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What Can You Do with a Master’s in Social Work?

February 9, 2020

“The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.” Nobel Peace Prize winner and social work pioneer Jane Addams gets to the heart of what motivates social workers in these words. Social work devotes itself to helping all people claim the right to a just society. While the nation has changed for the better since Addams’s time, this country still confronts social and economic issues that make social work as relevant as ever. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 38.1 million people live in poverty. These individuals confront homelessness, food insecurity, poor health, and unemployment, issues social workers help to address. With 2.3 million people incarcerated, according to a report by the Prison Policy Initiative, social workers are needed to counsel those in prison and to work toward violence prevention and restorative justice. Finally, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 2.4 million child abuse cases are reported annually, further speaking to the need for social workers to address children’s rights.

If you seek a career that builds an equitable society, you may wonder how to prepare for it. What can you do with a master’s in social work? Tulane University offers an Online Master of Social Work (MSW) program that develops the skills needed to lead social change and creates opportunities for those inspired to promote social and economic justice.

What Is the Master of Social Work Program?

Tulane University’s Master of Social Work program trains future leaders in clinical and community-based practices. Graduates can help empower individuals or communities and promote key values such as advocacy, social justice, passion, and innovation. The program’s 60 credit hours take 16 months to complete when enrolled full time or 32 months when enrolled part time. The program can be completed online or on Tulane’s campus in New Orleans.

Coursework covers a range of topics, including:

  • The history of social welfare and contemporary policies
  • Mental health assessment and diagnostic tools, including the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) categories, along with treatment strategies and techniques
  • Social work theories and concepts relating to topics such as diversity and social justice
  • How policies and social behaviors impact the oppression of individuals and communities
  • How to perform major social work practice roles and communication processes as well as procedures necessary for resource development, linkage, and utilization
  • Practice knowledge and values that support effective community organizations
  • Meta theoretical principles that build an understanding of human relationships across the life span
  • The use of policy practice and advocacy to push for laws that support social and economic justice in communities
  • The use of data analysis to evaluate the quality of existing research on topics concerning social work

Tulane’s faculty use a variety of teaching methods that allow for collaboration and active engagement. Students experience problem-based learning and participate in team projects and creative simulation. Additionally, each student completes 948 hours of field work. This program component and the overall curriculum design provide an important advantage to students. By balancing theory and fieldwork, students are given the chance to get on-the-ground experience, so they can apply what they have learned while still under the guidance of experts.

Individuals who enroll in the Master of Social Work program and pursue a career in social work must have compassion. They must also have tenacity and dedication to confront and change systems of inequality. Through coursework and field experience, MSW students will grow in their resilience and flexibility, develop their ability to innovate, and strengthen their advocacy skills.

What Can You Do with a Master’s in Social Work?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the field of social work is projected to grow 11 percent by 2028, faster than the 5 percent growth rate projected for all occupations. Social workers earned a median income of around $49,000 annually in 2018, with salaries ranging from $31,000 to $81,000 a year. Graduates with an MSW can seek employment in either the private or public sector. A diverse collection of organizations hires social workers, including community development corporations, mental health clinics, hospitals, hospice and palliative care providers, schools, child welfare programs, military and veterans’ associations, correctional facilities, and organizations that provide human trafficking survivor counseling.

Steps to Earning Your Graduate Degree in Social Work

Below are some specific jobs graduates with an MSW could apply for:

Crime and domestic abuse survivor advocates

Work with those who have experienced crime and domestic violence by organizing intervention plans to help individuals leave dangerous situations, coordinating emergency housing or medical services, and connecting survivors to the appropriate legal and community services. Advocates may also offer counseling. As of November 2019, PayScale reported these advocates’ median salary at around $45,000 a year. The BLS expects job opportunities for these social workers to grow 13 percent by 2028.

Hospice and palliative care social workers

Help patients and their families cope with the emotional and practical challenges of terminal illness. They counsel patients, assist them and their families in planning end of life care, connect families to resources, and provide assistance with insurance companies. Hospice and palliative care social workers earn a median salary of around $56,000 a year, according to the BLS, and job opportunities are projected to grow 17 percent by 2028.

Military and veterans social workers

Help service members and their families manage the challenges of separation during and after deployments. They provide counseling for stress and grief, and they also help veterans transition back to civilian life. Additionally, they offer practical assistance with obtaining housing and applying for benefits. According to the BLS, these social workers earn a median annual income of around $45,000, and their job market is projected to grow 12 percent by 2028.

Child welfare counselors

Help children who experience abuse or neglect, as well as ensure the physical and mental well-being of children and their families. They visit homes to investigate suspected abuse, evaluate parents, and place children with adoptive families or in foster care. According to the BLS, child welfare counselors earn a median annual salary of around $50,000, and job opportunities are projected to increase 7 percent by 2028.

Substance dependency counselors

Help individuals with substance use disorders recover. They assess their clients’ behavior, help develop treatment goals, and aid in behavior modification. The BLS expects the demand for substance dependency counselors to grow 22 percent by 2028 and reports their median annual salaries at around $45,000.

Advance Your Career with a Master’s of Social Work Degree

What can you do with a master’s in social work? As tough and dedicated advocates for social justice, social workers lead the way in healing individuals and communities. Explore how Tulane University’s Online Master of Social Work program prepares students with tangible skills to pursue what drives their passion.