Social workers provide irreplaceable services to disabled, at-risk and underserved populations by assisting them to progress within their own environment. So many types of populations need specialized services that only social workers can provide. To become a licensed social workers, a person must have a Master of Social Work, or MSW, to qualify to test for licensure. The license, which allows social workers to provide clinical-type care, is a must to practice in the field. Find out what it takes to earn an accelerated degree in MSW, match with the best school for the individual’s needs, lifestyle and current commitments and find the resources that will help prospective social workers find success.
Prospective Master of Social Work students have a host of questions related to the length of the degree program, qualifying requirements, online availability and salary, to name a few. Here some of the most frequently asked questions about earning an MSW have been answered:
A: A master’s degree in social work, or MSW, generally takes two years to complete. However, other circumstances may make the degree obtainable in a shorter time frame, including already having a bachelor’s degree in social work and applicable credits or enrolling in an accelerated program. An MSW can then be completed in closer to a year.
A: For those interested in pursuing a Master of Social Work, having a bachelor’s degree in the field is not required. However, it should be noted that students with a BSW may be able to shorten the time it takes to obtain a master’s in the field through BSW to MSW programs or by applying previously earned credits toward coursework, where allowed.
A: According to Payscale, a person with a Master of Social Work makes an average salary of $51,000 across available careers in the field. Entry-level positions typically pay on average $40,920. MSW-holders with 20 years of experience make on average $65,710.
A: Obtaining a Master of Social Work is important to further a career in social work, providing better or more extensive care to clients, opening career advancement opportunities in a competitive business and earning a higher salary.
A: The master’s degree credit requirements vary by college or university; however, typically, required hours range from 30 to 40.
A: Yes, and this also depends on the higher education institution’s individual offerings. Students interested in a particular school should see if there are any on-campus meetings or courses required during the course of their program. Many schools offer an accelerated Master of Social Work completely online.
A: There are a host of careers and settings within social work. Job titles can include medical social worker, substance abuse counselor, child welfare case worker, school social worker and clinical mental health social worker. These social workers can be found in veteran’s affairs offices, community mental health centers, hospitals, nursing homes, in a Social Services office or counseling services office.
A: An MSW is a master’s degree that precedes becoming a licensed social worker. The MSW leads to social work wherein a worker can provide face-to-face support to a variety of people in need, from veterans to people who are homeless or abused or belong to vulnerable populations like immigrants or the LGBT community. The social worker addresses topics such as mental and emotional health in specialties like mental health, substance abuse, marriage counseling and family therapy, to name a few.
A: LCSW stands for Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and MSW stands for Master of Social Work. The MSW is a master’s degree that is required to become licensed. The licensure process requires two years of professional experience and passage of an oral and written exam, and then a person can become an LCSW.
A: Social workers typically work a full-time 40 hours a week, but may need to be available for calls on the weekends, evenings and holidays for clients or required meetings.
A: A person with a Master of Social Work can go on to provide therapy after becoming licensed. The job of a licensed social worker is much like that of a therapist but exceeds some of the boundaries. For example, a social worker could contact an outside source, such as a family member or employer, in the process of helping a client.
The courses required in an accelerated Master of Social Work program cover a broad range of topics, including cultures, disabilities, at-risk populations, death and dying and welfare, to name a few. Courses such as Human Behavior examine the basics of interactions among people, while more specialized courses like African-American Health Issues focus on factors that affect a very specific population. Students who have a specialized job goal in mind should focus on courses that fit that mold.
The five sample courses below give an overview of what types of subjects to expect to cover during the course of the Master of Social Work degree program. The subjects include social work in history, specific cultures, clinical services and more.
Political, economic and social views of welfare and the evolution of the subject are covered in this course. Students will learn what shaped the current welfare system and other countries’ responses to the poor, unemployed, sick, disabled, displaced and at-risk people.
Students are led through factors that impact people exposed to death and dying, including cultural beliefs, grief, healing and legalities. The role of social workers is examined through the end-of-life viewpoint and readies future social workers for an inevitable part of their job. Students are encouraged to think about death and dying from their own experiences, values, feelings and beliefs about the process.
Social Work & the Military: In this course, students get a look at military culture, soldiers’ and their families’ issues and needs and the role of social workers in their lives. These classes provide an understanding of military members’ background and allows social workers a better foundation for providing assistance to this population.
The Disability Studies course focuses on social justice, inclusion and ability of all people and works through the historic treatment of disabilities. Students will have a background including social issues, legislation and services related to disabled populations.
This course provides a foundation of social work skills. A broad range of topics, including social work methods, assessments, data collection and intervention, are covered within the coursework. Students are forced to think of how their own upbringing, religion, gender and other factors can affect their client relationships.
A list of five graduate-level social work scholarships are listed below. Some are available to all U.S. students, and some are location-specific. Start the scholarship search here, and also search locally for any applicable location-oriented social work program awards.
This scholarship is open to master’s degree students in social work and constitutes two awards: Osman Award and Holm Award. Each have different specifications but are awarded based on a student-written paper. Awards vary from $500-$1,000. EPICC is free to join.
Applicants for this scholarship must be Jewish and have grown up in Chicago or been a full-time resident for one year and plan to stay in the Chicago-area upon graduation. The scholarship, for college and graduate students, is awarded to those who qualify and are enrolled in a helping profession. The scholarship award if $8,000.
The Dr. Alma S. Adams Scholarship for Outreach and Health Communications to Reduce Tobacco Use Among Priority Populations, sponsored by the Truth Initiative, seeks college and graduate students who have a passion for smoking cessation and are enrolled in one of several subjects, including social work. The award for this scholarship is $5,000.
Master’s degree candidates in social work are eligible for this $5,500 scholarship. The student must demonstrate interest or experience in health or mental health practice serving African-American communities.
The Elizabeth J. Davis Scholarship is for advanced degree-earners who will work in home care settings in Vermont upon graduation. The student, a Vermont resident, must be enrolled in a certified college, which does not have to be located in Vermont, and should be enrolled in medical social work. The awards range from $1,000 to $3,000.
There are a plethora of social work-related organizations that offer a multitude of benefits to its members, including job connections, research access, scholarships and more. Some of these accept student members, to which they offer reduced rates.
EPICC is an online community for social work graduate students in the U.S. All members receive benefits including scholarship applications, e-books, online forums, student directory and mentorship for free. Premium members pay $35 to also have liability insurance. The website provides clinical journals and other relevant field information, as well as job and networking resources.
The NASW, which boasts 120,000 members nationally, promotes members’ professional growth and creation and maintenance of professional standards and social policies. Social work professionals are eligible for different membership options based on the last completed degree, with additional options for current students. Members benefit from a host of resources, including field research, professional connections and a career center.
The CSWE, founded in 1952, is a national social work education association consisting of more than 800 accredited bachelor’s and master’s social work programs and individual field educators, practitioners and agencies. CSWE provides social work education accreditation through its Commission on Accreditation. Members are privy to events, educational resources, research and statistical information, publications and student services.
THe SSWAA promotes the social growth and scholastic success of students by facilitating the school social work profession. Members benefit from discounts, research, education tools, e-news and liability insurance.
Social work research is the focus of the SSWR, which collaborates with other like organizations to improve research support. SSWR has more than 1,300 members in the U.S. and a number of other countries and represents more than 200 higher education institutions. Members benefit from job postings, free access to the Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, discounts on several other research publications and access to the Social Work Research Network. Several levels of memberships are available, including one for current students.
Find a comprehensive list of social work associations, including larger-known national associations to smaller, specialized social worker organizations that represent all factions of the field.