Masters Degree in Social Work

A masters degree in social work, or MSW, offers students the opportunity to register as a state-licensed social worker throughout the U.S. This graduate degree is typically required by positions involving clinical counseling work in health care, rehabilitation and educational settings. Some students choose to first complete an undergraduate degree in social work, returning to pursue a graduate degree following a few years of employment in the field.

Reasons for Earning a Masters Degree in Social Work

Students who are interested in working with individuals, families and groups in a variety of settings may be interested in a graduate degree in social work. This credential qualifies candidates for various human service jobs such as adoption case managers, counselors and substance abuse workers within government, nonprofit and private agencies.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for social workers will continue to grow at a faster rate than the overall job market (http://onlinemsw.bu.edu/online-social-work-masters-degree-courses). The fastest growth is expected to be among medical social workers, followed by specialists in mental health and substance abuse. As of May 2008, the median annual wages for non-specified social workers was $46,220.

Career Opportunities for Individuals With a Masters in Social Work Degree

Candidates who hold a MSW will be qualified for most social work positions, as a graduate degree is the most common qualification required by both state licensing boards and employers. Social workers are usually employed by schools, detention facilities, health and welfare organizations and governments.

Coursework for Masters Level Social Work Programs

Courses offered within a master’s degree in social work program generally focus on issues of human behavior, development and psychology. The program may also provide instruction in social issues such as gender, race, welfare and child protection laws. (http://onlinemsw.bu.edu/online-social-work-masters-degree-courses). Some universities include a field placement as a component of this graduate degree, with students working directly with clients under the supervision of a licensed social worker.

Online Masters Degree in Social Work

Requirements for entry into an online master’s degree in social work usually include an undergraduate degree in social work or a related discipline, such as sociology, law or health care (http://socialwork.une.edu/admissions-process/). Candidates also need to successfully pass a criminal record check and have personal references from professionals in the field of human services.

Depending on the university and the course scheduling, the program may take between one to three years to complete and can include a combination of online coursework and local field internships (http://www.bu.edu/ssw/academics/online/).


National Association of Social Workers: http://www.naswdc.org/

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm

University of New England: http://socialwork.une.edu/

Boston University: http://onlinemsw.bu.edu/msw-overview