7+ Tips for Social Workers & Your Social Worker Resume

2 September
10 min read

Social workers help individuals and families through difficult times and ensure they are safe from harm. As such, their contribution is invaluable. 

So, we can only assume that you want your social worker resume to represent the value you bring into society and land you the best employment opportunities out there! 

The best way to do that is by putting the spotlight on your most noteworthy professional achievements and showing that you’ve got all the right skills to excel at the job. 

Not sure exactly how to use your social worker resume to your advantage? 

Well, you’ve come just to the right place! 

Our guide has all you need to know on social worker resume, including:

  • How to Pick the Best Social Worker Resume Format
  • How to List Your Work Experience in a Compelling Way
  • How to Tailor Your Social Worker Resume to the Job
  • Tips & Tricks on How to Excel In Your Career As a Social Worker

And much more!

Let’s dive in! 

#1. Choose the Optimal Format For Your Social Worker Resume

For your value to shine through, your social worker resume needs to follow the optimal format. 

We bet you don’t want the recruiter to ditch your resume without paying it too much attention just because it looks cluttered, or because the sections don’t follow a logical order. 

For this exact reason, out of the three resume formats, we recommend you choose the reverse-chronological format for your social worker resume.

The reverse-chronological format includes employment history beginning with the most recent and then going backward.

reverse chronological resume format

This resume format is the most popular one around the globe and every single recruiter is familiar with it. As such, it is your best bet.

Pro Tip

  • When you’re done writing your social worker resume, save it in a PDF format. PDF-s allow your resume to look the same on any computer (while Microsoft Word documents may not). So, as long as the job ad explicitly asks for a Word resume, go with PDF.

Use a Social Worker Resume Template 

Want to skip past all the hassle of formatting a resume?

We get that! 

Having to deal with a text editor to create your CV is not fun. You have to spend hours and hours making the resume look just like you want it to…

Then you make a very slight change, and your entire resume layout gets messed up. 

That’s why resume-builders like Novoresume exist! 

To make your life a little easier, you can just pick one of the hand-crafted resume templates, and voila! All you have to do is fill in your resume contents, literally no formatting effort is required.

resume templates examples

#2. Pay Attention to Your Contact Information

This one’s relatively straightforward.

In your contact information section, make sure to include:

  • Full name
  • Title (in this case, “social worker”)
  • Phone number 
  • Email address 
  • LinkedIn URL (optional) 

Simple enough, right?

However, there are a few things to keep in mind: 

  • Make sure to triple-check all the information (especially your phone number) before moving to the next section. You don’t want to lose your shot at the job just because you had a typo in your phone number. 
  • Use a professional email address (something like, firstname.lastname@gmail.com), not something that sounds like it belongs in your childhood.  

Correct Example

Sarah Davis - Social Worker 

105-324-9089.

sarah.davis@gmail.com

Incorrect Example

Sarah Davis - Your go-to social worker 

105-324-9089.

queensarah4life@gmail.com

#3. Customize your Resume Summary

Your resume summary needs to be attention-grabbing.

The 2-3 sentence synopsis of your career is the first thing that recruiters lay their eyes on and what makes them decide if they should keep reading. 

As such, it’s very important that you get this right.

Not sure how you can do that? Simply follow our tried-and-tested format:

 

  1. Your job and years of experience 
  2. 1-2 best achievements/core responsibilities 
  3. Desired goal (or your motivation for working in this industry/specific job) 

And this is what it would look like in your social worker resume: 

Example:

Child, family, and school social worker with 5+ years of experience in treating childhood abuse. I’ve had three scientific articles on childhood abuse published in academic journals and I’m currently researching how abandonment issues manifest in young adults. Passionate about deepening my knowledge through experience.

Preparing a Social Worker Resume With No Experience? Go For a Resume Objective

Now, if you don’t have the necessary professional experience to write a captivating resume summary (either because you’re a recent graduate, or because you’re changing careers), you’re still in the clear. 

All you have to do in that case is go for a resume objective

In a nutshell, this is a brief statement of your motivation for getting into the field. 

To write an effective resume objective, follow this simple format:

  1. Your qualifications. E.g. “Recent graduate from University X with a degree in social work”
  2. Practical experience with social work or relevant skills. E.g. “2 years of volunteering experience”
  3. Your objective. E.g.: ”Looking to apply my social work knowledge as a Role at Company X”

Here’s a concrete example to get a better idea of what we’re saying: 

Example:

Dedicated recent graduate with a Master of Social Work (MSW) from the University of Pennsylvania. 2 years of practical experience from volunteering as a community social worker. Looking to apply my knowledge and deepen my experience as a social worker at the Butler County Community College. 

#4. Show Your Professional Experience as a Social Worker

And just like that, you reached your resume’s most important section. 

Ultimately, it’s your professional experience that defines whether you have the skills for the job or not. So you better make it count. 

Here is the best way to structure your work experience section: 

  • Position name
  • Company/institution name
  • Dates employed
  • Achievements and responsibilities (in bullet points) 

And here’s how this looks like in practice for a social worker resume:

Example:

Healthcare Social Worker

Massachusetts General Hospital

02/2017 - 05/2021

  • Worked with over 100 hospital patients 
  • Provided patient education and counseling
  • Conducted and developed case to case consultation treatments and therapy plans  

Whenever you can, mention what you achieved instead of just listing what was required of you.

Of course, if you don’t have any relevant achievements to mention, don’t make them up. You can always go with your responsibilities. 

Or, if you do have an experience that just doesn’t fit the traditional “work experience” definition—just follow the advice below. 

Haven’t Worked in the Field Before? Internships and Volunteer Experience Counts!

Lacking work experience doesn’t automatically disqualify you from getting your dream job,  especially if you have something to substitute it with. 

So, if you’ve ever volunteered, or done an internship, make sure to include that in the professional experience of your social worker resume. 

And remember - as we mentioned above, list your achievements over your responsibilities whenever you can. Here’s how! 

Example:

Professional Experience 

Social Worker

2019 - 2020

  • Volunteered at the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) For Children. 
  • Helped 60 children in the process of finding permanent home environments. 
  • Did 30 hours of pre-service training before beginning to volunteer.

Are you a student struggling to create your resume? Our guide on how to make a student resume can help!

#5. Include Your Education

Your education comes directly after your work experience. Here’s what you should know about it: 

  • Only include your high school degree if you don’t have a B.A. or any higher education degree. 
  • If you haven’t completed your education yet, you should still mention every year of your education to date. 
  • In terms of layout, your work experience section should precede education. If you’re a recent graduate with no experience (including any volunteering or internships in social work), then you can start with your education instead. 

Start filling up your education section by listing the following:  

  • Degree Type and Major
  • Name of University 
  • Years studied 
  • GPA, Honors, Courses, and any relevant achievements! 

Exceptional education results, honors, and relevant extracurricular activities can also show recruiters that you are driven, motivated, and determined to put in the effort. As such, you should not underestimate this section. 

Here’s how two well-built education sections looks like: 

Correct Examples:

MA in Counseling Psychology 

Webster University 

2015 - 2019

  • Published research on trauma bonding in the Journal of Counseling Psychology 
  • Founder and Editor in Chief of the Webster Psychology Magazine 

BA in Social Work

University of Southern California

2012 - 2016

  • Graduated Summa Cum Laude
  • Assisted in the University’s Counseling Office since sophomore year  

#6. Tailor Your Skills to the Social Worker Profile

The next thing recruiters want to see is that you have the right skills for the job. And the best way to show that is via the skills section.

Instead of just listing random skills, though, you want to specifically list the ones that are relevant for the role.

To do this, analyze the job ad you’re applying for, and extract the top skills that are mentioned there.

Say that the job description is looking for the following skills in a candidate: 

Social worker skills: (1) counseling, (2) conflict management, (3) relationship building

So, when you’re listing out your skills, make sure to include these (as long as you actually possess the skills, of course) - along with 2-3 other relevant skills. 

Additionally, whenever it’s possible, mention these skills as part of your achievements or responsibilities. You can do that by adding them as verbs in your resume summary, or as part of your work experience section. 

For example: 

  • Counseled teenagers as a social worker at Brooklyn Technical High School

OR

  • Practiced conflict management and resolution as a therapist at the Southwest Idaho Juvenile Detention Center 

Best Soft Skills for a Social Worker

Not sure what skills to mention in your social worker resume?

Here are some of the ones that are most sought-after by recruiters in your field:

  • Active listening 
  • Self-awareness
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Empathy
  • Problem-solving
  • Communication 
  • Time-management
  • Acceptance 
  • Open-mindedness
  • Teamwork
  • Perceptiveness
  • Persuasion
  • Organization 
  • Collaboration  

#7. List Your Licenses and Certifications as a Social Worker

Your resume is the last place to stay humble. 

You should use every chance possible to highlight how you’re qualified for the position. So, if you have any licenses and certifications, this is your chance to boast about them. 

Are you a Licensed Clinical Social Worker? There are two places to include it:

  1. As part of your title, under your name at the contact information (e.g. Laura Burton, LCSW)
  2. In the first sentence of your resume summary (e.g.: LCSW with 4+ years of experience in…)

With your license in such a front-row seat, the hiring managers looking at your application will know you’re experienced without even reading your resume.

As for your certification, those go under the dedicated “Certifications” section.

 

This is how it would look like in your social worker resume: 

Certifications

  • Certified Counselor, NCE level (2019)
  • Certificate in Human Services, Great Basin College(05/2017)

#8. Take Advantage of Additional Resume Sections

So, you got all the essentials out of the way and you’re closer than ever to landing your dream job as a social worker. 

But what if you have some extra space on your resume? 

Or, maybe, you are fluent in a foreign language or have attended a ton of scientific conferences. 

No reason to let those achievements go to waste! Take advantage of additional resume sections such as “Languages,” “Conferences,” “Publications” and “Hobbies & Interests.”

Here are some examples on how this would look like on a social worker resume:

Example:

Languages

  • Spanish (Verbal skills: Advanced; Written skills: Advanced) 
  • French (Verbal skills: Advanced; Written skills: Intermediate)

Conferences

Hobbies & Interests

  • Member of the National Association of Social Workers
  • President of the “Counseling Through Reading” Book Club (25 members) 

5 Things You Need to Know About Working as a Social Worker 

Being a social worker isn’t easy. 

You get to do a lot of good and help people, but you also experience all the tough situations that people go through in their daily lives firsthand. 

Here are some of the things you should know about the beautiful - but, at the same time demanding - social worker journey. 

#1. Remember to take care of yourself! 

It often happens that when our work involves taking care of others, we become less concerned with taking care of ourselves. 

For example, as a social worker, you might get too involved and personal with a case and, wanting to find a solution, end up neglecting your need for rest. This might lead to burnout. 

Well, that should never be the case - especially when you have a job with an intense workload and unstable hours. Social workers are also at risk of developing emotional fatigue - a factor for a deterioration in their mental health.    

That’s why self-care goes a long way in your industry; you won’t be able to take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself! 

#2. Advance your education to increase your employability! 

The level of your education in social work determines how far you can advance your career. 

For example, a Bachelor’s degree in social work will qualify you for entry-level positions, such as aging services or residential treatment.  

Meanwhile, you need a Master’s degree to become a Licensed Social Worker and practice your profession unsupervised. With a doctorate in social work (DSW) or a Ph.D. in social work, you can get advanced training in research and policy analysis, and even teach at the university level.  

This means that the higher the degree you have obtained, the better your employment options. 

#3. Networking is essential in the field of social work! 

Social work can be an emotionally draining field of work. 

At times, you might face situations that you are unprepared to deal with, despite all your professional experience. For instance, you might find yourself completely unsure what kind of expertise to offer in an unfamiliar situation.

That’s why building a support system of colleagues, mentors, and other professionals in the field is essential to get through all the challenges that may arise during your career.  

#4. Listening is half the communication process! 

We cannot stress the importance of active listening enough. 

Why? To assess each case that you are assigned, you’ll need to listen and understand their experiences before you can work out a solution. 

For this solution to be effective, the people you work with need to trust you and open up to you. 

Neither is doable if you’re not an expert in effectively listening to those around you. 

That’s why career advisors, professors, and trainers alike stress the importance of knowing how to listen, no matter the field of social work you are in.

#5. Government rules and standards frame the work of a social worker

One thing every social worker learns early on is that they cannot each case based on passion and goodwill alone. 

The line of action of social workers is very intricately tied with - and limited by - government guidelines, regulations, and standards. 

Sometimes, you may think those guidelines are frustrating, or you may find that organizational dysfunction causes an intense caseload that can leave you feeling overworked.  

Well, just remember that bureaucracy is an integral part of how our societies operate and that guidelines are oftentimes necessary to set a standard of how cases (which are countless across the US alone) should be treated.

So if you’re feeling frustrated, just remember that ultimately, your job helps people - which is probably what made you want to get into the field in the first place.    

Key Takeaways 

Well, that was a lot to take in! 

By now you should have the right know-how to build the social worker resume that best represents you. 

Just to do a small recap, though, let’s go over the main points we covered:  

  • Choose the reverse-chronological format to make the most out of your social worker resume and put the spotlight on your most recent work experiences.
  • Whenever it is possible, mention your professional achievements over your responsibilities to stand out from other applicants.
  • You can list volunteer experience and internships in social work under your “work experience” section - especially if you haven’t previously worked in the field.
  • Don’t leave any licenses and certifications out of your social worker resume.
  • Remember, being a social worker isn’t easy! Make sure to take care of yourself and build a support system of colleagues and mentors to help you through any professional hardships.

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