What Can You Do With a MSW Degree?

Mar 11, 2020

A Master of Social Work (MSW) degree program provides students with advanced critical analysis, problem-solving and research skills, in preparation for various types of social work. MSW programs are generally intended for graduates with a bachelor's degree in social work, sociology or a related field.

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MSW Career Options

Learn about the different career options that are available to individuals with an MSW degree, as well as the salary potential. We also discuss the program itself, common courses, and examples of available concentrations.

Graduates with an MSW are trained to help people cope with and overcome problems in their lives. They are prepared for social work positions in local, state, or national government, as well as non-profit and private organizations. A master's degree is often required for supervisory positions within these organizations and is required to provide therapy, according to the National Association of Social Workers.

Social workers often provide counseling within a clinical specialty or to a specific community. Social workers may also work as administrators, researchers, policymakers, and planners. Administrators may oversee the daily activities of their organizations and participate in decision making processes, while researchers work to advance the social work field through scientific studies. Policymakers and policy advocates work directly with the local and national government to set up publicly funded programs that address child abuse, poverty, homelessness, violence, mental health, and other issues. Planners may work to organize various events and outreaches for their organizations.

Salary and Employment Info

Social workers generally enter this field not for the money, but because they have a desire to help people. As of May 2016, the median annual earnings of child, family, and school social workers were $43,250, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. At the same time, mental health and substance abuse social workers earned a median annual salary of $42,700.

MSW Degree Overview

An MSW degree program typically takes two years to complete, though accelerated and part-time programs are also available. Students gain a background in social theory, in addition to studying public policy, social programs, and organizational structures. Most programs also engage students in clinical practice and research fieldwork, allowing them to acquire experience providing social services and critically examining a particular social issue or problem.


At the master's degree level, students are generally required to take courses that cover a range of social work topics, including social justice, social welfare policy, mental health practice, human behavior, and research technology. Most MSW programs offer a variety of concentrations in which students may focus, to better prepare them for the social work career they desire.

These may include a clinical specialty, such as child and family social services, mental health or substance abuse, as well as a practice method specialty, including community organization, public policy, social service administration, or interpersonal practice.

An MSW degree program prepares students for careers as social workers, policymakers, administrators, and more. Degree programs typically offer an array of concentrations, such as child and family social services or community organization, to allow students to prepare for their chosen career.

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