Congratulations! You’ve chosen a field in which you help others. Social work also offers many career paths and options. As you prepare for your next steps, you can ensure you have the best chance to reach your career goals by first focusing on developing an impressive social worker resume.
Your social worker resume is the key to unlocking opportunity — if you know how to make the most of it. You have the skills, experience, and education. Resume.io has the library of 350+ resume examples, expertly designed and HR-tested resume layouts, and this guide to help you portray yourself in the best light. We’ll cover these topics:
- What does a social worker do?
- How to write a social worker resume (tips and tricks)
- The best format for a social worker resume
- Advice on each section of your resume (summary, work history, education, skills)
- Professional resume layout and design hints.
What does a social worker do?
In this helping profession, you can choose many different areas on which to focus. The demand for your services is growing. Many positions require you to be a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) or have a master’s degree in social work (MSW). There are more than 713,000 social workers employed in the United States today. That number is expected to grow 13% to nearly 804,000 — much faster than the average career — by 2029, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts.
Social work is a broad field and some areas will grow faster than others. The University of South Carolina School of Social Work says substance use and recovery treatment, mental health, and marriage and family counseling social are the biggest social work growth areas. Social workers do their jobs in many different environments, including:
- Hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities
- Mental health clinics
- Senior centers and nursing homes
- Military service or veteran’s assistance
Social workers also take on many different roles. They:
- Conduct research
- Advise corporations on social responsibility
- Help develop government policy and planning
- Become political leaders as an outgrowth of their advocacy
- Act as human resource coordinators or specialists
- Function as managers and administrators in public and private agencies.
Social work practices also differ in scope, according to the National Association of Social Workers. Micro-practices focus on helping individuals cope with daily life and their problems. Mezzo-practices support multiple individuals within a social system such as a family, and macro-practices focus on the interactions between the systems in which the client functions and larger societal systems.
Get inspired by these other resumes examples from the same social work field:
- Caregiver resume sample
- Geriatric Social Worker resume sample
- Drug and Alcohol Counselor resume sample
- Healthcare Social Worker resume sample
- Case Manager resume sample
- Community Outreach Coordinator resume sample
- Youth Services Specialist resume sample
- Babysitter resume sample
- Nanny resume sample
- Juvenile Counselor resume sample
- Medical Social Worker resume sample
The median pay for all social workers in 2021 was $50,390, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest-paying social work jobs included roles in the sectors of healthcare and local government. In 2021 the top 10% of social workers earned more than $82,840 per annum.
How to write a social worker resume
The first step in writing your social work resume is understanding what sections to include. Your CV should contain the following elements:
- The resume header
- The resume summary (aka profile or personal statement)
- The employment history section
- The resume skills section
- The education section
Because the social work field is so broad, you will have to pay close attention to individualizing your resume for each job listing. Investigate everything you can about the job you are applying for: the place and the people. Especially try to put a name and a face to the hiring manager, and whoever will be your boss if it’s not the same person.
Write your resume as if you are answering interview questions that haven’t been asked yet. Who knows? It could open the door to an actual interview that finds you steps ahead of other candidates.
If you decide to open a private practice instead of joining a larger organization, a resume is still in your best interest. You will have to present your credentials and experience to your potential clients. Having an excellent resume will give you a boost.
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
Recruiters and employers use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) as a tool to track applicants and eliminate “bad” resumes. ATS software algorithms scan resumes for keywords, phrases and other information important to employers. A ranking is issued to each resume, and if yours misses the mark, it will never be seen by a person. There are more than 100 ATS software options on the market, so there is no single magic bullet for ensuring success, but there are several hacks that can help you.
How do you know your resume is being handled by an ATS? If you’re applying through an online system, it’s a virtual guarantee. Alternatively, the employer’s website (or the ATS firm’s website) may have a transparent indication. In some cases, however, there are no clear clues, so just be extra careful anyway. This hints will help:
- Analyze each job description looking for the keywords and phrases listed. Highlight them so that when you begin to individualize your resume, you make sure you organically insert these words. If a job listing is too wordy or vague and you are having difficulty deciding which keywords to focus on, try a word cloud. Paste the listing into a program such as wordle.com or wordart.com and it will generate a word cloud. The biggest words in the cloud are the ones that appear most frequently and are likely to be the most important.
- Use both acronyms and spell out what they stand for to make sure the ATS catches one or the other.
- Do not put any important information in headers or footers that the ATS may not be able to read.
- Stay away from fancy fonts and formatting such as tables.
Some ATS are sensitive to the sequence of information. They may prefer that you list the company name, the city and state of the company, your job title, and dates you have worked there. Although not all ATS software needs that sequence to parse your information, it is best to keep the order and organization of information consistent.
Choosing the best resume format for a social worker
The most commonly used chronological resume works well for job seekers in almost any occupation, including within a social worker resume, particularly if their work history has followed a linear path in a series of employee positions that show a pattern of career growth.
In that resume section, progressive job experience and accomplishments are organized by employer / workplace in reverse order from most recent to earliest dates. It would likely be a good fit for most social worker job applicants who already have experience in the same field.
Alternative resume formats are sometimes appropriate for those new to the workforce or changing careers, or those with a more varied occupational background. That includes some self-employed professionals with a project-based background well suited to a functional resume format. Other functional resumes emphasize specialized skills or areas of professional or clinical expertise, rather than work history. Social workers in private practice might wish to emphasize a specific aspect of their background or client demographic on a functional resume. In some instances, a hybrid (combination) work history makes sense in adapting chronological and functional elements
Resume summary example
The summary of your social worker resume may be the first thing that any hiring manager will read because it sits atop your document. This should be a short and to the point description of your career and how you approach working with clients.
Remember to include keywords highlighting your most relevant or impressive qualities and professional accomplishments. The idea is to hook in the hiring manager and convince them to continue reading.
Dedicated Social Worker with over 10 years of experience providing support to elementary-aged children. Proven track record of working with students, families, and school administration within a variety of settings. Adept in conflict resolution, safe physical management, and counseling methods. Strong understanding of at-risk and special education students. Experienced in managing caseloads in an efficient and effective manner while utilizing exceptional time management skills to successfully advocate for clients.
Employment history sample: Elaborate on your skills list
Even if you are searching for your first job, you have internship experience that counts here. The employment history section of your social worker resume tells the story of your professional growth from your internship on and offers examples that show you are ready for the next step.
Think about your first job or internship and what you did there. Then show a pattern of increased skill, responsibility, or the variety of clientele you served.
The availability of social workers varies greatly among states and regions. Social work demand is expected to be highest in Oregon, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Alaska, and California, according to Spring Arbor University.
Use strong action verbs as you describe your achievements, successes, and the challenges you have overcome in each job. Do not simply list responsibilities but explain how you used your skills to do a great job. Be as detailed as possible and include data wherever it is relevant. Human resources personnel want to be able to easily tell what you achieved.
Here are a few questions to get you thinking:
- Did you increase participation in a community group? If so, by how much?
- Did you streamline the intake process? How many more clients were you able to serve?
- Did you see a community need and develop a solution? What was the problem, what actions did you take? What was the outcome?
If you are applying the most common chronological resume structure, list your jobs in reverse chronological order with your current position first. As always, match your descriptions to the keywords and phrases in the job listing.
Social Worker at Radnor Township School District, Philadelphia
September 2012 - Present
- Provide small-group and classroom support to students while monitoring progress to determine efficiency of programs.
- Assist in identifying available and necessary community resources for students.
- Participate in interventions, administrative reviews, and due process proceedings as needed.
- Complete and organize paperwork for at-risk and special education students.
- Aid students in applying for beneficial government and community resources available to them.
- Modify programs and suggestions for clients as needed.
Social Worker at Springfield School District, Philadelphia
September 2008 — February 2012
- Provided on-site crisis response and intervention services to students, families, and staff.
- Conducted functional behavior assessments for students displaying significant behavioral problems.
- Coordinated ongoing tasks of team members and maintained compliance with special education requirements.
- Implemented school-wide student management policies within classrooms.
Social Worker at Brookline Public Schools, Boston
March 2005 - August 2008
- Worked in partnership with high school teachers, counselors, and social worker colleagues for consultation and support.
- Communicated with guidance counselors and school administration to incorporate positive reinforcement strategies for students.
- Attended support meetings to monitor at-risk students.
- Participated in classroom observations to assess student engagement and behavior in the classroom.
Skills example section: Your best abilities on display
The skills listed on your social worker resume make it easy for human resources to scan the document and readily discover your talents. Social workers need emotional intelligence, but that category encompasses a broad range of skills. How should you go about breaking it down?
According to DataUSA, 81% percent of social workers are women.
First, brainstorm a master list of all your job skills, professional personality traits, achievements, and successes. Don’t limit it to the ones you think are relevant or only the ones in which you have expertise. Everything counts here because you are the only one who will see it. You will mine this list as you prepare your skills section as well as your employment history. Keep the list and add to it as your professional experience grows.
Second, consider these 10 essential skills and traits of successful social workers from the University of Buffalo School of Social Work. Think about listing some of them in your skills section, and also elaborating on them in your employment history. They are:
- Empathy: Are you great at putting yourself in anyone’s shoes or do you gravitate toward certain groups or issues?
- Communication: Parse this even further by listing the type of communication. Are you good at advising colleagues? Sharing case studies? Explaining policy and procedure?
- Organization: Again, be more specific. Do you get your paperwork done on time? Do you keep meticulous client notes?
- Critical thinking: Are you a big-picture thinker? Excellent at using data to evaluate problems?
- Active Listening: Give an example or explain what this means to you.
- Self-care: Make clear that you know you can’t help others if you don’t reduce your stress in this demanding job.
- Cultural competence: How do you show your understanding of and respect for different cultures and their customs and traditions?
- Patience: Progress comes at different rates for different clients.
- Professional commitment: What are the professional development activities in which you participate?
- Advocacy: How do you work with communities to further social justice and empower citizens?
Most of these skills are soft skills, or the abilities necessary to deal with people and groups. Don’t discount hard skills, however. Social workers need some technological knowledge for tracking clients, workload, and conducting video sessions . They may be expected to bill their clients or fill out financial paperwork for organizations that offer sliding-scale fees.
Third, consider the job setting. For instance, medical social workers may be collecting and analyzing patient information, helping patients understand medical terminology, or coordinating care among medical professionals.
Finally, for your skills section, choose your top five to 10 competencies, making sure they are aligned with the job description. Look back at your master list every time you revise this for a new job to refresh your memory and pick the most relevant skills to get you past the ATS.
- NASW Code of Ethics
- Mental Health Assessments
- Certified Mental Health Counselor
- Crisis Intervention
- Strong Organizational Skills
- Time Management Skills
- Knowledge of Social Welfare Policy
Social worker resume education example
It is possible to become a social worker with a bachelor’s degree in the field. However, many states require social workers to earn a master’s in social work (MSW) and go on to licensure so list all these accomplishments in the education section of your social worker resume.
In some cases, such as healthcare social work, employees must have an MSW. In addition to college, social workers are required to participate in continuing education courses. No matter what type or level of degree you have, include it here. Begin with your MSW, if you have one, and work your way back. If you do have a master’s, drop your high school diploma from your resume.
Half of social workers have bachelor’s degrees in social work, psychology, or sociology. Forty-five percent of all social workers have an MSW, according to Profile of the Social Work Workforce.
You may also have certification as a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) or as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Each state’s licensing procedure is different, but you will need an MSW for either one. To earn an LCSW, you must have some level of experience as well. Also consider including any professional development certificates you have earned, especially if they add a new skill to your repertoire.
If you are licensed and are active in professional organizations, you may want to add a Licensure and Professional Activities heading for these listings.
Master of Social Work, Smith College, Northampton
August 2008 - May 2010
Bachelor of Sociology, SUNY Albany, Albany
August 2004 - May 2008
Resume layout and design
The rule of thumb here is to keep your design from getting in the way of your information. Neatness and legibility are the buzzwords for your social worker resume. The first visual impression you give will last, so make it a good one.
Recruiters see dozens of resumes for each position, so don’t give them a reason to eliminate yours. The best designs contain these elements:
- Easy-to-find contact information
- Well-labeled sections
- A variety of line lengths to leave white space
- Consistency of font sizes and styles
- 1-inch margins on all sides
- Too much color or bright colors
- Big blocks of text
- Column and table formatting
- Information in headers and footers
Always save your resume as a PDF file. Our intuitive resume builder prompts you to do just that to avoid formatting glitches that can occur with different word processing software. When that's done, double-check to make sure alignment, lists and spacing have remained consistent.
Some specific online application systems require you to upload a Word file and may not even accept PDF files. But in all other cases, avoid Word or other text-editor formats whenever possible when saving the final version of your resume, They tend to be “buggy” in terms of formatting and design.
If you want to spend your time on content and not design, Resume.io has you covered. Consider checking out our expertly designed resume templates.
Key takeaways for a social worker resume
- Social workers can choose from many career paths.
- Your resume must get you past Applicant Tracking Systems before it reaches a person.
- Keep the layout legible and professional.
- Use your profile to express your professional personality and highlight your biggest achievement.
- Customize your skills section for each job listing using your master list.
- Turn your employment history into a story of growth.
- Don’t leave anything up to chance: Use the builder-tool to avoid any formatting glitches.
After following the tips in this guide, you will be on your way to securing your dream job as a social worker!