Medical Social Worker Career Information

Mar 09, 2019

Find out what being a medical social worker entails. See what kind of education and training are required. Get employment prospects and decide if this career is right for you.

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Career Definition for a Medical Social Worker (MSW)

The medical social worker is part of an interdisciplinary team who typically works in a hospital, hospice, or skilled nursing facility. The role of a medical social worker is to ensure that the patient and the patient's family are able to receive needed psychosocial support upon return to the community. Medical social workers can also connect patients and their families to resources in counseling, therapy, and in-home services.

Required Education Typically, a master's degree in social work and certification; a bachelor's degree in social work may allow access to entry level positions
Job Skills Good communication and teamwork skills, the ability to provide analytical and therapeutic assessments to patients struggling with difficult issues
Median Salary (2017) $54,870 for healthcare social workers
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 20% for healthcare social workers

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Medical social workers typically earn a Master of Social Work degree from an accredited institution. A Bachelor of Social Work degree program can allow access to entry level positions, but the standard has become the master's degree with additional certification and on-going education expected.

Licensing Requirement

Social workers are typically required to be licensed if they're providing clinical services. Licensing requires a master's degree in social work, a minimum of work experience, and a passing score on a licensing exam. Requirements vary by state.

Skills Required

A medical social worker must be able to work in situations where there can be a high emotional toll with limited resources of time and money. Good communication and teamwork skills are critical, as well as the ability to provide analytical and therapeutic assessments for patients who may be ill, confused, or suffer from other physical, financial, and social issues.

Career and Economic Outlook

Median annual earnings for healthcare social workers were reported as $54,870 in May 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). Job openings for medical social workers are expected to grow at a rate of 20% from 2016-2026, with job opportunities especially good for those who work with the aging.

Alternate Career Options

Marriage and Family Therapist

A marriage and family therapist works with clients who are experiencing mental or emotional health issues, helping them resolve problems and learn new coping skills within the context of family-oriented and relationship-centered care. Marriage and family therapists can work with people one-on-one, or in a couple or family arrangement. This occupation requires a master's degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field, like social work, plus a minimum of work experience to meet state licensing requirements. The BLS predicts that jobs will increase 23% from 2016-2026, a rate that's much faster than average when compared with other occupations. The BLS also reports that the median pay for marriage and family therapists was $48,790 in 2017.

Social and Human Services Assistant

For people who still want to help others get through their problems but who aren't interested in pursuing a graduate degree, the job of a social and human services assistant could be a good fit. Education requirements for entry-level jobs include a high school diploma; some employers prefer candidates with a certificate or associate's degree in human services or a related field. Social and human services assistants work closely under social workers and related professionals to connect clients with appropriate services, like Medicaid or home health care. The BLS predicts that jobs in this field will increase 16% from 2016-2026. Social and human services jobs paid a median salary of $33,120 in 2017, per the BLS.

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