Social workers are accustomed to providing services for others, but when you begin your job hunt, you might need a helping hand to develop a social work resume that powerfully shows off your empathy and abilities.
The umbrella “social work” covers a host of specialties. No matter where your expertise lies, demand for all social workers is on the rise. That’s excellent news for you. As you pursue your next career goal, you need to consider how to catch the eye of hiring managers and get that coveted interview.
Resume.io offers a full range of resources for any job seeker, as we provide writing guides and resume examples for 300+ professions, backed up by an easy-to-use resume builder.
This guide, along with the corresponding social work resume example, will cover the following topics:
- What do social workers 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.
A 2021 paper reported that 36% of master of social work graduates enter jobs focused on behavioral health. The most common job settings with a high behavioral health service provision included outpatient healthcare services and other private, not-for-profit, tax exempt, or charitable organizations.
What does a social worker do?
“Social workers advocate on behalf of underrepresented populations and serve as a resource and guide to help individuals as they navigate through difficult situations,” defines the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University.
This work may occur in a number of different settings and with different populations. Social workers also may specialize in an area of difficulty such as substance treatment.
Top 10 social work jobs
- Substance abuse and recovery treatment
- Mental health counselor
- Marriage and family counselor
- Medical social worker
- School social worker
- Foster care social worker
- Child and family therapist
- Corporate social responsibility
- Policy analyst
- Human resources coordinator/specialist
Source: USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work
If you’re looking for the top paying job, specialize in medical social work. Salaries range from 58,968 to $71,346, according to Salary.com.
Social workers see people in distress or who are coping with life’s rough patches. They may specialize in issues of aging, child welfare, developmental disabilities, health care, community advocacy, justice and corrections, international/immigrant issues, mental health and clinical work, substance abuse and treatment, policy and public planning, occupational and employee assistance programs, research, schools or public welfare. Simply put, social workers work in all areas that affect human mental health.
How to write a social work resume
The first thing you need to know to write an intriguing social work resume is what it comprises. Here are the sections your CV should include:
- The resume header
- The resume summary (aka profile or personal statement)
- The employment history section
- The resume skills section
- The education section
This list is flexible, in that not only will your contents be unique, but you may reorganize the order or add a section such as awards and accolades if you have the space in your 1-2 page document.
Your resume needs consistent tone, style and a message. That depends on the target of your job application, so do your research up front. Learn what you can about the agency or business so that every line of your resume addresses their needs. If you can, find out who the hiring manager and/or your prospective boss are to see if you can make a connection to that person that they may latch onto and ask about in your interview.
A thoughtful social work resume:
- Keeps your future employer’s needs in mind and communicates directly to that agency
- Makes a winning first impression with a clean, professional design and template that represents your style visually
- Is optimized with keywords and phrases that will help you overcome the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) hurdle.
Beating the ATS
ATS software scans and ranks resumes according to algorithms based on keywords. Before a human being ever has a chance of seeing the resume you worked so hard on, the ATS is judging whether your document contains the right information to get a second look.
You know how to listen to your clients and analyze how best to help them. You can use those skills to help yourself overcome the ATS hurdle. Reread the job description and highlight the needs the employer lists. Take careful note of the skills and attributes within. Try to use the exact words or phrases (if they are applicable) in your resume to cue the ATS that you have what your prospective agency is looking for.
Choosing the best resume format for social work
No matter your career, employers and recruiters hands-down prefer the reverse chronological order social work resume. Unless you have a compelling reason not to use this format, this is the way to go. This will mostly affect your employment history section which should start with your most recent position and work backwards through the past 10 years of experience (or however much you have.)
If you are new to the workforce, are changing careers or are a seasoned social work professional, you may consider one of the resume formats we suggest as chronological alternatives or hybrids.
Unless you are a scientist or work in a highly technical field, the functional resume format should not be your first choice. It offers a means to emphasize niche or highly complex skills by expanding the skills section and reducing the employment history section in exchange.
Positions for social workers are expected to grow by 13% from 2019-2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s well higher than the average career growth.
Resume summary example: a personal note
Social workers make deep connections with clients and the community, so the summary section holds great importance in your social work resume. The summary is also called a profile and you should consider it a combination of both.
In these 3-5 sentences, you want to pat yourself on the back (with a bit of humility, of course) for your career highlights, but also illuminate your prospective employer on your social work philosophy and interpersonal style.
For a slightly different take, try our case manager resume example. If you want to see a more focused guide, look at our drug and alcohol counselor resume sample, our juvenile counselor resume sample or our healthcare social worker resume sample.
It is here that you want to pat yourself on the back (with a bit of humility, of course) for your career highlights, but also illuminate your prospective employer on your social work philosophy and interpersonal style.
For more specific social work resume examples, check out our case manager resume example or our social worker. We also offer more specialized resume samples such as the geriatric social worker resume example, the healthcare worker resume example or the drug and alcohol counselor resume example.
You can find a resume example for your summary section below.
Dedicated Social Worker with over 10 years of experience in providing needed support to at-risk children. Adept in conflict resolution, safe physical management, and counseling methods. Experienced in managing assigned caseloads in an efficient manner, while utilizing exceptional time management skills to successfully advocate for clients and train colleagues.
Employment history sample: your case history
As we noted above, the employment history section of your social work resume should be presented in reverse chronological order. Then, use terse bullet-pointed items with strong verbs to emphasize your career highlights.
Think about your achievements and write using the CAR format:
- Name the challenge you faced
- Describe the action you took
- Demonstrate your results
As a social worker, you may choose to tell of a specific client, but don’t shy away from accomplishments that can be quantified, such as the number of cases you successfully handled or the amount of services you were able to acquire for your clients.
Below you will find an adaptable employment history resume example.
Social Worker, Radnor Township School District, Philadelphia
September 2014 - Present
- Provided small group and classroom support to students, while monitoring progress to determine efficiency of programs.
- Assisted in identifying available and necessary community resources for students.
- Participated in interventions, administrative reviews, and due process proceedings as needed.
- Completed and organized paperwork for at-risk and special education students.
- Aided students in applying for beneficial government and community resources available to them.
- Led and coordinated mental health assessment training resulting in 25% increase in carer and client satisfaction.
Social Worker, Springfield School District, Philadelphia
September 2010 - February 2014
- 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.
- Assisted in development of first district-wide mental health service rollout, executing deliverables ahead of schedule.
CV skills example: you’re more than a listener
Social work requires much more than just listening skills, and this needs to be communicated in your CV. You must be aware of treatment techniques in your area of expertise, but you may also find yourself with mounds of documentation and paperwork.
Your skills section distills your very best and most desirable attributes into an easy-to-read list. Make sure you focus on those skills that your prospective employer specifically listed in the job ad you are responding to.
Skills every social worker needs
USC says this list comprises skills social workers can’t do without. Consider adding a few to your skills section:
- Boundary setting
- Active listening
- Social perceptiveness
Below you will find an adaptable skills resume example.
- 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 work resume education example
Your education is a key component of your qualifications as a social worker. At minimum, you need a bachelor of social work, but many positions require an MSW or master of social work. Clinical social workers must have a master’s degree and two years of post-graduate work. Play up your education on your social work resume, especially if you are just starting out. In that case, you may want to switch this section with your employment history.
If you have completed any training seminars or certifications that enhance your skills, include those as well. You do not need to list your high school if you have earned more than a bachelor’s degree.
Below you will find an education resume example as a formatting guide.
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: a professional look
Although you know you cannot judge a person by their initial presentation, you also know that first impressions do count. That’s why you need to make your social work resume look as amazing as it sounds.
What do you want your prospective employer to think when they get your resume into their hands? “Wow, this person is organized, professional and knows how to make a presentation!” Of course you do!
Here are some helpful hints to get you there:
- Keep your margins at one inch and use an easy-to-read font sized at 11-12 points to make sure your well-crafted words are legible.
- Make sure your contact information stands out without getting overly fussy.
- Vary your line lengths to give an uncluttered appearance.
- A splash of a subdued color is just enough, if you feel you need color at all.
Consider using one of our resume templates to save you the tedious task of formatting for perfection.
Key takeaways for a social work resume
- The demand for social workers is on the rise, so take advantage of the opportunities out there now.
- As a skilled listener, you should be able to discern what your prospective employer needs and speak to that need in your social work resume.
- Review and personalize your resume for every employer.
- Take advantage of the online resume builder to limit your formatting frustration and speed up your job hunt!