Social work supervisors function primarily in a supervisory role, guiding the activities of less experienced social workers within their organization. There is also a significant administrative component of the position, as social work supervisors help run the social work program within an organization.
In terms of leadership duties, social work supervisors act primarily in a mentoring role, meeting frequently with direct-report social workers to review cases, critique work, and offer troubleshooting and guidance. Social work supervisors also often work as social workers, typically accepting the most challenging cases. In terms of administration, social work supervisors delegate and assign cases to the social work team, approve treatment, coordinate staff in working toward goals, and evaluate the performance of staff.
Social work supervisors work in a variety of fields, and specific duties are likely to vary depending on the employer. Examples include outpatient mental health clinics, hospitals, community centers, and nonprofit organizations, among others. Work hours vary by employer as well, both in terms of the hours worked and the days worked.
Organizations usually require their social work supervisors to hold a master’s degree in social work, as well as several years’ experience doing social work in the company's setting (such as outpatient mental health clinics). Social work supervisors must also be licensed or certified to work as social workers in their state. They must also posses excellent communication, management, leadership, and relationship-building skills, as well as the ability to work well under stress.
Social Work Supervisor Tasks
- Offer guidance and assistance with complex or difficult cases, including coordination of services.
- Ensure compliance to all applicable regulations and documentation practices.
- Review and improve recommendations and treatment plans, including identifying psychological tests or other unmet needs.
- Supervise, support, and evaluate a team of social workers in day-to-day operations.
- Educate clients on options and make referrals to other agencies.