A Master of Social Work (MSW) degree is a specialized degree in the field of social work. Those who earn an MSW degree are more competitive in the job market and are more qualified to advance in the field. This degree offers many professional opportunities; for example, an MSW degree will pave the way to becoming a licensed clinical social worker. As a candidate with an MSW, you will be more desirable in the job market, be able to pursue more positions, and have more opportunities for advancement. Those who decide to pursue this degree can work in the medical, education and mental health fields, to name a few.
What Are the Requirements for an MSW Degree?
A Master of Social Work degree can open many doors and career opportunities. When looking into completing an MSW degree, there are many factors to take into consideration, such as admission requirements, core concepts and coursework, social work licensure and job prospects.
To pursue an MSW degree you need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. As it’s the case when applying to a bachelor’s program, most MSW schools have a minimum GPA requirement. Some schools also require an essay, which is to be submitted together with personal and professional references. Additionally, certain schools require a specific number of undergraduate credits from core subjects, such as liberal arts. You will also need to submit your GRE test score.
If you recently obtained your bachelor’s diploma in social work, you may qualify for an advanced standing program, which gives you the option to complete the master’s degree in just one year.
Which Courses Are Part of the Curriculum?
The list of courses that you could be taking during a Master of Social Work degree is long. The program begins with introductory courses that focus on human behavior, social policy and clinical practice. Following these, the courses will be more in-depth and specialized. Concentrations vary among colleges, but some specializations include children, families, youth, health and aging societies. Some of the more specific course offered in MSW programs include:
– Introduction to Social Work
– Human Behavior and the Environment
– Death and Dying
– Dynamics of Racism and Oppression
– Assessment and Diagnosis
– Couple and Family Therapy
– Field Study
– Strategic planning for Public and Nonprofit Organizations
– Substance Abuse: Alcohol and other Drugs
– Social Work Services for Older Adults
After completing the coursework required for an MSW degree, you will sit the licensing exam by the Association of Social Work Boards. It is necessary to pass this exam to receive your licensed Master of Social Work certification. Regulations will vary from state to state, so check your state’s specific requirements from your local social work regulatory board.
Individuals looking to enhance their qualifications further should consider becoming a licensed clinical social worker. This certification requires two to three years of work experience after receiving an MSW degree.
What Jobs Can You Access with an MSW Degree?
Demand for social workers with a master’s degree in mental health, substance abuse and the healthcare industry is high. The employment of social workers is expected to grow by 11 percent. Many career paths can open after obtaining your degree, but these are the most common and rewarding ones:
1. Healthcare Social Worker: A healthcare worker will work in a clinic or hospital to help patients understand and adjust to their conditions. A healthcare worker often works with doctors to educate patients, families and caretakers.
2. Community Health Workers and Administrators: These social workers use their background in public health to disseminate information on health that affects the community. A community health worker educates about health issues that affect community members, helping them prevent ailments or find the proper treatment.
3. Clinical Social Worker: A typical career path for holders of MSW degrees is to become clinical social workers. Depending on their specialization, these professionals work directly with families, couples and groups, assessing, diagnosing and treating their conditions. These social workers help their clients find resources and services to cope with the challenges and issues they are facing.
4. Public Health Administrator: A public health administrator typically works with nonprofits or government agencies, managing policies to address any public and community health issues. A public health administrator provides information to prevent and treat health problems at the local, state, regional and even national levels.
Where Are the Best Places to Earn an MSW Degree?
Along with in-person, full-time degrees, you can complete your Master of Social Work online. Students choose online programs because they are cheaper and more flexible. An online degree allows the student to maintain a good balance between their studies and other responsibilities like family or work. They can complete their coursework at their own convenience. In addition, many online degrees offer lower tuition costs than the on-campus alternative. Online programs typically work best if you have discipline and are able to motivate yourself.
Here are some of the best universities and programs to earn an MSW degree:
1. Ohio University: A Master of Social Work from Ohio University prepares you for social work in rural areas, with the program focusing on helping people in rural environments access social work. There are three different starting dates and students can finish the program in just 24 months.
2. University of Denver: Start a career that promotes social change at the University of Denver. This online program focuses on social justice and the championing of oppressed individuals, families and communities. The faculty is made up of experts in social work that care about the future of the student. With a bachelor’s degree in social work, you can complete your MSW in just 18 months with an accelerated standing program. A GRE score is not required for admission. Students admitted into the MSW program can be rewarded up to $10,000 in scholarships through the university.
3. Capella University: Students can choose between a Council on Social Work Education-accredited MSW and the MSW Advanced Standing programs. They can hone their skills and become an advanced general practitioner while learning how technology can boost their reach and efficiency. Capella University offers several scholarships, including the Doctor of Social Work scholarship which consists of $10,000.
4. Baylor University: The Diana R. Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University helps students become licensed social workers. Aiming to “prepare aspiring social workers who are called to a life of service, compassion, and leadership,” the university gives students the opportunity to enroll in either a standard or advanced program depending on their undergraduate degree. The degree, which is offered online, can be completed in 12 to 16 months, and students are given access to community internships.
5. Fordham University: Ranked in the top 25 in the US News & World Report’s 2019 list of top social work graduate schools, Fordham University allows students to attend online classes and get hands-on experience through community placements. The MSW offers advanced standing degrees for those who have already completed their bachelor’s in social work, alongside full-time and part-time options. Students can choose courses based on their interests and work with a variety of groups, including families, individuals, and organizations.
Salary Prospects for MSW Degree Holders
A master’s degree in any field is a large time and money commitment. So, wondering if it’s worth it is only natural. The good news is that an MSW degree is very likely to increase your income substantially. With your diploma in hand, you can consider a host of positions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with a master’s in social work earn 25 percent more than those with just a bachelor’s degree. The top 10 percent of wages in social work reaches almost $80,000 a year. Jobs in the public sector can pay much more. Social workers employed by the Department of Public Defense bring home a salary of $91,263 a year.