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Most social workers choose the field not for the money, but because they have a calling to help people. However, social work is an important and at times stressful career, and social workers still need to earn a living. When you complete a master’s in social work (MSW) degree – especially at a top-ranked program – you can advance to higher paying roles like clinical social worker and find a job in a more lucrative work setting.
The Salary Range for Social Workers
The median average salary for a social worker – regardless of his or her highest level of education – is $46,890, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, different jobs within the field of social work earn different pay rates.
Among the lowest paying jobs is child or school social worker. These social workers earn a median wage of just $36,000 per year, according to U.S. News & World Report. If you have only a bachelor’s degree and find work as a general social worker, you can expect to earn a median salary of $41,000. Wages rise as you move into management roles. For example, social services directors earn $47,560 and social work supervisors make $50,400, according to U.S. News Report.
Specialized social work roles, too, correspond to higher rates of pay. Hospice social workers make a median salary of $48,000, while medical social workers earn a median salary of $51,600 per year, according to U.S. News & World Report. If you go on to attain your clinical social work license after you complete your MSW degree, you can earn a median salary of $53,000. Social workers who find employment as employee assistance program counselor earn median wages of $55,000 per year, according to U.S. News & World Report. The highest paid social work professionals are those who work in an industry outside of mental health, substance abuse, child and family social work, school social work and healthcare social work. For these social workers, the median wage is $60,230, the BLS reported.
Employment Settings Where Social Workers Make the Most Money
What kind of work you do isn’t the only factor that affects your income. Where a social worker is employed matters, too. While there are more than a dozen different kinds of work settings that employ social workers, some work settings are known for offering higher pay rates than average.
Hospitals offer some of the highest salaries for social workers, with a median annual wage of $57,650, the BLS reported. Positions in the state and local government pay a median salary of $48,100. If you work for a company that offers ambulatory healthcare services, the median salary for social workers in your work environment is $47,130. On the other hand, social workers in environments like nursing and residential care facilities and individual and family services earn thousands of dollars less than the median wage per year, the BLS reported.
Improving your salary isn’t the only benefit of earning your graduate degree in social work. Attaining your MSW is an important step toward becoming a licensed clinical social worker, which qualifies you to diagnose and treat mental and behavioral health disorders. In this role, you could be your own boss, if you open a private practice. The BLS predicts that candidates with a master’s degree will have the most positive job outlook.
Earning your MSW allows you to move into more lucrative positions at better-paying employers. Not only does the advanced degree qualify you for leadership roles, but it is also a requirement for aspiring licensed clinical social workers.