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What Is an MSW?

Friday, February 10, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Social workers with a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) are essentially generalists, interacting with clients in the hopes of improving their lives. However, for those interested in engaging in the field at a different level, a Master of Science in Social Work (MSW) prepares students to specialize for advanced practice. In most states, a master’s degree also enables graduates to work in private practice. Further, for students interested in leadership roles, completing an MSW program qualifies graduates to hold supervisory roles overseeing social work trainees.

Applicants to a Master of Science in Social Work degree program do not necessarily need a bachelor’s degree in social work for admission. Some universities will accept students if they hold a bachelor’s degree in a similar area such as psychology or education.

Types of MSW Courses

Students in an online MSW program can expect to expand the skills they learned in their undergraduate programs. However, the focus of the coursework shifts — largely to healthcare and leadership. Elements like social services policy and regulation, professional ethics and social work leadership theory — as well as putting these theories and skills into practice — are all part of an MSW program. Some of the topics MSW courses cover include advanced family practice, social work practice, child welfare and spirituality and social work.

What Students Will Learn

Social work graduate students will likely choose a particular speciality. For example, they may learn how to work with the elderly or children in residential or healthcare facilities. Alternatively, some master’s programs are geared towards teaching students to assist specific ethnic or socioeconomic demographics, such as at-risk Latino communities.

Some MSW programs can require up to two years to complete; however, the online program at UTRGV can be completed in as few as 12 months when taking two classes at a time. The MSW online program includes a variety of courses relevant to the field, as well as 500 hours of supervised practicum, wherein students apply the skills they have learned in class.

Jobs and Salary Outlook with a Master of Science in Social Work

A master’s degree in social work opens doors to a variety of positions; MSW degree holders can work in healthcare — often in hospital settings — helping clients cope with difficult diagnoses, locating resources, assisting clients in making life-changing decisions, or diagnosing and treating mental health issues. Clinical work, which may involve diagnosing mental illness, also requires a master’s degree. Administrative roles are another avenue a Master of Science in Social Work graduate can explore.

Salaries vary greatly for bachelor’s and master’s graduates, depending on the state, the social worker’s experience level and the work setting. With a graduate degree in social work, however, social workers typically earn more. For instance, the NASW Workforce Center reports that, in hospital settings, bachelor’s graduates earn an average of $40,000, while master’s graduates earn an average of $55,000.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, social work is a growing field estimated to grow by 12 percent from 2014 to 2024 — faster than the national average for all occupations. A Master of Science in Social Work enables graduates with the means to pursue a specialized practice, or a leadership position in this meaningful field.

Learn about UTRGV online MS in Social Work — Administration an Community Practice program

Source: Making the Choice to Pursue a Master’s Degree in Social Work

Social Work Degree Center: What Are the Different Types of Social Work Degrees?

Social Work Degree Center: What Does the Typical Social Work Educational Track Look Like

BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook: Social Workers

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