Masters in Social Worker (MSW) Salaries

The higher and more specialized a social work degree is, the greater influence it plays on an individual’s salary; however, educational level and speciality are not the only factors that affect pay level. Salaries of social workers vary according to years of experience, industry, locale of employment, occupational responsibility or management level, and the economy. If you are interested in pursuing an online degree, visit our full list of online masters in social work (MSW) programs.

To help prospective students and current social workers learn about salaries, we have compiled salary information, courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), for social workers in different work settings, locations, and different clients.

What is the Average Salary of a Social Worker?

Even though the salary for social workers can differ due to many factors, the BLS data on social workers reports that the average salary of a social worker in 2018 was $49,470 a year, which breaks down to $23.79 per hour. In this profession, most social workers work full time and may have to work evenings, weekends, and holidays, which may also affect income. BLS additionally reports that there is an 11% estimated growth projected for the social work field between 2018 and 2028, which may influence the median salary in the future.

Salaries Differ Among Social Work Specialties

There are a number of different specialties that a social worker may specialize in, such as family and school, mental health, or substance abuse. Each specialty may require different levels of education, certifications, or licensures. Additionally, various specialties within social work can be found across different industries and work settings, such as in a hospital, home, or private practice, which may also affect a social worker’s salary.

Below will provide an overview of social worker specialties, the difference between them, and their median salaries. However, it is important to remember that where social workers work and the population that they work with will influence final salary.

Average School Social Worker Salary

School social workers serve as links between students, parents, school staff, and the community and address concerns about students’ academic success, overall well-being and adjustment in school. Positions within schools usually require an MSW and many states require school social workers to be licensed or certified by the state education department. The average salary of a school social worker is $49,760, according to the BLS as of March 2019.

Average Clinical Social Worker Salary

Clinical social workers diagnose, treat, help clients to prevent mental illness, and help individuals address psychological, behavioral, emotional, and/or social challenges that might be affecting their quality of life. Clinical social workers must possess an MSW and complete state-specific requirements, such as post-graduate work, passing the state licensing exams, or completing specific coursework, to be able to practice. According to the BLS as of September 2019, the average salary of a clinical social worker can range from $44,840 - $63,140, depending on the clients that they may work with.

Average Medical Social Worker Salary

Medical social workers are often hired in hospitals or clinical settings to work closely with patients and family members who are experiencing mental, emotional, family and/or financial stressors due to the patient’s medical condition. Most medical social workers should have an MSW. The average salary for a medical social worker is $56,810, as reported by the BLS for May 2017.

Average Mental Health Social Worker Salary

Mental health social workers support patients that have different mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, or bi-polar disorder. It is recommended that mental health social workers have a masters degree. The BLS data on mental health and substance abuse social workers indicate that mental health social worker may earn an average of $49,630 a year, as of March 2019.

Average Community Social Worker Salary

Community social workers work within a community and partner with stakeholders, organizations, and community members to improve living conditions and other social issues that are occurring locally. Most community social workers have a bachelors or masters degree in social work and may earn the average salary of a social worker.

Average Social Work Administrator Salary

Social work administrators focus on the delivery of social services and make sure these programs and services are effective. Most social work administrator roles only need a bachelors in social work, but an MSW is recommended. The median salary for social and community managers is $65,320, reported by the BLS on September 2019.

Average Military Social Worker Salary

Military social workers work in settings where current military personnel and veterans require or seek support and counseling. It is best for those interested in working within this specialty to have their MSW from an accredited program. The salary of a military social worker may be expected to be the average salary of a social worker.

How Education and Licensing Affect Social Work Salaries

Master of Social Work (MSW) Salaries

To gain more than entry-level positions in the social work field, it is often required to have a masters in social work degree. An MSW degree may prepare students for practice in clinical settings and/or at a macro-level, where they are able to use their knowledge and skills to better the human services system. These types of roles require extra education, licensure, and perhaps certifications. Due to this commitment, those who have their MSW may take on more responsibility and will have a higher salary than their BSW co-workers who are placed in case manager or volunteer coordinator roles.

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  • Four areas of focus: Individuals and Families, Organizations and Community, Evaluation, and Policy Practice and Advocacy

  • Four Specialized Courses of Study: Child and Family, Trauma and Interpersonal Violence, Mental Health and Addictions and Health and Aging
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  • From Case Western Reserve University’s top-10 ranked School of Social Work
  • Traditional and Advanced Standing tracks available

  • Offered by USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, a top-ranked graduate school by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Features virtual and in-person field education in or near student's own communities.

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  • Specialize in clinical practice or community practice

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Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) Salaries

A licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) has the ability to diagnose and treat mental disorders. Due to the gravity of this, becoming an LCSW generally involves completing an MSW program, passing the state’s licensure exam, and completing the required courses or clinical hours needed. Individuals who are interested in community-based social work, such as program and community managers, may not need their professional licensure. Because of the additional requirements needed to treat clients, the average salary of a LCSW may be higher than their MSW-only counterpart.

Doctor of Social Work (DSW) Salaries

Individuals who have their doctorate in social work (DSW) may be ready for leadership roles, to excel in their area of practice, and/or learn about policies than may directly impact their clients. Those with this degree tend to focus in clinical social work or social work administration.

Depending on the DSW program, individuals may be able to work while attending a part-time program. If this is the case, they will be able to complete the degree in three to six years compared to full-time study, which may take two to three years. Depending on the area of work, clinical or social work administration, the salaries will differ but still may pay higher than those with their MSW

Social Worker Earnings Vary By Work Setting

Social workers have the opportunity to work with multiple types of populations in various work settings, such as schools, hospitals, private practices, and clinics. This allows for social workers to explore different settings and determine which work environment is best for them. Because the setting may influence salary, we have broken down the average salaries of social workers by industry.

Information on average salaries for social workers in the above tables was retrieved from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on November 2019.

Social Work Industry and Average Salary
Social Work Industry Social Worker Average Salary
Hospitals: State, Local, and Private $60,100
Local Government, Excluding Education and Hospitals $54,430
Ambulatory Healthcare Services $49,840
State Government, Excluding Education and Hospitals $48,590
Individual and Family Services $41,810

Social Worker Job Prospects

Best Cities to Find Work for Social Workers

As the need for social workers continue to grow, so does the employment rate and salary; however, these two things do not always coincide with each other. The cities with the highest social worker employment rates don’t always match the cities that pay the most and this can greatly influence a social worker’s decision on where in the United States to work due to cities’ cost of living.

Child, Family, and School Social Workers - Top Paying Metro Cities

Information for the above table regarding top paying metropolitan cities was retrieved from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wages Report - Child, Family, and School Social Workers.

Metropolitan Area and Annual Mean Wage
Metropolitan Area Annual Mean Wage
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT $74,010
Waterbury, CT $71,580
Hartford-West, Hartford-East, Hartford, CT $70,460
Danbury, CT $68,210
Salinas, CA $67,540

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers - Top Paying Metro Cities

Information for the above table regarding top paying metropolitan cities was retrieved from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wages Report - Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers.

Metropolitan Area and Annual Mean Wage
Metropolitan Area Annual Mean Wage
Trenton, NJ $84,990
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA $81,350
Napa, CA $79,310
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA $76,030
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA $73,720

Healthcare Social Workers - Top Paying Metro Cities

Information for the above table regarding top paying metropolitan cities was retrieved from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wages Report - Healthcare Social Workers.

Metropolitan Area and Annual Mean Wage
Metropolitan Area Annual Mean Wage
Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV $90,030
Salinas, CA $85,440
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $84,930
Lake Havasu City-Kingman, AZ $84,710
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA $83,660

All Other Social Workers - Top Paying Metro Cities

Information for the above table regarding top paying metropolitan cities was retrieved from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wages Report - All Other Social Workers.

Metropolitan Area and Annual Mean Wage
Metropolitan Area Annual Mean Wage
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $97,520
Springfield, MA-CT $85,860
Santa Rosa, CA $83,170
Urban Honolulu, HI $81,480
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $81,000

Social and Community Service Managers - Top Paying Metro Cities

Information for the above table regarding top paying metropolitan cities was retrieved from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wages Report - Social and Community Service Managers..

Metropolitan Area and Annual Mean Wage
Metropolitan Area Annual Mean Wage
Greeley, CO $99,800
Trenton, NJ $98,660
Columbia, SC $94,120
Winchester, VA-WV $93,770
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA $93,550

Projected Demand for Social Workers

The BLS data on social workers estimates that there will be an 11% job growth expectancy for social workers between 2018 and 2028. This expected growth is for all social workers and can be broken down even further if looked into specialized fields within social work.

For example, the BLS data on mental health and substance abuse social workers indicates that the career is expected to have an 18% increase in jobs and healthcare social workers are going to have an estimated 17% growth.

How Salaries For Social Workers Vary By State

Each state has a different set of requirements that social workers need to go through to become licensed to practice in the state. However, just because a state’s particular requirements are more difficult or involved, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the pay in that state will be greater.

This is something to consider when determining where to live and work, especially if the license is more difficult to receive and if it is a high cost of living state.

Social Worker Salary in California

The average salary of a social worker in California can range anywhere from $59,500 to $76,450 according to the BLS as of April 2019. Salary ranges can vary widely depending on the city and many other important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, the number of years of experience.

Learn more on how to become a social worker in California.

Social Worker Salary in Texas

The BLS reports that the average salary of a social worker in Texas can range from $40,470 to $69,070, as of April 2019. Compared to California, the average salaries for social workers living in this state are slightly lower, which may be due to the cost of living being less expensive in Texas.

Learn more on how to become a social worker in Texas.

Social Worker Salary in New York

Data from the BLS as of April 2019 shows that the average salary of a social worker in New York state can range from $58,050 to $67,120. Compared to California and Texas, New York state’s cost of living is much greater, especially in New York City. However, compared to the two states above, the average salary is somewhere in the middle of the two.

Learn more on how to become a social worker in New York.

All Social Worker Salaries By State

We referred to the BLS’s May 2018 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, to create the below table to help users easily locate the average salaries of social workers by state.

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State Child, Family, and School Social Worker Salary Healthcare Social Worker Salary Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Social Workers - All Others Salary
Alabama $40,710 $47,740 $36,700 $59,860
Alaska $48,970 $70,620 $46,420 $70,540
Arizona $39,020 $62,920 $39,390 $61,130
Arkansas $38,270 $46,310 $40,560 $49,680
California $59,500 $76,450 $61,640 $72,200
California $59,500 $76,450 $61,640 $72,200
Colorado $51,060 $52,150 $46,980 $54,600
Connecticut $69,520 $72,640 $63,290 $65,230
Connecticut $69,520 $72,640 $63,290 $65,230
Delaware $40,380 $55,870 $50,700 $60,780
District of Columbia $70,270 $72,090 $69,690 $82,900
Florida $42,640 $50,950 $44,100 $64,810
Georgia $41,040 $53,110 $39,600 $67,630
Hawaii $56,030 $66,210 $67,930 $81,790
Idaho $52,110 $56,080 $47,720 $70,610
Illinois $56,100 $52,830 $46,540 $61,640
Indiana $40,090 $51,710 $43,040 $65,010
Indiana $40,090 $51,710 $43,040 $65,010
Iowa $44,720 $51,360 $47,580 $61,460
Kansas $42,510 $53,580 $40,900 $55,610
Kentucky $40,950 $50,340 $35,600 $58,080
Louisiana $50,690 $53,460 $40,960 $57,380
Maine $52,130 $52,830 $56,000 $52,360
Maryland $59,280 $58,350 $53,780 $67,810
Massachusetts $48,670 $61,960 $43,270 $75,340
Michigan $50,620 $56,830 $50,060 $60,120
Minnesota $50,620 $56,830 $50,060 $60,120
Mississippi $35,100 $48,080 $41,470 $55,240
Missouri $37,680 $46,370 $38,880 $59,730
Montana $38,210 $49,570 $37,950 $43,980
Nebraska $41,560 $48,230 $41,320 $61,120
Nevada $52,410 $82,820 $60,540 $75,020
New Hampshire $52,920 $64,570 $57,110 $70,920
New Jersey $67,700 $64,570 $79,130 $68,630
New Mexico $41,460 $55,490 $45,260 $58,430
North Carolina $46,990 $54,730 $50,270 $57,310
North Dakota $54,870 $53,300 $53,760 $59,510
Ohio $45,030 $52,910 $44,840 $51,490
Oklahoma $36,470 $48,580 $37,380 $59,250
Oregon $51,510 $70,830 $49,380 $52,750
Pennsylvania $43,680 $53,770 $38,440 $64,260
Puerto Rico $31,500 $32,420 $29,090 $33,350
Rhode Island $61,440 $57,620 $52,730 $75,710
South Carolina $38,930 $57,660 $35,330 $45,610
South Dakota $40,030 $43,350 $40,330 $71,330
Tennessee $41,830 $50,700 $38,180 $52,540
Texas $48,920 $59,090 $40,470 $69,070
Utah $44,160 $63,200 $45,830 $50,900
Vermont $50,270 $57,900 $42,620 $66,180
Virginia $51,880 $57,510 $51,660 $69,650
Washington $51,990 $62,180 $53,780 $73,180
West Virginia $36,430 $49,440 $33,880 $69,700
Wisconsin $52,300 $46,730 $55,950 $55,800
Wyoming $50,200 $57,270 $49,660 $56,620
Sponsored Online Social Work Programs

  • Research-driven faculty dedicated to making an impact on social problems
  • Prepares you to apply social work skills across practice settings

  • Four areas of focus: Individuals and Families, Organizations and Community, Evaluation, and Policy Practice and Advocacy

  • Four Specialized Courses of Study: Child and Family, Trauma and Interpersonal Violence, Mental Health and Addictions and Health and Aging
  • Four program tracks: Advanced Standing, Accelerated, Full-Time and Extended

  • From Case Western Reserve University’s top-10 ranked School of Social Work
  • Traditional and Advanced Standing tracks available

  • Offered by USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, a top-ranked graduate school by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Features virtual and in-person field education in or near student's own communities.

  • Ethically integrates faith and social work practice
  • Specialize in clinical practice or community practice

Sponsored Online Social Work Programs