School Social Worker

Education is not purely dependent on lesson planning, teaching, and learning in a classroom environment. Often there are myriad factors outside of the classroom that can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to learn. From troubles at home to bullying to illness, students may face several crises that teachers are not always equipped (or permitted) to resolve. In these situations, a School Social Worker can be the difference-maker connecting home life, school, and the community at-large direct and indirect service to students, families and school personnel – all in the service of student success.

The School Social Work Association of America defines school social workers as “trained mental health professionals who can assist with mental health concerns, behavioral concerns, positive behavioral support, academic and classroom support, consultation with teachers, parents and administrators [and] provide individual and group counseling/therapy.” Social workers provide and facilitate student access to necessary support resources and services. They also keep school faculty and staff apprised of issues with the children in their charge, occasionally training them to identify warning signs of situations that may necessitate school social worker involvement. They also teach teachers and staff about how socio-economic, cultural, and health issues contribute to students’ success or failure.

The School Social Work Association of America has identified the following service areas that school social workers work within to the betterment of their student charges.


  • Providing crisis intervention
  • Developing intervention strategies to ensure academic and social success
  • Assisting with conflict resolution and anger management
  • Facilitating the development of appropriate social interaction skills
  • Helping students understand and accept both self and others


  • Working with parents to better enable their support in their children’s school adjustment
  • Alleviating family stress to allow the student to perform better in school and as a community-member
  • Assisting parents to access programs available to students with special needs
  • Assisting parents in accessing and utilizing school and community resources


  • Educating staff on the various factors (cultural, societal, economic, familial, health,etc.) affecting a student’s performance and behavior and providing direct support as needed
  • Developing staff in-service training programs
  • Assessing students with mental health concerns
  • Assisting teachers with behavior management


  • Obtaining and coordinating community resources for addressing students’ needs
  • Ensuring schools receive adequate support from social and mental health agencies
  • Advocating for new and improved community/school service to meet the needs of students and their families


  • Helping develop and implement educational programs for children
  • Developing alternative programs for drop-outs, truants, delinquents, etc.
  • Identifying and reporting child abuse and neglect
  • Providing consultation regarding school law and school policy including IDEA and Section 504
  • Providing case management for students and families requiring multiple resources


  • Participating in special education assessment meetings as well as IEP Meetings
  • Working with those problems in a child’s living situation that affect the child’s adjustment in school (home, school, and community)
  • Preparing a social or developmental history on a child with a disability
  • Counseling (group, individual and/or family)
  • Assisting in developing positive behavioral intervention strategies

Becoming a School Social Worker

All school social workers will need a Bachelor’s degree to be a social worker, and most school social workers need a Master’s degree in social work that’s been approved by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

A certification to work in school social work is an optional professional development step. To get a “Certified School Social Work Specialist” certification through the NASW, a prospective school social worker would need to have an MSW and 2+ years of relevant experience.

School social work is an incredibly impactful and meaningful career path. This career journey begins with a Master of Social Work.

Affiliations and Resources for Social Workers in Schools

School Social Work Association of America
American Council for School Social Work