Masters in Social Work (MSW) Degree Programs
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.
GradSchools.com Top Schools for Social Work Masters Degrees*
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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 is helpful if you are looking for that initial or entry-level job, an MSW degree is often required for social work positions in healthcare, administrative or clinical roles. Also licensed social workers are able to open their own practice in many states which can potentially open new doors financially for many social workers.
What Does MSW Stand For?
MSW is the abbreviation for Masters in Social Work degree, which is a professional degree that typically requires two to three years of education beyond your bachelor’s degree.
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 MSW programs allow graduates with a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) to earn their master’s degree in one year. All MSW programs require completion of coursework and supervised practicum, also called an ‘internship’ or ‘field work’ in some MSW schools.
Advanced Standing MSW Programs
Advanced Standing is open to individuals who have earned baccalaureate degrees in social work from a social work program accredited by the CSWE which 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 MSW Programs to find Advanced Standing programs with online or on-campus options.
Types of MSW Degrees
There are several types and options when looking for grad schools that offer MSW Degrees. Some options include programs that offer either a campus or online MSW program. Additional options include dual degree tracks, or full or part-time study. Whichever type of Masters in Social Work program you're 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 MSW 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 Bachelors in Psychology, the MSW 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 (LCSW)[i] 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 MSW 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 MSW program you are interested in.
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 MSW programs, some of the topics that a student working towards an MSW degree might encounter are[ii]:
- 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
(Source: National Center for Education Statistics)
Fieldwork: An Essential Component of MSW Programs
In addition to classroom-based learning, students are typically required to complete a certain amount of fieldwork as specified by their MSW program. Masters in social work students are usually able to choose from a variety of settings to complete this work such as:
- Senior centers
- Community centers
- Local governments
- Substance abuse clinics
- Military bases
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
Why Consider an MSW Degree?
Wondering whether earning an MSW degree might be instrumental in helping you to make 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 (LCSWs) may diagnose and treat mental, behavioral and emotional disorders. This is not all.
7 Reasons to Consider An MSW Degree
- Without a Masters in Social Work one cannot become a licensed clinical social worker
- A commitment to continuing education is part of the social work profession
- You may be interested in supervising other social workers (e.g. Director of Social Work)
- An MSW degree is part of the requirement to work in private practice
- Social workers with a master’s degree report higher earnings than those with a BSW (according to BLS.gov)
- Working as a Healthcare Social Worker (e.g. Geriatric social worker, hospice and palliative care or medical social worker)
- MSW programs might prepare you to pursue advanced degrees (DSW or PhD)
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 12% employment change between 2014-2024 is projected.
What is an LCSW?
Individuals may earn an MSW 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, and it is up to each state to determine the titles professional social workers may use, or the scope of their practice. The LCSW is an extremely specialized social worker who has:
- Earned their Master of Social Work (MSW) 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)[vi] the Master of Social Work is a prerequisite of practicing as an LCSW.
Pursuing an ‘LCSW 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. LCSWs may be involved in direct therapy with clients in private practice.
CSWE Accredited MSW 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. As of October 2016, there are 250 accredited masters social work programs and 16 masters social work programs in candidacy.
When looking to earn a master of social work, it’s important to know what schools have CSWE accredited MSW programs to make sure that you’re applying to programs that meet high standards of faculty, curriculum, and the overall goals set by the CSWE. Review this list of 12 accredited CSWE MSW programs put together by our GradSchools.com team.
We asked Licensed Master Social Worker Tomanika Perry-Witherspoon how earning a MSW degree supported her 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.”
~Tomanika Perry-Witherspoon, LMSW CEO of Growing Counseling Services Click to Tweet
How Much Can You Make With A Masters Degree in Social Work?
According to BLS.gov, the median annual wage for social workers was $47,980 in May 2017. And the overall employment of social workers is projected to grow 16 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Online MSW Programs
Online MSW 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.
GradSchools.com Picks the Top 380 MSW Programs
If you have a strong inclination to compassionately help people cope with their unique stresses, or you wish to pursue the path of clinical social work, review the programs listed below.
- Syracuse, NYSyracuse, NY
Syracuse University's School of Social Work offers a graduate (M.S.W.)...
- Chicago, ILChicago, IL
University of Illinois at Chicago
The program is designed to support the development of scholars of social and economic justice, providing students with the knowledge and skills for advancing social work treatment theory and research and for development and direction of social welfare...
- Chicago, IL
- Pittsburgh, PAPittsburgh, PA
University of Pittsburgh
The MSW is designed to provide students with a professional education that includes breadth and depth of knowledge and skills development. The foundation curriculum provides knowledge, skills development and values that embody the generalist social work...
- Pittsburgh, PA
- Denver, CODenver, CO
Iliff School Of Theology
The University of Denver offers four on-campus Master of Social Work (MSW) program options, built around the academic preparation and interests of our students: Two-year program The two-year MSW program is open to students with bachelor's degrees in...
- Denver, CO
- Wilmore, KYWilmore, KY
The CSWE accredited Asbury University MSW on campus program offers the Child and Family Services concentration.
- Wichita, KSWichita, KS
The Master of Social Work offers a program that prepares students for advanced social work practice and the competent practice of family centered soci...
- Derby, United KingdomDerby, United Kingdom
University of Derby
- Winnipeg, MBWinnipeg, MB
University of Manitoba
The MSW program structure with a common core and up to five clusters, includes a number of newly developed courses, and modified existing courses to ensure that the curriculum is current and in compliance with the standards of our accreditation body (Th...
- Hattiesburg, MSHattiesburg, MS
The University of Southern Mississippi
Sixty credit hour degree program. Students may attend either full or part-time. Thirty hour Advanced standing program for qualified B.S.W. applicants.
- New Haven, CTNew Haven, CT
Southern Connecticut State University
- Salford, United KingdomSalford, United Kingdom
University of Salford
- West Hartford, CTWest Hartford, CT
University of Connecticut
The UConn School of Social Work, as a public university, has a strong commitment to educating master's level social workers to serve clients and commu...
- London, United KingdomLondon, United Kingdom
South Bank University, London
- Norman, OKNorman, OK
University of Oklahoma
- San Francisco, CASan Francisco, CA
San Francisco State University
- Greensboro, NCGreensboro, NC
North Carolina A&T State University
This innovative program flows from a multicultural history and models multicultural collaboration.
- Bridgewater, MABridgewater, MA
Bridgewater State University
Bridgewater's MSW porgram is offered on a full-time and part-time basis, as well as advanced standing for those that qualify.
- Las Cruces, NMLas Cruces, NM
New Mexico State University
The School of Social Work offers full time and part time graduate study leading to the Master of Social Work degree.
- Edinburgh, United KingdomEdinburgh, United Kingdom
University of Edinburgh
- San Jose, CASan Jose, CA
San Jose State University
The MSW program offers graduate professional education in transcultural advanced generalist practice, with a particular focus on populations at-risk.
- Davenport, IADavenport, IA
St. Ambrose University
The Master of Social Work (MSW) program at St. Ambrose University began offering classes in 1997.