A Master of Social Work, or MSW, may be a good degree choice for those interested in helping others deal with a variety of life problems in a professional capacity. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), individuals with this degree often go on to become licensed clinical social workers, where they might work in settings like hospitals and clinics, private practices, state and local governments, and schools. Graduates of MSW programs often specialize in a specific area, such as child and family services, hospice and palliative care, mental health, and school social work.
Why complete an MSW program?
The BLS reports that MSW programs may be particularly helpful when it comes to obtaining advanced job opportunities or working in some areas such as in schools or health care, and it’s required to become a licensed clinical social worker. MSW degrees generally take two years to complete, depending on class scheduling and student aptitude, and require the completion of on-the-job experience through internships or field education before graduation (BLS.gov, 2012). Whether working with disabled veterans in a group home, or foster children in need of unique services, students who gain this supervised experience should slowly build their understanding of how to best accomplish their professional social work goals.
MSW programs: What to expect?
General coursework in MSW programs might include research and practice, psychopathology, ethical foundations, child welfare and more. Some degree programs may offer concentrations such as child and family services, health services, and management and planning.
Upon completing their MSW, students can choose to pursue their Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) certification. Typically, the LCSW requires two years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical hours beyond those already completed through an MSW program (BLS.gov, 2012). Other LCSW requirements could include passing a state-administered exam or one offered by the Association of Social Work Boards, and possibly having prior Licensed Social Worker (LSW) certification.
National career and salary outlook for social workers
The BLS projects employment for social workers could grow by up to 25 percent nationally between 2010 and 2020, which is better than the national average growth for all occupations (14 percent). Demand is predicted to be even higher in two social work fields: health care as well as mental health and substance abuse. According to the BLS, the national median salary in 2011 for child, family and school social workers was $40,680, with the top ten percent earning up to $70,050 in 2011 and the lowest 10 percent earning up to $26,190 nationally in 2011.
Those interested in learning more about the field, including new legislation, resources, and professional development, can look for further information through the American Clinical Social Work Association, the Association of Social Work Boards and the National Association of Social Workers. Detailed salary and employment data can be found through the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics program.