Human Services Guide

Master of Social Work (MSW)

In the field of Human Services, few degrees offer as wide a variety of job opportunities and titles as the Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. To begin a career as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), you will first need to earn your MSW degree. Once you have your MSW you will then complete your State’s additional licensure requirements. In many fields you would need a Doctoral degree to provide clinical services. However, in the field of social work you can get licensure once you have your MSW. With an MSW you will be able to enjoy a variety of careers. These careers include: medical social work, therapy clinical social work, school social work, healthcare and educational fields. The first step towards these careers is to earn your MSW which takes place over a two year period with two distinct steps.

CSWE Accreditation is Key

When you are considering which school’s program you might want to explore, make sure that they are a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited program. In order to maintain a consistent standard of excellence, Social Work programs are evaluated by the CSWE for accreditation. The CSWE makes sure that all of its accredited universities and colleges meet or exceed certain core standards. According to the CSWE their Commission on Accreditation is responsible for developing the standards they accept which defines competent preparation on the part of the university or college. This program is administered by the CSWE Office of Social Work Accreditation who oversees the multistep process involving site visits, COA reviews and self-studies. This level of quality control ensures that state licensure boards can be certain that MSW holders have completed a program that has in place all the educational components that will be required to ensure a licensure candidate is prepared to perform clinical social work. You can find a list of CSWE accredited programs by clicking here. You may also want to learn more about the Council on Social Work Education by clicking on the link here.

Foundation and Concentration Years

Master of Social Work programs usually are completed within two years. Those two years are the foundation year and the concentration. During the foundation year, you will learn foundational concepts within the discipline such as: human behavior studies, research methods, clinical and macro practice, and social policy studies. These core concepts are explored in detail and integrated during the first year. The second year features the concentrate of your studies on a specific sub-discipline within social work. Some concentrations are on Clinical Social Work within a therapy context. One of the fastest growing sub-disciplines within social work is a focus on elder related studies; with our aging population this concentration is becoming more valued. There are some schools that focus on Social Work with children and a deeper understanding of childhood development. Other schools may offer a concentration in social justice or policy based social work.

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Licensure Will Require Experience & Passing ASWB Examinations

In social work, one of the most lucrative and flexible career paths is that of a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Different states have different benchmarks that have to be met to become a Licensed Clinical Social Work. You can see what the requirements for each state are by clicking on the state you wish to learn about by clicking here. Once you have your MSW you will then be required to show a certain amount of paid professional experience under the supervision of a LCSW in a clinical setting. Many states will require you to submit a plan on how you will gain your supervised clinical hours prior to getting the experience itself. Therefore, it is wise to look up the requirements of the state you want to have your practice in prior to your concentration year. You are very often able to use the practical clinical experience you had during your concentration year to count towards some of the supervised hours you need to become eligible for your LCSW license. After meeting the professional experience requirements – usually in the 1000’s of work hours – you will be eligible to take certain Social Work Licensure Exams (LCSW Exam).

In most states, you will be required to pass an Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) examination of either the Master or Clinical level. You can learn more about the ASWB exams here. The state social work boards of most states have decided on the standard of ASWB examinations as part of licensure. This is due to the ASWB’s wide acceptance as a benchmark for determining a candidate’s readiness for clinical social work. Once you have completed your state’s licensure requirements such as supervised experience and ASWB exams, you will be granted your license to open a private practice as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. To read more about the process of please click here to view our in-depth article on Social Work Licensure.

One Degree, Many Paths

A Master of Social Work opens up a multitude of career paths. With all the different degree concentrations, there are many directions you can take upon graduation. Here are just a few of the Human Services job titles you can hold with a Masters in Social Work:

Here are just a few of the Human Services job titles you can hold with a Masters in Social Work:

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

Median Pay for Social Workers

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics , as of May 2016, the median annual wage for social workers was $46,890 with the highest 10 percent earned more than $78,510 per year. For specific sub-disciplines of social work the median annual wages as of May 2016 were:

MSW Gives You the Freedom to Choose the Career of Your Dreams

The freedom of choice you gain from a Master’s degree is exponentially larger than what one gains from simply having a Bachelor’s degree. Having a Master’s degree also opens up the potential of joining a management team straight out of university. You may even be able to teach at certain community or junior colleges. In addition to career choice, having a Master’s degree tends to bring with it significantly higher financial benefits as well. As many states have complex educational and licensure requirements, it is important that you carefully plan your educational journey, starting your education as soon as possible to fast track your career. There is no time like the present to get started on your path towards earning your MSW.

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