Most social workers enter the field because they have an underlying desire to help others and make a difference in society. Yet, social workers employed by non-profit organizations generally earn low salaries for people with their level of education -- sometimes less than $30,000. According to the National Association of Social Workers Center on Workforce Studies, social workers in the private, for-profit sector are likely to earn higher salaries, with an average of $80,000 per year.
Private counseling agencies are for-profit organizations that offer mental health evaluations, assessments and psychotherapy. Social workers employed by these agencies are usually referred to as psychotherapists. They maintain a weekly caseload of patients, provide individual or group therapy and consult with on-staff psychiatrists, if available, regarding medication evaluations for their patients. To work as a psychotherapist in a private counseling firm, you need to have at least a master's degree in social work and usually, a state license to practice.
Some master's level social workers specialize in the field of substance abuse to help people overcome addictions to drugs or alcohol. Those who wish to work in the private sector may opt for positions in private substance abuse treatment facilities, residential treatment centers or outpatient clinics. They may provide individual and group counseling, complete treatment plans and lead educational groups. According to the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, around 87 percent of all substance abuse facilities are operated by private organizations, with 26 percent operating on a for-profit basis.
For-profit social services agencies were growing at a rapid rate, according to a report in the January-February 2010 issue of the "Social Justice Review." These agencies are based on the privatization model of providing social services that essentially believes in minimal government involvement. Such agencies might include skilled nursing facilities, child day care facilities or health insurance companies. Social workers in these organizations usually have at least a bachelor's degree, with many also holding a master's degree in social work. They might hold positions with titles such as case manager, therapist or administrator.
Adoption social workers work in both public and private adoption agencies. There were more than 2,000 licensed, private adoption agencies in the United States as of 2004, according to a report by the Administration for Children and Families. Adoption social workers are usually master's level clinicians who provide a number of important services to help birth and adoptive families throughout the adoption process. They educate families about adoption, help match prospective adoptive families with adoptees, perform home visits and provide pre- and post-adoption counseling services.
- National Association of Social Workers Center for Workforce Studies: More Money— Less Money: Factors Associated with the Highest and Lowest Social Work Salaries
- Drug and Alcohol Services Information System: The DASIS Report
- Social Justice Review: The For-Profit Social Welfare Policy Sector and End-of-Life Issues: A Troublesome Ethical Mixture
- Administration for Children & Families: How to Assess the Reputation of Licensed, Private Adoption Agencies
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