OpenPlacement Blog

Climbing the Social Work Career Ladder

Career_LadderSocial work is a profession that requires a high level of dedication and time commitment in order to be successful and to climb the career ladder. There are many means of achieving promotions and building a strong, stable career. Through motivation and hard work, a social worker can improve her own position while also building the skills necessary to best serve individuals, families and communities.

Some ways to climb the career ladder include:

Staying Current

Social work is highly dynamic and research and best practices change frequently. By staying current with the latest research and trends, a social worker is aware of the best ways to reach their clientele and be effective.

Subscribing to professional publications is one way of achieving the goal of being aware of current research. Some journals to consider are:

  • American Journal of Family Therapy

  • Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal

  • Community Mental Health Journal

Another means of learning about issues and changes in social work is to be part of professional organizations. For instance, joining the National Association of Social Workers allows individuals to gain access to valuable publications, information about the field and professional development opportunities. These types of organizations also provide the opportunity to network and gain insight into the job market and what is available for job seekers in terms of resources and job boards.


As in most professions, continuing education improves the social worker's ability to gain upward mobility. Classes to maintain licensure may be required, but seeking further professional development opportunities and taking higher education classes to achieve a higher level degree, such as a Masters or Ph.D, not only builds a greater knowledge base and improves skill level, but also demonstrates the motivation and dedication that any hiring manager desires to see in a potential employee.

Professional Networking

As mentioned, the National Association of Social Workers is a useful resource for finding networking events. Joining NASW also gives members access to a list of professional contacts.

However, online sites such as and can also be powerful resources for meeting others within the profession.

Writing for Publication

Whether writing a professional blog, or seeking publication in a magazine or journal about topics related to social work, exposure through publication can be extremely useful in building one's credentials as a respected social worker.


Getting involved in the advocacy for social work itself and for the clients and communities that are served by social workers can be a highly useful means of helping one to climb the career ladder while also advocating for something in which one believes. Resources to learn more about advocacy can be found at and