Master's Degrees in Social Work in California

Updated January 4, 2023

Looking for the best Master's Degree in Social Work (MSW) in California? You should consider these top-tier institutions and jobs in the social work field.

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Master's Degrees in Social Work in California

Earning a Master's Degree in Social Work in California

Earning a social work degree in California is a big step toward achieving your career goals. Master's degree-seekers can prepare themselves for a diverse array of advanced career opportunities in the social work field.

The average salary of an individual with a master's degree is approximately $1,570 per week — roughly $6,300 per month, or $81,850 per year. With an unemployment rate of 2.6%, those with a master's degree are more likely to be employed.

Social Work Master's Programs for You

Working and Living in California in the Social Work Profession

Prospective social workers must earn social work degrees from accredited universities. Though there are several kinds of social work degrees, most programs cover common topics such as human behavior, social welfare policy, and research methods. Most social work programs also require students to complete a field placement, where they can gain hands-on experience working with clients. Field placements can be completed in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, schools, or community organizations. Once they earn their degree, social workers can find employment in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, schools, government agencies, or private practices. Social workers typically work with clients who are dealing with difficult life circumstances, such as poverty, illness, or addiction.

California's median annual wage for all occupations is $47,920, or $23.04 per hour. This holds true for the state's 16,529,810 workers. The lowest 10% of earners in the state take home about an average of $29,780 annually, while the highest 10% of earners take home around $130,430 per year on average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). A report on the earnings of social workers in California is shown below.

Key

Social Workers in California
Social Workers Nationally
All Occupations in California
All Occupations Nationally

Social Work Careers and Salaries in California

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Based on the MERIC cost of living index, California ranks number 49 out of 51 states (including Washington, D.C.). Cost of living indexes measure the average cost of living in America against specific states. All locations in the United States are either above (more expensive) or below (less expensive) the U.S. average. The cost of living index for California is 139.8, which is 39.8% higher than the national average. See how your cost of living will change if you move to California.

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Source: Missouri Research and Information Center
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In California, there is a projected growth rate in the social work profession of 5.8%. It is projected that employment for the occupation will change from 71,400 in 2020 to 75,500 by 2030. Bachelor's degrees are typically required for entry-level positions in this field, though master's degrees can qualify professionals for more advanced roles. An example of a typical job title would be:

Master's Degrees in Social Work in California

#1 Master’s Degrees in Social Work in California

University of California-Los Angeles

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

The online master's in social work program, offered by the University of California-Los Angeles, ranks as a top program. The master of social welfare program emphasizes advanced practice skills, training graduates for leadership roles and an increased earning potential. With a master's degree, candidates often advance their current career or more into new career paths.

The master's curriculum emphasizes the best practices in social work. Learners specialize their course of study to prepare for the job market. The master's program recommends that applicants bring a background in social work or a related field.

Online enrollees work with the program to identify internship opportunities at approved sites in their local communities. Many institutions provide libraries and fitness centers for use by students living on campus. Internships and other practicum activities build both hands-on experience and professional connections.

University of California-Los Angeles at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Admission Rate: 12%

Total Online Master's Programs: 1

Program Name: Master of social welfare

Graduate Tuition In State: $11,442

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $26,544

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,442
Out-of-state
$41,196
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
14%
Students Enrolled
44,589
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
94% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#2 Master’s Degrees in Social Work in California

University of Southern California

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Located in Los Angeles, the University of Southern California enrolls master's students in its top-ranked online social work program. The master of social work program emphasizes specialized skills, preparing graduates for increased responsibilities and a higher earning potential. After earning a master's degree, candidates may also pursue careers in new industries.

The master's curriculum emphasizes the best practices in social work. Learners specialize the program by choosing from a variety of electives. Applicants without a background in social work may need to complete prerequisite courses before enrolling in the master's program.

Online enrollees meet any in-person requirements, such as internships, at approved sites in their local area. The common facilities and services offered at most universities, such as the library or gym, are accessible to students who live on campus. The program hosts networking events and other professional development activities to help graduate students expand their professional connections.

University of Southern California at a Glance:

Type of School: Private, nonprofit, four-year

Admission Rate: 11%

Total Online Master's Programs: 55

Program Name: Master of social work

Graduate Tuition In State: $46,272

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $46,272

Average Tuition
In-state
$59,260
Out-of-state
$59,260
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
16%
Students Enrolled
46,287
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
89% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#3 Master’s Degrees in Social Work in California

University of California-Berkeley

  • Berkeley, CA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

The University of California-Berkeley offers an online master of social welfare. The social work program encourages career training throughout its curriculum, preparing graduates for leadership positions. With a master's degree, candidates often advance their current career or more into new career paths.

The master's curriculum emphasizes both practical and theoretical approaches to social work. Learners choose electives and concentrations to prepare for focused career paths. The master's program builds on undergraduate training or professional experience in social work.

Online enrollees coordinate with the program to complete internships at approved sites in their local area. The common facilities and services offered at most universities, such as the library and gym, are accessible to students who live on campus. The program encourages graduate students to expand their professional connections through internships and networking events.

University of California-Berkeley at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Admission Rate: 16%

Total Online Master's Programs: 2

Program Name: Master of social welfare

Graduate Tuition In State: $11,442

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $26,544

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,442
Out-of-state
$41,196
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
17%
Students Enrolled
42,327
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
97% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#4 Master’s Degrees in Social Work in California

San Diego State University

  • San Diego, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The online master's in social work program, offered by San Diego State University, ranks as a top program. Graduates train for leadership roles in the field while earning their degree from the master's in social work program. Earning a master's degree can help candidates advance in their current career or pursue a new career path entirely.

The master's curriculum blends theory and practice to provide an advanced understanding of social work. Learners take specialized courses to stand out in a competitive job market. The program encourages applicants to gain experience in social work before applying to the program.

Online enrollees gain hands-on experience during professional internships in their local area. On-campus students benefit from the library and gym facilities provided by many institutions. Graduate students also build professional connections by attending networking events.

San Diego State University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Admission Rate: 34%

Total Online Master's Programs: 6

Program Name: Master's in social work

Graduate Tuition In State: $7,176

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $16,680

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
37%
Students Enrolled
36,334
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
99% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#5 Master’s Degrees in Social Work in California

California State University-Long Beach

  • Long Beach, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

California State University-Long Beach hosts a top-rated online master's in social work. The master's in social work program emphasizes specialized skills, preparing graduates for increased responsibilities and a higher earning potential. Earning a master's degree helps candidates move into a new career path or advance in their current field.

The master's curriculum examines theoretical and practical perspectives on Social Work. Learners specialize their course of study to prepare for the job market. The master's program recommends that applicants bring a background in Social Work or a related field.

Online enrollees add to their resume by pursuing internship opportunities at approved locations in their local area. On-campus students have access to the library and gymnasium, as well as other equipment and facilities. The program encourages professional development activities, including networking events, so graduate students can expand their professional connections.

California State University-Long Beach at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Admission Rate: 39%

Total Online Master's Programs: 3

Program Name: Master's in social work

Graduate Tuition In State: $7,176

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $16,680

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
42%
Students Enrolled
40,069
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Financing a Master's Degree in Social Work

Financial aid can help students lower the cost of their degree. Opportunities for financial aid include scholarships, grants, fellowships, and work-study programs. In addition to scholarships from third-party entities, some schools offer scholarships themselves. Learners can also qualify for federal and private student loans. Therefore, it is important to research what types of financial aid may be available to you prior to applying.

Checklist for Maximizing Your Financial Aid:

Average Cost of Attending College in California

Depending on the college or university you attend, the cost of education in California varies. Public and private institutions share some similarities. Take a look at the information below to decide whether attending a public institution is the right choice for you.

Public 4-Year School Tuition Rates: California vs. National Average

Key

California
National Average

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The chart has 1 Y axis displaying annual salaries in USD.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
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Would it be possible to attend a private college or university? The tuition at private colleges is typically higher than tuition at public, in-state schools. You will find information about attending private colleges in California below.

Private 4-Year School Tuition Rates: California vs. National Average

Key

California
National Average

Chart

Bar chart with 5 bars.
The chart has 1 X axis displaying salary types.
The chart has 1 Y axis displaying annual salaries in USD.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
End of interactive chart.

Federal Student Loan Information

Do you intend to borrow student loans in order to pay for your education? If you are considering a loan, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Take a look at the following data to determine what students typically borrow.

Undergraduate Federal Loans
Demographic Percent who borrowed Amount borrowed
Total 66.6% $27,400
Female 69.6% $28,100
Male 62.5% $26,500
White, not Hispanic or Latino 66.1% $26,700
Black, not Hispanic or Latino 85.7% $34,800
Hispanic or Latino/a, of any race 67.7% $25,700
Asian, not Hispanic or Latino 43% $22,700
Other or Two or more races, not Hispanic or Latino 70.4% $28,300
Source: NCES

Online vs. On-Campus

Pros and Cons: Online Degrees

Pros

  • Cheaper tuition
  • Flexible, asynchronous classwork
  • No on-campus fees for parking, tech, etc.

Cons

  • Less structure
  • Minimal peer-to-peer interaction
  • Less facetime with professor
  • No access to on-campus amenities

Pros and Cons: On-Campus Degrees

Pros

  • Gym, library, etc. access
  • Smaller class options
  • Face time with peers and professors

Cons

  • More expensive
  • Transportation or housing costs
  • Rigid scheduling
The major differences between an online degree and a degree completed on campus are the cost and class size. A number of benefits are associated with online degree programs, including schedule flexibility. As a result of the student fees of on-campus degrees, which are often optional for distance learners, the cost of on-campus degrees is typically higher.

Top Social Work Degree Options Available by State
State Degree Level
California Bachelors, Doctorate
Florida Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate
Georgia Associate, Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate
Illinois Associate, Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate
New York Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate
North Carolina Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate
Pennsylvania Associate, Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate
Texas Associate, Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate
Virginia Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate
Washington Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate

Private vs. Public

There are several key differences between attending a private and a public college. First, the cost will vary based on whether you select a public or private school. The cost of education at a public college can be offset by grants and scholarships. There are usually merit scholarships available to those who demonstrate superior academic performance.

Students can have more personal interaction with faculty at private colleges, where the ratio of students to teachers is usually lower. An overview of the pros and cons of attending a private institution versus a public institution is provided below.

Pros and Cons

Private

  • Unique program offerings
  • Cultural or religious options
  • Local prestige
  • Higher costs
  • Less regulatory oversight

Public

  • Government-issued tuition costs
  • Government funding, benefits, and regulation
  • Oftentimes large classrooms

Frequently Asked Questions

In California, how much do social workers make?

The mean salary for social workers in California is $68,540.

What is demand like for graduates with social work majors?

The total number of social workers is expected to grow 5.8% from 2020 to 2030, signifying continuing demand.

Are there any opportunities to study for a master's degree in social work online?

Pursuing an online master's degree in social work is possible. Most schools offer at least some online courses.

For a full-time student, what time does it take to complete a master's degree?

Typically, a full-time student takes two years to complete a master's program. The completion time will vary by student.

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