Social Work

What Can I Do With a MSW Degree?

What Can I Do With a MSW Degree?
Keep in mind that earning potential changes depending on what state you work in and what kind of company or facility you work for. Image from Unsplash
Noodle Staff profile
Noodle Staff January 29, 2018

There are many opportunities to have a career that gives back to the community, but none are quite like the opportunities that exist for a social worker.

Article continues here

Social workers act, essentially, as a major backbone of society by ensuring our standards for treatment and quality of life are as optimal for each person as possible. The gratification and security that comes from knowing that you are both putting your best foot forward while also helping other and giving back to the community is a rare find in a career. Here we will cover all the potential career paths that earning a Masters in Social Work opens up for you whether you have pursued your career at a university on-campus or online.

Keep in mind that earning potential changes depending on what state you work in and what kind of company or facility you work for. So the question is:

What Can I Do With a Master’s in Social Work Degree?

  • Medical / Public Health Social Worker
  • Substance Abuse Counselor
  • Mental Health Counselor
  • Child Welfare Caseworker
  • School Social Worker
  • Clinical Social Worker

“I Want to Be A Social Worker!”

There are a couple of significant practical considerations:

- A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in social work
- A license to practice or required social work certification

Credentials vary among careers, states, and territories. Licenses include:

- Certified Social Worker (CSW)
- Clinical Social Work Associate (CSWA)
- Licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker (LAPSW)
- Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW)
- Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
- Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)
- Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)
- Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP)
- Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

Most of these licenses require a Master’s or Doctorate, along with additional coursework or clinical internships. (source)

A survey of 2017 social work graduates by the National Social Work Workforce Study found that social workers with Master’s degrees and Doctorates made substantially more than those with no advanced degree. (source)

- People with MSW degrees made $13,000-plus more than those with only BSW degrees
- MSWs make more in large cities or urban clusters
- People with doctorates earned $20,000 to $25,000 more than people with only MSW degrees

University and Program Name Learn More

Medical and Public Health Social Worker

This is one of the most popular fields which social workers go to after graduating from their respective programs and earning their MSW degrees. Health care issues frequently come hand in hand with social, financial and emotional problems – social workers in this instance try to alleviate as much distress as possible. Medical social workers are responsible for handling new admissions, health care planning, and post-treatment options to help ensure that the patient under care maintains both their physical and mental health. Becoming a medical social worker is not only a great prospect due to the fulfilling nature of the career, but it is also a growing industry with a projected job availability and salary growth in the next decade. The average, annual medical and public health social worker salary is roughly $59,000 depending on which hospital and how much experience you have.

Substance Abuse Counselor

This job title is self-explanatory – these type of social workers coach and mentor patients who are struggling with addiction, whether it be from drugs to alcohol. Substance abuse counselors and social workers are specifically trained to identify problem areas and come up with effective and planned solutions to help overcome the deeper psychological issues that are feeding their addiction. Frequently these type of problems come hand in hand with mental issues so social workers of this arena learn how to work with many different types of people. In order to be properly trained for this position, MSW grads require up to 900 hours of clinical work field experience. It is extensive, and can be grueling, but always rewarding.

Mental Health Counselors

Mental health counselors and social workers have a very similar type of work schedule and structure to substance abuse counselors. They typically work with individuals who are plagued by mental illness such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety – the list goes on. Social workers in this field are trained to administer psychotherapy to their patients. Many mental illnesses today go unrecognized – it is the social workers job to identify the underlying mental illness that is causing whatever social or practical issues that are manifesting in daily life. The average salary for a mental health social worker in this position is roughly $42,000 with a 31% job growth expectation.

Child Welfare Caseworker

Child welfare social workers focus specifically on children who are in need of direct emotional, physical or practical help. Usually this means working with children who are disabled, homeless, in foster care or have suffered abuse or neglect at the hands of their parents. This can be for an assortment of reasons, but mostly results in needing intervention and hep by a professional. Welfare caseworkers deal with the most vulnerable members of our community, which can be an emotionally taxing job. Again, however, the reward of helping young ones who could not otherwise help themselves makes the tougher aspect of the job worth it.

School Social Worker

School social workers work in educational institutional settings and are essentially a resource for the school’s students to help with the emotional and mental well-being of thee pupils. This ranges from elementary students to university students. The help with problem solving and counseling, and are also a great resource for parents, teachers, and other school staff.

Clinical Social Worker

Like mental health and addiction counselors, clinical social workers implement the learned pedagogy and methodology to help people overcome mental, social and other obstacles that present at different times in their life. The main difference between a clinical social worker and a non-clinical worker in the same field is that clinical social workers have the power to diagnose mental illnesses through the implementation of certain evaluations. Other kinds of social workers work with patients who have already been diagnosed with a mental illness.

Clinical social workers often work on preventative methods, diagnoses and treatment plans. The direct patient care aspect of this job is what makes it “clinical” as opposed to “non-clinical”. There are also opportunities to open and run your own private practice to treat and counsel patients as a social worker, but there are just a few restrictions in terms of the extent of treatment power and diagnoses. This is a great chance for people who are interested in social work to be their own office and be in full control of their working hours.

Questions or feedback? Email

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

To learn more about our editorial standards, you can click here.


You May Also Like To Read

Categorized as: Social WorkSocial Work & Counseling & Psychology