Salary Outlook with Ph.D. in Social Work Degree
In most fields, earning a Doctor of Philosophy degree, or Ph.D., represents the pinnacle of educational and academic achievement. The same is often true for students with educational and professional experience in the field of social work. While it’s not the only possible doctoral degree in the field, a Ph.D. in Social Work can be the next best step to a social work career that’s rewarding both professionally and financially.
What should potential social work Ph.D. students know about their degree options, possible career paths and what federal data indicates about their long-term career outlook?
What’s On This Page
- Social Work Doctorate Options
- Social Work Career Tracks
- Social Work PhD Salary Outlook
- Social Work Ph.D. Salary by State
- Projected Social Work Ph.D. Jobs
Social Work Doctorate Options
Two main types of doctoral degrees are available in social work — a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) and a Ph.D. in Social Work. It’s not typical for one college or university to offer both types of degrees, and it usually comes down to the programmatic focus of the institution’s social work department.
Generally, DSW programs are geared more toward the professional practice of social work. In this way, these degrees can be considered equivalent to the Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.), which was developed in the 1970s to train practicing psychologists.
SEE ALSO: Top 5 Online DSW Social Work Programs
Social work Ph.D. degree programs will usually be more focused on conducting in-depth academic and lab-based research into various facets of social work to help build upon the body of literature in the field.
Of course, those with a Ph.D. in Social Work may go on to become practicing social workers, and it’s possible to earn a DSW and have a flourishing career in research. But generally, social work Ph.D. programs will be more heavily skewed toward research while DSW programs will be heavy on clinical experiences.
Social Work PhD Career Tracks
There isn’t one single possible career path once you’ve completed a Ph.D. in Social Work, and there are many types of jobs a Ph.D.-holder is qualified to fill. Here’s a look at the possible options by the type of job:
Social Work Ph.D. career options by industry
|College Professor||Therapist||Human Resources Director||Applied Researcher|
|School Counselor||Licensed Clinical Social Worker||Training and Development Manager||Policy Researcher|
|Special Education Teacher||Mental Health Counselor||Industrial-Organizational Psychologist||Lab Director|
Depending on the job they’re seeking, Ph.D. in Social Work graduates may need to clear additional licensure and certification hurdles. This is especially true for those seeking jobs that are public-facing, such as Special Education Teacher or Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Be sure to consult the laws and rules in your state.
Social Work PhD Salary Overview
Having a Ph.D. vastly increases a person’s earnings potential. In fact, the most recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates say that a Ph.D.-holder will earn about double the average high school graduate’s income. While that’s not necessarily surprising, those who have completed a Ph.D. also have median income that’s about one-third higher than a typical college graduate.
What can Social Work Ph.D. graduates expect to make in the state where they live? To figure that out, we analyzed data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and calculated an average income figure for each state across a total of seven possible job titles, which are listed below. For a few states, certain job titles were not available, so they were not included to ensure that state’s average wasn’t unfairly lowered.
- Child, Family and School Social Workers
- Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists
- General Social Workers
- Health Social Workers
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
- Social and Community Service Managers
- Social Work Professors
Social work Ph.D. salaries are the highest in the District of Columbia, where the average for the seven jobs is nearly $85,000. Not far behind are New Jersey and California, with New York and Rhode Island rounding out the top five. The average wage for the seven social work jobs was lowest in Montana and Oklahoma.
Average annual social work Ph.D. salary by state
|District of Columbia||$84,648.00|
The average national wage for the seven social work jobs we analyzed was about $60,000, and Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists had the highest average annual wage. Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers had the lowest average national wage at just over $49,000.
Average annual U.S. salary, selected social work Ph.D. jobs
|Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists||$81,417.20|
|Postsecondary Social Work Teachers||$73,510.00|
|Social and Community Service Managers||$70,425.69|
|General Social Workers||$62,053.00|
|Healthcare Social Workers||$57,704.12|
|Child, Family and School Social Workers||$49,448.04|
|Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers||$49,151.20|
In every state for which data is available, social work Ph.D. job openings will expand over the next several years. Some states will have very rapid growth, while others will have much less robust expansion rates. Projection data was not available for six states (Alabama, Arizona, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Texas and Washington) for enough social work Ph.D. jobs to create a fair analysis.
On average, Utah has the highest projected growth rate for social work Ph.D. jobs, with openings expected to rise by nearly 30% through 2028. Colorado and New York also are expected to see job growth of almost 25%. Maine’s average growth rate of about 3% is the lowest.
Average projected growth in job openings by state, 2018-2028
|District of Columbia||9.87%|
Similarly, all jobs are expected to experience positive growth across the country, led by a nearly 18% expansion rate projected for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers, while General Social Worker jobs are expected to grow by about 6.2%.
Average U.S. projected growth in psychology Ph.D. job openings, 2018-2028
|Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers||17.79%|
|Healthcare Social Workers||16.45%|
|Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists||16.12%|
|Social and Community Service Managers||12.76%|
|Child, Family and School Social Workers||8.23%|
|Postsecondary Social Work Teachers||7.88%|
|General Social Workers||6.22%|
Careers in social work can be challenging but for those who are dedicated to making a difference, they also can be quite rewarding. Earning a Ph.D. in Social Work is often an ideal way to supercharge career earnings and open up new avenues of professional experience.