Accelerated Master of Social Work Programs 2021

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Accelerated MSW Programs

Social workers help vulnerable community members cope with challenges that negatively impact their well-being. They work with clients to address trauma, substance abuse, and family issues. Clinical social workers diagnose and treat mental health disorders and help patients access community resources.

Students earning a master of social work degree (MSW) acquire specialized skills for advanced practice and licensure. MSW graduates work as clinical social workers, mental health counselors, and marriage and family therapists. Social workers earn a $51,760 median salary, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS projects the profession to grow 13% between 2019-2029.

This guide ranks accelerated social work degrees. It covers other topics such as common courses for accelerated social work programs, certification requirements, and scholarship opportunities.

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Questions about Accelerated MSWs

  • What can you do with a master's degree in social work?

    Many master of social work degree-holders pursue roles as clinicians. Other options include advocates, supervisors, researchers, and administrators in human services and related organizations.

  • How long does it take to get a social work degree?

    Degree-seekers complete an MSW in two years on average. A bachelor of social work (BSW) may qualify holders for an accelerated social work program. Students could complete the degree in less than a year of full-time enrollment, or 16-24 months part time.

  • Can I get a master's in social work without a bachelor's in social work?

    Learners with a bachelor’s in another field can enter traditional standing track MSW programs. They will take a foundation year of coursework covering the BSW curriculum.

  • Can social workers do counseling?

    Licensed clinical social workers can provide clinical care such as counseling. They need an MSW and state licensure for clinical roles. Specializations such as marriage and family counseling may require additional training.

Why Get a Degree in Social Work?

The need for social workers continues to grow as more Americans require services from the helping professions. The BLS projects the field to grow by 90,700 social workers between 2019-2029. While the BLS projects 4% job growth for all occupations, social workers may experience 13% job growth in the same timeframe.

Learners can prepare for advanced job opportunities with a master of social work degree from some of the nation’s top schools. Many MSW programs offer concentrations in high-demand practice areas including child welfare, clinical social work, and hospital social work. While social workers can practice with a bachelor’s degree, they need an MSW and licensure for clinical roles in most states.

Accelerated social work programs allow BSW holders to earn an MSW while they continue their careers. Enrollees can earn an accelerated social work degree on a full- or part-time basis in 9-24 months.

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How Much Does a Social Work Degree Cost?

Total accelerated social work degree costs depend on factors such as prior college credits, school, and delivery format. A sampling of schools reveals enrollees may pay between $487-$1,995 per credit for a master of social work degree. Degree-seekers complete 30-60 credits depending on their educational background. Social workers with a BSW enter MSW programs with advanced standing, precluding a year of foundational courses.

Students can complete a master of social work degree online except for immersions and required field placement in their community. Virtual learners do not need to pay for room and board or commuting. Many colleges offer distance learners a flat tuition rate regardless of residency. Those who attend public schools tend to pay less than peers at private institutions. Individuals attending public schools in their home state pay in-state tuition, a rate significantly less than out-of-state tuition.

Calculating the Cost of a College Degree

This affordability calculator helps students determine how much they can afford to pay for an accelerated social work program. Users input information about income, tuition, financial aid, and other expenses to receive an estimate.

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How Much Do Social Work Majors Make?

Social workers’ earnings vary by factors such as their level of experience, role, and location. They earn a $51,760 median salary, according to the BLS. The lowest 10% of social workers earn about $33,020, and the top 10% can earn around $85,820. Those who become marriage and family therapists earn a $51,340 median salary.

MSW-educated social workers can make a median annual salary of $47,660 as substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors. Nonclinical social work jobs can provide career advancement and higher pay. Social and community service managers coordinate and manage different community programs. The BLS reports a $69,600 median salary and 17% projected job growth between 2019-2029 for this profession.

Other nonclinical roles such as policy analyst or research analyst serve as rewarding and well-paying careers. According to April 2021 PayScale data, these professionals make average salaries of $60,140 and $56,890, respectively.

Courses in Social Work

An MSW develops highly skilled practitioners and social work leaders. Curricula differ among accelerated social work programs, but those with Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accreditation share some common features.

Many accelerated social work degrees offer advanced standing to social workers with a CSWE-accredited BSW. Advanced standing students complete 30-45 credits of live or asynchronous classes in as little as a year. MSW course topics include human behavior and the social environment, social work practice, and social welfare policies and services.

Learners choose an advanced generalist practice or specialize in areas including child and family social work, geriatric social work, or policy practice and advocacy. Enrollees complete about 900 hours of supervised field experience with an organization in their community. Advanced standing students complete fewer hours depending on the institution. The three courses below represent a sample curriculum for an accelerated social work program.

  • Social Work Practice

    The course explores the social worker’s role, mission, and ethics. Participants examine generalist practice with individuals, families, and groups. Degree-seekers study theories and interventions used in different settings, and how to work with specific populations such as women, minorities, and the elderly.

  • Psychopathology in Clinical Practice

    The class introduces the symptoms and behaviors associated with mental health illness. Learners explore the factors that influence emotional and mental health. Enrollees examine assessment and diagnostic tools, such as the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, and learn how to develop treatment plans for clients.

  • Personnel Administration in Social Services

    Students learn how to manage personnel within human service organizations to optimize service delivery and explore various management approaches. Participants learn how to apply best practices for employee recruitment and retention, motivation, and professional development.

Certifications and Licensure for Social Work

Social workers pursue licensure and certification to demonstrate advanced education and training. Each state issues licenses for social workers to practice in the jurisdiction. Students should research their state’s specific licensing requirements. The following list outlines three certification options for social workers.

Certified Social Work Case Manager

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) allows social workers to demonstrate expertise in social work case management. Candidates need a CSWE-accredited BSW, state licensure, and 4,500 hours of professional experience.

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Certified Social Worker in Healthcare

NASW designed the C-SWHC for social workers practicing in the healthcare environment. Eligibility criteria include a CSWE-accredited master’s, state licensure, and 3,000 hours of professional practice.

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Certified Children, Youth, and Family Social Worker

NASW offers C-CYFSW for social workers who specialize in providing services to children, youth, and their families. Applicants must demonstrate a BSW, state licensure, and 1,500 hours of social work experience.

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