Master of Social Work Careers

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in social work. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and licensure information. Schools offering Addictions & Social Work degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Social Worker?

Social work is a growing field with many concentration options available, including clinical, child and family, healthcare, mental health, and school social workers. For the most part, social workers help clients assess challenging situations, refer and evaluate helpful resources, and conduct follow-ups with clients. Some social workers, like in the clinical field, also diagnose or treat mental and behavioral issues. Overall, a social worker's job is to help people cope and solve personal issues in life.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's and/or Master's Degree
Licensure Licensure is required for all states; some states provide exemptions for clinical social workers
Key Skills Interpersonal skills, compassion, problem solving, time management, organization
Job Growth (2014-2024) 12%*
Median Salary (May 2015) $58,560*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What will a Master's in Social Work Prepare Me For?

A bachelor's degree is the most common degree available in social work, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, the BLS reports that there are 196 master's degree programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (www.bls.gov). A Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) is commonly needed if you plan to work as a school counselor, in healthcare settings or other in other clinical social work jobs, according to the BLS.

Master's programs often allow you to concentrate on the specific area of social work that you want to work in. Concentrations may include rehabilitation, health, social systems, families, children or geriatrics. Skills you may learn include organization, assessment, intervention and research. You may also study welfare policies, oppression, societal structures, community organization, psychological assessment, pharmacology, aging in society and child welfare. Some colleges offer the master's degree as part-time curriculum so you can earn your degree while working.

Do I Need any Other Qualifications?

The BLS reports that all states require social workers to register, certify or become licensed. Check with your state for requirements. The Association of Social Work Boards offers all information about licensing and links for each state's licensing board (www.aswb.org).

What Can I Expect from this Career?

Social workers typically work in an urban or suburban setting, according to the BLS, aiding those in sensitive mental and emotional states. You will likely work with people of all income levels, races, genders and sexual orientations. Be prepared to work with those who are mentally and physically ill and those recovering from addiction. Earning your master's degree can help you recognize problems in clients and provide assistance like contacting government agencies that can help people in need.

According to the BLS, health care, family and substance abuse social workers' average salaries were between $42,000 and $53,000 in 2015. Depending on the industry you choose to work for, your salary may vary. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2015 hospital based social workers (state, local, and private) received the highest compensation with a median salary at $56,650.

Between 2014-2024, the BLS expects the employment opportunity rate in this field to grow around 12%, depending on the area you wish to work. The BLS states that the projection for medical social workers is supposed to grow more than other areas of social work, with a rate of 19% during this time-period.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A few other fields related to social work include mental health and marriage/family counselors, school and career counselors, and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors. Like child and family social workers, mental health counselors help people manage and solve issues dealing with family relationships. School and career counselors assist students in social skills, academic success, and career aspirations. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors provide guidance, treatment, and support to clients dealing with behavioral issues, including eating disorders, alcoholism, or drug addiction. All of these careers require a bachelors, although a mental health and marriage counselor job position requires a master's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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