Career Ladder – Direct Support Professional (DSP > Case Manager > LiCSW)

Direct support professionals, also known as DSPs, hold an important position in the human services industry, providing essential support and care to individuals in need. A DSP has many options for advancing their careers and today we’re going to talk about a common career path for this type of role.

Direct Support Professionals (DSP):

This role is a common starting point for many individuals in human services because it doesn’t require higher education, and only basic previous experience. Direct Support Professionals typically work with people who have physical, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, helping them to live independently and improve their quality of life. DSPs help with daily activities and depending on the clients needs, this may include activities such as bathing, dressing, and meal preparation, as well as social activities and community engagement.

To become a DSP, most employers require a high school diploma or GED, as well as specialized training in the field. This training can be provided by the employer or through a community college or vocational school. Some states also require certification or licensing for DSPs. Arbor offers training for all our DSPs to ensure they’re prepared for the field and state they’re working in.

In terms of pay, DSPs earn an average of $13.70 per hour in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, pay can vary depending on location, experience, certifications, and type of facility or care that is being provided.

Case Manager (CM) and Case Worker (CW):

A DSP may want to work toward one of these roles if they’re passionate about human services and want to pursue further education to advance their skills and career. Job titles mean different things across industries and across the country but in general for Arbor’s region, these roles will be natural next steps once a DSP has gained 6-12 months of experience.

Both roles work with individuals and families who are facing a range of challenges, such as poverty, homelessness, and mental health issues. They provide the support needed to help coordinate and connect their clients to the services they need, to overcome these challenges and improve their overall well-being.

These roles will often require either an associate or bachelors degree in social work or a related field, and some employers or states may also require specific certification or licensing, depending on the where you live and work, and the specific role.

In terms of pay, Case Workers earn an average of $50,470 per year in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, pay can vary depending on location, experience, and the employer.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LiCSW):

These are common roles for an experienced Case Worker to work toward if they’re passionate about advancing their career and skills, as well as their earning potential. Both roles will require a master’s degree in social work as well as becoming licensed by the state’s regulatory board.

These professionals provide a range of services to help individuals, families, and communities improve their overall well-being. They work with clients who are experiencing challenges such as mental health disorders, addiction, domestic violence, poverty, social injustice, and more. Depending on their degree, they may also provide services and therapy directly to their clients.

The main difference between these two roles is that an LiCSW is licensed to practice independently, meaning they could start their own practice/agency. To become an LiCSW, and LSCW must complete a certain number of training and supervision under someone who is LiCSW certified and pass a licensing test through their state.

Earning potential for LCSWs and LiCSWs varies based on location, experience, and specialization, but in general someone in this role will be able to maximize their earnings over time, grow a client base, and help others level up their careers.

As you can see, all of these positions play important roles in the human services industry, providing essential support and care to people in need. Each level has different requirements which lead to greater earnings and opportunities for success.

If you’re interested starting on this path, or advancing your current position, reach out to us today! We enjoy helping people reach their career goals and we have the tools and resources to help them along their journey.