Social Work

How to Write a Social Work Cover Letter

How to Write a Social Work Cover Letter
You don't have to be a poet laureate to pen a compelling and professional cover letter to pair with your social worker resume. Image from https://unsplash.com
Alfred Heekin profile
Alfred Heekin February 23, 2023

Social workers on a job search should include strong professional cover letters with their job applications. Below, you'll find social work cover letter tips, samples, and templates to guide you from your first paragraph to gainful employment.

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Social work is all about helping people. Potential employers may be impressed by a solid resume, but you’ll catch a recruiter’s eye by focusing on more than relevant experience. Your social work cover letter must bring your background, skills, and work experience to life to pique the interest of your prospective employer. It should also convey your passion for the profession.

What caused you to enter the field of social work? Why are crisis interventions, mental health, and social services important to you? Why is this social worker position your dream job? The best cover letters answer these questions eloquently and succinctly.

You don’t have to be a poet laureate to pen a compelling and professional cover letter to pair with your social worker resume. This article tackles how to write a social work cover letter along with the following topics:

  • Cover letter tips
  • Cover letter format
  • Cover letter example

Cover letter tips

Social work is a highly specialized field. Be sure to tailor your professional cover letter to your area of focus and potential employer while keeping this handy list of cover letter tips in mind.

Submit a professional cover letter, even if it’s optional

Social worker job applications don’t always require a cover letter. When you see a job posting that lists a professional cover letter as optional, consider it an opportunity to set yourself apart from the field. Recruiters and hiring managers sift through hundreds of applications lacking a cover letter. Your job application will stand out if it includes this additional feature. With a cover letter, you’ll exhibit your communication skills and desire to go above and beyond.

Make your social worker cover letter stand out

Employers pay close attention to cover letters. A generic or insincere social worker cover letter can move your job application to the reject pile. On the other hand, an effective cover letter captures a hiring manager’s attention by conveying a professional, positive, and collaborative tone—key personality traits in the field.

You want to tailor your cover letter to the hiring organization, though you don’t need to create a unique letter for each job application. The foundation of your letter can remain constant while details vary. Comb job postings for requirements and focus your cover letter on items that pertain to your skills.

Include your most compelling credentials

Touch on your specialization(s), expertise, internships and fieldwork, clinical or macro skills, relevant qualifications, and credentials. If you’re moving to social work from another career, explain why. Cover any volunteer work you’ve accomplished and why chose to volunteer where you did.

Before writing a cover letter, consider which aspects of your training will be most relevant to the role. Then, contextualize your clinical experience to show you can handle challenging work like a heavy caseload.

Share your career goals and interests

A social worker cover letter lets you emphasize and detail your specializations and how they can contribute to a potential role. Did you work in a substance abuse disorder treatment clinic in your second-year placement? Where? Did you facilitate group work? Perform assessments? Coordinate care and navigate resources with other agencies? Were you responsible for measurable outcomes? Don’t be shy about your accomplishments; they shed light on what you can accomplish for an employer.

Take your communication skills for a spin

Convince the hiring manager you know how to express yourself and communicate well. Your cover letter should showcase your writing, maturity, and critical reasoning skills. Communicate passion and interest and connect them to your background and experiences.

Address your letter to the correct person. Not sure who to contact? Do your research online. If you can’t find a contact, begin your letter with a generic greeting like “Dear [name of employer] Acquisition and Recruitment Team.”

Do your research

Look into the social media accounts of each company to which you are applying. Here, you’ll learn about the culture of each employer. Learn its mission statement and ensure it aligns with your beliefs. Search for employers on Glassdoor. If the culture is a fit, express this in your cover letter.

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“I Want to Be A Social Worker!”

There are a couple of significant practical considerations:

- A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in social work
- A license to practice or required social work certification

Credentials vary among careers, states, and territories. Licenses include:

- Certified Social Worker (CSW)
- Clinical Social Work Associate (CSWA)
- Licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker (LAPSW)
- Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW)
- Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
- Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)
- Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)
- Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP)
- Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

Most of these licenses require a Master’s or Doctorate, along with additional coursework or clinical internships. (source)

A survey of 2017 social work graduates by the National Social Work Workforce Study found that social workers with Master’s degrees and Doctorates made substantially more than those with no advanced degree. (source)

- People with MSW degrees made $13,000-plus more than those with only BSW degrees
- MSWs make more in large cities or urban clusters
- People with doctorates earned $20,000 to $25,000 more than people with only MSW degrees

University and Program Name Learn More

Cover letter format

Think of yourself as a brand. Include the same header you use on your resume with the same formatting. Your header should include your name, post-nominal titles (e.g., MSW), email address, phone number, and location. Limit your cover letter to one page.

First paragraph: introduce

For social workers with licensure, note that you are a qualified clinical social worker applying for the [job title] position posted on the [name of employer] website.

For MSW students seeking work post-graduation, note that you are writing to apply for [job title] and will receive your MSW on [date] from [university].

Second paragraph: sell

Avoid restating what’s in your resume by sharing your skills, experience, and accolades. What accomplishments make you proudest? Why do they pertain to your desired role? Allow the reader to see you as a commodity.

If doing this in paragraph form feels heavy-handed, create a bulleted list. Unlike your resume, you can provide context for why you accomplished your bullets and the results for connected communities. For example, what inspired you to achieve your goals, and why do you want to continue helping people in your future role?

Third paragraph: summarize

Round out your letter by summing up your qualifications and interests. Connect your experience and passion to the role. Do this succinctly. Thank the employer for their time and consideration and exude confidence. Let them know you look forward to discussing the role in more detail rather than hoping they’ll contact you.

Cover letter example

“[Header: your name, post-nominal titles (e.g., MSW), email address, phone number, and location]

Dear [name of employer] Acquisition and Recruitment Team,

My name is [your name], and I’m delighted to be applying for your [job title] position.

I have extensive experience working with patients in a hospital setting and performing discharge planning. A social work position at [name of employer] appeals to me because I want to be part of a multidisciplinary medical team supporting patients through treatment and discharge. [Add information about the organization’s reputation or mission and why this is important to you].

During my second-year field placement at the Su Casa Treatment Center, I focused on those struggling with substance abuse disorder. In this role, I was responsible for the following:

  • Providing individual and group psychotherapy services to a diverse population of drug offenders aged 21 and older in a drug-court-mandated residential treatment facility located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York
  • Catering to clients with an extensive history of substance use, criminal behavior, psychiatric disorders, depression, and lack of stable family life and employment
  • Assisting residents and families in understanding and adjusting to the treatment center
  • Conducting family therapy to integrate family members into the treatment plan
  • Collaborating with a multidisciplinary treatment team, including an assigned psychiatrist, in providing a complete psychiatric and psychological evaluation report
  • Developing post-treatment support plans for clients, including referral to outpatient treatment to increase the likelihood of success for the client’s returning to their home environment

I have a passion for community social work. After meeting with the Executive Director of the Lower East Side YMCA to learn about issues impacting the local community, I started an evening program at our facility. I led two groups for residents dealing with family members abusing substances. As a result of this initiative, [state outcomes or accomplishments]. My experience in the field and passion for these underserved populations would make me a perfect fit for the [job title] position at [name of employer].

Thank you for taking the time to read, and looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
[your name]”

Questions or feedback? Email editor@noodle.com

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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