Washington, DC Social Work Graduate Programs and Degrees
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.
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.
Most social work programs are clinical and research based and are offered from accredited universities.
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 specializations include community practice, trauma, substance abuse, mental health and aging. i
What Are Social Work Graduate Programs?
Social work graduate programs offer continued education for students who have earned a bachelors degree and wish to expand their understanding of human behavior, social policy, social justice and clinical practice. They are typically offered at three different levels and include Master of Social Work (MSW), Doctor of Social Work (DSW) or PhD in social work, and Social Work Certificate programs.
Most graduate social work programs take a practical approach to subject matter and may integrate practicums or other forms of hands on study. However research focused programs, typically in the form of PhD social work programs, may be available.
Types of Social Workers
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.
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.
Why Do I Need 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.
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
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
A Potential Path to 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 bachelors 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.
Types of Graduate Social Work 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. Each may be ideally suited to different levels of experience and goals.
Master Programs in Social Work
The Master of Social Work (MSW) degree is a professional degree in social work and the miminum 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 specializaion, 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.
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.
Could I Earn an Online Degree in Social Work?
Graduate programs in social work may be offered online or on campus, 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.
- 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.
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
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.
Find Graduate Programs & Schools in Social Work
Graduate programs in social work could help you define yourself as a social worker and jumpstart your career. Whether you choose to study full time or part time, in a traditional or virtual classroom, consider different options to land on a program that aligns with your interests and goals! You could even expedite your degree process by using your existing progress in an advanced standing MSW program.
See sponsored listings for MSW, DSW, PhD and Certificates in Social Work here. Or use the menu to filter your options by level, location and format. When you're ready, click the link to request information on admissions, requirements and curriculum.
Finding a graduate social work program could be fast and simple. And the next enrollment may be soon. Start now!
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/
The Catholic University of America
Sacred Heart University
You'll expand the level care and assistance you can provide to vulnerable populations and be a force of positive change in your community when you earn your Master of Social Work (MSW) degree online at Sacred Heart University...
Winthrop University's online Master of Social Work Traditional program prepares students without a social work background to become competent, specialized social workers.
Simmons College’s online Master of Social Work program can be completed in as few as 15 months, and GRE scores are not required.
Our Lady of the Lake University
Our Lady of the Lake University's Worden School of Social Service, offers its acclaimed Master of Social Work degree program entirely online, giving working adults the opportunity to work toward this career-building,service-oriented credential.
With a rich history dating back to 1918, Boston University School of Social Work continues to educate agents of change through our comprehensive graduate program housed at a leading private research university.
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.
University of Southern California
The MSW@USC is the first top-ranked MSW program offered nationally. Many online programs are limited to certain geographic areas or the availability of courses, making it necessary to travel to campus. Our program can be completed from virtually anyw...
Saint Leo University
The Master of Social Work Program mission is to prepare graduate students for professional advanced practice in becoming leaders through the provision of social work services that promote social and economic justice, and human rights locally, nationally a...
Loyola University Chicago
The Online, Bilingual MSW program offers a unique specialization in Health/Mental Health with a sub specialization in Migration Studies. Courses will be taught by bilingual faculty with a majority of the content being delivered and discussed in Spanish.
- Fort Collins, COFort Collins, CO
Colorado State University
Master of Social Work
Advanced Generalist Practice...
University of Louisville
Master of Science in Social Work (MSSW) 100% online for BSW and non-BSW professionals...
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
MSW graduates are prepared to work in a wide range of practice settings, including family based agencies, mental health care agencies, addiction treatment centers, schools, medical care facilities, psychiatric facilities, rehabilitation facilities...
University of Leicester
Leicester University and NSPCC Training have collaborated to produce this unique distance learning programme which offers candidates the opportunity t...
Florida State University
The FSU College of Social Work offers a Master of Social Work degree online. If you have graduated from a C.S.W.E.
Western Kentucky University
Design to meet the needs of diverse rural populations and the work-force needs of agencies that serve families and communities.
The online Master of Social Work program at Boston University School of Social Work allows applicants interested in a graduate...
California State University, Northridge
CSUN'ss MSW program gives students the chance to work with at-risk populations and fosters an appreciation of the planned-change process. Its broad curriculum enables students to gain skills and perspective to work at any level.
University of Texas at Arlington
It is a pleasure to welcome you to the School of Social Work's Masters and Ph.D program at the University of Texas at Arlington.
On-Campus requirement variable.
The George Washington University