It’s not everyday that you’re prepared to have a significant impact on someone’s life, but as a social worker, you’ll be prepared to do just that.Learn More
It’s not everyday that you’re prepared to have a significant impact on someone’s life, but as a social worker, you’ll be prepared to do just that. Most likely, you are considering a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree because you have a strong desire to help others or a personal connection to the profession. This heroic desire to promote social change and development, social cohesion, empower individuals, address life challenges, and enhance well-being is a perfect fit for the practice-based profession and academic discipline of social work.
An MSW provides many more opportunities for direct practice and paves the way to becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and a Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW). Those holding an MSW can also expect several other benefits including higher pay, a greater competitive edge in the job market, and more opportunities for advancement.
The heroic desire to promote social change and development, social cohesion, empower individuals, address life challenges, and enhance well-being is a perfect fit for the practice-based profession and academic discipline of social work.
In this digital resource, we discuss the various opportunities and advantages of the MSW degree and the social work field. Our goal is to help prospective students understand what the MSW entails. We answer questions, debunk myths, provide a realistic understanding of job outlook, and explore the different sectors of social work — let’s get started.
Typically a two-year degree, the Master of Social Work degree provides the education, training, and field experience necessary to hold clinical or supervisory roles. This degree also allows graduates to work across a number of different fields including the medical, mental health, and educational fields, providing support as therapists, as well as health care, school, and clinical social workers.
Careers in social work are separated into three areas of practice — micro, mezzo, and macro level occupations. The distinctions between these levels are in the populations they assist. Micro-level social work occupations are the most common, and they concentrate on helping individuals and families. Macro-level careers are focused on effecting change at larger levels and groups. These careers work with community systems, institutions, and larger groups primarily through government and nonprofit institutions. Mezzo-level social work helps groups that lie between these two levels such as neighborhoods, task forces, and support groups.
Social work is anything but a one-size fits all profession. With your MSW, the possibilities are endless! One way to explore the different fields of social work is to look at the various categories and sectors that employ social workers — these areas include.
Hear from our founding Dean, Diana R. Garland, about the legacy of Social work at Baylor University by watching the video below!
After deciding on a specialization and narrowing it down to the schools that can offer you the opportunity to study that specialty, there are several essential elements to consider when choosing an MSW program.
First, choose a program that emphasizes research. In addition to time-tested methods and modalities, programs that rely heavily on the latest statistics and evidence to inform their curriculum are at the cutting edge of 21st-century social work and problem-solving.
It is also important to look for a program that takes an integrated (or holistic) approach to social work. Human beings function best when their mind, body, and soul are all healthy and properly integrated. After all, this is one of the goals of social work: to help clients to achieve wellness. Likewise, the best MSW programs prepare students to ethically integrate their religious faith with social work practice, by teaching and observing this practice with individuals in the classroom and field work.
Flexibility is another important trait of top MSW programs. Many students who return for their MSW are also working professionals, some with families. Several MSW programs offer either a fully-online program or a hybrid mix of in-classroom and online learning, allowing students to work at their own pace and in harmony with their many daily obligations.
Support from faculty who are experts in the field should also be an important consideration when picking a program. Faculty with hands-on, field experience provide a wealth of practical knowledge and can help students to anticipate the challenges they will face on the job.
Perhaps the most important consideration when choosing an MSW program is the presence of a field placement component. Field placement is a supervised internship with an organization that provides social services. Field placement is a crucial aspect of any MSW program because it provides students with practical tools and experience and teaches them to think and act like social workers.
Much of an MSW education is comprised of this hands-on exposure to field work, and it is important for a student to serve at multiple placements to gain a variety of different experiences and perspectives. Placements are a result of the school’s partnerships and relationships with social work groups and organizations, so look for a well-connected and respected MSW program.
Right now is a great time to enter or advance a career in social work. Currently, qualified social workers are in demand, the pay is competitive, and the jobs are secure.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2016-2026, the overall projected employment for social workers is expected to grow 16 percent, which is much faster than the national average. Particular areas of social work are expected to grow at an even faster rate. For example, the health care social work field is expected to grow an impressive 20 percent, and employment of mental health and substance abuse social workers is projected to grow 19 percent.
The number of available jobs is not the only incentive when considering a career in social work. Social workers can expect an exciting and dynamic career path, competitive social work salaries, and their choice of a variety of employers and career environments.
After completing your MSW, and earning the correct professional licenses for your state, what is the next step in your professional social work career? A quick glance at a career “road map” can tell you what to expect one, five, and ten years down the line.
After earning your certifications, degree, and landing a social work job, the first year is all about establishing yourself and gaining experience. Typically professionals can expect the first year to be filled with lots of learning by doing, networking, and asking for advice from others. During this first year, draw on your field placement experience and consult with mentors about your next steps.
Five years into your professional social work career, you can expect to be settling into your desired specialization and working in the environment and with the population of your choosing. After getting the requisite entry-level experience out of the way, you are able to move into positions that allow you to pursue your specific passion and calling. Continuing to work hard and nurture professional connections will afford you opportunities for promotions and more responsibility.
After ten years experience as a professional social worker, respect and credibility become associated with your name and work ethic. By this time in your career, you can expect to be considered for management positions and might also be expected to oversee and contribute to the formation of new professionals. At this point in your career, it is important to remember and continue the hard work that got you here and to consider paying it forward to first-year or entry-level professionals.
The social work salary range varies based on the location, setting, and type of service you are providing. These are some of the median social work salaries reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2017:
Sometimes after starting out on one career path, many people begin to feel disillusioned with their current career, and that’s okay! If you’re thinking about changing careers in order to positively impact people’s lives, social work might be a great career choice for you. By earning your MSW, you are giving yourself an opportunity to take your transferable skills from your previous career and/or education and amplify them through a focused curriculum and field placement experiences.
Social work is a great field for career changers because so many of the skills necessary for the job can be brought over from other careers, and an undergraduate degree in social work is not always necessary to begin a master’s program. Transferable skills include compassion, active listening, organizational, people, and problem solving skills. Many career changers choose social work after burn out from a corporate job that didn’t add meaning to their life and offered little personal fulfillment. They are now searching for a career like social work — one that can add value and purpose to their day-to-day lives.
Although a bachelor of social work is not required to begin a MSW program, an undergraduate degree in a related field offers a strong base of prerequisite classes. Related fields such as sociology and psychology compliment and can speed up the graduate degree process for a student in an MSW program.
No matter what your undergraduate degree or your previous work experience, an MSW is always an option. All applicable prior work experience and transferable skills will assist you in your graduate studies and help you as you break into the field of social work.
Note: Check out this post where we discuss 5 undergraduate degrees that complement your MSW, and learn how your bachelor's degree can help you in your MSW program.
These are just a few of the many job titles that social workers hold, to give you an idea of how vast and varied the possibilities really are:
There is a lot of information out there and not all of it is accurate. Unfortunately, the field of social work is sometimes regarded with misconceived notions and misguided observations, but we’re here to dispel a few of those myths.
Take our quiz to find out just how much you know about the field of Social Work and if going back to school might be the right move for you.
True or false: The median pay for social workers is greater than the average adult’s annual income.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau survey in 2014, the average annual income for one working adult was $35,876. The Bureau of Labor Statistics points out that the 2017 median pay for social workers was $47,980, significantly more than the national average income.
True or false: The average annual salary for MSW holders in Texas is higher than the national average.
In Texas, the average salary for those who hold a Master of Social Work is $59,116, higher than the national average of $47,980. Proving that it is possible to have a financially successful career, while helping others.
Multiple Choice: By 1929 how many universities had established social work programs?
By 1929, ten university programs had been established in social work, and by 1955, the National Association for Social Workers was formed to provide opportunities for professional development.
True or false: A Master of Social Work is considered a professional degree.
The MSW is a professional degree, meaning that it is designed to prepare graduates for a practice-oriented career within the field of social work.
True or false: The social work field is dying out and careers are limited.
According to projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of social work is projected to grow faster than average over the next decade. As fields such as health care and the need for specialists in mental health and substance abuse grow, social work will also experience a career uptake.
Multiple Choice: Which subfield of social work is anticipated to grow the fastest over the next decade?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare is expected to experience the highest rate of growth among the subfields of social work, growing an impressive 20 percent between 2016-2026.
True or false: Social work employment opportunities are limited to therapists or working for CPS.
Some licenced clinical social workers do serve as therapists or work for Child Protective Services (CPS) as a case worker, but careers in social work are not limited to only these opportunities. There are countless different environments you can choose to work in, and even more ways you can specialize in your specific area of expertise.
You got a few wrong, not a problem! Now is the perfect time to start studying and learning more about a Master of Social Work degree. You might not have all the answers right now, but with a passion for helping people to become their best self and some personal guidance along the way, you can begin a rewarding professional career as a social worker in no time.
Great job! You got the majority of these questions correct. This means you have probably been thinking about pursuing your Master of Social Work for some time and are very familiar with the field and the employment opportunities.
At the Baylor University Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, we strive to educate the next generation of social workers to be compassionate, qualified, and confident to dive into their chosen area of expertise.
Our faculty and student body are one family, made up of individuals who care deeply about helping people. Our mission is to prepare students to be social workers who recognize that their work is about service and justice, the dignity of individuals, and the power of relationships, and who can practice their craft with integrity and competence, ethically integrating faith and social work practice to best serve their clients.
Of Baylor’s two campus locations, our Houston campus has several unique aspects that make it ideal for MSW candidates to learn from experienced faculty, while they integrate faith with ethics, values, and the practice of social work.
Students choosing to attend the Houston campus are able to take advantage of all the main campus in Waco has to offer, but for whom relocation might not be a possibility or the best option. Additionally, the Diana R. Garland School of Work at Baylor University offers its CSWE accredited Master of Social Work program on the campus of South Main Baptist Church in downtown Houston. This gives students the opportunity to study the principles of social work in one of the largest and most vibrant cities in the United States.
The MSW at Baylor is a research-based, CSWE accredited program that prides itself in having an expert faculty with hands-on experience in the field. Through rigorous program development and our focus on being research driven, the curriculum in the MSW program is the best of both time-tested methodology and cutting edge discovery. Our faculty and staff are the best and the brightest, with a passion for encouraging students and accompanying them as they learn to ethically integrate faith and social work practice.
The Garland School of Social Work offers four graduate program options, two academic specializations, and unlimited concentrations. The standard two-year MSW program offers a strong foundation for direct practice, administration, and community development, as well as practical experience through two internships and numerous courses in a student’s chosen specialty. There is also an Advanced Standing program for students with a BSW from an accredited CSWE program earned within the last five years. This program offers students more opportunities for research and more options for field placement.
Other graduate program options include a Master of Divinity/Master of Social Work, Master of Theological Studies/Master of Social Work, and Master of Social Work/Master of Business Administration.
Baylor’s MSW students can choose to specialize in either Clinical Practice, with a focus on Physical and Mental Health, Clinical Practice, with a focus on Children and Families, or Community Practice.
In addition to a specialization, students can turn their passion for a particular population or social issue and choose to focus their degree by designing a concentration in partnership with a faculty member. Areas of concentration include, but are not limited to:
The MSW program is comprised of 60 course hours and is offered through both in-person and live online classroom learning. Students at the Baylor Waco campus will experience a full-time, residential, and a more traditional on-campus experience, while students at the Houston campus will have the option for a more flexible schedule with part-time program options and courses offered in the afternoons/evenings. The Houston campus offers additional flexibility with a hybrid learning model, which includes a blend of traditional classroom and online learning.
Field placement is often a turning point for many MSW candidates because it offers hands-on experience and the opportunity to discover first-hand if this particular concentration or specialization is right for them. Under the supervision and direction of Field Instructors and Task Supervisors, students are placed in concentration-specific field placements and given the opportunity and responsibility to apply the knowledge, values, and skills learned in the classroom to real-life interactions with individuals, families, groups, communities, and organizations. Field placement is a hallmark of social work education and a crucial experience during the student’s MSW program.
The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is an organization that exists to promote and support a quality social work education and provide opportunities for leadership and professional development. To ensure that social work programs are meeting the standards for competent preparation, the CSWE maintains a Commission on Accreditation (COA). This commission is responsible for setting and maintaining the standards of accreditation, as well as reviewing social work programs to ensure that they meet these standards. Accreditation is a multistep process that involves program self-studies, site visits, and COA reviews.
The MSW program at the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University was accredited by the CSWE in 2001 and was most recently reviewed in 2013.
At Baylor University, we have a dedicated Field Placement Office and faculty because we realize that a student’s experience with their field placement can alter the entire course of their social work career, and we want to make sure it is the best possible experience. All of our Field Placement faculty are carefully chosen and dedicated entirely to helping our students with their field education, from placement to completion.
Once accepted to the MSW program, students immediately begin work with a field placement advisor to identify strengths and areas of interest. Students are then matched based on availability and their desired field of study.
Students begin their field placement internship the first semester of their MSW program. MSW Foundation students intern for 240 hours a semester for a total of 480 hours. MSW Advanced students intern for a total of 550 hours across two semesters. It is also important that an MSW program is capable of securing high-quality field placements for their students. This comes from maintaining good relationships with placement sites. Baylor’s placement sites include private and public agencies, religiously affiliated organizations and non-sectarian settings, generalist and advanced practice settings, and local and distant sites. For instance (see below):
While some MSW programs require a related bachelor’s degree or a large number of prerequisite classes, the Garland School of Social Work welcomes anyone with an undergraduate degree to apply. There is no requirement for a bachelor of social work or a degree in a related field. We feel that this only adds to the intellectual diversity of our classes and contributes to our holistic approach to education.
Additionally, students are not required to take the GRE to apply to the MSW program. In addition to demonstrating that they possess a strong liberal arts background and an understanding of statistics (3 semester hours) or by taking and passing the online GSSW statistics course, students will need to complete the following requirements for application to the program:
If you’re interested in performing clinical social work, you must become a licensed clinical social worker. The licensing process ensures that all practicing clinical social workers are qualified to be administering care and counseling vulnerable populations. The licensing process and requirements vary by state but commonly includes a period of practice with individuals or groups under board-approved supervision, a licensing exam, professional fitness requirements, and other optional certifications.
In Texas, in order to practice clinical social work, social workers must hold one of these four licenses: Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW), Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW), Licensed Master Social Worker — Advanced Practice (LMSW-AP) and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).
The LMSW is the second level of licensure recognized in the state of Texas and comes with a higher pay scale and increased responsibilities. After completing a Master or Doctorate of Social Work degree from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited university or college, you will need to complete the following steps to become licensed:
Licenses must be renewed every two years in order to remain active and for social workers to continue to legally practice. To renew your license, you must have successfully completed 30 clock hours of continuing education.
We know that funding a graduate degree is a challenge for many people, but we also understand the value that a CSWE accredited MSW program can add to your professional career as a social worker. At Baylor, we are committed to subsidizing student costs in order to make it more affordable to obtain your MSW.
Baylor students accepted to the Houston campus will receive at least a 50 percent tuition remission award.
To help you get the largest amount of financial assistance, we recommend that you apply early. Due to a limited number of scholarships and financial aid options at Baylor, the order in which applications are received helps us to determine who and how much funding can be given.
As part of every application, students are required to complete the FAFSA. This application helps both the Federal and State government, as well as our financial aid department to determine a student’s ability to pay for their degree. By weighing several factors, such as family income, size, obligations, assets, debts, and liabilities, FAFSA calculates what a student can contribute to their own education and recommends amounts that the government and other institutions can contribute to funding their degree.
Other options for financing your MSW degree at Baylor University include applying for grants, loans, and other merit-based scholarships. Students are considered for all of these options simply by completing the application process.
Grants are free gifts of money that do not need to be repaid upon completion of your degree. In addition to applying for federal financial aid and applying for financial assistance from the school, grants are the next best option for financing your education. Grants are often need-based, meaning that the student must demonstrate a need for financial assistance, which is primarily determined by the FAFSA. Grants can come from the federal and state government, the college or university, or other private and non-profit organizations.
After applying for grants, the next best source of funding comes from merit-based scholarships. These are generally supported by individual institutions (both public and private), as well as non-profit organizations. Merit-based scholarships are awarded based on a student’s academic or other achievements. Like grants, these do not need to be repaid. There are thousands of scholarships students can apply for and several websites that can help you determine which scholarships you can apply for, but the best practice is to begin applying early and apply to as many as you can.
A loan is money that is given to a student to be used for tuition and other academic expenses, but is expected to be repaid with interest upon completion of a student’s degree. If you have no other options, loans can be a great way to get started with your graduate degree, but be aware that you will need to have a plan in place to begin paying the borrowed money back as soon as you receive your diploma. Also, make sure that you look into the terms and conditions of the loan before signing. Compare which loans offer you the best interest rate and what their repayment options include.
Tuition remission is the process by which the Garland School of Social Work offsets its flat-rate tuition cost with institutional aid. This form of financial aid is applied directly to a students’ account and does not have to be repaid. A student is eligible to receive aid covering up to 12 hours of tuition costs per semester.
Your desire to do good through helping others is a gift worth sharing. Because of people like you, individuals and communities in our world who are struggling are able to find hope and support. To be the best possible advocate that you can be, it is important to arm yourself with the best education and tools. At Baylor University, our Master of Social Work degree is grounded in research, supported by expert faculty, and flexible enough for the busiest working professional.
The resources offered through one of our CSWE accredited programs will help you to become the most effective advocate you can be for those you wish to serve. We can’t wait to meet you and help you get started on your path to bettering the world.