Widener

An MSW’s Career Guide

Social workers dedicate their lives to helping others, serving their communities as they assist clients in adapting to a life change, weather a crisis, or overcome an addiction. Earning your Master’s of Social Work degree opens the door to fields like health care, substance abuse, and schools — areas that often require an MSW degree to fill their positions. If you’re obtaining your degree in social work now, or thinking about it, know that the Bureau of Labor Services (BLS) predicts this field to see a faster-than-average growth rate of 12 percent between 2014 and 2024, and to earn a median income of $45,900.1 Below is a more specific breakdown of what you can expect as a new social worker in the fields of health care, mental health and substance abuse, and child and school services.

Health Care Social Workers

Those who work in this field assist clients in understanding and coping with their diagnoses, helping them to make the necessary lifestyle changes needed to live a full life within their current abilities. Health care social workers expect to see strong growth in job opportunity — 19 percent between 2014 and 2024 — and they earn a higher-than-average median wage of $52,380.1 The health care social worker category includes geriatric social workers, hospice and palliative care social workers, and medical social workers.  

  • Geriatric social workers specialize in therapy with older adults and their families to assist them in finding the necessary services for care. That could mean connecting them to programs that provide meals, home healthcare, or living arrangements that are most suitable to their capabilities. 
     
  • Hospice and palliative care social workers work with terminally ill patients who have six months or less to live. They provide patients and their families the needed education surrounding caregiving at this difficult time, as well as the deep emotional and psychological support to navigate end-of-life concerns.|
     
  • Medical social workers work with hospital patients and their families through the discharge process and connect them to necessary community and medical resources, including support groups. They will also conduct follow up visits when necessary.

Finding Work as a Health Care Social Worker
The prospects for a career as a health care social worker are excellent. Not only is the industry growing at the incredible rate of 19 percent,1  but the industries and metropolitan areas below offer the best positioning for job availability, and salaries up to more than $30k above industry standard.

  • The 5 Easiest Industries in which to Find a Job
    General medical and surgical hospitals, individual and family services, home health care services, nursing care facilities, and outpatient care centers employ the largest numbers of health care social workers and provide an annual mean wage ranging between $45,840 and $58,5802 — up to $6k1 more than industry standard.
     
  • The Top 5 Paying Industries 
    Working in scientific research and development services; management, scientific, and technical consulting services; general medical and surgical hospitals; insurance carriers; or home health care services means earning a higher-than-average annual mean wage that ranges between $58,580 and $60,5202 — up to $8k1 more than industry standard.
     
  • The Top 5 Paying Metropolitan Areas
    All five of the top-paying metropolitan areas are in California. If you work in the Vallejo-Fairfield, Redding, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Hanford-Corcoran or the San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco areas, you’ll earn a mean annual salary that ranges between $76,910 and $84,9602 —  up to more than $30k above the industry standard.1 

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

Mental health and substance abuse social workers help clients with addiction issues as well as mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. They often refer clients to further resources to help with their illness, such as support groups and 12-step programs. Due in part to drug offenders now being sent to rehab rather than jail, and the increasing coverage of mental health services by insurance companies, this group of social workers is expected to see a well-above-average 19 percent growth rate between 2014 and 2024 and a median wage of $42, 170.1  

Finding Work as a Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker
Career growth for mental health and substance abuse social workers is at a remarkable rate of 19 percent.1 The industries and metropolitan areas below offer the best positioning for job availability and salaries up to more than $48k above industry standard.

  • The 5 Easiest Industries in which to Find a Job
    Outpatient care centers; individual and family services; residential intellectual and developmental disability, mental health, and substance abuse facilities; local government (OES designation); and psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals employ the largest number of mental health and substance abuse social workers and provide an annual mean wage ranging between $43,420 and $53,5203 — up to $11k more than industry standard.
     
  • The Top 5 Paying Industries 
    Working in the offices of other health practitioners; elementary and secondary schools; home health care services; specialty hospitals (except psychiatric and substance abuse facilities); and colleges, universities, and professional schools means earning a higher-than-average annual mean wage that ranges between $53,880 and $66,7303 — up to $24k1 more than industry standard.
     
  • The Top 5 Paying Metropolitan Areas
    If you work in the Macon, GA; Bakersfield, CA; Napa, CA; Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT; or Utica-Rome, NY areas, you’ll earn a mean annual salary that ranges between $70,020 and $90,6302 —  up to more than $48k above the industry standard.1 

Child, Family, and School Social Workers

Social workers who work with children may do so through private practice, agencies, or schools. They help children improve social skills and deal with emotional situations, and they work with parents to strengthen parenting skills and prevent abuse. They may also be a child’s advocate in a crisis where parents cannot be counted on to do so. Though the growth rate is slower here than with mental health and substance abuse workers, or health care social workers, it’s still growing at an average national rate of 6%. Social workers in this field earn a median wage of $42,350.1

Finding Work as a Child, Family and School Social Worker
Child, family and school social workers are experiencing an average growth rate of 6 percent.1 The industries and metropolitan areas below offer the best positioning for job availability and salaries up to more than $32k above industry standard.

  • The 5 Easiest Industries in which to Find a Job
    Individual and family services; state government (OES Designation); local government (OES Designation); elementary and secondary schools; and other residential care facilities provide an annual mean wage ranging between $40,660 and $60,7504 — up to $18k1 more than industry standard.
     
  • The Top 5 Paying Industries 
    Working in elementary and secondary schools; other schools and instruction; management, scientific, and technical consulting services; lessors of real estate; and local government (OES Designation) means earning a higher-than-average annual mean wage that ranges between $52,810 and $60,7504 — up to $18k1 more than industry standard.
     
  • The Top 5 Paying Metropolitan Areas
    If you work in the Springfield, IL; Hartford-West or East, CT; Nassau County-Suffolk County, NY; Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT; or St. Cloud, MN area, you’ll earn a mean annual salary that ranges between $63,890 and $75,4904 —  up to more than $32k1 above the industry standard.

Accelerate Your Own Growth Now!

To expand your reach as an effective social worker in these demanding areas, learn more about Widener University’s Online Master of Social Work (MSW) program. Call 844-386-7321 or complete the request more information form and a program manager will contact you right away.

References

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Social Workers, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm (visited September 21, 2016).

2. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211022.htm (visited September 21, 2016, page last updated March 2016).

3. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211023.htm  (visited September 21, 2016, page last updated March 2016).

4. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211021.htm (visited September 21, 2016, page last updated March 2016).