Discover which social work path may be best for your career.

A social worker visits an elderly man.As with any profession, obtaining an advanced degree in social work can be a valuable tool for furthering your career. To some, that may mean an increase in salary and responsibility; to others, it may mean an increase in direction and impact. Furthering your career in social work can open doors to areas that interest you and provide you with an opportunity to have a larger influence on your clients, their families, and communities.

Career opportunities within the social work field are expected to grow 12% from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all other occupations.* As a result, the demand for MSW degree holders is growing. While a bachelor’s degree in the field of social work can allow you to work directly with the public in many entry-level positions, an MSW can help you gain advanced knowledge and experience to practice at clinical and supervisory levels.

MSW degree holders commonly focus their work in such areas as:

  1. Youth and families—The largest branch of social work in the U.S., this career path allows you to focus on direct services to children and families in need. Your support can help others care for themselves and get back on their feet. Clients may have experienced mental health issues, trauma, unemployment, poverty, domestic violence, and more.
  2. Clinical—If you have a passion for observing human behavior and diagnosing mental disorders, you may want to consider becoming a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). As an LCSW, you can serve in various areas such as mental health counseling, substance abuse intervention, public health, and family therapy.
  3. Medical—Serve on the front line for clients of all ages in a hospital or rehabilitation setting. Working with medical professionals as well as interdisciplinary professionals, you could become a valuable resource for clients and their families as you help them understand the issues affecting their lives, facilitate decision-making, and coordinate future planning for the patient(s).
  4. Mental health—Clients and their family members suffering the effects of mental illness rely on social workers and counselors to stay informed, proactive, and positive. In this setting, you could work with clients to help build relationships that foster the recovery process so that they may lead fulfilling lives.
  5. School—As a service to schools, communities, and school districts, you could work to promote better academic experiences for all students and their families. This may be through counseling children, assisting with violence-prevention programs, working with young adults facing bullying and abuse, staff development, and collaborating with other community services programs in the school system.

Whatever your interests may be, the experience you build through earning your MSW degree can accelerate your path toward becoming a supervisor, director, and leader within your career setting. Read more about career options, special requirements, and social worker salaries for those holding their MSW and how Walden’s CSWE-accredited program can help get you there.


*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016–2017 Edition, Social Workers, on the Internet at www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm.

†MSW Guide, Social Work Careers, on the Internet at www.MSWguide.org/careers/.

‡Career options may require additional experience, training, or other factors beyond the successful completion of this degree program.

Walden University’s Master of Social Work (MSW) program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CSWE’s Commission on Accreditation is responsible for developing standards that define competent preparation for professional social workers and ensuring that social work programs meet these standards.

Note on Licensure The minimum academic credential required to obtain licensure to practice as a social worker in most states is a Master of Social Work (MSW) from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Walden University’s MSW program is accredited by CSWE.

State licensing boards are responsible for regulating the practice of social work, and each state has its own academic, licensure, and certification requirements.

Walden recommends that students consult the appropriate social work licensing board in the state in which they plan to practice to determine the specific academic requirements for licensure. Walden enrollment advisors can provide information relating to the state-by-state requirements for licensure. However, it remains the individual’s responsibility to understand, evaluate, and comply with all licensing requirements for the state in which he or she intends to practice. Walden makes no representations or guarantee that completion of its coursework or programs will permit an individual to achieve state licensure, authorization, endorsement, or other state credential as a social worker.

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