Before we can talk money, we’ve got to talk worth. I wanted to know what perceptions already existed about the social work profession - both externally and internally. There was no question that inadequate social work wages were affected and dictated by various factors other than simply what social workers thought about themselves.
First and foremost, there was a very limited amount of literature available on the topic of professional worth of the social work profession, including public perception and internal professional self-image. (You might notice the inherent worth implications in that fact alone.)
What DID exist led to the following causes and affects of :
Social work on social media
I explored some pretty nontraditional “research” as well and discovered that social media can be pretty rough on social work too. I found entire accounts that seemed to be dedicated to negative, self-abusive and self-critical social work content- sometimes posted BY self-identified social workers! What?! That’s like some serious social worker on social worker crime. They made light of the “social workers are overworked and underpaid” message, and wonder why that story remains true.
Financial literature in social work
There was a small handful of salary survey data available, but it should be noted that most of it contained reports only of members of professional organizations or those with licenses. Additional data was available anecdotally through professional websites, but I was unable to verify the information through rigorous research methods. Regardless, to say that these sites and reports paint a comprehensive picture of the social work state of pay would be inaccurate. Bureau of Labor Statistics data was reviewed as well, but it should be noted that this data is self-reported, either through census or based on employer records. If people who are not actual social workers by training identify as social workers in either of those ways, their data becomes confounded with data regarding trained social workers.
There are also so many types of roles that social workers can hold. However, the fact that many social workers hold positions where their title is something other than "social worker" definitely contributes to the difficulty in compiling an accurate depiction of social work pay.
In terms of gender playing a role in financial valuation of a profession, consider this:
I read a study where the researchers gave men and women a certain sum of money and asked if it was sufficient. They reported that men said no and asked for more money 4 out of 5 times more than the female participants. Those that asked for more were given a raise of 7.4% on average. Add this gender-based money problem to pervasive effects of historical and professional disempowerment of our profession, and you can see how these factors might create a low sense of efficacy when it comes to advocating for higher wages, individually OR as a group.
What is financial worth?
Financial worth is operationally defined as a person’s perceived maximum earning capacity plus the rate of usefulness to society they believe they possess.
The term was created because a comprehensive financial valuation term in the social work literature that captured more than dollar value couldn't be found in the literature. And social workers place their worth on more than dollar value. While this research challenges the “it’s not about the money” message, it’s also not ONLY about money. The NASW code of ethics and core values- as well as the fact that social workers keep doing the WORK- make that clear. A critical ingredient of social work worth is perceived societal contribution- what they are doing for the greater good.
Any study concerning social work earnings should make sure to take this important factor into account.
All the research noted throughout this website can be verified by clicking the button below. If you have questions regarding any of the material, please don't hesitate to contact me for more information!