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10 Jul

MSW Salary Outlook

Female social worker talking to client

When discussing social work, the topic of salaries isn't usually the first thing mentioned, so you may be wondering what a Master of Social Work (MSW) salary looks like. We believe honesty is the best policy, so we're going to lead with it. If your goal is to become the next Bill Gates or to thoroughly pad your bank account, a career in social work is not likely to help you with that endeavor. Most social workers enter the field because they have a calling to help people or serve communities at large, they do it for love, not for money.

Still, as the flight attendants say, you need to put your own oxygen mask on first before you can help others. Social workers need to make a living to support themselves so that they can then support others to the best of their ability, and a Master of Social Work can certainly help you advance to higher paying roles in the field.

MSW Salary Range

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median annual salary for a social worker in 2018 was $49,470. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,750 and the highest ten percent earned more than $81,400.1 As we mentioned earlier, earning an MSW will likely result in the ability to attain positions that yield a much higher MSW salary. Social workers with a bachelor's degree earn a median annual wage of $41,000, while those with a master's degree who can step into roles such as social work supervisors make $50,400.2

As we explore some of the highest earning roles in social work, it's important to note that an MSW gives you the knowledge and skills to step into specialized social work roles, and these roles generally correspond to a higher average starting salary for MSW graduates. Another consideration to keep in mind is the ability to become a licensed clinical social worker. In most states, graduating from an accredited Master of Social Work program is required in order to even sit for the licensure exam. Once licensed, you can earn a median salary of $53,000.3

Highest Paying Specialties

While money may not be the main goal for most social workers, there are many specialties across different industries that provide individuals with the chance to make a positive impact on people's lives, as well as in society at large. They also result in decent salaries and high job satisfaction. Here are some of the highest paying social work jobs:

  • Medical Social Worker: These social workers are in charge of completing administrative medical tasks, such as interviewing patients and relatives to get a more complete medical history. They assess and report patient progress to other medical professionals. They also help with issues a patient may have when they fall ill, including psychological problems and financial and social challenges. Individuals in this position can earn an average annual salary of $52,332.4
  • School Counselors: Individuals in this role work with other educators and academic administrators to help students achieve their academic goals and personal, social and professional development. Those who work in high school may also be tasked with helping students select colleges and serve as a liaison between recruiters and students. The average annual MSW salary for this position is $54,000.5
  • Community Program Administrator: This managerial role is usually found in nonprofit organizations and social services programs. These individuals are responsible for creating and managing strategic plans, calculating budgets, fundraising and managing staff. A master's is generally an entry-level requirement for this position. The average annual MSW salary is $57,950.5
  • Substance Abuse Counselor: These social workers provide therapy to individuals who are struggling with issues related to alcohol and/or drug use, usually by performing evaluations for their patients and then creating a personalized recovery plan. They may lead group counseling as well as provide one-on-one sessions with their patients. these counselors An MSW is generally required for this position, and the median MSW salary is $60,000 per year.5
  • School Social Workers: This role is not the same as a school counselor. These social workers are specialists who typically observe students and assess social, psychological and other outside influences that may be hindering the child's personal and academic progress. School social workers earn a median salary of $71,000 a year.5

Increase Your Value

While a bachelor's degree may have been enough to get your foot in the door, if you'd like to be considered for a more advanced or specialized role in clinical settings such as hospitals or healthcare facilities, an MSW is likely to be the key to achieving that goal. An MSW is also essential for those who are seeking an administrative position or hoping to establish a private practice.

An advanced degree can also increase your earning power in a field expected to grow 16 percent by 2026.6 A Master of Social Work salary tends to be at least $10,000 higher than that of a bachelor's degree. It's worth remembering that according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top 10 percent of social workers earn an average of $81,400, generally in positions reserved for master's-prepared social workers and others in leadership roles.1


Earning an MSW, like the online Master of Social work from Yeshiva University, can allow you to move into more lucrative roles. But the biggest payoff of an MSW is the ability to develop a more robust skillset so that you can better help individuals and communities in need. If you'd like to increase your impact and your earning power, consider how our online MSW can help you achieve your goals.


1 Retrieved on May 29, 2019, from bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm#tab-5
2 Retrieved on May 29, 2019, from degreequery.com/salary-can-earn-masters-social-work-degree/
3 Retrieved on May 29, 2019, from usnews.com/education/online-education/social-work-masters-degree
4 Retrieved on May 29, 2019, from payscale.com/research/US/Job=Medical_Social_Worker/Salary
5 Retrieved on May 29, 2019, from socialworkdegreeguide.com/faq/what-are-the-highest-paying-specialties-in-the-field-of-social-work/
6 Retrieved on May 29, 2019, from bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm#tab-1