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Is a Master's Degree in Social Work Worth It?

Mar 26, 2018

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding whether or not to pursue a master's degree in social work. We will discuss some of these factors and cover a number of careers that become available with this master's degree.

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Individuals who are considering pursuing a master's degree in social work may be curious about whether this degree would be a worthwhile investment, especially in terms of cost and time. We will discuss what types of careers a master's degree in social work could potentially lead to, details about these degree programs, and potential salary and employment statistics in greater detail below.

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What Can You Do With a Master's Degree in Social Work?

Obtaining a master's degree in social work could potentially make you a more attractive candidate for a number of different jobs and open up opportunities that may otherwise remain unavailable to you if you only had a bachelor's degree. If you are interested in working as a clinical social worker, you will need to obtain a master's degree in addition to seeking licensure in the state you wish to work in. Some of the jobs open to graduates of master's degree programs may also come with comparatively higher salaries than positions that are also open to applicants with a bachelor's degree.

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Child and Family Social Worker $43,250 14%
Healthcare Social Worker $53,760 20%
Social and Community Service Manager $64,680 18%
Postsecondary Social Work Teacher $64,030 10%
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor $41,070 23%

Child and Family Social Worker

As a child and family social worker, you will focus on working with families and children who are experiencing various problems and challenges in their everyday lives. Some of your responsibilities could include assessing home situations and removing children from unsafe environments, helping parents apply for different kinds of assistance and benefits, and placing children in foster homes. With a master's in social work, you would be able to work as a clinical social worker in these settings, which would allow you to provide treatment for family members and children with different types of behavioral or mental disorders.

Healthcare Social Worker

As a healthcare social worker, you will primarily work with patients and their families to help them manage illness and disease, transition back into their daily lives during recovery, and provide emotional and mental support. You may work with doctors and other medical professionals to help develop a plan for a patient with a terminal illness or a life-changing injury to connect them with resources and support groups so they can navigate through this difficult time in their life. Clinical social workers in healthcare settings require a master's degree in social work.

Social and Community Service Manager

You may also be interested in pursuing a job as a social and community service manager as some of these positions stipulate that a master's degree in social work or a related field is necessary. In this role, you would likely be responsible for managing the efforts of a community organization or developing and running various types of social programs that are meant to serve the needs of the community. For example, you may be responsible for running a program that focuses on providing services to the homeless community in your city, which would involve securing funding, managing employees/social workers, and working with other organizations and local governments.

Postsecondary Social Work Teacher

While most postsecondary teaching positions require a doctoral degree, some community colleges may accept applicants who only have a master's degree. If you are interested in teaching, a master's degree in social work could help you secure this type of position. As a teacher at the postsecondary level, you would be responsible for lecturing, assigning homework and projects, facilitating discussions, creating and grading examinations, and assigning students grades based on their work and effort.

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor

A substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor works with individuals who are struggling with some form of addiction or behavioral problem that is negatively affecting their lives and the lives of the people around them. In this capacity, you would work with clients to help develop treatment plans, connect clients with resources to aid them in their recovery, provide support and information to family members and close friends, and collaborate with other medical professionals like psychologists and doctors. With a master's in social work, you would be able to work as a clinical social worker and specialize in this field.

Social Work Master's Degree Program Information

In general, a master's degree in social work takes about two years to complete as a full-time student though many programs offer longer part-time options. In terms of cost, these programs vary in tuition depending on whether a student attends a private or public institution and whether they are eligible for in-state tuition. Students will likely want to take these factors into consideration when deciding whether or not to enroll in one of these programs.

In summary, depending on an individual's career goals, pursuing a master's degree in social work could be worthwhile as it increases the number of jobs one is eligible for and allows individuals to work in a clinical capacity.

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