Understanding the Role of Administrative Social Workers: LCSW & MFT Exam Prep

By Bethany Vanderbilt on November 14, 2012

Paper work on a desk

Administrative social workers do much more than just push paperwork.

This week, we're turning our attention to administrative social work. Some of you may notice that I've left "MFT Exam" out of our title this week and it's on purpose -- the MFT licensure exams don't typically place the therapist in the role of administrator, while the social work exams, and particularly the ASWB social work exam, do. Let's take a look at a sample item:


A program director at a community agency receives a directive from the agency's board to cut operating costs related to field-based services. The director is concerned that a reduction in services will lead to an increase in homelessness and crime in the community. What action would BEST address both the board's directive and the needs of the community:

A. Consider increasing the number of unpaid interns working under supervision to provide field-based services

B. Reduce the number of worker's in the field, while increasing the workload of the remaining workers

C. Open community centers where clients can come and receive services in a safe environment

D. Appeal to the board to maintain the budget for field-based services and reduce costs elsewhere

While many of us will never inhabit the role of administrator, it's important to understand the role that administrative social workers play, since they often impact our clients in both direct and indirect ways. Administrative social workers have a variety of functions: program management, budgeting, resource development, staff development, program evaluation, and interorganizational relations. Social workers in these roles must think not only about the well-being of clients, but also about the well-being of staff members, the agency, and the community beyond.


The best answer to the question above is A: consider increasing the number of unpaid interns working under supervision to provide field-based services. Utilizing interns in a responsible way can decrease operating costs and continue to provide the community with necessary services. B is not the best answer because it would likely lead to an increase in staff-related problems like burnout, turnover, etc. C is not the best answer because opening community centers would be a costly intervention and clients might not be able to access the services. D is not the best answer because it ignores the question: for you to select an answer that best addresses the board's directive, to reduce field-related costs, while also addressing the needs of the community. If the question was asking what the administrative social worker should do FIRST, or NEXT, then D might be the best answer.

When you're taking the exam, remember to answer the question at hand -- don't answer the question that you think they should be asking given the stem.

Coming up next week: Case Management

Think our straightforward, sensible approach could help you PASS your social work or MFT exam? If you're preparing for a social work exam, check out our Social Work Study Materials. If you're preparing for an MFT exam, check out our MFT Study Materials. Learn more about our offerings at The Therapist Development Center.

Looking for more practice questions and some study tips? Check out our new Social Work Exam Study Guide:

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