Social Work Masters Programs (MSW)
What is an MSW?
MSW Programs, or Masters in Social Work programs, prepare individuals for the professional practice of social welfare counseling and administration. Earning your Masters in Social Work is actually a requirement to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in every state.
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Licensure may also be valuable if you wish to pursue specialist and advanced practice roles in the field such as licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). While an undergraduate degree from a school of social work is helpful if you are looking for that initial or entry-level job, a Masters in SW degree is often required for social work positions in the health field, administrative or clinical roles. Also, those who are licensed in this field are able to open their own practice in many states. This may potentially open new doors financially for many.
How Many Credits Are Needed For A Masters Degree in Social Work?
Approximately 15 to 20 credits are needed for completing a Masters in Social Work degree. Some programs allow graduates with a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) to earn their master’s degree. This may be done in one year full-time. All MSW programs require completion of coursework and supervised practicum. This is sometimes called an ‘internship’ or ‘field work’ in some MSW schools.
An accredited program is important. Enrollment into specialization programs may also matter to many. For example, some students aim to specialize their degree. They do this through electives. That may increase the credits you need even in an accredited program.
Advanced Standing MSW Programs
Advanced Standing is open to those who earn baccalaureate degrees in social work from an SW program accredited by the CSWE. This may allow you to earn your degree in as little as one year. Browse programs below or view a list of 10 schools that offer Advanced Standing Masters in SW Programs. This helps you find Advanced Standing programs with online or on-campus options. Learn more about advanced standing option opportunities.
Types of MSW Degrees
There are several types when looking for grad schools that offer Masters in SW Degrees. Some options include programs that offer either campus or an online Masters program. Additional options include dual degree tracks or full or part-time study. Whichever type of Masters in Social Work degree you are looking for read on to explore the potential opportunities that an MSW degree might lead to.
What are the MSW Program Admission Requirements?
While you should pay attention to specific Masters in SW program requirements at a prospective school, a bachelor’s degree in social work is not necessarily required to enter an MSW degree program. There are two scenarios:
For students with an undergraduate degree from an accredited college, such as a Bachelor of Human Services or a Bachelor's in Psychology, the Masters in SW degree may provide the education and background needed to enter the field of social work. If this describes you, and you are thinking ahead, courses in psychology, sociology, economics and political science are recommended, according to BLS. gov.
For graduates of accredited Bachelors of Social Work (BSW) programs who are already working at entry level social worker occupations, earning an MSW is required to become a licensed clinical social worker in all 50 states (specific licensing requirements vary by state). Furthermore, many states also require a MSW to become a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW). If this describes you, earning a Master of Social Work degree might represent time you might pursue a specialized branch of social work (e.g. medical social worker).
Most schools will require a minimum GPA (but some of the programs accept low GPA scores) as well as application essay and personal references. Many schools might also require students to submit Graduate Records Examination (GRE) scores to determine eligibility. However, each school will have its own set of requirements so it is important to check with Admissions for each of the programs you are interested in.
Enrollment may be limited. Graduate programs in some schools may be hard to get in. Online programs in social work may offer larger class sizes.
MSW Potential Course Curriculum
MSW programs might focus on different strategies to provide basic support services for different vulnerable individuals and groups, whether these are troubled teens, abused children, people in hospices or military veterans. While courses vary between the programs, some of the topics that a student working towards a Masters in SW degree might encounter are:
- Social welfare policy
- Case work planning
- Social counseling
- Intervention strategies
- Specific applications of social work (i.e. child welfare, family services, probation, employment services, disability counseling
- Couple and Family Therapy
- Substance Abuse
- Strategic Planning for Organizations
Fieldwork: An Essential Component of MSW Programs
Students are typically required to complete a certain amount of fieldwork as specified by their program. Masters in social work students are usually able to choose from a variety of settings to complete this field education work such as:
- Senior centers
- Community centers
- Local governments
- Substance abuse clinics
- Military bases
Field placement ranges. Some field experience is more hands-on than others. Students may wish to choose field placement related to where they wish to work. This can provide a fresh experience. It can give you an idea of what to expect later. It can help you see where your master's in social work is beneficial.
DID YOU KNOW? Although most social workers need a bachelor’s degree in social work, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, clinical social workers must have a master’s degree and 2 years of post-master’s experience in a supervised clinical setting. Click To Tweet
Obtain Your License
Each state sets rules for licenses. This usually includes a state licensing exam. The exam is managed by the Association of Social Work Boards. Each student should look to state rules and requirements. You may need to take specific courses. You may need specific hours in the program. Many have field work experience rules.
Many schools work to meet the licensing requirements. Still, it is up to students to make sure they take the right classes. Most states also require accredited program study.
Why Consider Masters in Social Work Degree?
Wondering whether earning a Masters in SW degree might be instrumental in helping you to make a diagnosis? Professionals who have earned a BSW, and are currently working in direct service positions such as caseworker or mental health assistant may be able to interview clients, serve as liaisons between clients and social services agencies, and maintain case history records. However, they may not actually diagnose. Licensed Clinical Social Workers may diagnose and treat mental, behavioral and emotional disorders. This is not all.
Ask yourself what your goals are. A bachelor of social work may not be enough to achieve them. Advancing your education may be a better route. It may open the door to opportunities to you. It may also help you find a specialized area to focus on.
7 Reasons to Consider An MSW Degree
- Without a Masters in Social Work one cannot become a licensed clinical soc worker. If you wish to open a social work practice, this may be necessary.
- A commitment to continuing education is part of the social work profession. A school of social work is an ongoing learning opportunity.
- You may be interested in supervising other social workers (e.g. Director of Social Work). A master of social work degree helps develop these skills.
- A Masters in SW degree is part of the requirement to work in private practice as an advanced generalist or other fields.
- Social workers with a master’s degree report higher earnings than those with a bachelors (according to BLS.gov)
- You want to work as a Healthcare Social Worker (e.g. Geriatric social worker, hospice and palliative care or medical social worker)
- Some masters programs might prepare you to pursue advanced degrees (DSW or PhD). It may help you teach them, too.
And per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for social workers, especially those with a master’s degree and licensure should be good; a 9% employment change between 2021-2031 is projected.
Many people view the other benefits of this degree. They want to support the well being of others. They want to contribute to social policy changes. Also, they may want to support change in human rights. Some love to watch human behavior. it may help them connect with the world around them. Social work licensure gives them a way to help.
Do you feel like this? MSW students may be after social change. They may want to do their part to see improvement in the world around them. Advocacy for those less fortunate is another driving factor. You may want a direct practice for those who need support.
What is an LCSW?
Individuals may earn a Masters in SW degree without committing to full licensure in the form of becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Clinical social workers (CSWs) are always licensed in the state where they practice. It is up to each state to determine the titles professional social workers may use. They also determine the scope of their practice. The Licensed Clinical SW is an extremely specialized soc worker who has:
- Earned their Masters in SW degree
- Passed the necessary steps to gain state licensure (requirements vary by state)
- Completed extensive post graduate supervised work experience (minimum 2 years)
- Passed national competency exams
LMSW vs LCSW
Many states require a MSW graduate to become a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW). For professionals who have already earned a BSW and work in the field (direct service positions such as caseworker or mental health assistant) the social work master is a prerequisite of practicing as a Licensed Clinical SW.
Pursuing a ‘Licensed Clinical SW degree’ might be worth considering if you are choosing between a Masters in Counseling Psychology, or Master of Social Work. Clinical social work combines an in-depth understanding of how mental and emotional disorders develop within an individual in their environment. Licensed Clinical SWs may be involved in direct therapy with clients in private practice.
CSWE Accredited Masters in Social Work Degree Programs & Schools
The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is a non-profit national organization that is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) as the only accrediting agency for social work education in the United States.
When looking to earn a master in social work, it’s important to know what schools have an accreditation in Masters of Social Work degree programs to make sure that you’re applying to programs that meet high standards of faculty, curriculum, and the overall goals set by the Council. Review this list of 12 accredited CSWE MSW programs put together by our GradSchools.com team.
We asked: How did earning an MSW Degree help support your career?
Obtaining my MSW degree significantly impacted my career in social work, as it increased my learning opportunities. I was educated on clinical aspects (how to facilitate, individual and family therapy, etc.) of social work. This graduate education background enabled me to begin a private practice after obtaining my full license.
How Much Can You Make With A Masters Degree in Social Work ?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for social workers was $50,390 in May 2021. And the overall employment of social workers is projected to grow 9% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Many things play a role in earning power. This includes education. it also may include field experience. It may involve things like who you work for. Some students may find additional earning ability in some key sectors of this degree.
Online Masters in Social Work Programs
Online Masters in SW programs may be ideal for working professionals and students who live too far from a traditional on-campus program. Search our extensive directory of sponsored listings for masters in social work online. Or, search for social work schools in the location of your choice (by city, state or country). Our on-page navigation is easy to use and will filter your results as you enter your preferences.
Some students prefer online programs. They may help them work and learn at the same time. Online programs also may help you explore new areas. Some people with a bachelor of social work spend time specializing. This may allow them to do a better job in their current career. It may open new opportunities for them. Being online makes it easier to take, for some people, because they do not want to stop working.
Jobs You May Do with a Social Work Masters
There are several paths you may take with your degree. Students may wish to consider the type of work they wish to do. Consider what day to day work would be like for you in one or more jobs. Think about who you may work with. Consider the type of help you may offer.
Here are a few examples. Be sure to check state laws to verify requirements.
- Healthcare Administrator
- Healthcare social worker
- Clinical social worker
- Public Health Administrator
- Community Health Workers and Administrators
Do you wish to work with children, youth, or others at risk? Do you find hope in providing social support to others? You may want to consider this program. You can use it for a variety of career paths. It may allow you to follow your dream. It may even help you change the lives of others.
There are many factors to consider here. Every path you take is your own. Be sure to explore the opportunities to you carefully.
|State||Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
|Metro Area||Annual Mean Salary||Employment|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||$78,750||810|
|San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA||$74,900||30|
|Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA||$74,110||1,490|
Schools with Social Work Masters Programs
GradSchools.com offers 250 Graduate Schools with Social Work Masters Programs
Grand Canyon University
Pacific Oaks College
California State University, Long Beach
University of Denver
Georgia State University
West Virginia University
Iliff School Of Theology