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Spring 2024 Issue

Editor’s Note: A Living Wage
By Kate Jackson
Social Work Today
Vol. 24 No. 2 P. 6

In March, as part of Social Work Month 2024, NASW issued a proclamation that reflected the month’s theme: Empowering Social Work. The theme, according to NASW, “underscores the need for our nation to better support social workers to address societal issues,” and the proclamation references an Ipsos survey finding that more than half of Americans believe social workers deserve higher pay.

In January, social work students across the country participated in a National Week of Action led by Payment for Placements to advocate for increased paid internship opportunities, an effort launched in 2023. While undergraduates must work a minimum of 400 hours of practicum work, graduate students must devote 900 hours to complete their practicums. In protest, students held rallies, staged walkouts, and participated in social media and letter-writing campaigns to highlight the need for compensation for these mandatory internships and rally assistance from the Council on Social Work Education and NASW. It’s both a financial burden and a significant barrier to the profession for many students.

Students often rack up considerable student loan bills for undergraduate and graduate education and must work part or even full time to pay their tuition and support themselves while struggling to complete their practicums. And they do this to gain a foothold in a profession for which the median salary in 2022 was $55,350 for difficult jobs that demand long hours and are often accompanied by high stress—stress that’s exacerbated by a shortage of social workers and a resulting need to do more and more for less.

As part of Social Work Month, NASW educated the public about the need for better remuneration and offered guidance on how social workers can advocate for better pay.

We’d like to hear your thoughts about social worker salaries. What strategies have you used to increase awareness about the need for better salaries, and what strategies have you tried to negotiate for higher wages? What else needs to be done?

Send your letters to me at kjackson@gvpub.com.

— Kate Jackson