Careers You Can Have with a Master’s in Social Work

Master’s in Social Work

Social work is a rewarding career. The average annual pay scale varies from $53,772 to $77,731 with large variations on either side, and, to a large degree, is dependent on your place of work, age, experience, and qualifications. For example, those working in a nursing home will earn more than those employed at a school. Take a look at the various career options that are available to someone with a master’s degree in social work.

Master’s in Social Work

Child and Family Social Worker

A child and family social worker needs specific soft skills in addition to their qualifications. The key of these is empathy, the ability to identify with someone else and view things from their perspective. You should also have good communication skills with active listening and critical thinking. Cultural competence is essential in any psychological or social work field and comprises an awareness of your own cultural worldview and the attitudes you have towards cultural differences. It also requires a working knowledge of different cultures and cross-cultural skills.

This career deals with social issues affecting children and families. It encompasses working with families living in poverty and/or homelessness, cases of child abuse, and the social wellbeing of those in your care. Removing children from poor care or abusive situations, managing foster care, and adoption are all part of the typical workload.

Employment opportunities are expected to grow by 11.7 percent from 2019 to 2029, opening up 40,100 jobs. The average salary is $47,390. 

Child Welfare Worker

While child welfare social workers can start their career with a bachelor’s degree, most employers prefer you to have a postgraduate qualification. A master’s in social work should be CSWE (Council on Social Work Education) accredited, and training should have focused on families and children. 

There are emotional challenges to this career as decisions must be made in the interests of children’s welfare. This could mean removing a child from a home where care is substandard, parents cannot provide for their children, or where abuse occurs. Although these choices seek to provide every child in your care with the best possible opportunity to succeed in life, it is not easy to take a child from their parents. Of course, this is not the first option, and the child welfare worker aims to build on existing strengths within the family to help them stay together and to give parents access to resources that will enable them to better care for their children.

The average annual wage is $51,030 but the range extends to $78,230. You will need to complete an internship or field placement to gain experience, pass the licensing exams and apply to be licensed before you can start practicing. 


The duties and responsibilities of a therapist/counselor in social work include carrying out interviews, case histories, and applying psychological testing. Treatment plans are drawn up and therapy is provided. Thereafter, discharge plans and follow-up interventions are set in motion. You will deal with families, couples for marriage counseling, and individuals and carry a caseload that must be managed. Referrals will be made to appropriate service agencies and/or specialists as required. Some cases will involve a crisis or disturbance that needs urgent attention. Usually, a clinical professional will provide supervision in the setting of a clinical agency or a medical facility.

You will be required to pass a criminal background check before being employed and must be certified. This certification status must be maintained. Having a master’s degree may allow you to work unsupervised or provide supervision and you can initially enter the field with a bachelor’s degree, provided all other requirements are met. A master’s degree takes one to two years of full-time study. There is also fieldwork that must be completed. You can either complete a master’s in social work or a master’s of counseling degree. 

The median annual wage is $47,848. 

Social Worker 

A social worker will first obtain a bachelor’s degree, which will take four to six years, followed by a master’s degree for another two years. While a bachelor’s degree will provide entry to being a social worker, a clinical social worker must have a master’s degree followed by supervised work experience of 3,000 to 4,000 hours. They need licensure to practice. The bachelor’s degree must be CSWE accredited. States may differ in their requirements.

Clinical social workers will carry out clinical assessments, make a diagnosis based on appropriate theory and training, and provide treatment for people with emotional or mental problems. The patient or case base involves individuals, families, and groups.  A social worker can specialize in a specific area of social work, for example geriatrics, palliative care, or child welfare.

You need good organizational skills to become a social worker as you will have to manage multiple cases. Personality traits are empathy and compassion, patience, and a desire to see social justice done.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker 

Mental health and substance abuse social workers deal with mental health issues as well as substance abuse. Often these two conditions go hand-in-hand in what is known as comorbidities. The possibility of finding substance abuse in a patient with mental health issues is high. These issues must be dealt with together and not in isolation. If not, placing the client in rehabilitation will not succeed as there is a good chance of them having a relapse. It is necessary to ensure that the client has backup support services when leaving a facility. Long-term intervention is vital. People who are intellectually disabled may have concurrent medical illnesses that must be treated.

A certificate in substance abuse can be obtained as part of the master’s degree. A minimum of 900 hours of fieldwork is required as part of the degree. This can be obtained by working in a substance abuse facility. Two important skills you should have are active listening and social perceptiveness.

The average annual pay is $116,780.

School Social Worker 

School social workers work with children from kindergarten to grade 12. For children in the higher grades, services may include dealing with issues around sexuality and substance abuse. They also handle truancy, rebelliousness. social withdrawal, aggression, academic problems, suicidal tendencies, and depression. School social workers are employed by the school district.

Clients may be individuals, groups of students, or families. A treatment plan must be worked out, often in conjunction with a multidisciplinary team. They will perform bio-psychosocial assessments and take social histories, establish interventions, and prepare exit plans to provide continued support. At times, they will be required to make home visits as part of their assessments and/or treatments. 

A younger entry-level incumbent may earn $35,000 to $68,000 but a 65-year-old can expect between $40,000 and $135,100. Earnings also vary depending on if you are working at a private for-profit, a private non-profit, state government, or local government institution. Necessary qualifications vary with employers from a bachelor’s to a master’s with certification.

Social Work Supervisor 

The employment demand for social work supervisors is set to rise by an above-average 16% between 2016 and 2026, with 48,158 vacancies available, rising to 52,200 job opportunities by 2028. The average annual starting wage is $65,644 with a lot of room for growth. In addition to salary opportunities, this job is the next logical step for any social worker.

The three most common skills sough for a social work supervisor are compassion, time-management skills, and interpersonal skills. This is because the incumbent is required to manage staff who are social workers. A bachelor’s degree is held by 43.9% of social work supervisors, while 45.5% have master’s degrees. Others have an associate or doctoral degrees. Duties include administration and clinical supervision. Their job is to promote professional growth and development in their incumbents. Supervision may be of trainees undergoing an internship, to those who are still relatively inexperienced, and others who are honing their professional skills. They are also responsible for assigning cases to social workers.

Social work supervisors may hold the title of clinical director, social services manager, or administrative supervisor. An administrative supervisor manages the roll down of policies, sources funding, and arranges staff training but usually does not supervise social workers directly in carrying out their duties. The clinical director will become involved in mentoring and coaching social workers, working through case studies together, and aiding with determining the best therapeutic routes to take. They offer this support directly to social workers regardless of their qualifications or experience.


If you are keen to become a social worker in one of the above roles, the first step is to get an appropriate bachelor’s degree. You will then want to decide which specific aspect of social work appeals most and fits your personality and soft skills set. Preferably, this will be followed by a master’s degree to increase your chance of being hired. You will want to take special courses that match the route you have chosen. Don’t forget that you will have to do an internship as well and be certified.