What does a Case Worker do?

Lily Ruha

A case worker, also known as a social worker, helps individuals to cope with their problems. The personal issues may include substance abuse problems, financial difficulties, relationship issues, health challenges, or other issues that interfere with functional living. Case workers may specialize in working with a specific group, such as with children, or with specific issues, such as substance abuse. They may be employed by government agencies, non-profit organizations, schools or health organizations. The minimum educational requirement for working as a case worker is typically a bachelor’s degree, although many positions require a master’s degree.

Case workers may focus on helping the elderly.
Case workers may focus on helping the elderly.

Case workers are employed by a variety of public and private agencies and organizations. Government agencies hire case workers to assist the public in solving debilitating personal issues that significantly impact their lives. A case worker in the political realm might be assigned to a legislator’s constituents and tasked with the responsibility of addressing their personal concerns using the help of social services agencies. Case workers are also employed by schools, non-profit organizations, mental health centers and health organizations.

Case workers may work to protect victims of domestic abuse.
Case workers may work to protect victims of domestic abuse.

The responsibilities of case workers involve assisting and advocating on behalf of individuals in need. A case worker might help protect a teenage girl who has been the victim of domestic abuse by working through the proper channels to find her a safe home. In the circumstance of a single mother with financial difficulties, a case worker might help by connecting her with financial aid and employment opportunities. A young man with a life threatening illness might need the assistance of a case worker to determine a plan of action for seeking medical care.

Case workers might assist homeless children find shelter.
Case workers might assist homeless children find shelter.

In all cases, employers want to hire case workers who possess the knowledge and ability to effectively assist and manage others. Case workers are generally driven more by the desire to help others than by the pursuit of monetary gain. Patience, compassion and excellent communication skills are important qualities for excelling in this position. Flexibility and willingness to travel are also necessary in positions that require making home visits and accompanying clients on important appointments.

Case workers might help unemployed people find a new job.
Case workers might help unemployed people find a new job.

The training and educational requirements for case workers vary from setting to setting. Some jobs require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and relevant work experience. The bachelor’s degree must typically be in social work, although other subjects, such as psychology or sociology, may be acceptable in some settings. Most case worker positions require a graduate degree in social work. Licensing and certification requirements exist in most cases, and vary depending on locality.

Compassion is a valued trait for case workers.
Compassion is a valued trait for case workers.
A case worker may try to help someone struggling with a substance abuse problem.
A case worker may try to help someone struggling with a substance abuse problem.

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Discussion Comments


My friend is in foster care in Missouri and I was wondering how would she get out of the system? She told me that she has a case worker involved. She said she would have to learn to live on her own and get a driver's license. She is 22 years old, though. She does have a right to leave, right? That is stupid. If someone understands this please give me advice. I want to help her. --Kat


I think social work must be a pretty big field. As I was going through college, I met several people who were either in the social work major or studying something like sociology with the intent of working in the social work field.

Does anyone know how much a social worker would make in a given year? Since I am guessing the vast majority work in the public sector, I doubt they get paid that much. On the other hand, I guess they might get paid a little more than expected, since it is a difficult job.

Like has already been mentioned, being a social worker would be very emotionally draining, and I don't think I could do it. If I were to have a social worker career, though, I think I would want to work for a non-profit organization that helped with adoptions. I know a lot of families that have adopted children, and I think the children have benefited a lot by being placed with a good family.


@jcraig - Very good points. I used to watch the Lockup show on TV that profiled the lives of different criminals in prison. In one of the episodes, they were showing what happened when the prisoners finally got released.

They all had to deal with a case worker at some point to find jobs or sign up for probation or whatever it was. There was an interview with one of the case workers, and she talked about how hard it was dealing with some of the individuals and knowing that most of them wouldn't make it on the outside. On the other hand, she said that the reason she and most of the other case workers she knew kept doing the same job was because sometimes things work out for these people.

This woman kept a little drawer full of letters and cards from people she had helped in the past who had been successful after they were released from prison.

@cardsfan27 - Yes, I agree. I could never be a case worker. I get angry just dealing with rude people on the street let alone doing it every day as a job.

If I remember correctly, social workers appear almost every year on the lists of jobs with the highest stress levels. I think they also appear towards the bottom of lists about job satisfaction, which could be surprising, depending on how you think about it.

On one hand, a case worker gets the chance to directly affect people either through helping find a former criminal a job or placing a foster child in a home. At the same time, though, I assume the dissatisfaction comes, because the vast majority of these arrangements don't work. A high number of criminals return to jail within a year of being released, because they can't adapt to society, and lots of foster arrangements don't work out. And those are only a couple of cases that a social worker deals with.


Interesting article. I have heard of case workers before on different shows, but I didn't know that their job encompassed so many different things. I have usually only heard them talked about in the context of working with criminals who have to check in for parole and whatnot.

I do agree, though, that you would have to be a very compassionate person to have a case worker job. I am sure that the vast majority of people that a case worker comes in contact with really don't want to be talking to them. At the same time, I am guessing that the case workers aren't always thrilled to have to be working with felons or other criminals who don't have any respect for them.

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