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What Is the Benefit of an MSW?

A Master of Social Work can lead to career growth and advancement.

An advanced degree may be the right next move for your career, particularly if you’re considering a Master of Social Work (MSW).

In a 2017 survey, almost 93% of MSW graduates polled said they’d recommend a social work degree.1 Among graduate school options, an online social work degree program can convey numerous benefits, beginning with the skills, knowledge, and training you need for advancement along your current career path. Or, you can use your MSW training and degree to move into an entirely new field.

What Is the Benefit of an MSW?

“MSW programs prepare graduates for work in their chosen field of concentration or specialization and include developing skills required to perform clinical assessments, manage large caseloads, take on supervisory roles, engage in policy-level advocacy, and explore new ways of drawing on social services to meet the needs of clients and communities,” the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) explains.2

With an MSW degree, the generalist and specialized education you receive “broadens your career opportunities to include specialized practice like mental health or child welfare, as well as clinical and administrative positions,” the CSWE says.

So, if your career goal is a clinical social worker job, the MSW education you receive, plus a supervised practicum and licensure, can help get you there. There are numerous other benefits of an MSW degree. Here are a few others to consider:

Increased Job Opportunities

“Jobs for new MSWs appear to be plentiful, covering a wide range of activities and settings,” according to the findings of the 2017 National Social Work Workforce Study. Almost 81% of MSWs surveyed said they found some or many jobs locally, compared to 69% for BSWs. Also, most MSW graduates surveyed said they had accepted jobs requiring the advanced degree they had earned, or a social work license.1 The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts growth of 16% between 2016 and 2026 for all social worker jobs.3

Higher Salaries

The mean income for MSWs in 2017 was $13,000 higher than for BSW degree-holders.1 The highest median incomes for individuals with MSW degrees or higher were in national security and international affairs ($69,000), elementary and secondary education ($60,000), executive offices and legislative bodies ($57,500), insurance carriers ($57,000), hospitals ($56,000), and other healthcare settings ($56,000).4

Path to Teaching

An MSW degree can be a desirable credential for college faculty jobs. According to the CSWE, in 2017 91% of the full-time faculty members surveyed held MSW degrees. Among part-time faculty members, almost 90% were master’s in social work degree-holders.5

Diverse Social Work Career Options

MSW respondents to the National Social Work Workforce Study cited the range of social worker jobs as a benefit. One MSW degree-holder wrote: “With a social work degree, someone has a wide range of job opportunities. They can work in child protection, schools, hospitals, mental health facilities, etc.” In 2017, the client focus for MSW social workers was:1

  • 39%, children and families
  • 21%, people with mental health issues
  • 15%, people receiving healthcare 
  • 12%, other
  • 7%, school social work
  • 6%, people with substance abuse issues  

Further Your Career With an Online MSW Program

As you research master’s degree options, put accreditation at the top of your must-have list. An accredited university must meet rigorous standards in areas such as academic excellence, faculty selection, and operational quality. There are six regional accrediting associations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Accreditation confers some important benefits you may not have considered, but that can be key to your MSW journey. Accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission, for example:

  • Allows access to federal and sometimes state financial aid.
  • Provides confidence in academic quality and standards to those evaluating the transfer of credit from one institution to another.
  • Instills confidence in employers when evaluating the credentials of potential employees.

Next, look for CSWE accreditation. There are over 750 bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work programs with CSWE accreditation.6 And according to the National Association of Social Workers, “Your chances of being licensed or hired as a social worker are greatly enhanced by an accredited social work degree.”7

With those key parameters accounted for, look for the school of social work that meets your personal criteria and can prepare you for licensure. Where do you want to take your social work career? Some of today’s in-demand specializations focus on social work with children and families, advanced clinical practice, social work in healthcare, and military social work. Top schools offer elective courses you can add to further customize your online MSW program.

Other key considerations include:

  • Field experience opportunities
  • An online education platform that’s flexible enough to meet your needs as an adult learner and working professional
  • Excellent student support 
  • Rolling start dates
  • Degree completion choices
  • Financial aid and tuition reduction options  

When you find the MSW program that’s just the right fit, you can reap benefits that give your social work career new meaning and expand your ability to help others live better lives.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online Master of Social Work (MSW) degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient online format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,