Master Social Worker (MSW) Jobs & Career Guide

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What Is a Master Social Worker?

A master social worker, or an MSW, is a social worker who obtains a master’s degree. MSW jobs protect the vulnerable and address emotional and mental health concerns. Often, they work with addiction and abuse situations. Licensed master social workers are passionate people who care for others.

MSW professionals meet specific requirements for licensure within their state. Licensure allows social workers to provide clinical therapy under supervision. However, they can also perform non-clinical services.

Some social workers assist in research and therapy. However, there are several functions these professionals perform. Many MSW jobs advance their careers further and become licensed clinical social workers.

According to the National Association of Social Workers, there are a variety of MSW jobs. Specialized areas can vary. However, MSW jobs operate under a psychologist’s supervision.

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MSW jobs may include the following:

  • Case management
  • Health care
  • Addictions
  • Hospice, palliative care
  • Clinical or advanced gerontology
  • Clinical or advanced military service members
  • Youth, children, and family

Where Do Licensed Master Social Workers Work?

MSW jobs work in different environments. Examples of licensed master social worker positions include the following:

  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Mental health clinics
  • Drug rehabilitation centers
  • Psychiatric facilities
  • Emergency crisis services
  • Public agencies

Medical social workers usually work in hospitals. Regarding rehabilitation centers, mental health social workers may work in facilities. Geriatric social workers typically work in senior living centers or hospitals. Finally, social workers in government agencies work with social services and criminal justice.

Federal government social workers may work for the following:

  • Social Security Administration, SSA
  • Health of Human Services, HHS
  • Veterans Administration, VA
  • Department of Justice, DOJ
  • Department of Defense, DOD

MSW jobs perform specific tasks throughout the day with different specialties and positions.

MSW Tasks

There are many fulfilling responsibilities for licensed master social workers. From providing case management to group therapy, roles may vary. Duties include documentation, managing billing, and paperwork. However, MSW jobs may assist with clinical plans upon patient intake. In addition, MSW can refer people for additional clinical support.

Other tasks of MSW jobs include the following:

  • Supporting public assistance eligibility
  • Managing outpatient treatment programs
  • Working with government agencies
  • Advocating for social reform
  • Finding food, housing
  • Facilitating group therapy and counseling services

Ensuring that patients receive proper care is essential to being an excellent MSW. Social workers advocate for everyone and abide by a code of ethics.

MSW jobs may ensure food and family security. They can also help with housing and counseling needs for kids and parents. In addition, MSW jobs may develop programs for after-school activities. Activities can range from sports to hobbies and engaging with groups of kids.

Professionals in the field may help military service members and families. From moving, deployments, and overall family stressors and challenges, MSW jobs can help. Clinically, the profession can help with PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Often, there are many ailments military service members encounter.

MSW jobs in clinical gerontology work with the elderly. Their role is to work with mental health issues, including services they need based on age. For instance, losing loved ones and spouses are common reasons to work with an MSW in a clinical setting. Other senior duties include assisting with housing, home health care, and checkups.

Helping with end-of-life care is another task of MSW jobs. Aside from counseling, the role may discuss hospice options, funding, and funeral arrangements. Overall, MSW jobs must also have essential skills.

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MSW Skills

There are many skills licensed master social workers should possess. Communication is essential, as it’s a significant part of the job. Using written and verbal communication are both daily requirements. With proper skills, you’ll tremendously help your clients.

While communication is the core skill, active listening is equally critical. Active listening promotes respect and trust while engaging in conversations. In addition, listening and focusing on others will ensure the MSW is doing its job.

Other necessary skills of MSW jobs include the following:

  • Emotional intelligence
  • Leadership
  • Critical thinking
  • Time management
  • Multi-tasking

Overall, patience is necessary when it comes to MSW jobs. They also must respect and get along with others. Clients depend on MSW jobs in many ways, so being dependable builds trust. Working with all ages is also a part of the job, from young children to the elderly. So, having empathy for all walks of life matters while understanding human relationships.

Aside from incredible skills, MSW jobs have impressive training. Additionally, receiving degrees in their field is the first step.

Degree and Training

After completing a bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to complete your master’s. There are also online and hybrid courses that offer convenience.

Finding an accredited program through the Council on Social Work Education is vital. While a degree in social work is common, a degree in psychology or counseling may lead to becoming an MSW. You’ll also finish supervised hours before passing the test upon licensure.

As all states vary, checking with your state guidelines regarding coursework is essential. You’ll also finish supervised clinical hours according to state guidelines. Supervised hours range, and may go up to 1000 total hours.

Then, you’ll pay to take the Association of Social Work Boards master’s exam. Next, there are continuing education units, or CEUs, to complete. Finally, you’ll regularly partake throughout your career to renew your license.

The LMSW exam has around 170 questions. However, 20 of the questions don’t apply to your total score. To pass the master’s exam, you’ll need at least 90 correct answers. After passing, your education path comes to an end. Overall, it can take six to ten years to complete education and require supervision. However, experience affects your MSW job potential.

Earning Potential

Social work salaries range depending on credentials and experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary is 50,390 dollars as of May 2021. Different work environments also play a role in average earnings.

Below are the current salaries for different types of social workers:

  • Healthcare social workers: $60,840
  • School, child, and family social workers: $49,150
  • Mental health and substance abuse: $49,130
  • All other social workers: $61,190

However, the highest 10 percent of social workers reach $82,840. Many receive overtime, and pay can fluctuate. Many MSW jobs work holidays and weekends, as well. Particular job positions may include additional bonuses.

Also, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers will rise. An increase of 12 percent through 2030 is likely. As a result, projections estimate around 78,300 job openings per year by the end of the current decade. Overall, the average job opportunity is much higher than in other occupations. But, of course, if you live in a smaller town, you’ll make less money than in bigger cities.

MSW Career Path

The MSW career path starts with a bachelor’s degree, then a master’s. However, there’s room for advancement. An MSW can become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) to receive a higher license. An LCSW works with specific populations while performing different work roles. Although licensed clinical social workers are similar to MSW jobs, they also differ.

LCSWs help and often collaborate with other medical professionals regarding mental disorders. Professions provide assessment-based treatments and psychotherapy without supervision. LCSW works under licensed psychiatrists or psychologists.

Becoming an LCSW requires two years and a minimum of 3,000 hours in a clinical setting. After completion, they can work in hospitals and mental health centers. Primary care facilities are also common. Clinical social workers diagnose and treat cognitive and behavioral issues. In addition, LCSWs provide therapy, case management services, and emotional support.

Overall, MSW jobs support not just individuals but families and communities. Social workers help at-risk populations, who are often underprivileged. Supporting others with therapy and guidance is a core job description.

Latest Master Social Worker (MSW) Jobs & Career Guide Listings

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Position Company Location Posted
Social Work Health Equity Faculty University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work's Center on Race and Social Problems (CRSP) Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 10/05/2022
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Social Work Health Equity Faculty University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work's Center on Race and Social Problems (CRSP) Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 10/05/2022
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Social Work Health Equity Faculty University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work's Center on Race and Social Problems (CRSP) Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 10/05/2022
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Graduate Academic & Career Advisor University of Maryland, Baltimore Baltimore, Maryland 10/05/2022
The University of Maryland School of Social Work (SSW) has an opportunity for an Academic Advisor. Reporting to the Associate Dean of Student Affairs, the Academic Advisor is charged with the development and delivery of academic advising contributing to the academic success of all MSW students. This position partners with faculty and staff across the SSW including frequent collaboration with the Offices of Admissions, Academic Affairs and Records and Registration. The ... More
Licensed Independent Social Worker-Clinical Practice Clemson University Clemson, South Carolina 10/05/2022
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Non-tenure track, two-year renewable position in Health Social Work University of the Pacific's Department of Sociology Stockton, California 10/04/2022
The University of the Pacifics Department of Sociology is hiring for a non-tenure track, two-year renewable position in health social work. The successful candidate will teach six classes per year and also advise students. Classes will include Introduction to Social Services (lower division), Sociology of Health and Illness (upper division) and other courses from the sociology curriculum or designed to fit the candidates area of expertise. Preferred courses might include medical ... More
Tenured Faculty Mid and Senior Career (Associate/Full Professor) Temple University College of Public Health Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 10/04/2022
Inequities and health disparities are a major public health threat and demand a concerted, interdisciplinary effort. At the College of Public Health, we dedicate ourselves to public health in all its parameters, from epidemiology to nursing, from social work to rehabilitation sciences. Social justice has always driven our work: This understanding that individual outcomes are intricately tied to the larger systems we inhabit is the foundation of our college. Temple University College of ... More
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