While you may qualify for some entry-level positions in social work administration with just a bachelor's degree, clinical and counseling roles require a master's in social work (MSW). Most full-time students earn their MSW in just two years.

Graduate programs in social work often feature coursework in subjects including human behavior and social environments, social work policy and advocacy, and evidence-based interventions in mental health settings. Most also include some form of supervised clinical experience, commonly known as a practicum.

Most full-time students earn their MSW in just two years.

This page provides an overview of social work master's programs, including information on admission requirements, curricula, and possible career paths after graduation.

What Is Social Work?

Social work is an academic and professional discipline concerning the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities. Social workers may help connect people with various forms of public assistance, provide counseling and diagnose mental health issues, or advocate for laws and policies that better serve their clients and society at large.

Should I Get a Master's in Social Work?

Our ranking of the best online master of social work programs in the country will help you find the school that best suits your unique needs.

What Can You Do With a Master of Social Work Degree?

Students who graduate with an MSW pursue careers in a wide range of social work subfields. The BLS notes that child, family, and school social workers are the largest subfield, representing roughly 47% of all social workers. Other common subfields include healthcare social workers and mental health and substance abuse social workers. These fields include clinical and nonclinical positions.

Regardless of their specific job title, social workers should have strong communication and interpersonal skills in order to develop relationships with their clients and handle stressful situations. Most social workers divide their time between working in an office and meeting with clients face to face. Employers within some careers may prefer a doctorate in social work.

Common occupations for MSW graduates include:

Child and Family Social Worker

Child and family social workers assist at-risk families and children. They help families secure housing and apply for benefits programs such as food stamps. They also intervene when children are abused or neglected and may coordinate their adoption or placement into foster care.

  • Median Annual Salary: $49,470
  • Projected Growth Rate (2016-26): 14%
School Social Worker

School social workers specialize in monitoring students for developmental issues and helping learners achieve academic success. They confer with parents, teachers, counselors, and administrators to create plans for individual students. School social workers may also help young people deal with issues such as behavioral problems and bullying.

  • Median Annual Salary: $49,470
  • Projected Growth Rate (2016-26): 14%
Healthcare Social Worker

Healthcare social workers help medical patients deal with life-altering diseases or injuries. They provide guidance for long-term recovery plans, including lifestyle changes, and help their clients acclimate to living at home after lengthy hospital stays. Some healthcare social workers specialize in certain client groups, such as elderly people or patients seeking palliative care.

  • Median Annual Salary: $56,200
  • Projected Growth Rate (2016-26): 20%
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker

Mental health and substance abuse social workers assist clients dealing with mental illnesses or addiction. They provide guidance about rehabilitative services and may help their clients access support groups. According to the BLS, this is a common career path for clinical social workers.

  • Median Annual Salary: $44,840
  • Projected Growth Rate (2016-26): 19%
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, or Mental Health Counselor

These counselors assist patients with alcohol or drug addictions, eating disorders, and other mental health issues. Those working in private practice must have state-issued licensure. Many must hold a master's degree in clinical social work or a related field.

  • Median Annual Salary: $44,630
  • Projected Growth Rate (2016-26): 23%

Expert Interview

Susan Youngsteadt

Susan Youngsteadt

Licensed Clincal Social Worker

Susan Youngsteadt graduated from NCSU with a master's of social work in 2016. She has over six years of experience working with youth and adults in various agency settings. She is a licensed clinical social worker associate and currently practices as a family-centered treatment (FCT) therapist for a private community mental health agency in Raleigh, NC.

Susan also holds a bachelor of arts degree in psychology and a certificate in nonprofit studies/management. She is currently a member of the SAFEchild Young Ambassadors in Raleigh and works with a local chapter of Safe Families for Children.

Why did you choose a degree in social work? Was this something that always interested you?

For me, I always knew I wanted to work with families. I can specifically remember writing a poem in ninth grade English class about wanting to become a marriage and family therapist. Now, my specific job title and end goal may have shifted slightly over the years (I do not have my LMFT), but I still work with families and truly enjoy it. I plan to work with children, adolescents, and families in some format for the foreseeable future.

My parents were both registered nurses when they met. My mother and father instilled in me a desire to help others and to give back. My parents always gave more than they took and made it a point to instill these values into me growing up. I was also blessed with the opportunity to have a high school guidance counselor who made a tremendous impact on my life. She was part of my inspiration to pursue a degree in social work and work with adolescents.

I did not always know I needed to have a degree in social work to do the type of work I wanted to do. In my undergraduate program, my advisor explored options with me and provided me with the information on how obtaining a master's of social work (MSW) would allow me to have broad options when working with children and families, as well as be able to provide therapy in a clinical setting. I obtained a nonprofit management studies minor from North Carolina State University as well and knew social work would allow me to pursue that passion of mine also.

What are some of the most crucial skills you gained in your MSW program that apply to your job on a day-to-day basis?

This is a tough question. Thinking back to my time in my MSW program, the first skill that comes to mind is humility. I learned how to admit I did not know everything and I needed to work together with other people to achieve the same goal, helping others.

I learned how to give myself a break. I have always been someone who found school important and dedicated a lot of time to academic performance. My MSW program taught me to place more value on the learning experience and to know my personal limits. I would exhaust myself and then be unable to give my best to certain parts of the program. I gained the skill of validation and affirmation when working with others. We focused a lot on active listening skills, which is crucial in the field of social work, where many individuals simply want to be heard.

On a day-to-day basis, I would have to say the skills of validation, active listening, affirmation, normalizing thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and asking open-ended (instead of close-ended) questions were all gained from my time in my MSW program and the internship experiences.

Making connections also stands out as a crucial skill. Networking is KEY in the field of social work. We all have similar goals, with a root in wanting to support others in our community. Working together and getting to know people in other agencies and positions has been hands-down one of the most important skills I gained. I learned how to search for resources in my community. Or, in other words, I learned how to do more than simply google something and hope I found the answer I needed.

You earned an undergraduate degree in psychology. Do you think it's necessary for MSW students to have this kind of background going into their master's programs?

I chose to earn a degree in psychology because the human mind has always fascinated me. I do feel this undergraduate degree, along with a minor in social work, was helpful for me going into a master's program for social work. Do I feel it is necessary? No. In my cohort, there were individuals with a variety of backgrounds, all with so much to offer. We had people with backgrounds in business, sociology, communication, etc. All of these backgrounds have something to bring to the table in the field of social work.

I honestly believe that if all MSWs had the same background with regards to undergraduate education, we would not be as diverse and would put ourselves in a situation where we all thought the same. We need different perspectives, pulling from a variety of academic fields.

I do believe having an understanding of the needs within your community, a desire to help others, and a willingness to learn and serve others is key to obtaining an MSW. Many individuals who I have had the opportunity or pleasure to work with or attend school with had an experience in their childhood or adulthood that led them to pursue social work.

What are some of the greatest challenges you face in your practice? What advice would you give to students considering this line of work?

In my current role, I practice as a family-centered treatment (FCT) clinician at a private community mental health agency. This would be considered clinical, direct-practice work, where I see families and individuals face-to-face and provide therapeutic services.

Some of the greatest challenges I face in my current practice include having a solid work/life balance and healthy boundaries when it comes to work. My current position is considered 24/7 crisis, meaning if one of the families on my caseload is experiencing a crisis, they are able to reach out to me anytime for support.

Now, that does not mean that I absolutely, 100% must answer. Everyone understands us clinicians have personal lives. We utilize a phone tree and have an emergency crisis plan in place for these situations. However, we are expected to do our due diligence in making ourselves available to a family when a crisis occurs. So, in a sense, I am always "on."

I have found it challenging to turn my work "off" when I get home in the evenings or on weekends, when I always feel as though there is something I could be doing or a family may call needing assistance. Over time, I have become more comfortable with placing firm boundaries on myself for when I need to put work away and be present in my personal life, along with placing boundaries with families that I serve. This includes providing families with a good crisis plan for if I am unavailable to respond to the family right away.

These boundaries include putting my phone down and not feeling obligated to answer every work-related email the minute it comes through. It is a challenge not to feel responsible for doing everything you can to help your families out, which can truly impact your personal life if good boundaries aren't in place.

Advice I would give to students considering clinical work — I would suggest exploring setting boundaries within yourself for work life and personal life. You can do this by exploring how you set boundaries now with your friends and family, etc. I would also suggest exploring what you are capable and willing to do when working with families [and] being honest with yourself. Are you willing to work on weekends, take calls later in the evening, potentially move your schedule around at the last minute?

Being transparent and honest with yourself and what you are willing to do when working with families can be a tremendous help when looking for clinical positions right out of an MSW program. Make sure to ask about work/life balance in job interviews with enhanced or crisis service positions.

What was the job search like after completing your degree? Did you feel fully prepared when making the transition from school into practice?

I completed my degree in May of 2016. During the last few months of our graduate program, we were encouraged to begin the job search. Advisors and professors alike would provide feedback on resumes [and] cover letters and field questions on job postings. We were also encouraged to reach out to the NASW (National Association of Social Workers) staff, specifically the individual who provided resume assistance. She was a HUGE help in feeling prepared for the job search.

The job search was somewhat confusing as I, personally, was not sure on the exact path I wanted to take right out of school. I knew I simply needed a job. I wanted to work with children and families, but wasn't sure if I wanted to work in a private or public setting, in clinical versus more macro, etc. The job search proved overwhelming at first, but once I was able to sit back and truly think about what I wanted to do and what would make me happy, then it felt much easier to look for certain positions in the area.

When making the transition into practicing in a full-time job, I can say it was not an easy transition for me. I initially struggled to find my groove and a schedule I was comfortable with. I went straight into my master's program from undergrad, so I had been in school for six years. No longer having class or a paper due was unusual to me and took longer to get used to than I would have anticipated. I feel that continuing to work all throughout my undergraduate and graduate programs did help in feeling less of the impact in working full time.

What additional advice would you give to prospective MSW students?

Have a support system or begin the process of solidifying your support system. MSW programs involve a lot of self-reflection and introspective work. You will learn a lot about yourself as well as others in your cohort/classes. You will study tough but relevant topics that can weigh you down and overwhelm you. Developing a good self-care routine is also highly recommended. You will need to take care of yourself.

I know, for me, I wanted to give everything I had to my MSW program. My cohort playfully turned the MSW acronym into standing for "Must Save World." This rang very true for me. I was constantly on the go, working and going to school while completing my internship. Developing a self-care routine where I replenished myself allowed me to give more to my program and the agency I partnered with.

It can be anything from weekly nights with your friends, reading a good book, hot baths with candles, a glass of wine or two, whatever works for YOU. This is also a great piece of advice that will follow you into the professional field once you complete your MSW program.

Meet More of our Experts


Social work graduates can take on a wide variety of jobs in many different industries. This page will help you determine what career path is right for you.

Social Work Careers

What Can I Expect From an MSW Program?

Although most programs share some common characteristics, every MSW is different in terms of the curriculum, duration, and financial investment. This section explores courses and specializations that are available through brick-and-mortar programs, as well as general expectations for completion time and overall cost.

Concentrations Offered for a Master's Degree in Social Work

Clinical Social Work

This specialization prepares MSW students for careers as licensed social workers. The comprehensive curriculum includes courses in aging and development, social welfare, and psychology. These courses also examine cultural and socioeconomic factors that impact different groups, as well as the laws and policies guiding clinical social work practice in the United States.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For:

  • Licensed clinical social workers
Practice and Leadership With Communities and Organizations

This concentration examines the laws, policies, and ethics that impact social workers working with different groups and organizations. Coursework emphasizes methods of community mobilization, disparities between different groups, and leadership methods. The concentration also addresses social, racial, and economic justice.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For:

  • Social workers working with different groups
  • Human services managers
Children, Youth, and Families

This concentration explores theories behind family dynamics, including growth, development, and the roles that children play within family units. Courses also discuss best practices for mental health evaluation and treatment for children and youths. Students learn intervention and protection strategies for vulnerable young people.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For:

  • Child and family social workers
  • School social workers
  • Healthcare social workers
Integrated Behavioral Health

This specialization prepares students for jobs as healthcare social workers. The curriculum includes coursework in screening and assessment, intervention techniques, cultural factors in behavioral health diagnoses, and technical components of healthcare social work. Students learn how to communicate with clients, their families, and other healthcare professionals.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For:

  • Healthcare social workers
  • Mental health and substance abuse social workers
  • Substance abuse
  • Behavioral disorder
  • Mental health counselors
Human Service Management

Many MSW recipients go on to pursue leadership roles. This concentration explores the responsibilities of human services managers. Courses discuss assessment, planning, and intervention strategies, as well as management skills for enacting social change. This specialization is relevant for both clinical and nonclinical social workers.

Careers This Concentration Prepares For:

  • Licensed clinical social workers
  • Nonclinical social workers
  • Human services managers

Curriculum for a Master's Degree in Social Work

Coursework may differ between MSW programs, especially between different concentrations. However, most programs tackle the same thematic elements and professional competencies in order to prepare students for careers in clinical or macro social work. The following five courses represent a sample curriculum for MSW programs offered nationwide.

Social Justice in Social Work

This course examines the causes of oppression based on race, religion, sexual orientation, and other demographic factors. Students also learn about social and cultural elements that affect communication between different groups. The course identifies the role of social workers as intermediaries and agents of change within the realm of social justice.

Theories of Development

Understanding life cycle development is important to social work with different age groups. This course explores various psychological and historical perspectives behind human development as well as factors that affect individual development such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.

Clinical Social Work Practice

Typically a multicourse sequence, clinical social work practice classes at the MSW level focus on advanced theories, perspectives, and ethics guiding the social work profession. These classes also discuss evidence-based practices and intervention techniques for working with individuals, families, and groups.

Social Welfare Policy

This course tackles the complex history of social welfare in the United States. Students analyze different social welfare policies, both past and present, and compare them to policies found in other parts of the world. Social workers also learn how to advocate for social policy changes.

Group Theory

This course explores the role that social workers play when dealing with different groups. Topics of discussion include theories and perspectives behind group work, resource mobilization, and roles and relationships within group settings. Additionally, students learn how cultural and socioeconomic factors affect group structures.

How to Choose a Master's in Social Work Program

Choosing the right on-campus MSW program requires meticulous research and careful consideration. Prospective students should weigh several factors when making their decision. Program length is one important aspect. MSW on-campus programs usually take two years to complete, including practicum or internship requirements. Some programs allow students with a bachelor's degree to earn their MSW in as little as one year.

Accreditation status is another key factor. Students should ensure both their school and their MSW program are fully accredited.

For most students, the cost of tuition represents a sizable investment. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average graduate degree cost $17,868 in tuition and fees during the 2015-16 academic year. Federal loans, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid may offset these costs to some extent, but these options are more limited for graduate degrees. Students should be prepared to bear at least some of these expenses.

Accreditation status is another key factor. Students should ensure both their school and their MSW program are fully accredited. Campus location also matters in terms of employment opportunities, cost of living, and quality of life. Lastly, students should decide whether to enroll full time or part time. Full-time students generally complete their studies faster, but part-time students have more free time to devote to work and other activities.

Master's in Social Work Admission Requirements

Applying for an MSW program can be a long, intensive process. Graduate schools often offer rolling admissions and review applications as soon as they arrive, rather than evaluating them after a deadline has passed. Students should begin the process by researching potential schools based on factors such as cost, accreditation, curriculum, and location. Kaplan recommends that students should choose at least five or six target schools. Learners should also set aside enough time to take the GRE; search for financial aid options; and collect letters of recommendation, transcripts, and other materials required for applications.

Like online programs, the admission criteria for brick-and-mortar MSW programs vary by institution. All candidates should hold a bachelor's degree, but schools differ in terms of minimum undergraduate GPA and standardized test score requirements. On-campus MSW programs generally feature the following prerequisites and admission materials.

Prerequisites

  • Bachelor's Degree: Most MSW programs require a bachelor's degree for admission. However, the BLS notes that candidates do not necessarily need a bachelor's degree in social work. A bachelor's in most fields will suffice, but coursework in areas such as psychology, sociology, economics, and political science is usually helpful.
  • Professional Experience: Most MSW programs do not require previous work experience, although some schools prefer candidates with a background in social work or human services. A bachelor's degree in social work typically includes an internship or practicum course, which may satisfy this requirement.
  • Minimum GPA: A 3.0 GPA is considered the general requirement for most graduate school programs, although this may range from 2.5 to 3.5 depending on the institution. Some schools are more lenient than others and may admit students who don't meet their minimum GPA requirement.

Admission Materials

Application

The Princeton Review advises applicants to begin the application process in May of the year before they plan to enroll. This allows sufficient time for researching schools, passing required exams, and gathering application materials. Following this timeline, students should finalize and submit their applications in December.

Transcripts

Graduate schools only accept official, sealed undergraduate transcripts. Applicants should request a transcript for each target school. The Princeton Review suggests requesting transcripts at least two months before submitting applications.

Letters of Recommendation

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, applicants should solicit 2-4 letters of recommendation in January-March if they plan on sending applications at the end of the year. These letters should mostly come from academic sources, and at least one should relate to the student's background and potential in the social work field.

Test Scores

Standardized test scores are not always necessary for MSW admission. Schools that require test scores usually ask for the GRE. The verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning portions of the exam are scored between 130 and 170, while the essay portion is scored between 0.0 and 6.0. Applicants should research the requirements of their target schools in order to set benchmarks for themselves prior to taking the exam.

Application Fee

The average college application cost was $50 for the 2016 fall admissions cycle, according to U.S. News & World Report. Students may be able to waive these fees by applying online, visiting the school's campus, or having alumni in their family. The College Board maintains a list of application waiver requirements for more than 2,300 schools nationwide.

Programmatic Accreditation for Master's in Social Work Programs

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is the only recognized accrediting agency that evaluates social work programs. According to the CSWE, the organization recognized more than 500 bachelor's programs and more than 200 master's programs in 2019. Most employers prefer job candidates with degrees from CSWE-accredited MSW programs. Students who graduate from unaccredited MSW programs may not be eligible for as many positions. Institutional accreditation is also crucial, because it affects credit transferability and financial aid.

All CSWE-Accredited MSW Programs

Rank School Location Description Toggle
1

California

California currently employs the most social workers of any state. The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated that 10,600 social workers practice in the Golden State. Furthermore, California social workers earn an annual mean wage of $66,300 to account for the state's higher cost of living. With urban hubs such as Los Angeles and San Francisco offering a particularly high concentration of job opportunities, California tops our list of the best places for social workers. Smaller cities such as San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Oakland also provide plenty of job opportunities.

In addition to strength in employment and wages, the Golden State is home to several strong university programs for future social workers. The University of California Berkeley, the University of Southern California, and the University of California Los Angeles all offer top-ranked social work programs. California had a total of 23 schools ranked on the U.S. News & World Report's Best Grad Schools in social work for 2018, which includes the universities mentioned above.

2

New York

The Empire State earns the second spot on our list primarily thanks to New York City. New York offers both volume and concentration in terms of available social work jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated that 7,940 social workers currently work in New York. The BLS also found that New York boasted the fifth-highest concentration and location quotient of social workers. This means that compared with all other states, New York had the fifth-highest amount of social workers per 1,000 employees in the state.

With a respectable mean annual wage of $64,530, social workers in New York City can afford to pursue their passion and still live a comfortable life. New York has strong social work programs at Columbia University, New York University, Hunter College, Fordham University, University at Buffalo (SUNY), Adelphi University, and University at Albany (SUNY). New York had a total of 18 schools ranked on the U.S. News & World Report's Best Grad Schools in social work for 2018, including the universities mentioned above.

3

Massachusetts

Massachusetts had nine schools ranked in the U.S. News & World Report's Best Grad Schools in social work for 2018, including Boston University, Boston College, Smith College, and Simmons University. Massachusetts stands out for the employment opportunities and salary figures that many social workers make. The state has the third-highest annual mean wage for social workers out of all 50 states, at $73,940. Massachusetts also participates in licensure reciprocity, meaning a social worker from a different state can move to the state and become licensed without having to retake their initial licensure exam and complete their experience hours a second time.

4

South Carolina

The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated that as of May 2017, South Carolina was the fifth-highest employer of social workers nationwide. Furthermore, the Palmetto State holds the second-highest concentration and location quotient for social worker jobs -- social workers make up 1.24 out of every 1,000 employees throughout the state. South Carolina offers a top-ranked social work program at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Given the amount of positions available in South Carolina and the relatively lower amount of competition compared to places such as California and New York, the state offers young social workers a solid place to start their careers.

5

Illinois

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois employs the third-highest number of social workers. The BLS calculated the mean annual wage for all social workers in Illinois at nearly $66,000, and social workers in Chicago earn an annual mean wage of more than $70,000. Chicago provides both a higher concentration and higher annual mean wage for social workers than New York. One of the nation's top social work programs is at the University of Chicago. The School of Social Service Administration at the university offers an AM degree, the equivalent of an MSW but with a more expansive and experiential educational foundation that delves into policy development, social science theory, and interdisciplinary research.

6

Ohio

Ohio offers the fourth-highest number of social work positions nationwide. Mansfield offers the highest location quotient for social workers in the U.S. -- 2.45 out of all jobs in Mansfield are social work jobs. The annual mean wage for social workers in Ohio comes in at nearly $49,000. Ohio State University in Columbus and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland offer two of the state's best social work programs. The master of science in social administration offered by The Mandel School at Case Western Reserve was ranked ninth by U.S. News & World Report's Best Grad Schools in social work for 2018. The program is offered on campus, online, and in an intensive weekend format to provide the ultimate flexibility in scheduling.

7

Hawaii

The Aloha State has the second-highest annual mean wage for social workers out of all 50 states at more than $74,000. Furthermore, Honolulu currently sits at eighth on the list of top-paying metropolitan areas for social workers, offering an annual mean wage of nearly $79,000. The University of Hawaii also provides a top-ranked social work school. UH's Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work offers a bachelor's and master's degree in social work, as well as a doctor of philosophy in social welfare.

8

Rhode Island

Rhode Island ranks among the best states for social workers thanks to its high annual salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers in Rhode Island earn the highest annual mean wage out of all 50 states, bringing in more than $75,000 a year. Three schools in Rhode Island currently offer social work bachelor's programs: Providence College, Rhode Island College, and Salve Regina University. Providence and Salve Regina are both private, Roman Catholic universities, and Salve Regina has a mostly female undergraduate population. Rhode Island College also provides a master's in social work program. All of the above programs are accredited by Council on Social Work Education.

9

District of Columbia

The District of Columbia earns a place among the best areas for social workers thanks to its high annual mean wage for social workers, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated at more than $71,000. Washington, D.C. offers social work programs at The Catholic University of America, Gallaudet University, and Howard University -- all three of which were ranked in the U.S. News & World Report's Best Grad Schools in social work for 2018.

10

Montana

In Montana, 1.42 out of every 1,000 jobs are social work jobs, a figure that eclipses all of the other 49 states. Additionally, Montana maintains the third-highest concentration of social workers out of all metropolitan areas, as the BLS calculates that 2.03 out of every 1,000 professionals in Great Falls works in social work. Social workers in Montana earn an annual mean wage of $42,340. There are two universities with social work programs ranked by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE): Salish Kootenai College and University of Montana, with UM offering Montana's only accredited master's program. Licenses in child welfare training and addictions counseling are available for students at UM looking for additional experience and credentials.

11

Arizona

Arizona houses both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas that pay some of the highest wages for social workers in the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale metropolitan area sits ninth out of all U.S. cities in terms of employment opportunities for social workers, providing 800 social work jobs as of May 2017. Moreover, the nonmetropolitan areas of Arizona provided an annual mean wage of over $75,000 during the same time period, placing them second highest on the payscale in the nation. Arizona State University was ranked in the U.S. News & World Report's Best Grad Schools in social work for 2018.

12

Oregon

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Oregon as a whole offers over 2,000 social work jobs. Oregon makes the cut as the nation's fourth-most concentrated state in terms of job opportunities, as 1.11 of every 1,000 employees are social workers, who earn an annual mean wage of more than $53,000. Portland houses the fifth-highest concentration of social workers out of all major metropolitan areas, and Grants Pass sits fifth in terms of social worker concentration. When looking at universities and program offerings, Portland State University was ranked in the U.S. News & World Report's Best Grad Schools in social work for 2018. Oregon offers other Council on Social Work Education-accredited social work programs, including those at Warner Pacific University, University of Portland, Concordia University Portland, and Pacific University.

13

Washington

The Evergreen State earns a spot on the list of the best states for social workers primarily thanks to the excellent social work program at Seattle's University of Washington. UW's School of Social Work earns the number-one ranking in some outlets, enrolls nearly 650 students, and awards close to $5 million in aid to students each academic year. The school offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs in social work. UW was also ranked seventh in Kiplinger's Best Values in Public Colleges for 2018 and fifth in the U.S. News & World Report's Best Grad Schools in social work for 2018. The social work program holds accreditation from the CSWE. Other schools ranked by U.S. News & World Report's Best Grad Schools were Eastern Washington University and Walla Walla University, both of which offer social work programs accredited by the CSWE.

14

Michigan

Michigan earns a spot on this list because the University of Michigan's School of Social Work consistently ranks among the top social work schools in the nation. The school offers an undergraduate minor, a master's, and a joint Ph.D. program in social work and social science. Michigan's School of Social Work focuses on diversity and inclusion, and offers over 550 fieldwork locations and over 300 scholarship opportunities. University of Michigan was ranked first on the U.S. News & World Report's Best Grad Schools in social work for 2018, and was also ranked on Kiplinger's Best Values in Public Colleges for 2018. Michigan State University and Wayne State University both ranked in the top 50 on this list. The state offers over 20 social work programs that are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

15

Missouri

Missouri offers top-ranked social work programs at Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis University, University of Missouri, and University of Missouri-St. Louis. Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis offers one of the nation's best master's in social work programs and allows students to choose between nine different concentrations. The university also ranked in the second spot on the U.S. News & World Report's Best Grad Schools in social work for 2018. The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates that the Southeast Missouri nonmetropolitan area is the fourth-highest-paying, with a $72,620 annual mean wage.

16

North Carolina

North Carolina educates some of the nation's top social workers, offering four different programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of North Carolina Charlotte, the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and North Carolina State University.

UNC Chapel Hill -- the flagship campus of the system -- offers a particularly strong School of Social Work that maintains excellence and a tradition that stretches back to 1920. They were ranked fifth on the U.S. News & World Report's Best Grad Schools in social work for 2018. The school focuses on graduate education, awarding a master's in social work in addition to doctoral degrees. The school also offers certificates in unique areas such as international development, international peace, social change, and conflict resolution.

17

Texas

The Lone Star State offers good educational and career opportunities to social workers. Texas has top-ranked social work programs at the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Houston, the University of Texas at Arlington, Baylor University, and the University of Texas at San Antonio. As such, students in nearly every major city in Texas can gain access to a top-level social work education. The University of Texas at Austin tied for fifth place on the U.S. News & World Report's Best Grad Schools in social work for 2018.

Furthermore, Texas provides a fertile employment landscape for future social workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the North Texas nonmetropolitan area is the highest-paying nonmetropolitan area for social workers nationwide, providing an annual mean salary of over $76,000. Furthermore, the greater Houston area sits at fourth among the highest-paying metropolitan areas in the nation, paying annual mean salaries of $83,000.

18

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania benefits from the presence of four top-ranked social work schools: the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh, Bryn Mawr College, and Temple University. The University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh tied for 11th place on the U.S. News & World Report's Best Grad Schools in social work for 2018. Pennsylvania offers 48 higher education social work programs that are accredited by the Council for Social Work Education, and major cities such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh provide plenty of organizations for social workers to join.

19

Wisconsin

Wisconsin offers strong social work schools at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. University of Wisconsin-Madison ranked 13th in Kiplinger's Best Values in Public Colleges for 2018, and tied for 11th place in the U.S. News & World Report's Best Grad Schools in social work for 2018. Wisconsin also allows social workers from other states to practice without having to retake their exams or earn their experience hours again. Social workers will have to apply for reciprocity through an application based on their specific level of licensing.

Furthermore, Wisconsin maintains a particularly storied history of Native American tribes and their culture. Social workers interested in working with Native American populations can find plenty of fulfilling jobs.

20

New Jersey

In terms of social work jobs, New Jersey benefits greatly from its proximity to New York City. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the New York, Jersey City, and White Plains metropolitan areas offer more social worker jobs than any other major metropolitan area (more than 3,600). Moreover, social workers in these areas earn a respectable mean annual wage of $68,200. New Jersey also houses two top-ranked social working schools in Rutgers University and Monmouth University. Rutgers tied for 17th place in the U.S. News & World Report's Best Grad Schools in social work for 2018.

21

New Hampshire

In terms of earning a place among the best states for social workers, New Hampshire excels in one particular metric: salary potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers in the state currently bring in an annual mean wage of more than $72,000, putting New Hampshire in fourth place among all 50 states. The BLS highlights that New Hampshire provides high mean salaries for all types of social workers, including healthcare social workers; child, family, and school social workers; and mental health and substance abuse social workers.

22

Maryland

The University of Maryland-Baltimore runs one of the nation's top-ranked social work schools and operates strong master's and Ph.D. programs. The University of Maryland-Baltimore tied for 17th place in the U.S. News & World Report's Best Grad Schools in social work for 2018, and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County was ranked on Kiplinger's Best Values in Public Colleges for 2018. Both colleges offer social work program with accreditation from the Council for Social Work Education. Maryland doesn't offer reciprocity agreements with all states, meaning that social workers coming in from another state have to apply for endorsement through the appropriate application based on level and experience. Some organizations for social workers in Maryland include the School Social Workers in Maryland, Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work, and the Maryland Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

23

Georgia

Atlanta and nearby Athens are home to three of the nation's top-ranked social work schools: the University of Georgia, Georgia State University, and Clark Atlanta University. Furthermore, as a large, urban city, Atlanta provides plenty of employment opportunities and several governmental and nonprofit organizations that hire social workers. UGA was ranked on Kiplinger's Best Values in Public Schools in 2018, ranked 24th in the U.S. News & World Report's Best Grad Schools in social work for 2018, and offers a social work program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. The school also offers students the opportunity to earn certificates in adjacent fields like disability studies, gerontology, nonprofit management, and family and marriage therapy.

24

Indiana

Both of Indiana's flagship universities -- Indiana University in Bloomington and Indiana State University in Terre Haute -- offer highly ranked departments or schools of social work. IU's school in particular offers strong bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. programs in social work at several campuses throughout Indiana and online.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers in Indiana earn a mean annual wage greater than $61,000. While this number does not compare to annual salaries in some other states, the Hoosier State's lower cost of living means that $61,000 generally amounts to a high quality of life for social workers.

25

Virginia

Virginia earns the final spot among the 25 best states for social workers by excelling in two metrics: salary potential and education. Social workers in Virginia earn a mean annual wage of more than $66,000. The state houses top-ranked social work schools at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and George Mason University in Fairfax. The School of Social Work at VCU is particularly noteworthy, offering consistently strong bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. programs in the field. VCU also tied for 30th place in the U.S. News & World Report's Best Grad Schools in social work for 2018.

Social Work Resources