What does a Social Worker do on a University Campus?

Social Worker Responsibilities on a University Campus

Few social workers are employed by university campuses, so their work is shrouded in mystery. With the increasing focus on college student mental health and well-being, the field of college social work is set to explode. Schools need trained, passionate social workers to counsel individual students and consult professors and staff on how to help struggling students. Here are the details on university social work as a profession.

Counsel Students

Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs) can provide talk therapy and counseling services to students. This can include helping students through difficult personal events, teaching strategies for coping with anxiety from a busy class schedule or providing ongoing help for students with mental illnesses. At large universities, social workers may only be able to offer five or ten counseling sessions to each student before referring the student to a private practice for long-term care. Smaller colleges and liberal arts schools usually have more flexibility. Counselors may be asked to mentor graduate students training to become professional counselors. This could involve letting trainees observe counseling sessions or supervising trainees while they deliver services. Most LCSWs on universities enjoy the chance to split their time between individual behavioral health sessions and wider service to the college community.


It’s rare for university social workers to have formal teaching duties. Typically, an on-campus social work professional is hired by departments that oversee student wellness or community well-being. These units are completely separate from schools of social work that teach future practitioners. In some cases, practicing social workers on campus can work as adjuncts and teach one or two courses per semester. Social work deans may prefer to hire adjuncts who are already part of the university system. However, this additional work must be scheduled outside of regular hours because it will be in addition to a social worker’s regular duties. Some departments may allow adjunct professors to grade papers or communicate with students during down time in the office.

Behavioral Consultation Team

What do universities do when students are visibly disrupting the community? More and more schools are forming behavioral consultation teams, sometimes called campus consultation committees or other names. These are groups of university staff with counseling, law enforcement and policy backgrounds who monitor potential student problems. In most cases, the team simply provides linkage to mental health resources like individual counseling. There’s often an opportunity to train the reporters on how to address the crisis on their own. Social workers make strong members of these teams because social work addresses macro- and micro-level factors that impact mental health behaviors.


Social workers at universities enjoy job stability, excellent benefits packages and relatively high pay. The average annual income for a social worker was $47,980 in May of 2017, according to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition to this middle-class wage, university workers typically enjoy ample paid time off, including all federal holidays; affordable health insurance; discounted or free college classes and access to university resources like on-campus performances and libraries.

Related Resource: Top 10 Affordable Masters in Social Work: 2018

This is a great field for students who enjoy variety in their work. That’s because social workers on university campuses do everything that’s needed to keep the student body happy and healthy.