Is a Master of Social Work (MSW) Degree Worth It?

As you consider furthering your social work career, you may be considering becoming a master of social work (MSW). The MSW degree is granted to those who do master’s level work in the field. It’s a logical next step for someone who has a bachelor of social work, though you can also approach the MSW with undergraduate degrees in other liberal arts subjects. A bachelor’s degree in social work provides general coursework in the field, while a master’s allows you to specialize. Since you may be wondering if it’s worth the investment of your time and money to pursue an MSW, it’s important to consider the advantages of getting the degree.

An MSW Degree Can Open Doors

Probably the biggest advantage to getting your MSW is that it opens doors that a BSW degree sometimes can’t. The licensing requirements for social workers are different in different states. Even in places where you can be licensed to practice social work with only a bachelor’s degree, the types of practice you can engage in may be limited if you don’t have your master’s. For instance, you may need a master’s for most if not all of the following roles: clinical work, private practice, social work in a health care setting, and work where you supervise others who are training in the field. There are even some administrative roles where an MSW could be required.

The professional certifications you can receive from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) also vary depending on your level of education. There are some advanced practice specialty credentials you can qualify for with a BSW, such as certified children, youth, and family social work and certified social work case manager. But there are many more certifications at the advanced practice level only open to MSWs, and only MSWs are eligible for their professional social work credentials.

Other Things to Consider

Besides more and wider practice opportunities and a wider range of credentials, there are other advantages to getting your master’s in social work. Though the salary ranges vary depending on the specialty area you’re in and where you are located, MSWs generally always make more money than social workers who have only the bachelor’s degree. But perhaps the most important advantage in getting your master of social work, and the main reason why you might want to pursue it, is that an MSW really allows you to delve deeper into a certain area of social work about which you feel passionate. At the graduate level, you will have the opportunity to take those specialized courses and to be mentored by social work professionals with experience in those areas as you do your required field work.

Whether you have a passion for helping children, individuals with mental illness, elderly people, veterans, or those struggling with drug and alcohol addictions, social work can be an excellent field to dive into. A master of social work degree takes an investment of time, effort, and finances, but it can be worth it in terms of the doors it opens and the opportunities it offers as you advance your social work career.

Related Resource: Top 10 Best Online Social Work Degree Programs