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Social Workers In Politics: How Do I Get There?

by Rachel L. West, MSW, LMSW
The Political Social Worker

Social Workers in Politics

A few months ago I wrote a post for socialworkhelper.com about modern-day social work distancing itself from politics.   The post touched on many issues including lack of community practice courses and internships.  Looking back on the article I noticed I left out a huge factor that may be deterring more social workers from going into politics:  Money.

The Numbers

It takes a large war-chest to run for state and national office.  So it certainly helps if the candidate is well-off with a lot of wealthy acquaintances willing to donate to their campaign or their affiliated PAC.  According to a 2011 ABC news report, 47% of Congressmen are millionaires so there is no denying that overwhelmingly our elected officials are wealthy. There is also no denying that as social workers we are underpaid and many of us do not have trust funds. However, not being financially well-off ourselves should not prohibit us from seeking public office.


It is the state and local campaigns that are the most costly, so consider starting off locally; school board, town or city council, county legislature, etc. You can also seek the support of PACs (political action committee) or other organizations that are inline with your political ideologies.

EMILY’s List supports progressive pro-choice women by raising money for them and providing campaign training to the candidates and their staff.  A good number of EMILY’s List candidates won this year, including Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Duckworth.  There is also a new PAC, C-Forward, which endorses local candidates that support the non-profit sector.  Many professional associations, unions, and even some non-profits also have PACs and endorse candidates.

If you are a social worker interested in politics start getting your name out there.  I suggest getting involved with your affiliated political party and volunteering on campaigns. You may also be able to volunteer for your representative at their in-district office.

Posted by Rachel L. West

In addition to being the founder of The Political Social Worker blog, I am a consultant. My consulting practice offers advocacy and community outreach solutions to nonprofits, social good organizations, and private practitioners. Additionally, I offer career coaching to macro social work students and professionals.

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