Master’s 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. But educational level and speciality are not the only factors that affect pay level. 

Salaries for 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, learn more about online Master of 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 handling different work settings, locations and client needs.

Sponsored Online Social Work Programs

University of Southern California

info

Master of Social Work (MSW)

The MSW@USC is the online Master of Social Work from top-ranked USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. USC offers virtual and in-person field education, and students focus on adults, youth or social change.

  •  Minimum completion time: 16 months
  • Online classes taught by USC faculty 
  • Virtual field training to build skills and confidence

University of Denver

info

Master of Social Work (MSW)

The University of Denver’s Online MSW Program is delivered by its top-ranked school of social work and offers two programs. Students can earn their degree in as few as 12 months for the Online Advanced-Standing MSW or 27 months for the Online MSW.

  • Complete the Online Advanced-Standing MSW in as few as 12 months if you have a BSW; if you do not have a BSW, the Online MSW Program may be completed in as few as 27 months.
  • No GRE Required
  • Mental Health and Trauma or Health, Equity and Wellness concentrations

Fordham University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

Fordham’s skills-based, online MSW program integrates advanced relevant social work competencies, preparing students to serve individuals and communities while moving the profession forward. This program includes advanced standing and traditional MSW options.

  •  Traditional and advanced standing online MSW options are available.
  • There are four areas of focus: Individuals and Families, Organizations and Community, Evaluation, and Policy Practice and Advocacy.
  • Pursue the degree on a full-time or part-time track.

Simmons University

info

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Aspiring direct practitioners can earn their MSW online from Simmons University in as few as 12 months. GRE scores are not required, and the program offers full-time, part-time, accelerated, and advanced standing tracks.

  • Prepares students to pursue licensure, including LCSW 
  • Full-time, part-time, and accelerated tracks 
  • Minimum completion time: 12 months

Syracuse University

info

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Syracuse University’s online Master of Social Work program does not require GRE scores to apply and is focused on preparing social workers who embrace technology as an important part of the future of the profession. Traditional and Advanced Standing tracks are available. 

  • Traditional and Advanced Standing tracks
  • No GRE required
  • Concentrate your degree in integrated practice or clinical practice

Baylor University

info

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Complete the Master of Social Work online program at Baylor University in as few as 12 months. Serve populations in Texas and around the world while ethically integrating faith and social work practice. No GRE required.

  • Address injustice from a strengths-based perspective
  • Ethically integrates faith and social work practice
  • Serve as a trusted resource for clients, no matter their personal background
  • Complete the MSW online program in as few as 12 months

Howard University

info

Master of Social Work (MSW)

The online Master of Social Work program from Howard University School of Social Work prepares students for advanced direct or macro practice in culturally diverse communities. Two concentrations available: Direct Practice and Community, Administration, and Policy Practice. No GRE. Complete in as few as 12 months.

  • Concentrations: Direct Practice and Community, Administration, and Policy Practice
  • Complete at least 777-1,000 hours of agency-based field education
  • Earn your degree in as few as 12 months

Case Western Reserve University

info

Master of Social Work (MSW)

In as few as a year and a half, you can prepare for social work leadership by earning your Master of Social Work online from Case Western Reserve University’s school of social work.

  • CSWE-accredited
  • No GRE requirement
  • Complete in as few as one and a half years

info SPONSORED

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 median salary of a social worker in 2020 was $51,760 a year, which breaks down to $24.88 per hour. In this profession, most social workers are full-time employees and may have to work evenings, weekends and holidays, which may also affect income. BLS additionally reports that there is an 13% estimated growth projected for the social work field between 2019 and 2029.

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.

Salary information for the careers below was retrieved as of April 2021 from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Average School Social Worker Salary

School social workers serve as links between students, parents, school staff and the community, and they 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 mean annual salary of child, family, and school social workers is $52,370.

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 mean annual salary for healthcare social workers is $60,470.

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 around 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 may be required to have a master’s 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 may obtain a higher salary than their BSW co-workers who are often in roles supervised by graduate level social workers.

Sponsored Online Social Work Programs

University of Southern California

info

Master of Social Work (MSW)

The MSW@USC is the online Master of Social Work from top-ranked USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. USC offers virtual and in-person field education, and students focus on adults, youth or social change.

  •  Minimum completion time: 16 months
  • Online classes taught by USC faculty 
  • Virtual field training to build skills and confidence

University of Denver

info

Master of Social Work (MSW)

The University of Denver’s Online MSW Program is delivered by its top-ranked school of social work and offers two programs. Students can earn their degree in as few as 12 months for the Online Advanced-Standing MSW or 27 months for the Online MSW.

  • Complete the Online Advanced-Standing MSW in as few as 12 months if you have a BSW; if you do not have a BSW, the Online MSW Program may be completed in as few as 27 months.
  • No GRE Required
  • Mental Health and Trauma or Health, Equity and Wellness concentrations

Fordham University

info

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Fordham’s skills-based, online MSW program integrates advanced relevant social work competencies, preparing students to serve individuals and communities while moving the profession forward. This program includes advanced standing and traditional MSW options.

  •  Traditional and advanced standing online MSW options are available.
  • There are four areas of focus: Individuals and Families, Organizations and Community, Evaluation, and Policy Practice and Advocacy.
  • Pursue the degree on a full-time or part-time track.

Simmons University

info

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Aspiring direct practitioners can earn their MSW online from Simmons University in as few as 12 months. GRE scores are not required, and the program offers full-time, part-time, accelerated, and advanced standing tracks.

  • Prepares students to pursue licensure, including LCSW 
  • Full-time, part-time, and accelerated tracks 
  • Minimum completion time: 12 months

Syracuse University

info

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Syracuse University’s online Master of Social Work program does not require GRE scores to apply and is focused on preparing social workers who embrace technology as an important part of the future of the profession. Traditional and Advanced Standing tracks are available. 

  • Traditional and Advanced Standing tracks
  • No GRE required
  • Concentrate your degree in integrated practice or clinical practice

Baylor University

info

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Complete the Master of Social Work online program at Baylor University in as few as 12 months. Serve populations in Texas and around the world while ethically integrating faith and social work practice. No GRE required.

  • Address injustice from a strengths-based perspective
  • Ethically integrates faith and social work practice
  • Serve as a trusted resource for clients, no matter their personal background
  • Complete the MSW online program in as few as 12 months

Howard University

info

Master of Social Work (MSW)

The online Master of Social Work program from Howard University School of Social Work prepares students for advanced direct or macro practice in culturally diverse communities. Two concentrations available: Direct Practice and Community, Administration, and Policy Practice. No GRE. Complete in as few as 12 months.

  • Concentrations: Direct Practice and Community, Administration, and Policy Practice
  • Complete at least 777-1,000 hours of agency-based field education
  • Earn your degree in as few as 12 months

Case Western Reserve University

info

Master of Social Work (MSW)

In as few as a year and a half, you can prepare for social work leadership by earning your Master of Social Work online from Case Western Reserve University’s school of social work.

  • CSWE-accredited
  • No GRE requirement
  • Complete in as few as one and a half years

info SPONSORED

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, such as an online LCSW 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) from an on-campus or online DSW program may be ready for leadership roles, to excel in their area of practice and/or learn about policies that 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 Salaries 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.

Social Work IndustrySocial Worker Median Salary
Local Government, Excluding Education and Hospitals
$57,660
Ambulatory Healthcare Services
$52,850
State Government, Excluding Education and Hospitals
$49,860
Individual and Family Services
$43,820

Information on average salaries for social workers in the above table was retrieved from the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook – Social Workers in April 2021.

Social Worker Job Prospects

Top Paying Cities to Find Work for Social Workers

As the need for social workers continues to grow, so does the employment rate and salary, but 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

Metropolitan AreaNumber of Child, Family, and School Social WorkersAnnual Mean Wage
Trenton, NJ
350
$76,020
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
1,190
$73,490
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
6,540
$70,940
Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT
2,260
$68,510
Danbury, CT
250
$67,870

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.

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

Metropolitan AreaNumber of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social WorkersAnnual Mean Wage
Madera, CA
40
$92,870
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA
170
$91,480
Santa Rosa, CA
230
$89,730
Napa, CA
100
$88,230
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA
50
$87,540

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.

Healthcare Social Workers – Top Paying Metro Cities

Metropolitan AreaNumber of Healthcare Social WorkersAnnual Mean Wage
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
2,730
$100,410
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
910
$98,980
Salinas, CA
90
$95,690
Fresno, CA
290
$90,620
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA
120
$89,300

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

All Other Social Workers – Top Paying Metro Cities

Metropolitan AreaNumber of All Other Social WorkersAnnual Mean Wage
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
870
$99,810
Springfield, MA-CT
60
$89,340
Reno, NV
N/A
$86,860
Urban Honolulu, HI
170
$85,250
Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH
280
$83,760

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

Social and Community Service Managers – Top Paying Metro Cities

Metropolitan AreaNumber of Social and Community Service ManagersAnnual Mean Wage
Yuba City, CA
100
$96,530
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ
11,970
$95,650
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
2,450
$94,900
Trenton, NJ
420
$93,510
Decatur, IL
70
$92,830

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.

Projected Demand for Social Workers

The BLS data on social workers estimates that there will be a 13% job growth expectancy for social workers between 2019 and 2029. This expected growth is for all social workers and can be broken down even further if looked into specialized fields within social work.

Social Worker TitleProjected Growth – PercentProjected Growth – Number
Child, Family, School Social Workers
12%
40,100
Healthcare Social Workers
14%
26,700
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
17%
20,700
Social Workers, All Other
5%
3,200

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.

All Social Worker Salaries By State

We referred to the BLS’s May 2020 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates to create the below table to help users easily locate the average salaries of social workers by state.


State
Child, Family, and School Social Worker SalaryHealthcare Social Worker SalaryMental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker SalarySocial Workers, All Other Salary
$44,150
$48,310
$37,850
$62,390
$59,130
$62,390
$56,810
$74,510
$43,720
$60,860
$42,650
$62,630
$42,440
$53,370
$41,170
$50,590
$58,450
$83,000
$73,150
$73,620
$54,210
$58,010
$47,950
$57,870
$68,230
$71,850
$66,500
$64,060
$40,390
$52,950
$51,710
N/A
$71,840
$76,100
$73,490
N/A
$45,490
$54,250
$44,740
$52,770
$44,620
$51,730
$44,640
$75,410
Guam
N/A
$49,540
N/A
$53,800
$57,070
$73,410
$55,920
$85,740
$50,010
$57,620
$50,560
$65,650
$58,080
$56,640
$59,520
$73,580
$42,680
$55,810
$46,820
$67,650
$50,580
$53,850
$49,610
$61,140
$47,040
$57,550
$45,270
$70,800
$42,770
$52,310
$45,820
$60,510
$47,140
$55,450
$42,810
$62,270
$60,140
$56,790
$57,800
$56,540
$61,470
$60,150
$55,260
$67,360
$52,760
$62,640
$49,270
$84,540
$51,880
$57,950
$50,160
$57,790
$57,570
$57,960
$63,510
$63,910
$36,800
$48,260
$41,850
$56,080
$37,770
$49,050
$43,930
$65,980
$41,550
$51,900
$38,820
$44,790
$41,450
$50,550
$35,710
$62,580
$54,860
$66,120
$60,620
$82,410
$54,280
$66,010
$62,700
$71,790
$71,110
$64,630
$91,070
$71,680
$47,590
$58,650
$51,420
N/A
$63,740
$61,510
$64,750
$72,210
$48,670
$57,670
$56,530
$60,620
$58,300
$56,100
$51,700
$68,220
$48,530
$57,020
$47,830
$55,910
$39,980
$51,870
$42,920
$64,770
$54,380
$75,730
$49,700
$55,160
$46,110
$57,400
$39,510
$62,450
Puerto Rico
$30,850
$34,510
$29,700
$38,240
$65,430
$69,600
$65,430
$79,720
$43,610
$57,790
$38,970
$50,470
$41,940
$45,430
$41,260
$75,390
$44,090
$49,990
$43,070
$55,210
$50,390
$59,790
$45,180
$63,570
$48,450
$66,040
$50,700
$52,680
$54,030
$56,750
$48,000
$65,140
$56,590
$56,350
$52,450
$77,060
$58,340
$65,760
$55,880
$76,440
$39,080
$52,540
$42,400
$65,050
$47,330
$56,120
$50,490
$57,800
$48,700
$63,350
$49,650
$61,080

Page last updated in April 2021.