Master of Social Work

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The Master of Social Work (MSW) is a master's degree in the field of social work.


In CA, the MSW is considered a professional master's degree and is offered through a number of different universities. Most schools are accredited by the Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work (C.A.S.W.E).

All students entering an MSW program are required to have a recognized bachelor degree in a related field. Generally, students with a Bachelor of Social Work would enroll in a 1-year program, whereas those with other undergraduate degrees (Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, etc.) would enroll in a 2-year program.

The oldest social work program in Canada is offered at the University of Toronto through the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. Social work students at the UofT choose from a number of specializations (i.e. gerontology, children and their families, mental health, social service administration, social justice and diversity), and have opportunities to pursue their MSW's with a variety of collaborative programs, such as Addiction Studies, Sexual Diversity Studies, and Asia-Pacific Studies, to name a few.[1][2] Students could also pursue their MSW degrees in combination with either a Master of Health Science or a Juris Doctor.[3]

Canadian Universities that offer the MSW:

University of Western Ontario

United Kingdom[edit]

In the United Kingdom, clinical social work suffered a decline after the 1980s following an internal professional battle regarding 'radical social work,' which attacked the alleged psychologising and individualising tendencies of 'casework'. Up to this point psychiatric social work had been a strong tradition with roots in psychoanalytic casework and psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Today, there is still a hunger among new entrants to social work, and many experienced practitioners, for a therapeutically oriented style of practice, but few training programmes offer in-depth experience or tuition of this kind. The Tavistock Clinic in London remains the leading centre for the study of clinically oriented social work and offers programmes up to and including Professional Doctorate level. The Journal of Social Work Practice represents the main organ of research and scholarly output in this area in the UK.

United States[edit]

In the United States, MSW degrees must be received from a graduate school that has been approved by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) should the graduate seek future licensure. The MSW typically requires two years of full-time graduate study in combination with two years (900-1200 cumulative hours) of internship,[4] also referred to as field practicum, education, or experience. While some students obtain a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) before pursuing a Master's, most MSW programs accept applicants with undergraduate degrees in a broad range of liberal arts fields. Some MSW programs provide BSW graduates with an advanced standing option, allowing them to complete an MSW in a shorter period of time (typically 1 year).

Most MSW programs allow students to choose a clinical or direct practice track, which focuses on direct practice with clients, or a macro practice track, with a focus on political advocacy, community organizing, policy analysis and/or human services management. While the clinical track tends to be more popular, there has been a resurgence in community practice concentrations recently. There are also opportunities at many universities to obtain joint degrees, such as an US MSW and a Public Administration degree, MSW and Public Health, or US MSW and Law. The MSW practice scope has broadened in recent years to include the specialty practice areas of geriatrics and work with veterans. In some schools the curriculum is based on a generalist model which integrates the facets of the various practice areas within social work.

The MSW is considered a terminal practice degree in the field of social work. The DSW (Doctorate of Social Work) and Ph.D in social work are the final degrees offered in the field of social work. There is no inherent difference between the DSW and the PhD; there are few DSW programs available in the United States.

Though Master of Social Work is by far the most common degree title used by graduate social work schools in the United States, it is not universal. For example, Columbia University School of Social Work offers an M.S. degree in social work, the School of Social Service Administration of the University of Chicago confers an M.A. degree, and the University of Texas confers the MSSW (Master of Science in Social Work) degree. The Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University confers the MSSA (Master of Science in Social Administration) degree.

Clark Atlanta University's Whitney M. Young School of Social work is also credited with creating the administration of social work from the "Afro-centric" perspective. Clark Atlanta's school of social work has also had various stalwarts in the profession affiliated with it such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Dorcas Bowles, Whitney Young, Hattie Mitchell, Naomi Ward and Rufus Lynch.

Salary Information

Although you can be a social worker with a Bachelor’s degree, some fields of practice require a Master’s degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the profession is expected to grow by 25% between 2010 and 2020.[5] A master's degree could be seen as a tool which will help to compete with tomorrow's job market. The Employment Projection[6] shows that those with higher levels of education in the field tend to earn more than those with just a bachelor's degree. Social workers' earnings varied according to their area of specialization and work environment:[7]

Specialization Work Environment 2010 Median Salary
Clinical Social Worker Hospital $43,120
Medical Social Worker Hospital $51,460
Managers Hospital, Non-Profit, Government $64,460
Child,Family, School Elementary and Secondary Schools $54,260
Child,Family, School Local Government $47,130
Child,Family, School State Government $39,750
Child,Family, School Individual and Family Services $35,120
Healthcare Hospital $53,400
Healthcare Home Health Care $48,530
Healthcare Local Government $44,810
Healthcare Nursing Care Facilities $41,860
Healthcare Individual and Family Services $39,310
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Hospital $48,010
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Specialty Hospitals $47,710
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Local Government $45,210
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Outpatient Services $36,780
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Individual and Family Services $36,740

Notable people with MSW[edit]


Name Issuing Institution Year Received
Whitney Young University of Minnesota 1947
Richard Cloward Columbia 1950
Joann Peterson University of Washington 1958
Barbara Lee California 1975
Barbara Mikulski University of Maryland, Baltimore 1965
Debbie Stabenow Michigan State University 1975
Theresa J. Kaijage Washington University in Saint Louis 1985


Name Portrayed by Title Year
Sam Healy Michael Harney Orange Is the New Black 2013-
Toby Flenderson Paul Lieberstein The Office 2005-2012

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Required Internship hours". 2008 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards. Council on Social Work Education. Retrieved 12 September 2012. 
  5. ^ "25% between 2010 and 2020". 2012 Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  6. ^ "Employment Projection". 2012 Earnings and Unemployment Rates by Educational Attainment. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  7. ^ "Social Worker Salary Guide". Retrieved 4 April 2014. 

External links[edit]