Social Work Graduate Programs | MSW Degrees | DSW Degrees | Social Work Graduate Certificates

Social work graduate programs are designed to meet the needs of students seeking an advanced degree in social work or to become fully licensed social workers (LMSWs).

Why Consider Social Work Graduate Programs?

Social Work Graduate Programs may be an important career move for students with generalist undergraduate social work or human services degrees. If you aspire to a specialist or advanced practice social worker role such as licensed clinical social worker (LCSWs), aspire to work in private practice, or aim to supervise social work trainees, earning a graduate-level social worker degree is a choice you may want to make soon. Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand is rising for healthcare and social services which is likely to generate faster than average employment growth, especially for candidates with a masters degree in social work and licensure.[i]

Social Work Graduate Programs and MSW Degrees

What are Social Work Graduate Programs?

Social work graduate programs offer continued education for students who have earned a Bachelors degree. Social work graduate programs include graduate certificates, Master of social work (MSW), Doctor of Social Work (DSW) or PhD in social work, and Social Work Certificate degree programs. Per the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), social workers, regardless of their career stage, are ethically responsible to stay informed of current research, theory, and techniques.[ii] Beyond professional development and the addition of credentials, graduate social work programs may enable social workers to follow a variety of potential career paths and possibly earn better salaries[iii]. Per the BLS, social workers with n MSW degree earned 25% higher wages than individuals with a Bachelors in social work (BSW) degree as recently as 2013.[iv]

Fact: Per Data USA, 24,576 MSW, 363 Research Doctorate, and 6 Professional Doctorate Social Work degrees were awarded in 2014[v]

What is a Social Worker? Exploring Postgraduate Options

Considered a helping profession, social workers assist or advocate on behalf of individuals or communities resolve and or cope with some of their everyday problems. There are different kinds of social workers, with different job descriptions, which give you a sense that for each role, there may be slightly different educational and or licensing requirements. A Bachelor of social work, earned at a school approved by the Council on Social Work, is usually the minimum educational requirement for initiating a career as a social worker. Social workers at this level of education may be assistants, case workers or in direct-service position, but they are not diagnosticians; this requires a graduate degree, licensure and other factors as per state licensure boards.

About Social Work Graduate Programs: Potential Path to Licensure

Social work graduate programs may appeal to career changers – students whose undergraduate degree is in a related field such as human services or counseling psychology, as well as to BSW graduates seeking to comply with state licensure. States may require that social workers obtain a masters degree in social work or a relevant doctoral degree before applying for advanced social work licensure:

  • Initial licensure: Licensed Baccalaureate Social Workers (LBSW) work under supervision;
  • Master licensure: Licensed Master Social Workers (LMSW) requires earning an MSW, completing field experience and passing standardized exams;
  • Clinical licensure: Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) requires earning an MSW and holding a current license
  • Additional credentials: certifications through the National Association of Social Workers, usually required to maintain license (renewal)

Types of Social Work Graduate Programs

Social Work Graduate Programs are available as Masters in Social Work (MSW Programs), Doctorate of Social Work (DSW Programs), P.h.D. in Social Work Programs, and graduate certificates.

MSW Programs

The Master of social work (MSW) degree is considered a terminal practice degree in social work. MSW programs prepare graduates for developing clinical assessment for diverse vulnerable populations and administrative skills needed to work in private practice or in a supervisory capacity as community services directors. Prospective MSW students are not always required to hold a bachelor's degree in social work, although it is recommended to have taken courses in psychology, sociology, economics, and political science. All MSW programs include coursework and a supervised practicum. Average time to completion is two years for students with no previous social worker degree, and one year for advanced standing students who have completed a BSW. Note that program lengths vary.

Doctor of Social Work DSW Programs

At the doctorate level, students who have earned their Masters in social work might pursue either a Doctor of social work (DSW) or a PhD in Social Work. These social work graduate programs offer the highest level of education in social work and may appeal to experienced professionals interested in social welfare policy or sociological research. Earning a doctorate degree does not lead to advanced licensure, however, it may open the door to potential careers in research, academia or higher-level administrative positions[vi]. It might take about three to six years to complete a doctorate degree in social work, although time to completion varies. Students generally must successfully pass comprehensive exams, write and defend a dissertation.

Social Work Graduate Certificates

Graduate certificates in Social Work may be a great choice for students who want to deepen their knowledge and skill sets to work with specific populations. Typically, shorter in duration than a social work graduate degree, students might learn very specific skills (e.g. trauma, addictions) in around one year although program length varies.

Are Online Social Work Graduate Programs Available?

Graduate programs in social work may be offered in different learning formats with options that might encompass full-time and part-time programs. Use our on-page navigation to search for ‘online’, ‘campus’ or ‘hybrid’ graduate social worker degree programs. Alternatively, use our location setting to find graduate schools for social work by city, state or country.

Find CSWE-Accredited Social Work Graduate Programs

The Council on Social Work Education is the accrediting agency recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the sole accrediting agency for social work education. Their mission is to ensure and enhance “the quality of social work education for a professional practice that promotes individual, family, and community well-being, and social and economic justice”[vii].

Take the Next Step

As an empathetic soul with great communication and interpersonal skills, not to mention great problem-solving skills, graduate social work programs may help you define yourself as a social worker. Whether you choose to study full time, part time, in a traditional or virtual classroom, review the different options to land on a program that aligns with your interests and goals! Review sponsored listings for MSW, DSW, PhD and Certificates in Social Work. Use our on-page navigation to request information to help you determine which program aligns with your interests. The next enrollment may be soon; take the next step in your education without delay.

sources[i] |[ii] |[iii] |[iv] [iii] |[v] |[vi] |[vii] |

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