What Can I Do with an MSW Degree? MSW Career Paths

If you are considering pursuing a Master’s in Social Work (MSW), it’s important to consider what you can do with your degree. Career options may include becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW), mental health social worker, school social worker, military social worker and more. 

This guide will discuss the different career options available to you after completion of an MSW, as well as potential career outlook and salaries. It will also cover what to expect when pursuing your master’s degree, additional degrees you can earn beyond the MSW, and how you can choose a program that will help you meet your career goals. 

Ultimately, pursuing an MSW is an important decision. Before you make your mind up, do well to make use of resources guides like this one and research potential outcomes of obtaining the degree so you can make a choice that’s right for you.

Sponsored Online Social Work Programs

Howard University

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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

University of Denver

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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

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

Aspiring direct practitioners can earn their MSW online from Simmons University in as few as 16 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: 16 months

University of Southern California

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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. The Advanced Standing track can be completed in as little as 1 year. USC offers virtual and in-person field education, and students focus on adults, youth or social change.

  •  Minimum completion time: 12 months with a BSW 
  • Online classes taught by USC faculty 
  • Virtual field training to build skills and confidence

Syracuse University

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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

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

Career Paths for MSW Degree Holders

After completing an MSW, you may pursue a range of licensed career positions in the social work field and work in a variety of different settings. Two types of licenses you may pursue after earning your MSW degree include the following:

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): As a licensed clinical social worker, you may focus on diagnosing and treating patients with mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. LCSWs may work in client-centered settings such as hospitals, mental health clinics, rehabilitation centers, schools, and private practices. LCSWs are required to have an MSW, complete a certain number of clinical training hours, and obtain licensure from the state they choose to practice in. 

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW): Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)s may practice social work in a non-clinical capacity. They work with individuals, families, groups, and communities to provide services such as case management, public assistance, and social advocacy. LMSWs might work under the supervision of other professionals who may provide clinical care. LMSWs are required to have an MSW, pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam, and fulfill specific state licensure requirements.

The setting you work in and the population you work with can vary widely—making social work a diverse field. Below is a list of some common career paths a social worker may pursue:

  • Mental Health Social Worker: Once you become a mental health social worker, you may focus on employing evidence-based interventions to people living with a variety of mental health conditions. They work to restore, promote, and maintain mental health in the individuals and groups they work with. Some MSW programs offer specializations in this area so you can take relevant coursework. 
  • School Social Worker: School social workers act as a link between schools, students, families, and communities. They may work on case management, child advocacy, special education assessment, staff training, conflict resolution, and more. They help to foster student success by helping them overcome social and academic obstacles. 
  • Military Social Worker: If you choose to become a military social worker, you may assist veterans and active service members in receiving care and support that meets their needs. Military social workers help individuals and their families deal with the psychological, social, and physical issues unique to military lifestyles. They may provide support before, during, or after deployment on a range of issues such as financial planning, managing transitions, and crisis intervention. 
  • Medical Social Worker: Medical social workers work in health care settings such as hospitals and long-term care facilities to help patients and their families navigate the healthcare system. They may focus on alleviating the social, emotional, psychological, and financial burdens that patients may face in medical settings. They often work as part of an interdisciplinary team to provide the best care to patients. 
  • Geriatric Social Worker: Using their expertise in legislation, policies and social programs that impact older patients, these types of social workers serve and support the aging population in a variety of settings that include hospitals, hospices, outpatient health care centers, and more.  

Career Outlook and MSW Salaries

Before you decide to find employment in the field of social work, you may want to consider earning potential and job outlook. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of social workers is expected to grow by 13% from 2019 to 2029—a much higher growth rate than most other occupations. The median annual salary for social workers is $50,470, based on 2019 data from the BLS. 

While the figures above represent career outlook and salary for the general field of social work, differences exist between states and among specific social work careers. Mental health and substance abuse social workers have the highest projected growth rate, with a 17% increase expected between 2019 and 2029. According to the BLS, states with the highest employment levels for social workers are California, New York, and Florida. The states with the highest annual mean salary are Hawaii ($81,520), Rhode Island ($74,520), and Massachusetts ($74,390). 

To learn more about the various factors that affect social worker pay, explore our Master of Social Work salary guide

Should I Obtain an MSW Degree?

Deciding whether or not to pursue an MSW degree depends on your career and educational goals, what kind of programs fit your lifestyle needs, and how much time you are willing to dedicate to your Master of Social Work program

The length of time it takes to earn an MSW depends on your educational background and enrollment status. Students who have bachelor’s degrees in social work may be eligible for advanced standing programs, which allow you to complete the program in as little as one year. Students who do not have backgrounds in social work and who enroll in regular programs may expect their MSW to take about two years. Whether you choose to study part-time or full-time will also impact the length of time to graduation.

Many universities offer master’s in social work online programs, as well as on-campus, or hybrid options so you can choose the type of program that best suits your needs and goals. Some schools offer specialized programs, such as clinical social work programs, which may be a suitable option if you wish to become an LCSW. Admissions requirements may also play a role in determining which program best meets your needs—some MSW programs don’t require GRE scores for admission. 

Sponsored Online Social Work Programs

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

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 16 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: 16 months

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. The Advanced Standing track can be completed in as little as 1 year. USC offers virtual and in-person field education, and students focus on adults, youth or social change.

  •  Minimum completion time: 12 months with a BSW 
  • Online classes taught by USC faculty 
  • Virtual field training to build skills and confidence

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

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 Else Can I Do with an MSW Degree?

As discussed in the sections above, obtaining an MSW may provide you with a variety of career options. However, there are other educational paths to pursue once you’ve earned an MSW. Namely, completing an MSW can set you on the pathway toward a doctoral degree in social work. 

There are two types of doctorate programs available to those with an MSW—Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs and Doctor of Social Work (DSW) programs. Ph.D. programs tend to focus on research and preparing students for a career in academia, while DSW programs emphasize preparing students for a professional career in the field. If you decide to pursue a postgraduate degree, choose the program that best aligns with your individual career goals. 

Last updated October 2020.