What Does a Social Work Supervisor Do?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 24 August 2019
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A social work supervisor oversees the work of other social workers, case workers, or candidates for a social work license. The actual job duties of a social work supervisor vary by employer and the type of supervision the social worker is required to perform. In many cases, his or her work may focus on training and developing the social workers and other employees in his or her care so that they can most effectively perform their jobs. The supervisor may also have significant administrative responsibilities, including processing human resources paperwork for his or her workers as well as addressing internal and external complaints and grievances. In some cases, a social work supervisor may take on a clinical supervisory role, observing and monitoring the work of students or recent graduates of social work educational programs who are preparing to be licensed as social workers.

Many institutions and social service agencies depend on the services performed by social workers as well as caseworkers or specialists who do not have the education or licensing required to be a social worker but who nonetheless work in the area of social services. These social workers and case workers are typically managed by a social work supervisor. Very large organizations may have a significant hierarchy of supervision, with several levels of supervisors, managers, and directors of social services.


In many cases, a social work supervisor is someone who is appropriately licensed or certified as a social worker in accordance with the laws and practices in the jurisdiction in which he or she practices. The supervisor also usually has several years of experience in the area of social work, and depending on the level of supervision he or she is expected to provide, may also have several years of supervisory or management experience as well. Each employer will typically set its own standards for hiring a social work supervisor, and some may allow a job candidate to substitute education for a lack of experience or vice versa when applying for the job.

Several jurisdictions, including the United States, require aspiring social workers to complete clinical training prior to earning their professional license. This clinical training is typically supervised by a social worker with significant experience in the field. The qualifications for a clinical social work supervisor may be more closely regulated than those for supervisors of those who already hold, or who are not in qualification for, a license. Social workers who are interested in performing clinical supervision should contact the government licensing agency in their area about qualifying as a supervisor.



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