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

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

Mastering in social work is an excellent way to become a leader, organizer, or administrator in the areas of social services and public outreach. As a social work master, you’ll build critical leadership and organizational skills while training in the provision of social services, distribution of resources for social welfare, and intervention with vulnerable groups. You’ll advance skills in areas such as counseling, case work, rehabilitation, and more. Your advanced degree in social work can pave the way to becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) or to work as a school counselor, healthcare administrator, or community service manager.

Just getting started in the field? Check out our look at the social work major to find out how you can get an undergraduate degree in social work.

If you’re ready to earn your graduate degree at one of the most prestigious schools in the world, get started with a look at the Most Influential Schools in Social Work.

Or read on to find out what you can expect as a social work master.

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Why get a master’s degree in social work?

While a bachelor’s degree in social work may allow you to work in addiction counseling or community organization, a master’s degree is required if you plan to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). An advanced degree also provides a wider range of leadership opportunities and improves your earning potential. Rising to a position of clinical service or leadership gives you the opportunity to have a profound impact on many lives, especially for those who are at-risk, disadvantaged or otherwise in need.

Through methods like outreach, activism, and policy development, social work masters have the opportunity to change the lives of many for the better. Today, top influencers in social work are making strides in Children’s Care, Disability Rights, Substance Use Disorders, and much more.

Learn more about these and other top influencers in the social work field today!

How can I qualify to get a master’s degree in social work?

Some social work master’s programs may require you to complete a Graduate Record Examination (GRE), which measures reading comprehension, verbal, and mathematical skills. Some programs may require you to meet a certain scoring threshold while others may merely require that you complete the exam. These requirements will vary from one Social work master’s program to the next.

For testing tips, check out our Guide to the GRE.

If no GRE is required, the primary requirement for gaining eligibility into a Social work master’s program is completion of a bachelor’s degree from a properly accredited undergraduate school. In order to ultimately become a licensed social worker, you will need to earn both your undergraduate degree and your graduate degree from schools with programmatic accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Additionally, most regionally-accredited graduate schools will require that your bachelor’s degree be granted by a regionally-accredited college or university.

Some colleges may offer bundled bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, where you could earn your advanced degree in one continuous five-year program. This option could save you time and money if you already know that you’ll be pursuing your advanced degree. However, the accelerated pace of such a program may make this a challenging way to earn both degrees. Find out if your school offers this bundling option and ask about eligibility requirements. But be sure you’re up to the added challenge!

For any additional questions about eligibility, refer to your intended program and learn more about application requirements and any additional requirements such as work experience, academic performance thresholds, and referrals.

If you’re still working on building your qualifications, check out our look at the Social work Major to find out how you can get an undergraduate degree in social work.

What kinds of social work degrees are there?

A bachelor’s degree in social work may give you the opportunity to work in various areas of social services, public outreach, crisis intervention, and more. However, in order to become a licensed social worker and to provide these services in a clinical setting such as a hospital or mental health facility, you would need to earn an advanced degree. This is also an important credential if you plan to work as a counselor in an educational setting. The following advanced degrees in social work will qualify you for these and other opportunities.

  • Master of Social Work: This advanced degree, which typically requires two years for completion, will provide you with a strong skill set for leadership in the social services, and can qualify you to provide mental health or counseling support at the clinical level. Your master’s degree will give you the opportunity to choose an area of specialization on your way to a career as a school counselor, community service manager, healthcare administrator, and more.
  • PhD in Social Work: This terminal degree will require between three and five years for completion, and can qualify you to conduct or lead research for a government agency, think tank, or non-profit foundation. You would also be qualified to teach social services as a full professor at a postsecondary institution.

What are some popular social work specializations?

The specialization you choose will depend on the setting where you hope to apply your training. Whether you’re interested in working in a healthcare setting, a public school system, a public health agency, or a policy analysis group, there is a social work specialization that can help advance the relevant skills and knowledge.

Notable specializations include:

  • Human Services
  • Community Organization and Advocacy
  • Public Administration
  • Public Policy Analysis
  • Education Policy Analysis
  • Health Policy Analysis
  • International Policy Analysis
  • Public Policy Analysis
  • Youth Services/Administration

What courses will I take as a social work master?

Your specialization will determine many of the courses you’ll take as a social work major. Likewise, you will be required to take a number of requisite courses on foundational topics such as Social Policy and Clinical Practice. But you’ll also have a chance to shape your advanced degree program around your professional goals and personal interests.

Common social work courses include:

  • Human Behavior and the Environmental
  • Family Therapy
  • Theory and Practice of Counseling
  • Project Planning and Management
  • Social Work Research and Social Statistics
  • Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counseling
  • Organizational Planning in Public Services
  • Critical Race Theory
  • Social Services for Aging and the Elderly

Is a master’s degree in social work worth it?

With so many vulnerable Americans facing unprecedented challenges today, the need for qualified social workers has never been greater. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of social work jobs is projected to grow at a remarkable rate of 13% by 2029. With 90,700 new jobs expected during that time, opportunities abound for professional social workers. And according to the BLS, there is a noteworthy wage premium for those who earn an advanced degree. Bachelors in Social Work earn a median annual wage of $40,000, as compared to $50,000 for those with a master’s degree in social work.

Career Outlook for Students with Social Work Degree

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Social Work

Degree Level: Master's

  • Location: The U.S. (Private Schools)
  • Avg. Starting Salary*: $48,037
  • Avg. Salary after 4 Years*: $55,568
  • * denotes ‘annually’

Career Salaries

CareerJob GrowthAvg. Salary
Social and Community Service Managers9.08%$69,922
Social Work Teachers, Postsecondary3.87%$68,936
Social Workers, All Other6.58%$59,282
Healthcare Social Workers9.61%$57,884
Marriage and Family Therapists14.89%$56,093

Average Career Salaries

Bottom 10%MedianTop 10%

Promising Job Markets

StateCost of LivingAvg. Salary
#2 Michigan15% higher than average$61,990
#3 North Carolina11% higher than average$61,594
#4 Minnesota4% higher than average$65,555
#5 New York5% higher than average$71,319
#6 Virginia5% higher than average$64,262

Top Industries

IndustryAvg. Salary
Social and Community Service Managers$69,922
Social Work Teachers, Postsecondary$68,936
Social Workers, All Other$59,282

What are the top jobs with a master’s in social work degree?

Your social work master’s degree can lead to a wide range of career opportunities in counseling, social services, and public outreach. Your master’s degree will also qualify you to begin earning a license for clinical practice. Typically, sitting for your licensing exam will require both the completion of your master’s degree program and subsequent accumulation of between two and three years of professional experience working under a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Earning a master’s degree in social work can start you on the path to a range of leadership opportunities, including these top jobs:

Curious how far you could go with a master’s degree in social work? Start with a look at the top influencers in the field today!


Now that you know how to earn a masters in social work, check out The Most Influential Schools in Social Work:

Check out the full list here and get started on your path to an advanced social work degree.

And if you’re still shopping for the right college, be sure to bookmark our Resources on critical issues like Accreditation, Scholarships, Financial Aid, and more!

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