Transfer those skills into workable solutions around the office. Being the go-to problem solver will make you an irresistible option for quick advancement.

Most social service agencies are short-staffed and don't have time to dedicate to minor issues. Create solutions for small problems, such as setting up a collaboration system that allows multiple social workers to work on the same case. Slowly graduate to major tasks as you successfully solve the small stuff.


female social worker meeting with father and son at school


Never Stop Learning

No one is going to just hand you a promotion or place you in charge of other social services goals unless you can prove your skills and knowledge. Some positions require a clinical designation or upper-level social work degree. Consider going back to school to earn your LBSW or LCSW. These can help you progress faster.

The National Association of Social Workers also offers credentialing services and career advancement tools. Online training platforms such as Udemy and Lynda teach social new transferable skills such as personnel management, budget proposals, presentations, and conflict resolution.


Achieving success in social services or finding advancement opportunities for social workers may seem daunting at first, but a little hard work and dedication go a long way. Get on your supervisor's radar by showing you can help others and make the organization a better place.

By Mark S., Guest Author | October 03, 2017
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