In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Management and Administration in Social Work

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Handbooks
  • Current Issues and Challenges
  • Social Work Management Competencies
  • Guiding Theories
  • Fields of Service
  • Dimensions of Social Work Management and Administration
  • Leadership in Human Services Organizations
  • Innovation and Organizational Change
  • Education and Preparation

Social Work Management and Administration in Social Work
Kristina Jaskyte
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0097


In human service organizations, administrative and managerial positions often overlap and require skills from both domains, and so it is important to have a clear understanding about what each concept entails. Administration is concerned more with determination of organizational policies, coordination of finances, service provision, and setting the direction of the organization, whereas management is concerned with the execution of policies set up by the administration and the supervision of subordinates. Administrators perform policy and decision-making functions at the executive level, and managers implement those policies and decisions to achieve the organization's goals and objectives (see Kettner 2002 in Introductory Works). Management activities can be grouped into five components: planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, and controlling. Because 33 percent of social workers work for government and 66 percent for nonprofit and for-profit private organizations, this entry provides resources for social work managers working in public, nonprofit, and private organizations. Additionally, because social work management can occur at different organizational levels, this review discusses not only upper-level social work management and administration but also middle-level management, or supervision.

Introductory Works

Readers interested in learning about social work management and administration will find that there is a reasonably good selection of introductory works on upper-level management. The selection of texts on middle-level management, or supervision, is much more limited. A good place to start the journey into the world of social work management and administration is by reading Patti 1997, a comprehensive overview of major roles and responsibilities of social work managers and administrators. Among some of the most widely used introductory works on upper-level management and administration are Brody 2005, Kettner 2002, and Lewis, et al. 2006. Lohmann and Lohmann 2002 is intended primarily for social work students. The best introductory texts on supervisory functions and roles are Dolgoff 2005 and Tsui 2005. Both texts provide an overview of the major functions and problems of social work supervision. The Association for Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA) offers a great number of useful links to resources for social work managers and administrators, and the National Network for Social Work Managers website lists leadership and management practice standards and provides a fairly limited number of links to resources for social work managers and articles pertaining to social work management.

  • Association for Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA).

    Among the many goals of the Association for Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA) are to provide a forum for sharing information and to promote the development of teaching material, research, and literature about community organization and social administration. This website has a number of useful sources of information pertaining to social administration.

  • Brody, Ralph. 2005. Effectively managing human service organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Written for the human service manager practitioner, for those in social work and nonprofit management, and for public administration students, it includes hundreds of real-life examples. The book does not include exercises or any other skill development activities but provides useful websites for keeping current on management developments.

  • Dolgoff, Ralph. 2005. An introduction to supervisory practice in human services. Boston: Pearson, Allyn, and Bacon.

    A comprehensive introductory text to mid-level management in social work. It provides an overview of supervisory functions and problems. A vignette and exercises are provided at the end of each chapter.

  • Kettner, Peter M. 2002. Achieving excellence in the management of human service organizations. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

    Develops an integrated model for management and administrative practice in the management of human organizations. The qualities underlying this model are excellence and internal consistency. Exercises created around different sections of a policy and procedures manual for a human service organization are provided at the end of each chapter.

  • Lewis, Judith A., Michael D. Lewis, Thomas R. Packard, and Frederico Souflée Jr. 2006. Management of human service programs. Belmont, CA: Brooks Cole.

    Provides an overview of the managerial functions that make human services work. Managers of government and nonprofit organizations will need additional information about legal issues, governmental funding, accounting, working with a board of directors, and risk management. The authors include discussion questions, exercises, and case examples.

  • Lohmann, Roger, and Nancy Lohmann. 2002. Social administration. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

    Social administration is seen as encompassing four components: management, leadership, decision making, and institution building. A great part of the book is devoted to discussion of a number of administrative processes. The book does not include “how to do it” material.

  • National Network for Social Work Managers.

    The National Network for Social Work Managers wants you to become a certified social work manager (CSWM). Find out about leadership and management practice standards.

  • Patti, Rino J. 1997. Management: Overview. In Encyclopedia of social work: 1997 supplement. Edited by Ira C. Colby, Alejandro Garcia, Ruth G. McRoy, Lynn Videka-Sherman, and Richard L. Edwards, 148–158. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    This comprehensive entry is a great introduction to social work management. It provides an overview of administrative roles and functions, major organizational theories related to this practice field, and the evolution of social work management education.

  • Tsui, Ming-sum. 2005. Social work supervision. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    This book is intended for social work supervisors, practitioners, students, and educators. The author discusses the history of social work supervision, the theoretical models, and the major functions of social work supervision, and provides an overview of the research studies on supervision. The text does not include discussion questions or exercises.

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