The social work profession is filled with people who want to improve the quality of life for individuals and communities on a whole. These professionals aim to make system-wide changes to their communities in the pursuit of social justice, and just like any helping profession, social workers seek to help people in overcoming some of the most difficult challenges we face in life.
Nevertheless, salary will always be an important consideration for anyone seeking a career. What separates social work from other options for helping professions is its focus on the person-in-environment model, and emphasis on concepts of social justice. Social workers earned around $45,900 in 2015 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Why Earn a Master’s in Social Work?
Although bachelor of science in social work programs help to develop skills for general practice, master’s programs develop both advanced and basic skills for practice. Many social workers with a master’s level degree in their chosen field will choose where to specialize their practice so that they can focus on working directly alongside couples, groups, individuals, and families. These specific social workers are focused on helping their clients to cope with a wide range of common problems that people face on a regular basis, including unemployment, poverty, addiction, disability, abuse, trauma, educational problems, and mental illness. Social workers will often offer family, individual, and group counseling solutions, alongside case management services that connect clients with different resources and providers of various services to help them achieve the outcomes they need.
Social workers will also frequently work alongside schools, nonprofit organizations, hospitals, and government agencies. They frequently work alongside individual clients, or get involved with program development and human service management solutions. Many social workers will choose to work directly with communities and governments to help them address different issues. These people are the experts that advocate for various vulnerable populations, and they often fight to end the inequalities and injustices present throughout whole communities. They engage in legislative advocacy solutions and break down barriers to drive change.
Educational Requirements for Getting a Masters in Social Work
In order to become a social worker, people must first have a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW). Usually, this can be obtained from a wide range of accredited colleges. In bachelor’s degree programs, students will learn to serve as professional social workers with families, groups, individuals, and communities, while learning all about the profession and the way it functions in real world settings.
Once a bachelor’s degree has been completed, it is time to consider master’s level degrees in the specialist subject of your choosing. You will need to apply to a program that has been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) to earn a Masters in Social Work degree. Choosing a macro concentration or clinical focus for your education may determine the field education placements and electives that you take part in, but it’s worth noting that all graduates will receive the same degree.
When deciding which path is best for your needs, keep the following points in mind:
• A BSW will give you a good foundation to start working as an entry-level social worker. Additionally, if you decide to further your education with a master’s degree, you’ll be able to apply for an advanced standing, which means that you could end up completing your education at a master’s level in only five years.
• If you have already got a bachelor’s degree in a different field, you won’t need to get a bachelor’s degree in social work. You may find that there is a position you can get in the social services field with a bachelor’s degree from another discipline, but if you would like to become a social worker, then you will need to apply for an accredited master’s program.
• If you are interested in advancing to a supervisory role and expanding your career in social work, you should think about obtaining a master’s degree. These days, many employers are looking for people with master’s level degrees for any position that is above entry-level. Even people who just want entry-level jobs will find that an MSW will open far more doors than a BSW.
• If you have an interest in working in social work at a clinical level, you will need to have a master’s level degree, as well as a license in your state.
Getting the Best Salary
Making the most of your education is key to ensuring that you get a high-paying salary in social work. Make sure that you choose courses and consider getting involved with specialized certifications based on different careers that interest you and inspire you.
Making the Most of Your Education
If you want to make sure that you are competitive when applying for the highest paying positions in social work, make sure that you expand your experience and education as much as possible. For example, make the most of your placements during practicum, and your internship experience. As a student working at a field placement, make sure that you capitalize on the opportunities available to position yourself in an ideal place for future employment. Be sure to treat your placement experience with the same focus as your future employment, and during your field placements, make sure that you push yourself into gaining new experiences and skills that should better prepare you for employment.
Make sure that you start your search for a career long before graduation too. Many employers that are planning to hire during the summer months will begin interviewing their ideal candidates during the spring. Make sure that you research the licensing process for your state, and you may find that you can begin to start the application process early too.
The Impact of Location
Where you work in social work will also have a big impact on the amount you’re paid. Working in larger cities can mean a higher salary, but the cost of living is usually higher too. You should be able to find out which cities offer the best salary with a little research.
• Connecticut offers the highest salaries in the nation for social workers, of around $61,690.
• New Jersey offers social worker salaries of around $59,000 a year.
• Rhode Island offers an average salary of $56,950 per year.
For clinical social workers, the pay-rate can go up significantly. For example:
• The average pay rate for a clinical social worker in California is $82,850 per year.
• Social workers at a clinical level in Camden, New Jersey, earn $81,160 a year.
• Social workers in Santa Cruz earn an average of $81,100 a year at a clinical level.
The Effect of Certification
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) offers social work credentials and practice specialty credentials for all social workers. The NASW is the largest, oldest, and most prestigious organization currently offering such credentials and these can help you to unlock new career paths.
People with a master’s degree in social work can open doors to a wide range of professional opportunities in their career. From teaching others, to helping with speech therapy, there are a number of great high-paying jobs in the growing field of social work.
- Clinical Social Worker Salary. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/clinical-social-worker/salary
- Master of Social Work (MSW) Degree Average Salary. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Degree=Master_of_Social_Work_(MSW)/Salary
- Hannah Rae Villarba. 11 Highest Paying Jobs with A Master’s Degree In Social Work. (2016, Mar. 8) Retrieved from http://www.insidermonkey.com/blog/11-highest-paying-jobs-with-a-masters-degree-in-social-work-436571/?singlepage=1