Master’s Degree in Social Work

The Master of Social Work (MSW) is a postgraduate degree in social work. In contrast to the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), it is a professional degree with specializations. The MSW emphasizes macro-, mezzo-, and micro-aspects of professional social work practice, while the BSW emphasizes direct social work practices in the community, hospitals (outpatient and inpatient care), and other disciplines of social services. MSW and BSW degrees are comparable credentials in certain countries, such as Australia.


The MSW is considered a professional master’s degree in Canada and is offered by various institutions. The Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE) accredits the majority of institutions.

All students admitted to an MSW program must hold a recognized bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject. Students with a Bachelor of Social Work degree will often enroll in a one-year program, but students with other undergraduate degrees (Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, etc.) would typically enroll in a two-year program. The typical Master of Social Work graduate in Canada earns between C$60,000 and C$150,000, depending on their function and work environment.

The Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto offers Canada’s oldest social work program. Students studying social work at the University of Toronto can choose from a variety of specializations (gerontology; children and their families; mental health and health; human service management and leadership; and social justice and diversity), as well as a variety of collaborative programs such as Addiction Studies, Sexual Diversity Studies, and Community Development, to name a few. Students might also combine their MSW degrees with a Master of Health Science or a Juris Doctor degree.

Universities in Canada that offer the MSW degree include:

  • Carleton College
  • University of Dalhousie
  • The University of Lakehead
  • The University of Montreal
  • Memorial University McMaster University
  • Metropolitan University of Toronto
  • The University of Moncton
  • The University of Montreal
  • Sherbrooke University
  • Montréal’s Université du Québec
  • Outaouais University of Quebec
  • Laval University
  • British Columbia University
  • Calgary University
  • Manitoba University of Manitoba
  • Northern British Columbia University
  • Toronto University
  • Victoria University
  • Waterloo University
  • Western University of Ontario
  • Windsor University is located in Windsor, Ontario.
  • York University Wilfrid Laurier University

The United Kingdom

Beginning in 1908, clinical social work may be studied in academia as part of a diploma program in the United Kingdom. Two and three-year programs were later added. The Tavistock Clinic in London remains the primary center for the study of clinically focused social work, with programs ranging from the Professional Doctorate level to up. The Journal of Social Work Practice is the primary source of research and academic production in this field in the United Kingdom.

The United States

MSW degrees in the United States must be obtained from a graduate institution that has been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) if the graduate wishes to pursue future licensing. The MSW normally involves two years of full-time graduate study followed by two years of internship (900-1200 total hours), often known as field practicum, education, or experience. While some individuals get a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) before pursuing a master’s degree, the majority of MSW schools accept candidates with undergraduate degrees in a variety of liberal arts subjects. Some MSW schools offer BSW graduates enhanced standing, which allows them to earn an MSW in less time (usually one year).

Most MSW schools provide students the option of pursuing a clinical or direct practice route, which focuses on direct client contact, or a macro practice track, which focuses on political advocacy, community organizing, policy research, and/or human services administration. While the clinical track is more common, there has lately been a boom in community practice specializations. Many colleges now offer dual degrees, such as an MSW and a Public Administration degree, an MSW and Public Health, or an MSW and Law. In recent years, the MSW practice scope has expanded to include the specialty practice areas of geriatrics and work with veterans. The curriculum at some schools is based on a generalist paradigm that blends aspects of the numerous practice areas within social work.

In the discipline of social work, the MSW is regarded as a final practice degree. The ultimate degrees available in the area of social work are the DSW (Doctorate of Social Work) and the Ph.D. in social work. The DSW and the Ph.D. have intrinsic distinctions; the DSW further develops abilities to continue practicing with individual clients and client systems in the field. The Ph.D. equips graduates to undertake research and teaching in higher education institutions. It is vital to highlight that the “Master’s Degree” obtained as part of completing a Ph.D. in Social Work is not equivalent to the Master of Social Work required for practice and licensing. In the United States, there are few DSW programs.

Despite the fact that the Master of Social Work is by far the most popular degree title used by graduate social work institutions in the United States, it is not ubiquitous. For example, the Columbia University School of Social Work grants an M.S. in social work, the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration grants an A.M., and the University of Texas grants an MSSW (Master of Science in Social Work). Case Western Reserve University’s Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences awards the MSSA (Master of Science in Social Administration) degree. The Master of Social Welfare degree is conferred by the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley, and the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Clark Atlanta University’s Whitney M. Young School of Social Work is also acknowledged for pioneering Afro-centric social work administration. Clark Atlanta’s School of social work has also been associated with W. E. B. Du Bois, Dorcas Bowles, Whitney Young, Hattie Mitchell, Naomi Ward, and Rufus Lynch, among others.

Employment prospects and opportunities Although it is feasible to work as a social worker in the United States with a bachelor’s degree, several areas of practice need a master’s degree. The profession is anticipated to expand by 25% between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The expanding senior population is driving the demand for gerontology social workers. Social workers specializing in mental health and drug abuse are in great demand right now, as criminals are being sent to treatment rather than prison time, a trend that is projected to continue. A master’s degree might be seen as a tool for competing in tomorrow’s employment market. According to the Employment Projection, persons with more education in the sector earn more than those with just a bachelor’s degree.

According to the 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual compensation for social workers was $46,890, or $22.54 per hour. The employment outlook is expected to rise by 16% between 2016 and 2026, which is 9% more than the national job growth average. The average salary will vary based on the sector of social work. Those looking for work as social workers in the healthcare field often earn the greatest wages, ranging from $54,141 to $65,489. According to PayScale, earning licensure in the discipline of clinical social work may result in an income ranging from $40,494 to $76,205.

Earnings for social workers vary depending on their field of specialty and work environment:

SpecializationWork Environment2010 Median Salary
Clinical Social WorkerClinics and Hospitals$50,020
Medical/Public Health Social WorkerLocal Government, Health Care, Schools, Hospital, Retirement Homes, Public Health and Welfare$76,370
Hospital Social WorkerOutpatient Services, Hospice and Palliative Care$55,460
Psychiatric Social WorkerSchools, Psychiatric Hospitals, Health Care, HR, Outpatient Services and Nursing/Retirement Homes$65,170
Managers and AdministratorsHealth Care, Public Welfare, Probation, CSR, HR, Non-Profit (NPO’s), NGO’s, Fund Raising$62,460
Public Policy and PoliticsPolicy making and advocacy, Policy Analyst, Lobbyists, Legislative Aide, Field organizer, Public Welfare, Legislator$58,260
Child, Family and SchoolElementary and Secondary Schools$57,260
Child, Family and SchoolLocal Government, Child Welfare$54,130
Child, Family and SchoolState Government$39,750
Child, Family and SchoolIndividual, Family and Adoption Services$35,120
Insurance and Risk ManagementIndividual, Hospitals, Emergency, Suicide Prevention and Advocacy and support in violence and assault cases$39,310
Community Development Social WorkerOmbudsman, NPO’s, NGO’s and Local Government$42,810
HealthcareHome Health Care and Nursing Care Facilities$48,530
HealthcareLocal Government$45,810
HealthcareIndividual and Family Services$53,400
Military Social WorkerBase, Hospital, Family Meetings, Assistance and Advocacy, Social Services and Well-being programs$58,500
RehabilitationHospital and Nursing Care Facilities$41,860
Mental Health and Substance AbuseHospital$48,010
Mental Health and Substance AbusePsychiatric and Substance Abuse Specialty Hospitals$47,710
Mental Health and Substance AbuseLocal Government$45,210
Mental Health and Substance AbuseOutpatient Services$36,780
Mental Health and Substance AbuseIndividual and Family Services$36,740
Educators and ResearchersBase, Hospital, Family Meetings, Assistance and Advocacy, Social Services, and Well-being programs$50,000