What is a Masters in Social Work MSW Degree?

What is a MSW?

What is a Masters in Social Work

A Master of Social Work (MSW) degree is the academic standard for people who have a strong desire to work in social services and who wish to have professional access to the full range of career opportunities social work affords. There are a number of areas of specialization for this degree, but it is important to note that most states license social workers for certain professional roles - including counseling - and that those licenses usually require a MSW. There is no other degree quite like it: the MSW curriculum is a training ground for people who want to spend their lives helping those in need of a safety net.

The MSW Program

Most MSW curricula are designed for completion in two years of full time study. Generally the first year is devoted to classroom activity and the second year is spent in an extensive field work program, which is comprised of supervised, on the job activities in an agency that aligns with a MSW student's chosen area of specialization. The MSW program at University of Southern California School of Social Work, for instance, has partnership arrangements with agencies and social service programs throughout Los Angeles where their students can be placed. Field work requirements often reach the thousand hour mark and in most states, the minimum number of hours in the field is dictated by state licensing requirements. Many states require an additional 2,000 hours of field experience prior to licensure as a clinical social worker.

MSW Specializations

Each university with a school of social work has its own method of developing degree areas of concentration, but most conform to the following classifications. MSW students can opt for specialization in children and youth, working with the aged, family services, healthcare, mental health, school counseling, and community advocacy. These are examples for areas of focus but the concept is selecting an age group or an area of service on which to concentrate study and field work. These areas of specialization are considered subsets of clinical social work, the status - and license - that allow the MSW graduate to function effectively as a counselor and an interventionist.

MSW Careers

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, about fifty four percent of all social workers are employed in healthcare and non-governmental social service agencies. Thirty one percent work for government agencies; the balance are employed in other types of service or have private counseling practices. One of the major growth areas for licensed clinical social workers is in substance abuse counseling. Child, family and school social workers have a median salary of $39,340; those working in medical and public health facilities are paid an average of $46,300; and those working in mental health and substance abuse have a median pay scale of $38,200.

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