MSW Masters in Social Work Salary Outlook
Students interested in social work earn their bachelor’s degree in social work, beginning their careers as child or family social workers. For those who want to become clinical or healthcare social workers, a master’s degree in social work (MSW) is required. Getting your MSW degree means you will have more jobs available to you, as well as higher salaries.
A clinical social worker with a master’s degree is authorized to provide individual, group, family, and couples therapy. They work with clients to overcome mental health problems and difficult life situations. Clinical social workers also work with clients, doctors, and other healthcare workers to adjust treatment plans as needed.
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A healthcare social worker with a master’s degree helps patients to understand their medical diagnosis and to make needed changes to their housing, healthcare, or lifestyle. For instance, a healthcare social worker may help a person transition from months in the hospital back to their home. They also may offer vital information about support groups or home healthcare to help patients effectively manage their illness.
Earning your MSW requires full-time study for two years and supervised clinical training. So it is vital to understand your salary potential with this degree before you start your education. Below is detailed salary information for MSW holders.
Salary Outlook with Master’s in Social Work
There are several authoritative websites with salary information for professionals with an MSW. We list them below.
National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
This official association for social workers reports that MSW holders earn an average of $13,000 more than social workers with a BSW. It also notes that MSWs earn higher salaries in government agencies, hospital inpatient facilities, and research organizations.
For social workers with at least a master’s degree, the highest median salaries were in these fields:
- National security and international affairs: $69,000
- Elementary and secondary education: $60,000
- Executive offices and legislative bodies: $57,500
- Insurance carriers: $57,000
- Hospitals: $56,000
Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states the median wage for all social workers is $50,470 as of May 2019. The lowest 10% earned less than $31,790, while the top 10% earned $82,540. Social workers with an MSW usually are healthcare or clinical social workers and earn towards the higher end of this scale.
Median annual wages for specific types of social workers are:
- All other social workers: $61,230
- Healthcare social workers: $56,750
- Child, family, and school social workers: $47,390
- Mental health and substance abuse social workers: $46,650
Payscale.com reports the average salary for a social worker with an MSW is $47,861, with a range between $35,000 and $64,000.
It also reports the following salaries at companies that employ social workers with an MSW:
- DaVita Inc.: $56,000
- Fresenius Medical Care Holdings, Inc.: $47,000
- Fresenius Medical Care North America: $49,000
- Fresenius Medical Care: $57,000
- Kindred Healthcare: $50,000
- University of Michigan: $54,000
Work experience also affects one’s salary with an MSW:
- One to four years: $45,914
- Five to nine years: $49,311
- 10-19 years: $52,958
- 20+ years: $61,341
Pay will vary with an MSW by geographic location. These cities have salaries above or below the median of $47,861:
- Los Angeles: +7%
- New York City: +5%
- Philadelphia: +4%
- Chicago: +3%
- Houston: +3%
- Denver: +1%
- Atlanta: -9%
Payscale.com also reports the median salary for a clinical social worker (with an MSW) is $56,377, with a range of $40,000 to $78,000.
Clinical social worker pay rises with experience, as well:
- Less than one year: $47,700
- One to four years: $50,500
- Five to nine years: $56,464
- 10-19 years: $62,106
- 20+ years: $65,990
Glassdoor.com reports the average salary for an MSW holder is $49,450, with a range of $34,100 to $65,227.
Salary.com reports the average MSW holder earns $64,662, with a range between $58,228 and $71,623.
Ziprrecruiter.com reports the average salary for clinical social workers with an MSW is $67,485 with a range between $42,500 and $114,000. Most earn between $53,500 and $78,500.
Masters in Social Work Job Outlook
Social worker employment will rise by 11% by 2028, much faster than average compared to all occupations.
However, employment for healthcare social workers will rise by 17% by 2028, much faster than average. Healthcare social workers will be needed more often to help older populations death with medications, treatments, and lifestyles as they age.
SEE ALSO: 17 Best Things to Do with an MSW Degree
It is expected that clinical social workers should see a similar rise in employment. Clinical social workers are the most often-used provider of mental health services in the United States. More Americans are turning to mental health professionals to deal with their mental and personal problems as they age.
What The Experts Say
To learn what the experts have to say about what the benefits are of getting an MSW, we checked Quora.com:
- “You can do community organizing with a master’s in social work as well as private therapy. MSW allows you to work in a vast array of settings: prisons, schools, hospitals, nonprofits, and more. It is a phenomenal multifaceted degree.” – Gretchen Landry, Masters in Social Work, Louisiana State University
- Experts also chimed in on this question: “Is a master’s degree in clinical social work worth it?”
- “It is very worth it for me. I assist people, teach, show, use your own words, every day in reaching out of their “bad” place to have a more fulfilling quality of life. Sometimes all it takes is validation and people soar. Sometimes it’s helping them to see they are in a bad place, that doesn’t make them bad people. Sometimes it helping them to feel safe enough inside themselves to come out and be part of the world. Yes, for me it’s very worth it.” – Kim Funderburk, MSW Social Work and Psychology, ASWWU
- “I have found it to be worth it. I was nearly 50 years old, and while I had taken some short trips into other fields, I had reached a salary ceiling. I finally decided it was time and was accepted by a superb school. Three years later, I’m in a great [social work] job with the kinds of responsibilities I wanted.” – Karen Davis, MSW Social Work, University of Southern California
Earning an MSW in social work provides you with more job opportunities, more responsibility, and higher salaries. Job demand and salaries in this in-demand field should continue to rise, so getting your MSW is a wise career move that will pay dividends for many years.
- Social Work Salaries. Accessed at https://www.socialworkers.org/Careers/Career-Center/Kickstart-Your-Job-Hunt/Social-Work-Salaries
- Social Worker Salaries. Accessed at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm#tab-5
- MSW Salary. Accessed at https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Social_Worker_(MSW)/Salary
- Clinical Social Worker Salary. Accessed at https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Clinical_Social_Worker/Salary
- MSW Salary. Accessed at https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/social-worker-msw-salary-SRCH_KO0,17.htm
- MSW Salary. Accessed at https://www.salary.com/research/salary/benchmark/social-worker-msw-salary#
- Clinical Social Worker Salary. Accessed at https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Clinical-Social-Worker-Salary