Having a career in social work can be a rewarding experience for people who enjoy helping others. To work in clinical practice or leadership roles, you may choose to earn a master's degree in social work. Knowing about some jobs you can get with this advanced degree can help you plan your educational path.
Master's degree in Social Work?
A Master of Social Work (MSW) is an advanced degree in social work. While you can find entry-level employment with a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW), other jobs in this field require an MSW to work in a clinical setting. An MSW allows you to pursue state licensure and work in various sectors, including education, health care, government, human resources, research, and nonprofit organizations.
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8 jobs you can pursue with an MSW
Here's a list of eight career options for someone with a master's in social work:
Mental Health Case Manager
Average salary: $48,337 per year
Mental health case managers work with their patients to create treatment plans tailored to each patient's needs. Their primary responsibilities include evaluating patients, developing patient strategies to cope with challenges, and monitoring patients' progress. A mental health case manager may also refer patients to resources such as housing agencies or vocational schools.
Child Welfare Specialist
Average salary: $49,329 per year
Child welfare specialists, or child welfare social workers, investigate the living conditions of homes and childcare facilities to ensure the safety and well-being of the children who live there. Their other duties include evaluating foster homes, counseling parents and foster parents on children's care plans, consulting with teachers and physicians about children, and maintaining case records.
Substance Abuse Counselor
Average salary: $53,475 per year
Substance abuse counselors work with people individually and in small groups to help them overcome their struggle with drugs, alcohol, and other substances. Their duties might include facilitating therapy sessions, managing clients throughout a program, and collaborating with other medical team members to manage addiction-related behaviors.
Average salary: $59,296 per year
Social workers work in various settings with people of all ages to help them solve their problems. A social worker's basic duties include evaluating clients' needs, assisting clients to adjust to changes and challenges in their lives, and maintaining case files. Social workers may refer clients to resources, monitor clients' improvement toward their goals, and serve as advocates. They may also respond to emergencies like child abuse and health crises.
Mental Health Technician
Average salary: $62,099 per year
A mental health technician helps patients manage behavioral or mental health issues. They administer medications, assist during therapy sessions, and evaluate patients' overall progress and behavior. They also perform administrative tasks, such as organizing and maintaining patient logs and contacting patients' family members with updates.
Medical Social Worker
Average salary: $75,771 per year
Medical social workers assist patients and their families with health-related problems and concerns. They might conduct individual and group counseling related to chronic illness or financial stress related to illness. Within a hospital setting, medical social workers might coordinate discharge processes for patients, speak with family members, and help patients arrange transportation services or in-home health care options.
Average salary: $84,267 per year
School counselors work with students to guide them in different aspects of their lives. A school counselor's responsibilities include mediating between students and teachers, leading peer counseling programs, and helping students make decisions related to academics. School counselors also help students with personal issues, such as bullying, self-esteem, and relationships.
Average salary: $97,522 per year
A professor of social work teaches courses to students at the college level. They also provide tutoring, assess student classwork, input grades, maintain class records, and collaborate with colleagues who teach similar courses. Occasionally, they might work on case studies and publish findings in research papers or textbooks.
Other Jobs You Can Get with an MSW
When you have a Master's in Social Work (MSW), you can choose from many different types of jobs. These jobs fall into a few categories:
Advanced Clinical Practice: Here, you can work in roles like a licensed master social worker, mental health therapist, clinical social worker, psychotherapist, or clinical forensic specialist. These jobs often come with good salaries.
Specialized Social Work: If you want to specialize, you can become a family support specialist, criminal justice social worker, hospice social worker, or geriatric social worker. These jobs focus on specific areas and offer salaries matching the work's demands.
Policy and Programming: Some MSW graduates work in jobs related to policy and programming. These jobs include being a special education advocate, grant writer, clinical case manager, research analyst, program director, or policy analyst. Working in policy and programming can help change systems and policies. The salaries for these roles reflect their importance in shaping social policies and programs.
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FAQs About Career After MSW
What are the prerequisites to getting your MSW?
Most MSW programs require candidates to have an undergraduate degree, though a degree in a field other than social work may be acceptable. If you already have a bachelor's degree in social work, you can apply for an accelerated MSW program that allows you to graduate sooner.
What are the typical courses in an MSW program?
On average, it's a requirement to complete 60 credit hours to graduate with your MSW. Here are some courses you may take in a graduate social work program:
Foundational Courses Foundational courses allow you to learn and build the foundations for a successful career in social work.
MSW programs offer electives you can take to learn more about various specialties within social work. For example, you may take electives related to substance use or dementia care.
Field Experience Schools offer different field experience courses that allow you to observe licensed social workers. You can also practice applying what you've learned in the classroom in various social work settings, such as government agencies or schools.
What's the average length of an MSW program?
If you have an undergraduate degree in social work, you can often complete an accelerated program in 12 to 15 months. If your undergraduate degree is in a field other than social work, the traditional MSW program takes about two years to complete for full-time students and three to four years for part-time students.