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Residential Social Worker Job Description

A residential social worker performs many of the functions of a traditional social worker, but also has the extra duty of living in the facility where he works. Most residential social workers work on a shift basis to cover the needs of the residents. Even during their time off, they are expected to be on call to deal with any emergency situations.


Types of facilities can include residential mental health, drug or alcohol clinics. Other types of institutions which may require a residential social worker include clinics for people with physical or learning disabilities or shelters for the homeless or victims of domestic abuse.


The residential social worker works closely with clients, dealing with a range of psychological, emotional and practical issues. The goal is to help the residents meet their challenges, find solutions and achieve independence. Due to the residential nature of the job, the social worker will often work long hours and be on call for emergencies, even when not technically on duty.


Activities include one-on-one or group counseling, formal therapy sessions, organizing group therapy, overseeing group activities, arranging social events for residents, providing educational seminars and helping administer the facility and maintain good order at all times. A residential social worker needs to be particularly vigilant with any clients considered at special risk. He must also keep detailed records of each resident's progress and make recommendations on courses of action and when he believes a client is ready for independence. In addition, he will need to work with a wide variety of colleagues and agencies and keep abreast of available assistance programs. He will often be called upon to produce formal reports, such as medical, psychological or court reports. Some residential social workers will also deal with successful foster family and adoption placement and follow up.

Education, Experience, Salary

A residential social worker will usually have a degree in social work. A master's may also be necessary, depending upon the position. Many will also study psychology and seek additional qualifications to specialize in a particular area of social work, such as mental health or substance addiction.

The course of study will always include on-the-job training at one or more facilities requiring a social worker. Social workers earn a median salary of $34,820, according to Salary is commensurate with qualifications, experience and level of responsibility. Residential social worker positions will usually include paid room and board and living expenses, in addition to the base salary.


Perceptiveness is an important skill, as well as the ability to work well with others and show good judgment in a caretaking role. A social worker should have good computer and research skills to properly research benefits and other kinds of support for clients. Also necessary are administrative and social skills and the desire to benefit others.


In addition to academic knowledge of social work, a residential social worker will also need to stay current on many of the available relief programs for clients. He may require some medical knowledge, if he works in a center which treats addictions. He should also have life-saving training such as CPR. Knowledge of the law can also be an important part of a social worker's job, depending on the type of facility.

Personality Traits

A residential social worker needs to be able to work well with both residents and colleagues. He needs to balance the needs of the job with his own personal needs. He requires patience, sensitivity and compassion, but also a professional manner. He should also be able to communicate clearly in speaking and writing to diverse people. He needs to solve problems and resolve conflicts within a supportive context.

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