5 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get with an MSW

licensed clinical social worker
licensed clinical social worker

Embarking on a career in social work is an inspiring choice for compassionate individuals, offering an incredible opportunity to empower and transform the lives of others. The profession involves helping individuals, families, and communities deal with various social and psychological challenges. However, to become a social worker, a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree is highly recommended, and required in many contexts. The MSW program provides advanced training in social work practice, theory, and research and prepares graduates for a range of leadership roles in the field.

In this blog, we will explore some of the highest-paying MSW jobs available for those interested in social work. We will also discuss the roles and responsibilities of MSW social work jobs and the steps needed to acquire them.

  1. Clinical Social Worker
  2. Healthcare Social Worker
  3. School Social Worker
  4. Policy Analyst
  5. Program Director/Manager

What is the Role of a Social Worker?

The role of a social worker is to advocate for and support individuals, families, and communities by providing resources, counseling, and assistance in navigating complex social challenges. Social workers work in various settings, such as hospitals, schools, mental health clinics, and government agencies. They may also work in private practice or as consultants. A typical social worker will engage in the following:

  • Assess the needs of their clients, develop plans of care, and connect clients with necessary resources such as medical care, housing, and financial assistance. 
  • Provide counseling and support, advocacy, and case management services. 
  • Demonstrate excellent communication, problem-solving, critical thinking skills and a deep commitment to social justice and human rights.

What Is An Online Master Of Social Work Degree?

An online Master of Social Work (MSW) degree is a graduate level program that trains students to become licensed social workers. This degree program is designed to provide students with advanced knowledge and skills in social work practice, research, and policy. Students can complete their coursework online through various virtual learning platforms, with some programs also requiring in-person fieldwork or residency requirements. Online MSW programs typically take two to three years to complete, but some programs may offer accelerated options. Graduates of online MSW programs can pursue a wide range of careers in social work, including clinical practice, community organizing, policy analysis, and more.

Learn More about Keuka College's Online MSW Programs

school social worker

Discover the Highest-Paying MSW Jobs

If you're considering a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree, you may be wondering what kind of career opportunities will be available to you after graduation, including the highest-paying MSW jobs. Social work is a diverse field with a wide range of potential MSW degree jobs; fortunately, many of these jobs also come with competitive salaries.

In this list, we'll take a closer look at some of the highest-paying MSW jobs, exploring the roles and responsibilities of each position and the potential salary options. Whether you're interested in direct practice, administration, or policy, there are a wealth of opportunities for well-compensated social work careers.

1. Clinical Social Worker

Clinical social workers provide psychotherapy services and mental health support to individuals, families, and groups. They work in a variety of settings, including private practices, hospitals, mental health clinics, and community health centers. Clinical social workers assess their client's mental health and social needs and develop treatment plans to address their concerns. They provide counseling and therapy services to help clients overcome emotional, behavioral, and relationship issues.

Clinical social workers also connect their clients with appropriate community resources, such as support groups, financial assistance, or housing services. They collaborate with other mental health professionals, such as psychologists and psychiatrists, to ensure their clients receive comprehensive care.

Salary: The average base salary for clinical social workers in the United States is approximately $74,195 per year. 

2. Healthcare Social Worker

Healthcare social workers are specialized social workers who provide support to patients, their families, and caregivers in medical settings. They help individuals cope with the physical, emotional, and financial challenges that often arise during health crises. The responsibilities of healthcare social workers can vary depending on their place of employment but may include coordinating discharge plans, providing counseling, arranging for home care services, assisting with insurance and financial concerns, and advocating for patients' rights. They also collaborate with healthcare teams to ensure patients receive the appropriate care and services. Healthcare social workers can work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, hospice organizations, and other healthcare settings.

Salary: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for healthcare social workers is $60,280, with the top 10% earning more than $87,830.

3. School Social Worker

School social workers play a critical role in ensuring students' well-being and academic success. They are also responsible for addressing students’ social, emotional, and behavioral needs, providing counseling, and connecting them with resources both inside and outside the school. School social workers also work with teachers and administrators to develop programs and policies that promote a safe and supportive learning environment. In addition, they may collaborate with parents, community organizations, and government agencies to provide additional support for students and families in need. The work environment for school social workers is typically within a school setting, such as a public or private school.

Salary: The average salary for a school social worker is around $67,990 per year, depending on the level of education, experience, and geographic location, with the top 10% earning approximately $87,830 per year.

4. Policy Analyst

A policy analyst in social work is responsible for analyzing and evaluating social welfare policies and programs to determine their effectiveness and impact on the community. They also develop policy recommendations for improvement and change. This role requires strong research, analytical, and writing skills. Policy analysts often work for government agencies, non-profit organizations, or advocacy groups. They may also collaborate with other professionals, such as lawmakers, to help shape policy decisions. The work environment can vary but typically involves a mix of office work, field research, and stakeholder meetings.

Salary: The average salary for a policy analyst in social work is around $61,979 per year, with the most experienced professionals earning $92,000 per year.

5. Program Director/ Manager

A program director in social work is responsible for overseeing the planning, development, and implementation of social service programs. This role requires a significant amount of leadership and management skills as they are responsible for supervising staff, developing budgets, and ensuring compliance with program regulations. Program directors also collaborate with community organizations and government agencies to ensure that the needs of their clients are being met. The work environment can vary depending on the organization but typically involves working in an office setting with regular meetings and site visits.

Salary: The salary for a program director in social work can range from $78,000 to $131,832 per year depending on the location and type of organization they work for.

social work program

Step-By-Step Guide: How to Enter MSW Social Work Jobs

If you're interested in pursuing a career in social work and wondering how to get started, here's a step-by-step guide to help you on your journey:

  1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree: The first step to becoming a social worker is to obtain a bachelor's degree in social work or a related field such as psychology or sociology. This degree can help you gain a foundational understanding of social work and equip you with the basic skills needed to start your career. However, if you have a bachelor's degree in another field, you may have the option to skip ahead to step two and pursue the advanced track MSW directly, bypassing the requirement of earning a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW). Some MSW programs offer a "traditional track" specifically designed for individuals with non-BSW undergraduate degrees, allowing them to gain the necessary knowledge and skills to enter the field of social work.
  2. Gain Experience: To enhance your chances of getting into a reputable MSW program, gaining practical experience in social work-related settings is essential. Volunteer work, internships, or paid positions in social service organizations can help you build your skills and provide you with valuable experience that could make you stand out to admissions officers.
  3. Get Your MSW Degree:  To become a licensed clinical social worker, you must earn a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). During the MSW program, students learn advanced social work theory and develop specialized skills in their chosen concentration area. There are two tracks available to obtain the MSW; the traditional track, a longer pathway designed for non-BSW bachelor's degree holders, and the advanced track, a shorter pathway intended for BSW holders. The degree program may take 2-3 years to complete, depending on your experience level and the program's structure.
  4. Engage in field practicum: Students must gain a certain number of clinical hours in the field to practice. Fortunately, MSW programs include supervised field practicum experiences where you gain hands-on experience in social work settings. These internships allow you to apply the knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to real-world situations.
  5. Obtain State Licensure: After completing a CSWE-accredited MSW degree, you will need to obtain a social work license. The specific licensing requirements vary depending on your state, so it's important to check with your state licensing board and obtain licensure in the state where you plan to practice. Typically, the process involves passing a state exam and completing a certain number of supervised hours of practice.
  6. Gain Experience in the Field: Once you're licensed, you'll need to gain experience in the field of social work to advance your career. Many MSW graduates start in entry-level positions, such as case managers or social service assistants. From there, you can work your way up the ladder to more advanced positions such as program directors or clinical social workers.
  7. Continuing education: Social work is a field that requires ongoing learning and professional development. Maintain your licensure by fulfilling any continuing education requirements set by your state licensing board. This often involves attending workshops, conferences or completing additional coursework.

By following these steps, you can gain the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to start a rewarding career in social work. If you're interested in obtaining an MSW degree, Keuka College offers a CSWE-accredited and clinical MSW program that can equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to make a difference in the lives of others.

Make a Difference: Pursue a Rewarding Career in Social Work with Keuka College's Master of Social Work

Keuka College's online Master of Social Work (MSW) program is a graduate-level program designed for students who want to become licensed social workers. This program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), and it provides students with advanced knowledge and skills in social work practice, research, and policy. Keuka College is also considered the #1 BSW provider in New York State, and the online MSW program has been growing due to an increased need for MSW-prepared social workers. The program is delivered through a combination of online coursework and in-person fieldwork experiences, with students completing two field placements in social work agencies.

Students can complete the program in two years of full-time study, or they can choose a part-time schedule that can be completed in three years. There are two tracks available for students obtaining their MSW, including the traditional track, a pathway designed for non-BSW bachelor's degree holders, and the advanced track, a shorter pathway intended for BSW holders. Graduates of the program are prepared to pursue fulfilling careers in social work, including clinical practice, advocacy, community organizing, and more. Make a difference today and start your academic journey to enter a rewarding career in social work.

Discover more about Keuka College’s CSWE-accredited online master of social work programs.