MSW Salary Outlook
If you hold an MSW (Master in Social Work) degree you will have the ability to change people's quality of life for the better. There are a range of different career options out there for you. Some states do allow bachelor's degree (BSW) educated social workers to work in the industry but their positions are often a lot less responsible and a lot less well-paid.
About Social Work
It will generally take you about two years to complete an MSW if you hold a BSW or some other kind of bachelor's degree. Some accelerated programs also exist for exceptional students. During your MSW courses, you will learn a specialty and you will have an opportunity to learn about clinical assessments. You will also be able to supervise others. During your degree program, you will have to take part in an internship or practicum as well.
What Jobs Does This Lead To?
Once you hold your MSW, there are a number of career options for you and these include:
• Substance Abuse. You could work in prisons, rehab facilities, charities, private practices and more. As a social worker, you will have to work with people who are going through real difficulties, and they will often take these out on you. Hence, it requires real strength of character to do this job.
• Medical and Public Health. In this area, competition is incredibly high, but there are still interesting jobs in areas such as hospitals, emergency rooms and hospices. Your role here will be liaise between patients and the services they require.
• Child Welfare. Many people automatically think of this area of work when they think of social work. Here, you will work with highly sensitive cases, specifically for children who are going through neglect, physical or sexual abuse.
• Mental Health. In all states, social workers who want to get involved in mental health have to hold a master's degree. This allows them to become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). An LCSW is able to diagnose and treat patients with mental health difficulties.
• Schools. The majority of social workers enter the school workforce. They may work with children with special educational needs or disabilities. Their role is to ensure all children are able to get the required schooling.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for all social workers across the country was $44,200 in 2012. The lowest 10% earned $27,450 and the highest 10% earned at least $72,980. However, this does not paint a true picture due to the many variations in social work. Hence, broken down into clearer categories, average salaries are $41,530 in family, schools and child social work careers; $49,830 for healthcare; $39,980 for mental health and substance abuse; and $54,560 for other social workers.
There are also great variations depending on which industry the social workers are employed in. Looking first at school, family and child social workers, the best industry for them to work in is in education, with an average salary of $54,590. The worst area is in non-profit and religious education, with an average salary of $35,910.
In healthcare, the best workplace is in a hospital at $56,290 and the worst is social assistance, with an average salary of $38,920. In mental health, the best employer is also a hospital with $47,880 and the worst is in a nursing facility where the salary is $34,950.
In most cases, social workers work full-time. Additionally, they often have to be on call during unsocial hours. This is very common in hospitals and in children's services, where crisis needs often exist. It is also very important to understand that the highest salaries are earned by those with a master's degree.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the field of social work will grow by 19% between now and 2022, which is much higher compared to other industries. This is mainly due to the fact that both healthcare and social services are changing in delivery methods. Again, there are great variations in how certain areas of social work will be growing.
Schools, family and child social workers can expect their industry to grow by 19%. Their role will be to ensure children are free from neglect and that they are able to enjoy a high quality of life. Budget constraints are significant in this area, however. Hence, it isn't clear whether the 19% growth will indeed materialize in the form of new jobs.
The healthcare field is projected to grow the most, with an expect jump of 27%. This is mainly due to the fact that we have a significantly aging population and elderly people require specialized plans to maintain their health. The drive is to keep people in their own homes longer, which means new types of care are required as well. However, there is little clarity about whether budgets will be available for this growth.
Substance abuse is likely to grow by 23% between now and 2022. This is mainly due to the fact that substance abuse is now seen as a treatable illness rather than a criminal act. The stigma on addiction is being lifted and people are now able to get treatment when they need it. Additionally, since many rehab facilities are private facilities, it is likely that this 23% increase will indeed materialize in the creation of new jobs, particularly for those who are educated at a master's degree level.