With everything we need to learn during our MSW programs to become social workers, we don’t spend a lot of time talking about the social worker life itself, and specifically about burnout. Burnout is what happens when we do an excellent job taking care of our clients at the expense of ourselves. Some symptoms of… [Continue Reading]
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics is a set of guiding principles to assist social workers in making decisions in the best interests of their clients, even if they might contradict what we might do in our personal lives. These decisions are not always easy – especially when two guiding principles… [Continue Reading]
Which of these sounds like a career in social work? A counselor in a hospice center helps families through the process of preparing for the death of a loved one. A victim advocate with the local Sheriff’s Office arrives at the home of a woman who called 9-1-1 to provide support and guidance during the… [Continue Reading]
The Ultimate Guide to Field Education
Welcome to MSWGuide.org, your source for information on Master's in Social Work programs, social work licensure, career paths as a social worker, and more.
We've compiled a directory of all the US universities that offer MSW programs, and provide you with accreditation information as well as links to each of the program tracks offered by each school.
Frequently Asked Questions about MSW Programs
Do I need to take the GRE in order to apply to an MSW program?
In many cases, yes, though some universities offer an alternative (i.e. the Miller Anthology Test). Consult the School's admissions requirements for specifics. Some list a minimum score while others want applicants to be in a certain percentile of scorers. According to ETS, in 2013, social work applicants' mean scores were Verbal-149, Quantitative-145, and Analytical Writing 3.6. But if the words "standardized test" give you heart palpitations, keep in mind the GRE is just one factor being considered by the MSW program.
Can I pursue an MSW if my bachelor's degree program was not CSWE accredited?
The short answer is "yes." But it's tricky. States that license BSWs require that those social workers attend a CSWE accredited program. Most of these states also require that those licensed at a masters' level received their degree(s) from a CSWE accredited program. So while your master's program may not require that your bachelor's be from a CSWE accredited program, you may need that backing in order to get licensed. For now, some universities do not require that you have a BSW before you get your MSW.
How long does it take to complete an MSW program?
Typically between one and four years, but a lot of that depends on you. If you've already got your BSW, you may be eligible for Advanced Standing, which allows you to complete your MSW within one academic year. Full time students in a traditional MSW program can complete their full degree in two years. If you go part time, it obviously takes longer to earn the same number of credits.
Can I earn an MSW degree part-time? Online?
Yes and yes! There are a lot of ways to earn your MSW, either in person or online, and sometimes a combination of the two. Just be sure the online program you attend is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
How important is attending a CSWE accredited MSW program?
Absolutely crucial. Accreditation means your program meets the national standard of what social work students must know to become competent practitioners. It means your professors utilize the best teaching practices available and are credentialed experts. Most importantly, if you want to become a licensed professional social worker, your social work program MUST be accredited by CSWE (or a comparable organization if you attend college outside the United States). Otherwise, you will not be eligible for licensure by your state, even if you get straight A's. In some states not having a license means you can't get a job.
What are advanced standing social work programs?
Essentially, Advanced Standing gives you credit for "time served" in a BSW program. You've demonstrated an understanding of social work's basic tenets and are ready to move into the more practical applications of those theories. In some ways, it's like transferring into the MSW program with half your degree earned already. And even though you earn your MSW in half the time, your degree is still fully accredited by the CSWE.
Visit our Advanced Standing page for more information.
Do most MSW programs require internships or field education?
Internships, sometimes called field education, are a vital part of an MSW's training. They're required by all programs accredited by the CSWE, even if you complete your coursework online. You might be able to find internships yourself, or they may be part of a partnership between your School and the community agency. Field education is your hands-on training as a social worker. It's a great way to be sure your chosen subfield of social work is a good fit.
Want to learn more about the field education requirement? Visit our guide to surviving field education for information on typical placements, on the job advice, and more.
What's the difference between earning an MSW and becoming licensed?
Earning your MSW is just the first step in becoming licensed in most states. It's the backbone of being a social worker. In many states, being employed as a social worker also involves becoming licensed by the state. A license tells potential employers and clients that not only have you paid your dues in college, but you've demonstrated a mastery of the material, either by taking an exam, completing a certain number of supervised work hours, or both. In some states you may undergo a background check and others require that you demonstrate citizenship in order to be licensed. For more information on license types and requirements, visit our state-by-state guide to licensure.
What is the average salary of a social worker?
How likely am I to find employment? Social Work is one of the fastest growing helping professions in the United States. The U.S. Department of Labor anticipates over 100,000 new social work jobs over the next decade, a 19% increase from the current 607,300 positions. Not only is social work growing, it's diversifying. That means there are a lot of worthwhile things you can do with your MSW degree. How much you will make is tougher to answer. It varies a lot by where you live and what "breed" of social worker you become. The current median salary of U.S. social workers is $44,200.
Can I practice in any state after earning an MSW degree?
Not in a vacuum. You'll need to check the desired state's laws to see if licensure is required in order to be employed as a social worker. And it's important that your degree come from a CSWE accredited program. In some states, however, the MSW from a CSWE accredited program is all that is required for employment, so long as you are under the supervision of a more experienced (often licensed) social worker. Practicing independently almost always requires additional credentials beyond the MSW.