Social Work Graduate Programs and Degrees
What Are Social Work Graduate Programs?
Social work graduate programs offer continued education for students who have earned a bachelor's degree and wish to expand their understanding of human behavior, social policy, social justice and clinical practice.
Social Work Certificates are also available, however these are not considered a graduate degree.
Social work graduate programs are designed for graduate students seeking an advanced degree in social work or to become fully licensed social workers (LMSWs) and clinical practitioners.
Why Pursue A Graduate Degree in Social Work?
If you aspire to a specialist or advanced practice social worker role such as licensed clinical social worker (LCSWs), wish to work in private practice, or aim for leadership and management roles, earning a graduate social work degree may be an important next step - and a timely one.
Social work graduate programs may also 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.
Demand is rising for healthcare and social services which is likely to generate faster than average employment growth. This is especially true for clinical social workers, who hold a masters degree in social work (MSW) and licensure.i
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, social work graduate 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 an MSW degree earned 25% higher wages than individuals with a Bachelors in Social Work (BSW) degree as recently as 2013.iv
Fact: 50,395 total social work degrees were awarded in 2015. Growing at 5.22% with an average wage of $53,330.v
Social workers are considered a helping profession and assist or advocate on behalf of individuals or communities. They help children and adults solve and cope with problems in their lives. Let's explore some postgraduate social work career paths.
Popular Types of Social Work Graduate Degrees
Masters of Social Work
Masters of Social Work, Advanced Clinical Social Practice (Accelerated: 2-year intensive)
Online Master of Social Work- Macro
Doctorate of Social Work
Social Work - Social and Community Services
Divinity MSW/MDiv Dual Degree
Grand Canyon University
Social Work - Addictions
Wilfrid Laurier University (Canada)
What Are The Different Types of Social Work Degrees?
Social work degrees may be earned at the Master's or Doctorate level. Each may be ideally suited to different levels of experience and goals.
Usually social work programs take a practical approach to subject matter and may integrate practicums or other forms of hands on study which is known as "clinical." However research focused programs, typically in the form of PhD social work programs, may also be available.
Master Programs in Social Work (MSW Degrees)
The Master of Social Work (MSW degree) is a professional degree in social work and the minimum education for many advanced forms of licensure. As such, all MSW programs include coursework, as well as a supervised practicum. Overall employment of social workers is projected to grow 16 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations with the 2016 median pay being $46,890 per year according the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook. i.
Prospective MSW students are not always required to hold a bachelor's degree in social work. However, it is recommended to have taken courses in psychology, sociology, economics, and political science. 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 program. Note that program lengths vary.
Types of Masters Programs In Social Work
Social work masters programs can typically be divided into two general categories: Clinical or Community Practice.
- Clinical MSW programs prepare graduates to work directly with clients and develop clinical assessments, interventions and evaluations.
- Community Practice or Macro MSW programs focus more on policy, advocacy, community organizing and human services management.
Within each of these categories, individual masters in social work programs may have different areas of focus. Often MSW students choose a specialization, either a type of population, like children, or an issue, such as addiction or trauma.
The differences between each program may be limited or vast, depending on the social work school and program curriculum. Some programs take a more generalist approach and have a large core curriculum. Others may be more specifically tailored from the start. Therefore it's best to contact preferred MSW programs directly and read course lists.
Online Social Work Programs That Could Be Completed in 15 Months or Less
|University||# of Credits Required||Start Dates||Minimum Months to Complete||Clinical Hours|
|Sacred Heart University||30||N/A||12||550|
|University of Louisville||30||2 Starts Through the Year||12||450|
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 degree. 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
The DSW is a professional degree and therefore focuses on the application of research and work in the field. A PhD in Social Work is an academic degree and may be more theoretical in nature.
In either program, most students must successfully complete coursework, pass comprehensive exams, and write and defend a dissertation. It might take a full time student about three to six years to earn a doctorate degree in social work, although time to completion varies.
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 full social work program, students might learn very targeted skills (e.g. trauma, addictions) in around one year. Program length varies.
Sometimes credits earned in a certificate program may be applied to a later MSW program. This varies by school, so it's best to talk to an advisor before enrolling.
Clinical Social Workers
Clinical social workers diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues. They may work in mental health clinics, schools, child welfare and human service agencies, hospitals, community development corporations, and private practices.
Within this broad category, there are several kinds of social workers, with different job descriptions. Each role may therefore have slightly different educational and/or licensing requirements.
Clinical positions require a masters in social work degree and additional licensure.
Community (Macro) Social Workers
Community Practice or Macro social workers focus more on policy, advocacy, community organizing and human services management. The field of community practice social work encompasses community organizing, social planning, human service management, community development, policy analysis, policy advocacy, evaluation, mediation, electronic advocacy and other larger systems interventions. Typically community practice social workers hold a masters degree in social work (MSW).
Social Work Administrators and Policy Makers
Social work administrators are decision makers, concerned about the well-being of a total system versus one particular client. This is commonly referred to as macro, which is a term used to describe social workers who are concerned with large units of people. This work requires knowledge about social policy and the delivery of social services.
These programs may provide a comprehensive overview of social work theory and methods, as well as allow for a focus on a specific population, issue, or type of work. Example social work specializations include community practice, trauma, substance abuse, mental health and aging. i
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What are the Costs Per Credit for a Graduate Degree in Social Work?
|University||Degree Name||# of Credits Required||Cost Per Credit||Tuition Cost|
|Boston University||Master of Social Work (Traditional)||65||$885||$57,525|
|Boston University||Master of Social Work (Advanced)||40||$885||$35,400|
|Our Lady of the Lake University||Master of Social Work (Traditional)||57||$907||$51,699|
|Our Lady of the Lake University||Master of Social Work (Advanced)||30||$907||$27,210|
|Simmons College||Master of Social Work (Traditional)||65||$1,060||$68,900|
|Simmons College||Master of Social Work (Advanced)||37||$1,060||$39,220|
How to Become A Social Worker
- Usually the minimum educational requirement for initiating a career as a social worker is a bachelor of social work, earned at a school approved by the Council on Social Work. Social workers at this level of education may be assistants, case workers or in direct-service position, but they are not diagnosticians.
- For those who wish to continue their higher education in social work with a masters do not necessarily need a baccalaureate in social work as a prerequisite. In many cases a liberal arts degree will be acceptable to enter into a Master's program.
- In most states, baccalaureate social workers are licensed professionals but at the Master’s level social workers are eligible for licensing in all states, offering a wider scope of practice. It is important to choose a social work program that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSCWE).
- Finally, make sure you receive the proper licensing. It is important to familiarize yourself with state regulations on social work licensure requirements. 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.i
Guideline for Social Work Licensure
Licensure requirements vary by state and typically fall into four categories. Below are some guidelines to help you determine which graduate social work program might match your goals.
- Initial licensure: Licensed Baccalaureate Social Workers (LBSW) hold a bachelor's degree.
- Master licensure: Licensed Master Social Workers (LMSW) must hold an MSW degree.
- Clinical licensure: Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) must hold an MSW and have supervised clinical experience.
- Advanced Generalist: Licensed Advanced Generalist Social works mush hold a MSW and have post graduate supervised experience.viii
Licensure at each of these levels also typically requires applicants to pass a standardized exam. However, this is just a general outline. Licensing requirements vary by state and position. It's best to contact your state's board to learn more.
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 Consider expediting your degree process by using your existing progress in an advanced standing MSW program.
Graduation from an accredited graduate social work program may be required for licensure. Therefore, you may want to contact graduate social work schools directly to learn if they qualify.
Choose How to Earn Your Social Work Degree
Graduate programs in social work may be offered online or on campus, with options that might encompass full-time and part-time programs.
- Online Social Work Graduate Programs: Either fully online or with campus requirements. Study in the virtual classroom from a remote location. Online programs may allow you to pursue your education without compromising your lifestyle.
- Hybrid Social Work Graduate Programs: Distance learning combination of online and on campus courses for both interaction and scheduling flexibility.
- Social Work Schools: Traditional face-to-face in classroom learning offered at social work schools in different locations. This may provide additional hands on study, as well as access to student resources and other campus facilities.
Top 427 Social Work Graduate Programs in Sao Tome and Principe
- Qualify to sit for the Licensed Master of Social Work exam immediately after graduation and earn hours towards state licensure for clinical social work (LCSW).
- Ranked a Best College in the North, U.S. News & World Report, 2015-2017
- This online MSW provides you a choice of a direct clinical practice or a direct community practice specialization.
- Coursework is 100% online, saving you time and money in commuting.
- Tuition for this valuable program is affordable as part of our Lasallian mission to serve our community.
- Both Traditional and Advanced Standing tracks are available to give you the right education based on your experience.
Sacred Heart University
Are you ready to be a force of positive change in your community and your life? Earn your MSW degree in Community Practice online. You could prepare to take on leadership roles, better meet the needs of vulnerable populations and sit for the LMSW exam.
- Fairfield, CT
Northcentral UniversityUpcoming Start Date: February 25, 2019
Northcentral University’s Master of Social Work (MSW) program will help prepare students for a career in a variety of social service settings.
Walden UniversityUpcoming Start Date: February 25, 2019
Prepare to advance your social work career with a CSWE-accredited Master of Social Work (MSW) from Walden University. This online master’s degree program helps you develop the skills needed to become a social worker.
University of Southern California
The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work offers a 35-credit advanced standing MSW program with both full-time (three semesters) and part-time (five semesters) options. Admission to the advanced standing program allows students to complete th...
Our Lady of the Lake UniversityUpcoming Start Date: May 11, 2019
As one of only three MSW programs focused on the Hispanic population, OLLU's CSWE accredited, online Master of Social Work program offers busy adults the unique opportunity to prepare to serve this fast growing demographic at all stages of life.
Winthrop's CSWE-accredited, online MSW program offers an empowerment focused curriculum designed to prepare you to improve lives and communities as a specialized social worker. 60 credit Traditional and 39 credit Advanced Standing options are available.
Widener University's online Master of Social Work (MSW) is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). It prepares you to improve both your life and the lives of others through clinical social work and social justice.
Social workers serve on the front lines creating change for individuals and communities. The online Master of Social Work from Regis College can help put you in a position to impact the future of countless people, fight for social change an...
- Boston, MABoston, MA
Today, the School of Social Work continues to provide a rigorous clinical social work education for men and women, including a nationally accredited Master of Social Work (MSW) Program and a PhD in Social Work designed for advanced clinical scholars...
- Chicago, ILChicago, IL
Loyola University Chicago
Strengthen your practice in child welfare with the MSW/MJ in Child and Family Law Dual Degree program. This program is designed for professionals who do not wish to practice law but seek a deeper understanding of legal issues affecting those they serve.
- Chicago, IL
- Paxton, MAPaxton, MA
Anna Maria College
Practically apply new knowledge while you learn in Anna Maria's MSW program. Uniquely designed so fieldwork and classes run concurrently, this Advanced Generalist program aims to prepare graduates to promote social change and empower diverse populations.
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
Prepare to serve others in a wide range of settings by earning your MSW degree online at Edinboro. The CSWE accredited program has a specialized focus on family centered, trauma-informed approaches and qualifies graduates for the national LSW exam.
Florida State University
Earn your Master’s degree from one of the nation’s top-ranked and most distinguished graduate programs. We offer a Traditional program for those than have a bachelor’s degree in an area outside of social work.
- South Orange, NJSouth Orange, NJ
Seton Hall UniversityUpcoming Start Date: May 21, 2019
The CSWE-accredited MSW program helps ready students for advanced practice with individuals, families and groups in the areas of behavioral health, substance abuse and healthcare. Campus coursework is followed by a year of online classes and fieldwork.
- Hamden, CTHamden, CT
Earn your MSW degree at Quinnipiac and prepare to provide support and services to those who need it most. This CSWE accredited program emphasizes a team-based healthcare approach and meets academic requirements for LCSW licensure. No GRE scores required.
University of Louisville
Louisville's 100% online MSSW program helps students earn a social work degree on their schedule. Online courses culminate in a practicum completed at a site of choice. Multiple specialties and an Advanced Standing track are available.
- Northampton, MANorthampton, MA
For 90 years, the Smith College School for Social Work has provided graduate social work education to men and women around the world...
- Dublin, IrelandDublin, Ireland
University College Dublin
Prepare for social work in the US and abroad in the CORU accredited, MSocSc Social Work program. Graduates have registered as professional social workers in Ireland, the UK, the United States, Canada, Australia, and more. A part time option is available.
- Loma Linda, CALoma Linda, CA
Loma Linda University
The Loma Linda University MSW program is accredited by CSWE and includes a 78-credit curriculum consisting of academic, experiential, and research experiences. Two-, three-, four-year, and advanced standing options are available.
- Atlanta, GAAtlanta, GA
Georgia State University
Our mission is to prepare students for leadership roles in the effort to solve in partnerships with others, the existing and...
- Denver, CODenver, CO
University of Denver
The University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work is committed to ensuring that you acquire an excellent foundation in professional social work knowledge and skills, along with a passion for social justice and a commitment to social work ethic...
- Denver, CO
- Long Beach, CALong Beach, CA
California State University, Long Beach
SOURCES: [i] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm |[ii] socialworkers.org/pdev/default.asp |[iii] bls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/article/should-i-get-a-masters-degree.htm |[iv] [iii] |[v] datausa.io/profile/cip/440701/ |[vi] onetonline.org/link/summary/25-1113.00 |[vii] cswe.org/About.aspx | [viii] aswb.org/licensees/about-licensing-and-regulation/