The NASW Center for Workforce Studies has released its “Summary of Key Compensation Findings” report based on a survey sponsored and developed by the association.
Based on nearly 18,000 responses, the center determined that on Oct. 1, 2009, the median hourly wage for social work practitioners was $29.64 an hour.
The median base pay among the survey respondents was $55,000 a year, with 12 percent earning $90,000 a year or more and 12 percent earning under $30,000.
Most social work practitioners (57 percent) said they were paid an annual salary.
Demographics: Regarding age, the report noted that average pay for those under 35 was $46,000 while those 55 to 64 earned an average of $59,000. Those 65 and older showed a decrease in the median, to $50,000.
The report also revealed that median salaries differed among gender, with men earning $64,000 and women earning $53,000.
A strong correlation exists between education level and compensation for social work practitioners, the report noted.
Those in the survey with MSWs as their highest degree had a median base pay of $55,000. Earning a doctorate in social work carried a premium of $17,000 in annual base pay. Those who did not progress beyond a BSW typically earned $15,000 less than their colleagues with an MSW.
Experience also showed an expected correlation with base pay, rising from a median of $43,700 for those with less than five years’ experience to $63,000 for those with 30-39 years’ experience, the report explained.
Compensation varied by sector where social work practitioners were employed. Generally, those employed by government agencies earned more than those in the private sector.
Also as expected, there was a strong correlation between base pay and responsibility level. Executives earned a high median base pay of $90,000, the report noted. Those at the 75th percentile reported their base pay at $111,800. For the next highest level of responsibility, directors/managers, the median base dropped to $66,000. For those in the supervisor/coordinator roles, the median base pay was $57,000. Those not in a supervisory role earned a median of $50,000.
Region: Respondents were organized by nine U.S. Census regions. The highest base pay levels were in the Pacific states (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California and Hawaii), with a median of $65,000. The next highest was in the Middle Atlantic States (New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) at $59,000.
Lowest levels were reported in the East South Central states (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee), with a median of $47,000.
Tracy Whitaker, director of the NASW Center for Workforce Studies and Social Work Practice, said a more detailed report of the survey is expected in the fall.
“This report is a good reference for a point in time of the profession,” Whitaker said. “Salary and benefits compensation are usually the first items people want to know when investigating careers in social work.”
NASW partnered with other social work member organizations to increase its sampling for the survey. They were the Association of Oncology Social Work; National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization; National Network for Social Worker Managers; The Rural Social Work Caucus; and the Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care.
Data were collected and tabulated by Readex Research, an independent research company.
The report is based on data collected between Oct. 1 and Nov. 24, 2009, with 17,911 responses.