Best Master of Social Work Programs 2021

| TBS Staff

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Social workers help vulnerable populations access community resources, counsel couples on relationship issues, or support children dealing with bullying at school. The type of social work they do depends on their specialization.

Social workers may also diagnose and treat disorders. Many social work jobs require a master of social work (MSW) and professional licensure.

Graduates with an MSW can work as clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, and community service managers. They can also pursue careers as social policy advocates, social welfare researchers, and social program administrators.

See the top master of social work programs offered today.

What Is a Master of Social Work Degree?

"An MSW degree program trains students about social work practice, social welfare research, and social work theory."

An MSW degree trains students about social work practice, social welfare research, and social work theory. Learners study counseling approaches, cognitive treatment methods, clinical assessment, and social welfare planning. Students also complete fieldwork requirements to gain hands-on experience in a social work setting.

Many social work programs offer concentrations that allow students to tailor their degree to their goals and interests. Common concentrations include:

Students typically complete an MSW program in two years of full-time study, but some programs take less time to complete. For example, incoming students with a bachelor of social work (BSW) may be able to graduate from an MSW program in as little as one year.

Featured Online MSW Programs

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master of Social Work?

During an online MSW program, students typically complete online courses and in-person field work at an approved site in their community. Some online programs incorporate set meeting times to encourage collaboration, while others operate without set log-in times.

The flexibility of online school allows students to balance their studies with their personal and professional life. Online learning also lets students attend top programs across the country without relocating.

Accreditation for Social Work Degree Programs

Students must attend an MSW program that holds programmatic accreditation to meet social work licensure requirements. Many employers only hire candidates with an accredited degree. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredits MSW programs. The council reviews MSW programs based on their curricula, field experience requirements, and faculty qualifications. Programs must undergo regular reviews to maintain their accreditation status.

MSW Advanced Standing Students

Students with a BSW degree from a CSWE-accredited program may receive advanced standing in an MSW program. Advanced standing status typically allows students to bypass some foundational coursework, expediting graduation by as much as one year.

Master of Social Work Practicum

MSW programs incorporate field work requirements to teach students the practical skills necessary for social work jobs. A practicum represents a core component of social work training and helps meet social work licensure requirements. During a social work practicum, students strengthen their clinical skills through community-based placements. Graduate students observe practitioners and complete hands-on training under supervision.

The number of required practicum hours varies by program. Most programs require at least 600 hours of field education. This field work often includes specialized training in the student's focus area.

The Best Master of Social Work Programs

California State University-Fresno true View School Profile $ Fresno, CA 54% 30% 25% AccreditationFresno State's master of social work program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). California State University, Fresno is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

Founded in 1911, Fresno State now offers more than 45 graduate programs, including a master's in social work (MSW). The 60-credit MSW degree includes courses in human behavior and advanced practice with various demographics. Enrollees also complete two nine-month internships during their studies.

The MSW program starts in the fall and runs for 2-3 years, depending on full-time or part-time status. For admission, an applicant needs a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 2.75, along with prerequisite courses in research methods, development, and diversity.

California State University-Bakersfield true View School Profile $ Bakersfield, CA 42% 34% 41% AccreditationCSUB's MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). California State University, Bakersfield is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

Since its founding in 1967, CSUB has developed more than 20 master's programs, including a master's in social work (MSW). The 60-credit MSW degree includes topics in diagnostic processes and social work identity, along with 960 hours of practicum experience. Students can choose concentrations in mental health, gerontology, or child and family services.

Students at CSUB can study full or part time, starting in the fall and completing their degrees in 2-3 years.

Indiana University-Bloomington true View School Profile $$ Bloomington, IN 78% 33% 18% AccreditationIU's MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Indiana University Bloomington is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

IU was founded in 1820 and later became the flagship school of the Indiana University system. Today, IU offers more than 400 graduate certificates and programs, including a master's in social work (MSW). The 60-credit MSW degree offers training in social policy analysis and includes a practicum, along with a clinical and community practice concentration.

IU's MSW program typically begins in the summer and runs for two years. Second-year students can complete some classes online in an asynchronous format. For admission, applicants need a bachelor's in social work that they completed within ten years of applying.

The University of Texas at Austin true View School Profile $$ Austin, TX 83% 36% 24% AccreditationUT Austin's MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). University of Texas at Austin is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1883, UT Austin now enrolls more than 8,000 graduate students, including in programs like its master's in social work (MSW). The MSW degree comprises 60 credits, requires 1,000 hours of a supervised practicum, and offers concentrations in administration and policy practice and clinical social work.

While most students complete the program in 2-3 years, some graduate from the UT Austin program in one year by starting in the summer and taking a full course load in each of the three semesters.

California State University-Los Angeles true View School Profile Los Angeles, CA 48% 29% 31% AccreditationCalifornia State University, Los Angeles is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

Since its founding in 1947, Cal State LA has grown to enroll more than 26,000 students in over 100 programs. In the social work master's program (MSW), students prepare for state certification and licensure. The 60-credit MSW degree includes courses in community organizing and social justice in social work, along with an extensive field practicum.

Enrollees typically complete the Cal State LA MSW program in 2-3 years. Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.75 GPA for admission. A candidate with a bachelor's in social work may qualify for the one-year advanced standing program.

University of Connecticut View School Profile $$$ Storrs, CT 85% 45% 12% AccreditationThe UConn MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). University of Connecticut is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

UConn was founded in 1881 and now offers more than 17 graduate degrees. Its master's in social work (MSW) degree is the longest-running MSW in the state, offering concentrations in community organization; policy practice; and individuals, families, and groups. The program typically takes 2-4 years to complete and includes 18 practicum credits.

For admission, applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Advanced standing may be granted for candidates with bachelor's degrees in social work.

Samford University View School Profile Birmingham, AL 76% 33% 31% AccreditationSamford University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1841, Samford is one of the oldest universities in the country. It offers more than 70 graduate programs, including a master's in social work (MSW). This MSW degree offers an advanced clinical practice concentration, and learners can choose from over 150 field sites to complete their practicum requirements.

Enrollees typically complete the Samford MSW program in 2-3 years, with classes beginning in the fall. Applicants need a bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA for entry. Candidates with a social work bachelor's degree may qualify for the one-year advanced standing program.

Colorado State University-Fort Collins View School Profile $$$ Fort Collins, CO 69% 42% 24% AccreditationCSU's MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Colorado State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Since its founding in 1870, CSU has grown to offer more than 130 master's programs, with many available through online learning, such as its master's in social work (MSW). Students in the 64-credit MSW degree can study on campus or combine online learning with in-person training on the weekends.

CSU's MSW program typically starts in the fall and runs for 2-3 years, though advanced standing enrollees can begin in the summer and finish in less than one year. Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Candidates with bachelor's degrees in social work may qualify for advanced standing.

Savannah State University View School Profile $ Savannah, GA 28% 78% 31% AccreditationSSU's MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Savannah State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Established in 1890, SSU is among the oldest Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Georgia. It offers five master's programs, including a master's in social work (MSW). The 60-credit MSW degree offers concentrations in clinical social work and social administration, plus a 1000-hour field practicum.

SSU's MSW program begins in the fall and most learners graduate within 2-3 years, though advanced standing students can finish sooner. Aapplicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.8 GPA for admission.

The University of Texas at Arlington View School Profile $$ Arlington, TX 49% 41% 51% AccreditationUniversity of Texas at Arlington is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1895, UTA is the largest school in North Texas, running more than 185 programs at various educational levels. In its master's in social work (MSW) program, students can concentrate in direct practice or community and administrative practice. Direct practice offers specializations in aging, health, mental health, and children and families.

UTA 61-credit MSW degree offers both on-campus and online study options. For admission, applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Students on the direct practice pathway can also complete a nine-credit certificate in administration.

Texas Tech University View School Profile $$$ Lubbock, TX 59% 45% 50% AccreditationTTU's MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Texas Tech University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1923, TTU offers more than 100 programs for graduate students. Its master's in social work (MSW) requires 59 credits and a 900-hour clinical practicum. The training includes courses in diverse populations and social welfare policy.

At TTU, MSW applicants must have earned a bachelor's degree within the last five years. Most students complete the program within 2-3 years, though some may receive advanced standing and finish sooner. Graduates qualify to take the National Certification Examination.

West Virginia University View School Profile $$ Morgantown, WV 60% 50% 29% AccreditationWest Virginia University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

WVU was founded in 1867 and now offers more than 140 programs, including at the master's level. The social work master's program (MSW) requires completion of 60 credits in courses like professional identity and assessment and diagnosis, plus two internships.

Students in the WVU MSW degree can choose between full-time or part-time study, with online learning available for part-time learners who begin in the fall. Advanced standing students can complete their degrees in two years, but they need bachelor's degrees in social work for admission.

DePaul University View School Profile Chicago, IL 71% 55% 29% AccreditationDePaul University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Since its founding in 1898, DePaul has grown to offer more than 300 programs and enroll nearly 8,000 graduate students annually. In its master's in social work (MSW) program, learners choose between community practice and forensic social work concentrations to complete their degrees in 2-4 years, including over 1,000 hours of clinical practice.

DePaul's 99-credit MSW degree runs regular classes during afternoons and evenings, while practicum sessions typically occur throughout the day. For admission, applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.7 GPA.

Gallaudet University View School Profile Washington, DC 47% 45% 29% AccreditationGallaudet University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Established in 1864, Gallaudet University offers more than 35 undergraduate and 20 master's programs. The 61-credit master's in social work (MSW) features more than 1,000 hours of clinical practice, which typically occurr during two eight-hour days each week. Learners can also concentrate in deaf and hard-of-hearing populations.

The MSW degree at Gallaudet University runs through fall and spring semesters for 2-3 years on full-time or part-time schedules. Candidates need a bachelor's degree and a 3.0 GPA at minimum for admission.

University of Hawai'i at Mānoa View School Profile $$$ Honolulu, HI 59% 34% 16% AccreditationUH Mānoa's MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). University of Hawai'i at Mānoa is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

As the flagship and largest school in the University of Hawai'i System, UH Mānoa boasts more than 200 programs and over 18,000 students annually. In the master's in social work (MSW) program, each learner completes at least 57 credits and 900 hours of field education. They can also take an advanced practice concentration to explore gerontology, health, behavioral-mental health, or child and family studies.

For entry into the UH Mānoa MSW degree, applicants need a bachelor's degree and a 3.0 GPA at minimum.

Youngstown State University View School Profile $$ Youngstown, OH 37% 53% 35% AccreditationYSU's MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Youngstown State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

YSU enrolls more than 12,000 students and boasts over 40 graduate programs. Its 60-credit master's in social work (MSW) covers business skills for social workers and trauma-informed practices, plus more than 1,000 practicum hours.

YSU's MSW degree typically takes 2-4 years to complete, and candidates need a bachelor's degree and a 3.0 GPA for admission. The program promotes a social justice perspective in social work, teaching students how to work equitably with diverse populations.

Western Carolina University View School Profile $$$ Cullowhee, NC 62% 59% 35% AccreditationWestern Carolina University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

WCU enrolls more than 1,600 graduate students in over 40 programs every year, including in its 62-credit master's in social work (MSW) program. Students in the MSW degree can focus on integrative healthcare or substance abuse studies. All enrollees must complete a minimum of 960 practicum hours.

Most students complete the MSW program in 2-4 years, although advanced standing students with a bachelor's in social work may graduate in one year. Applicants need a bachelor's degree and a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.85 for admission.

Ohio University-Main Campus View School Profile $$$$ Athens, OH 64% 58% 46% AccreditationOU's MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Ohio University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1804, OU was the first public university in Ohio. Today, it runs more than 250 programs, including a master's in social work (MSW). In this MSW degree, students focus their work on rural families and communities, taking classes either on campus or online.

Enrollees can begin OU's MSW program in the fall and graduate in 1-4 years, depending on their course load and background. Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 for admission.

Temple University View School Profile $$$$ Philadelphia, PA 71% 61% 18% AccreditationTemple's MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Temple University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Temple was founded in 1884. Today, it enrolls more than 40,000 students and offers more than 500 programs. Its 60-credit master's in social work (MSW) program offers concentrations in macro practice in organizations and clinical practice with individuals and families.

Students can enroll in the Temple MSW degree either full time or part time, with online learning available for part-time studies. The online MSW program features a three-day orientation on campus. For admission, applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Saint Leo University View School Profile Saint Leo, FL 45% 55% 74% AccreditationSaint Leo University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Since its founding in 1889, Saint Leo has developed more than 150 programs, including master's in social work (MSW) programs. Saint Leo offers a one-year advanced standing program and an advanced clinical practice concentration that students can complete in 2-3 years, enrolling either online or on campus.

The MSW degree at Saint Leo offers summer start dates for advanced standing enrollees and fall starts for all other learners. For admission, an advanced standing applicant needs a bachelor's in social work and a 3.25 GPA.

George Fox University View School Profile Newberg, OR 67% 65% 22% AccreditationGeorge Fox's MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). George Fox University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

Founded in 1891, George Fox is the oldest Christian university in the state of Oregon. It runs more than 20 graduate programs, including its 62-credit master's in social work (MSW) program. George Fox offers both a nine-month advanced standing MSW degree and a traditional two-year program The advanced standing program requires 560 practicum hours and the traditional program requires 1,000.

Classes typically begin in the fall. Applicants need a bachelor's degree and a 2.75 cumulative GPA at minimum for admission.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign View School Profile $$$ Champaign, IL 84% 35% 35% AccreditationU of I's MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

U of I was founded in 1867 and now enrolls more than 47,000 students. In its master's in social work (MSW) program, learners can choose between concentrations in advanced clinical practice or leadership and social change. The program requires 64-72 credits and a minimum of 900 practicum hours.

Enrollees in the MSW degree at U of I typically graduate within 12-24 months, depending on their standing and course load. The program also offers online learning options. For admission, applicants need a bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA.

University of Central Florida View School Profile $$ Orlando, FL 73% 39% 57% AccreditationUCF's MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). University of Central Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

UCF enrolls more than 70,000 students in over 230 programs every year, making it one of the largest schools in the country. Its 62-credit master's in social work (MSW) offers part time, full time, on campus, and online formats. The curriculum includes courses in working with diverse clients and health policy with a clinical specialization.

At UCF, students typically start in the fall and complete their degrees in 1-2 years, depending on their standing. The MSW program includes a 1000-hour practicum, and applicants need bachelor's degrees for admission.

University of Vermont View School Profile $$$ Burlington, VT 76% 43% 13% AccreditationUniversity of Vermont is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

UVM offers over 60 graduate programs to its more than 1,500 graduate students every year. Approximately 70 of those students enroll in the master's in social work (MSW) program, taking courses in human behavior, social welfare policy, research, and practice. Learners can also choose a concentration, with options in advanced practice and transformative social work.

At UVM, MSW degree enrollees typically engage with coursework twice per week, during the day and in the evenings, to graduate within four years. Enrollees must also complete a 900-hour practicum requirement. Applicants need bachelor's degrees for admission.

University of South Dakota View School Profile $$$ Vermillion, SD 57% 52% 46% AccreditationUSD's MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). University of South Dakota is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

USD enrolls more than 2,400 graduate students in over 70 graduate programs every year, including in its master's in social work (MSW) program. Enrollees must complete 60 credits and 500 practicum hours. They can also take an advanced practice concentration.

MSW students at USD typically start in the fall and graduate within two years. They can study full or part time, with online study options also available. Enrollees must graduate within four years of starting.

Master of Social Work Programs Ranking Guidelines

We based the following rankings on academic quality, curricula, faculty strength, internship opportunities, facilities, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

The motto of TheBestSchools.org is Finding the best school for you. Here is how we do it:

The value of any ranking list of schools and/or degree programs depends on having a methodologically sound assessment of each school’s/program’s characteristics, especially insofar as these can be objectively measured. A college or university is a complex entity, with numerous factors to consider, and distilling these down to the place where meaningful comparisons can be made to form a defensible ranking list becomes part science and part art.

To meet this challenge—and thereby provide you with the most useful and insightful educational rankings on the Internet — TheBestSchools.org formulates our rankings based on five informational categories (six, when considering online schools). The major metrics and qualities for which we rank are these (with expanded, detailed considerations and weights listed):

1. Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline [weight = 25%]

  • Weighs school against known leading schools in that discipline
  • Weighs number of core curricula listed as advanced courses within that discipline and compares against introductory courses
  • Weighs school’s curriculum against known knowledge needs of major employers in that discipline
  • Considers number and types of specializations offered within that discipline
  • Considers faculty expertise in that discipline
  • Considers range of electives within that discipline
  • Considers quality of online environment offered to students (if applicable), particularly within that discipline

2. Strength of faculty scholarship [weight = 25%]

  • Considers education background of the faculty
  • Considers years of faculty experience both inside and outside of academia.
  • Considers faculty membership and leadership within relevant, prominent associations
  • Considers academic papers published by faculty in relevant, prominent periodicals
  • Considers awards and recognitions given to faculty members from prominent organizations and from other sources

3. Reputation [weight = 20%]

  • Considers a school’s reputation among academic peers and employers regarding the following:
    • Faculty
    • Curriculum
    • “Freshness” of academic knowledge
    • Adaptability to changes in employment sectors
    • Suitability of graduates for the workplace

4. Financial aid [weight = 10%]

  • Mandatory: Requires full accreditation from an agency endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and listed on the federal register to accept student federal financial aid
  • Considers range of school-sponsored financial aid such as scholarships and grants

5. Range of degree programs [weight = 20%]

  • Considers range of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral and professional
  • Considers range of degree subjects offered, such as art & design, computers & technology, education & teaching, criminal justice, and business

6. Strength of online instruction methodology (if applicable) [weight = 25%; subtract 5% from each of the above for online schools/programs]

  • Considers the following of the online classes:
    • Types of online technology used to deliver content
    • Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both (depending on the degree)
    • Extent and quality of the online, community learning environment, including options for communication, interactivity, and collaboration between students and also between students and instructors
    • Variety, breadth, and depth of coursework, and its support, including project options and online tutoring
  • Considers the following of instructors:
    • Extent of training for teaching within an online learning environment
    • Amount of timely, consistent feedback to students
    • Extent of collaboration with prospective employers to ensure suitability of instructional materials for achieving desired skills
    • Ratio to number of students in a class
  • Number and quality of internships in a student’s geographical area for applicable degrees

Because students tend to review a variety of information when choosing a school, the weight a student gives any one criterion will vary. For instance, it’s not enough to offer a carefully constructed ranking of great schools if many are too expensive or too difficult to get into.

To better serve the needs of prospective students, we are therefore increasingly offering filters that help you better use our rankings to find the schools that match your specific needs. These supplement our ranking criteria and include:

  • Accreditation
  • Public or private status
  • Acceptance rate
  • Retention rate
  • Graduation rate
  • ACT/SAT requirements
  • Cost in-state / out of state
  • Undergrad, grad, or both offered
  • Region
  • State
  • City

Get the best rankings here AND get them to suit your personal needs. That’s TheBestSchools.org advantage!

If you have any questions about our ranking methodology, please contact us.

Citations: For a broader account of our ranking methodology, especially as it relates to TheBestSchools.org's underlying educational philosophy and, in other ranking articles, looks beyond academic excellence (as here) to such factors as return on investment or incidental benefit, see our article "Ranking Methodology: How We Rank Schools at TBS." Reputation of schools and degree programs can at least in part be gauged through the school or department's publishing activity, citations, and desirability. At TheBestSchools.org, we keep track of such social and peer validation: "Making Sense of College Rankings." For nuts-and-bolts information about colleges and universities, we look to the National Center for Education Statistics and especially its College Navigator. Insofar as salary and inflation data are relevant to a ranking, we look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, nothing beats contacting schools and degree programs directly, which our researchers often do, with the result that all the entries in this article should be considered as belonging to this citation!

Types of Social Workers

There are three major types of social workers: macro, direct services, and clinical social workers.

Macro Social Workers

Macro social workers work with communities, large groups of people, major institutions, and cities. Depending on their position, these social workers may advocate for large-scale social policy change, lobby to change healthcare laws, or organize state-wide activist groups. They may also engage in research or work as managers or administrators for community programs.

Licensed Clinical Social Workers

Licensed clinical social workers evaluate, diagnose, and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders. They may provide individual, group, or family therapy. They work in settings such as hospitals, community mental health centers, rehabilitation facilities, and private practice. Clinical social workers often collaborate with professionals like psychiatrists, psychologists, and advanced practice psychiatric nurses.

The job title for social workers with a clinical social work license varies by state. States may use titles such as licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), licensed independent social worker, or licensed independent clinical social worker.

Clinical Social Workers Without a License

These social workers are authorized to practice clinical social work under the supervision of an LCSW. They must earn licensure to practice independently.

Direct Service Social Workers

Direct service social workers connect individuals with relevant resources and services. They may also provide limited counseling services, but they cannot provide psychotherapy. Depending on their role, these professionals may perform intake screenings, refer clients to relevant services, provide mediation services, and work in case management.

Social Work Jobs

Graduates with an MSW degree can pursue careers in several social work fieldscareers in several social work fields, such as mental health counselor, social service manager, and marriage and family therapist. The section below covers several common careers for MSW graduates.

$51,340 Marriage and Family Therapists
Median Salary: $51,340 Projected Job Growth: 22%

Marriage and family therapists help individuals, couples, and families manage relationship problems through therapy. They encourage clients to discuss their emotions, help people adjust to life changes and modify behaviors, and guide clients through decision-making processes. Marriage and family therapists also connect clients with relevant resources and services.

These professionals need a master's degree and a license to practice. A master's in social work, psychology, marriage and family therapy, or a related field typically meets licensure requirements.

$55,690 Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
Median Salary: $55,690 Projected Job Growth: 4%

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists offer social services to law offenders to help them make progress toward rehabilitation. They create rehabilitation plans, connect clients with resources, and maintain case files on clients. Most probation officers and correctional treatment specialists hold a bachelor's degree in a field like social work or criminal justice. Candidates with a master's degree may qualify for advanced opportunities.

$69,600 Social and Community Service Managers
Median Salary: $69,600 Projected Job Growth: 17%

Social and community service managers oversee social service programs and community organizations. They manage program staff, analyze data to determine a program's effectiveness, suggest improvements to programs, and increase program awareness through outreach activities. They also oversee budgets and may write proposals for funding.

Most social and community service managers hold at least a bachelor's degree in a field like social work, public administration, or business administration plus several years of work experience. Some employers prefer or require a master's degree in social work.

$51,760 Social Workers
Median Salary: $51,760 Projected Job Growth: 13%

Social workers help clients overcome short-term and long-term challenges. They help clients adjust to life changes, connect clients with community resources, and respond to crisis situations. Social workers may specialize in an area such as school social work, healthcare social work, or child and family social work.

Clinical social workers diagnose and treat behavioral, mental, and emotional disorders. They provide therapy, create treatment plans, and coordinate with other healthcare professionals. Clinical social workers must hold a master's degree in social work and a license to practice.

$47,660 Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
Median Salary: $47,660 Projected Job Growth: 25%

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors help clients manage substance use, mental health, and behavioral disorders. They meet with clients to evaluate their needs, create customized treatment plans, and work with clients on behavior modification techniques.

Most substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors need a bachelor's degree, while mental health counselors generally need a master's degree to practice.

How Much Do Social Workers Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median social worker salary exceeds $51,000 per year. However, social work salaries depend on factors like a worker's location, degree, and industry. For example, the typical salary for a professional who holds a master of social work exceeds that of a professional with a a bachelor's degree. Similarly, clinical social workers generally earn higher salaries than nonclinical social workers.

As with other fields, social workers often see an increase in their earning potential after gaining experience, earning an advanced degree, and/or learning specialized skills.

Payscale Median Salary Information for Social Workers as of June 2021
Position Salary
Social Worker (MSW) $37,000 - $65,000
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) $44,000 - $79,000
Clinical Social Worker $43,000 - $79,000
School Social Worker $38,000 - $68,000
Source: Payscale
BLS Median Salary Information for Social Workers as of May 2020
Position Salary
Healthcare Social Workers $57,630
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers $48,720
Child, Family, and School Social Workers $48,430
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Frequently Asked Questions About Master of Social Work Degrees

What Is an MSW Degree?

An MSW is a social work degree that stands for "master of social work". In most states, licensed social workers are required to have an MSW.

What Does a Master of Social Work Do?

An MSW qualifies graduates for positions as licensed clinical social workers, therapists, and counselors. These professionals help vulnerable populations and provide assistance to adults, children, families and couples who need guidance and access to resources.

Is a Master's in Social Work Worth It?

An MSW can lead to a fulfilling career as a social worker, therapist, or counselor. However, the average salary for a social worker with an MSW is over $48,000, which is under the national average for all occupations.

What Is the Difference Between a Master of Social Work and an MA in Social Work?

There is no major difference between an MSW and an MA in social work. However, students should make sure their degree is conferred by a program that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

How Much Can You Make With a Master of Social Work?

The average pay for a social worker with an MSW ranges between $37,000-$65,000.

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