BSW to MSW: How to Elevate Your Social Work Career Online

BSW to MSW: How to Elevate Your Social Work Career Online
BSW to MSW: How to Elevate Your Social Work Career Online

There are many reasons why a social work professional may be wondering how to elevate their social work career. The increasing demands of a society facing mental health crises and recovering from a global pandemic could be the impetus for some. Others are frustrated by the limitations in their career mobility or salary potential. Still, others may be interested in learning new intervention skills and techniques in social work but feel unsure how to gain that knowledge while maintaining their professional and personal obligations.

For social work professionals in each of these situations, there are meaningful opportunities to elevate their social work careers in ways that build their social work skills and techniques, give them access to more social work career paths, and raise their salary potential.

Whether social worker wants to take on more responsibilities in their current workplace, be considered for leadership positions, or specialize their knowledge, leveraging their BSW degree by enrolling in an MSW program online is an effective way to elevate their social work career.

How to Grow as a Social Worker

There are several ways to grow as a social worker, including personal study, professional training and experience, and further education. While each of these options can help social workers elevate their social work career, one rises above the rest. Further education through a Master’s of Social Work is the best choice for those who want to increase their job opportunities, salary potential, and potential impact on society.

Personal Study

Learning more about social work skills and techniques is a primary way to elevate your social work career. Social workers can increase their effectiveness by growing in their understanding of critical areas in social work like assessment and treatment of trauma, family dynamics, and human behavior within social systems.

While personal study can help entry-level social workers become more effective and efficient in their work, it cannot open the professional or clinical doors that an MSW can. Roles such as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker require a master’s degree and certification that personal study cannot replace.

Professional Experience

Gaining more professional experience as a BSW-holder is another way for social workers to grow in their careers. Social workers can ask their supervisors for feedback, pursue mentorship relationships, and attend workshops or training programs offered within their organization. Proactive pursuit of development in social work skills and techniques in the professional context can go a long way in enhancing a social worker’s expertise and creating opportunities for advancement and collaboration among supervisors and peers.

Like personal study, gaining professional experience can be a significant enhancement to a social worker’s career. However, experience alone cannot pave the way to social work career paths like becoming a counselor as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

Earning a Master’s Degree in Social Work

The most comprehensive, effective preparation needed to elevate a social work career is a Master of Social Work degree program. An online MSW program can help social work professionals hone their social work skills and techniques and prepare for licensure as clinical social workers. Such a program features relevant paths of study for BSW-holders who want to pursue licensure as Licensed Clinical Social Workers. Upon graduation and subsequent licensure, LCSWs are trained to offer a higher level of social work and mental health services and have many more options in their professional lives.

Benefits of Earning an MSW

Clinical MSW coursework, such as the Keuka College online MSW program, empowers students to elevate their social work career through curriculum and fieldwork that prepare them to become qualified, effective mental health providers. Graduates of clinical MSW programs who then become certified as Licensed Clinical Social Workers are eligible for leadership roles, professional positions, and salaries that were not attainable for them as BSW holders.

Preparing to Lead in Social Work through Clinically-Focused Courses

The courses in the Keuka College Online Master of Social Work impart social work knowledge, develop clinical mental health treatment skills, and prepare students for a variety of social work fields, including mental health, addiction, substance abuse, and family and youth services.

Advanced Theory for Social Work Practice

In this course, students gain an advanced understanding of human behavior in several contexts. They discover and discuss social environments like the family, the community, and the organization. Growing knowledge of individual and group development prepares students in Advanced Theory for Social Work Practice to enter into diverse settings and communities to practice social work.

Group Process

Through both theory and experiential learning activities, students in Group Processes learn about the knowledge and skills related to the formation, definition, and processes in diverse groups. Students develop intervention skills and techniques in social work through conceptual learning activities as well as fieldwork.

Assessment and Treatment of Trauma

By studying trauma theory, etiology, and treatment of traumatic symptomatology, students in this course learn how to treat survivors of trauma effectively. Coursework emphasizes the therapeutic, developmental, cultural, and social needs of the individual suffering from trauma as well as their family system. Students learn to consider the effectiveness of various interventions, how to build trust, and what it looks like to practice professional self-care.

Assessment and Treatment of Trauma

Increasing Scope of Practice

While BSW-holders can perform non-clinical functions and serve in entry-level, direct-service social worker roles, they are limited in their scope of practice compared to individuals who earn an MSW. While the BSW is an entry point for social work careers, individuals who want to elevate their social work career will need to earn an MSW to qualify for more advanced positions.

Through a clinically-focused MSW program like the online MSW at Keuka College, students can prepare to fill the rising need for qualified mental health practitioners, which BSW graduates cannot do. MSW graduates who become certified as Licensed Clinical Social Workers can practice as mental health providers who can assess, diagnose, treat, and work to prevent mental illness as well as emotional and mental disturbances. Unlike their prior positions as BSW-holders, LCSWs can work in clinical roles and accept insurance referrals.

Accessing a Better Job Outlook and Salary Potential

The largest area of projected growth in social work jobs between 2020 and 2030 is mental health and substance abuse social workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that such roles for such professionals will increase by 15 percent in those ten years. As mental health professionals, Licensed Clinical Social Workers who have graduated from clinically-focused Master of Social Work degree programs and achieved licensure are qualified to fill those in-demand roles.

The potential salary difference between a BSW graduate and an LCSW is significant as well. lists a median annual salary of $61,505 for BSW social workers. They report an average salary of $74,800 for Licensed Clinical Social Workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the highest 10 percent of social workers earn more than $82,840.

Social workers who earn the highest salaries tend to work in government roles or in healthcare. Licensed clinical social workers are well-suited for jobs in both of these sectors.

The Fulfilling Careers of MSW-Trained Social Workers

Keuka College alumni can be found throughout the country practicing as social workers in various settings. Due to their extensive coursework and field practice during their degree program, Keuka-prepared social workers make a difference in the lives of individuals and communities.

Take sibling trio Monica, Alex, and Michael Leljedal, for example. All three earned their Master of Social Work degrees from Keuka College and are now working as social workers. Upon graduation, the three immediately found social work jobs: Monica with Tioga County Mental Health, Alex in palliative care, and Michael in a long-term care facility.

Alex describes the ways that Keuka’s MSW program prepared him for the real world of social work:

“What prepared me the most for my job is the teachings and instructions on one-on-one interactions, and building a rapport with clients. We learned therapy models and techniques, theoretical frameworks, and the focus on individual relationships, which was the biggest preparation for me. Thanks to Keuka College, I learned how to conduct therapy sessions with actual experience in practice.”

Elevate Your Social Work Career

Elevate Your Social Work Career with an Online MSW from Keuka College

Do you want to hone your social work skills and techniques? Are you curious about the various paths of study for a social worker? Would you like greater access to the various social work career paths that can make a difference in the lives of individuals, families, and communities?

If so, the Online Master of Social Work at Keuka College is ideal for your consideration. The degree program will prepare you to meet the needs of clients now and in the figure. With two paths of study for social workers, the Keuka College online MSW program meets students where they are and equips them for the careers they desire.

For students with a Bachelor of Social Work, the Online Master of Social Work Advanced Track is a perfect fit. In less than two years, students complete 33 credit hours and 500 real-world, hands-on experience hours facilitated by their Field Placement Coordinator. As a 100% online program accredited by the Counsel for Social Work Education, the Advanced Track program prepares students to pursue licensure as clinical social workers and mental health providers who can accept insurance referrals.

Designed for students interested in changing careers, the Traditional Track is for students who hold a bachelor’s degree in a field other than social work. Like the Advanced Track, the Traditional Track program is 100% online and a CSWE-accredited clinical social work program.

The program length is three years and comprises 60 credit hours and 900 real-world, hands-on experience hours facilitated by your Field Placement Coordinator. The Online MSW degree program Traditional Track will prepare you  to pursue licensure as a clinical social worker who serves as a mental health provider and accepts insurance referrals.

Both the Advanced and Traditional Tracks feature faculty members who are licensed social work practitioners who are active in the field. Field Placement Services are included in both the Traditional and Advanced Tracks, facilitating quality placements in each student’s local community with partners such as:

  • Community centers/organizations
  • Human service agencies
  • Counseling and therapy centers
  • Addiction and mental health treatment facilities
  • Adoption agencies
  • Senior care facilities, such as nursing homes
  • Correctional facilities
  • Hospitals/clinics

Keuka College is the #1 provider of bachelor of social work degrees in New York according to the National Center of Education Statistics (2019). U.S. News & World Report lists Keuka College on its list of Top Performers in Social Mobility.

Are you ready to learn more about how to elevate your social work career? Download Keuka College’s Online MSW program guide today.