Human Services Guide
Tennessee

MSW in TN | Master of Social Work in Tennessee

Tennessee is located in the American South and has a unique culture and history. Tennessee is also a state with tremendous opportunities for a social worker with an excellent educational background. The economy has changed dramatically in many was over the course of the last decade and one of the hallmarks of this is that the American workforce is far more educated and well trained. Given this new economic reality, if you wish to remain competitive it is crucial that you continue your education until you have earned an advanced degree in your field. In the case of the social worker, the best route to ensuring a rich diversity of career options is to earn your Master of Social Work (MSW).

With a MSW you will have a wide variety of careers available to you. For example, you might want to enter a career as a permanency case manager working with the Tennessee Department of Human Services to help children and adoptive parents to create new and happy families structures. Whatever employment option you wish to pursue in human services, a Master of Social Work degree will give you an excellent resume that will help you secure a job in human services. 

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In the great state of Tennessee there are four levels of social work licensure and you will be academically eligible for all of them once you have your Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. You can find out about the step-by-step process to attain licensure in our article here. Additional information on the titles can be found at the TN Department of Health

One of the most important decisions you will make as you work towards finding your ideal career is taking the time to sift through several MSW schools and discover one that is a perfect fit for your educational and career goals. Many programs will have overlap, but some MSW programs are created to help students achieve a specific career result at the end of their program. After you have completed your degree process and been awarded your Master of Social Work (MSW) degree you will find that there are an incredible number of job possibilities now available to you. Those who are drawn to work with the elderly might wish to consider becoming a Geriatric Social Worker in a city like Chattanooga. If you would prefer working with children by ensuring their safe home environment, then a career as a Child Welfare Case Manager in Nashville might be ideal for you. If you are interested in helping a cause and showcasing your leadership skills, then finding a Non-profit whose mission matches your ethics could be a really rewarding career arc for you. Your specific goals may vary, but having your Master of Social Work (MSW) degree will enable you to achieve them.

Finding the Right School for MSW in Tennessee

Once you have determined that getting your Master of Social Work is a very important step towards realizing your occupational goals, the next step is concentrating on finding a school that is a great fit for you. An excellent way to bring your educational needs into focus is by reaching a conclusion on what you want to have as your post-graduation career. By researching and deciding on your employment goals, you can have precision in your selection process. Knowing what occupation you wish to hold helps you to concentrate on schools that have programs that will give you the appropriate skill set and knowledge for your future career. For example, if you are interested in taking advantage of the job security offered by the biggest demographic shift in decades, you might be interested in the Gerontology certificate degree concentration offered by the University of Tennessee Knoxville and similar programs. Many aspects of the various Master of Social Work curriculums are universal from school to school and program to program. Some schools such as Tennessee State University offer students who are unsure about their ultimate career plans with a balanced and broad based program such as their Advanced Generalist Social Work Practice degree concentration. As one can see, there are options both for those seeking a specialty occupation and those who want flexibility within their Social Work career.

Career Options with a MSW

After graduation when you have been granted your MSW you will find that a great diversity of jobs have no become options for you. Taking the time to investigate potential occupational routes will really help you clarify your goals and increase the likelihood of an optimal educational outcome. If you like the idea of working with professionals in the medical industry, you might enjoy a career at Caris Healthcare in Knoxville or similar employers in other cities working as a Medical Social Worker. If working with a Non-profit fits your personal ideals, you might want to consider working for Publicinterestcrossing as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (more info on licensure in Tennessee here:) in Memphis or another analogous position at a non-profit in a different Tennessee city. Here at humanservicesedu.org we have built a resource that can help you research this exact question. Below you will find a fairly short list of some of the many positions you will qualified for with an MSW. For more in-depth research consult our section on job descriptions:

  • Child Welfare Case Manager
  • Social and Community Service Manager
  • Licensed Clinical Social Work
  • Social Work Administrator
  • Aging and Disability Services Case manager
  • Social Service Screener
  • Marriage and Family Therapist
  • School Social Worker
  • Social Service Permanency Worker

MSW Programs in Tennessee

Finding the Right Program for You


There are a several important qualities you will need to analyze as you research each potential MSW program. One of the first decisions you can make is whether a “brick and mortar” physical campus such as the University of Tennessee Knoxville (Pop. 178,874) or an online program (more info on online programs below) works better for your particular situation. Some of the things that you will want to consider in this decision will include: finances, learning style, need for flexibility and area you want to inhabit. If a traditional campus experience is important to you, then you will be able to evaluate your choices based on physical location among other considerations. Once you have chosen a campus type, you can concentrate on evaluating the key attributes of the schools and programs you are considering:

  • The curriculum
  • Program accreditation (CSWE etc.)
  • Admissions requirements
  • Program prestige
  • The financial costs of the program

Of all the parts of Master of Social Work programs you are considering, none are as important as the curriculum. You will want to keep in mind that most MSW programs will have aspects of their curriculum that are universal which is especially similar to Advanced Generalist programs that are offered at schools like Tennessee State University; there are some programs that are crafted to prepare the student for a specific occupations such as the School Social Work Licensure program at University of Tennessee Knoxville which prepares its MSW students for School Social Work. Making sure that the curriculum of your MSW program teaches you the knowledge and skillset to match your employment goals is crucial to having the best outcome possible. 

Analyzing the financial costs of schools and programs is of course very important. You will want to be sure that you choose a program with tuition that is affordable to you given your personal financial situation. A good starting place example for school tuition is that of the University of Tennessee Knoxville which offers tuition of $501.00 per credit hour for in-state students and $1,512 per credit hour for out-of-state students. There are other fees, as well as text costs, supplies and room and board to be added into any analysis you are doing on the financial costs of attending a school. You will want to evaluate several schools in order to make the best possible decision.

Online MSW Degree Programs in Tennessee

There are many ways in which online schools and traditional campuses vary and these differences are worth analyzing in-depth to find one that is an excellent fit for your lifestyle and learning style. Online schools can offer impressive monetary incentives in that they often have significantly lower tuitions than their physical campus peers. Online schools usually offer a more malleable program compared with traditional campuses. Flexible class times and program completion at varying rates can be extremely helpful to some students. This kind of customization can be tremendously helpful for certain “non-traditional” students. Being able to take classes from the comfort of one’s office or home is another reason to consider online programs as this can be a particularly helpful trait for students with certain learning styles. Both kinds of programs will be helpful to certain students, which one is the best fit for you is something you will have to determine for yourself after careful review.