Is Getting An MSW Worth It?

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An MSW graduate in front of a background of money.

Earning a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree is a significant commitment. There are many rewards, but it can be difficult to decide if you want to take the leap and advance your education, or choose an alternative method to progress in your career.

Whether or not an MSW will be worth it is a personal question. The social work field is not about financial rewards, even for the most accomplished professionals in the sector. It’s an industry that prides itself on fulfilling work in which professionals can make a difference in the lives of others. With this overarching priority in mind, let’s look at major value points associated with pursuing an online Master of Social Work (MSW) to help you determine if getting an MSW is worth it.

MSW Careers and Salaries

An MSW can help you move to more advanced positions in the social services sector that offer a higher median salary, providing more financial stability and opportunity in your life. Getting an MSW is worth it if you want to assume higher-level roles, such as that of a social work supervisor, and if you want opportunities to increase your earnings enough to offset the cost of a degree.

In general, the social work industry is growing quickly. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates new job opportunities for social workers will grow at a 13% rate from 2019 to 2029. Here are two common career opportunities in social work.

Clinical Social Workers

Clinical social workers are mental health professionals who devote themselves to providing therapy and counseling to individuals, families, and groups. They help patients who are dealing with mental health or behavioral disorders find jobs, housing, or access to medical professionals and services. Clinical social workers typically work in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, and clinics, where they can assess a patient’s condition and track their progress. According to the compensation website PayScale, the median annual salary for licensed clinical social workers in the U.S. is around $58,500.

Social Work Supervisors

Social work supervisors work in outpatient care centers, hospitals, community centers, or nonprofit organizations and supervise the day-to-day operations of other social workers. They take on mentorship roles with less experienced social workers and lend their expertise to more difficult patient cases. They also ensure their organization adheres to policies and regulations, and they help recommend treatment plans. Social work supervisors earn a median annual salary of around $58,300, according to PayScale.

The Benefits of an MSW

The advantages of an MSW really begin to deliver value when it comes to the types of jobs you can pursue with the degree. Many managerial and supervisor positions in the social work sector require a master’s degree.

In some cases, this degree requirement is meant to serve as a benchmark to show that a job candidate has the breadth of skills to manage a team and understand the types of challenges subordinates go through. In other cases, managerial positions will require an MSW because the employer is looking for specialized skills, such as a particularly deep awareness of regulatory laws, for example. Either way, if you want to take on a leadership role, an advanced degree is often the first step.

Clinical licensure is another key element that comes with pursuing an MSW. This is particularly the case for the online MSW at Regis College, as our program focuses on clinical social work.

Clinical counseling is often an attractive job for social workers because it enables them to work closely with clients on a one-on-one basis, serving as powerful helpers and potentially changing lives for the better. However, having this close working relationship with clients requires a great deal of skill and expertise. Clinicians must have a deep understanding of a variety of sciences and academic disciplines, with key materials covered in detail during MSW coursework.

Knowledge is just the starting point for clinical work. Practicing under the supervision of a licensed professional is also vital, as this gives counselors an opportunity to gain essential experience without the risk of private practice. A supervisor is there to step in and offer guidance in the event that an especially unusual or difficult situation arises. Professional practice hours that are required as part of an MSW program are designed to provide this kind of learning opportunity through supervised clinical work.

Whether you are looking to lead other social workers, or are interested in clinical counseling, getting an MSW is worth it because it can open opportunities for fulfilling, exciting work that gives you a chance to help others.

The Future of Social Work

Another reason for pursuing an MSW revolves around the future of social work itself. Many communities across the U.S. have begun to realize that professionals in law enforcement do not have the experience or skills to deal successfully with mentally ill people. On the other hand, social workers are specifically trained to help people with emotional, mental, and behavioral disorders. They have the strengths, the skills, and the experience to address a variety of interpersonal conflicts where mental illness is a factor, and can potentially save lives.

Many people across the country realize the important role social workers play in helping solve problems in communities, and they are communicating their desire for major change. People have argued that police “should not be the primary responders to non-violent, non-criminal emergency calls, and that cities should devote greater resources to social services,” according to The Guardian newspaper. In response, some police departments have decided to start hiring social workers who can handle situations that have a mental health element. Several cities and communities have already begun to see the benefits of having social workers work in the public alongside police officers.

It’s clear that social workers have the ability to make a difference in the lives of individual people as well in communities across the country.

Earn Your MSW Degree Online

Getting an MSW is worth it for a wide range of reasons, depending on your circumstances. However, you’ll also want to consider how the specific degree program you choose could be valuable relative to your goals and needs. Here are a few ways the online MSW at Regis College stands out from a value perspective.

  • We don’t require the GRE for application.
  • We offer three start times, so you can begin your learning process as soon as possible.
  • Our curriculum is designed for flexibility and convenience, making it easier to fit your coursework into your real-life schedule.
  • We structure our courses so you can complete your degree in as few as eight semesters.
  • We accept eligible transfer credits, so any past qualifying work you’ve done toward the degree isn’t lost.

Learn more about how the Regis College online Master of Social Work can help you achieve your career goals as a social worker.

Recommended Readings

Is a Correctional Social Worker Career Right for You?

What You Can Learn About Ethics in Social Work

What Is Accreditation, and Why Does it Matter for You?

Sources:

The Guardian, “The US Police Department That Decided to Hire Social Workers”

Ms. Magazine, “When Cities Replace Police with Social Workers”

PayScale, “Average Licensed Clinical Social Worker Salary”

PayScale, “Average Social Work Supervisor Salary”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Social Workers