Should I get an MSW?

With or without the MSW, each of us can make life better for the humans in our corners of the world. Social workers have the opportunity to help people of all backgrounds and ages. They can work with children and adults on an individual basis, in families and groups, and in neighborhoods and communities. Through leadership, policy, and advocacy, they can make a positive impact on people. Here are answers to a few frequently asked questions for professionals contemplating “Should I get an MSW?”

Do social workers need an MSW?

Social workers are employed in a broad range of settings including individual and family services, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, shelters and corrections. They can assist survivors of abuse, people with disabilities, and victims of war and natural disasters.

The master’s in social work (MSW) degree is the terminal degree and prepares professionals for the highest level of social work licensure. This degree is the “gold standard” for social work practice. About half of people who identify as a “social worker” have the MSW. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it projects that social work jobs will grow by more than 10 percent in the next couple of years.

What type of work are social workers able to do with a bachelor’s degree versus a master’s degree?

Social work degrees are available at the bachelor’s, graduate and doctoral levels. Each degree offers vast opportunities for careers in social work as well as in many other fields. Professionals with the bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) can perform many vital social work activities. These include management, discharge planning, behavior aide and advocate. A master’s degree in social work opens more doors for clinical practice, leadership and management, policy and research.

What are some benefits of getting an MSW?

Professionals with the MSW degree can gain clinical licensure and provide clinical assessments and interventions to individuals, families and groups. In non-profit, for-profit, and government organizations, the MSW often paves the way for moving into leadership positions. For instance, the MSW gives great opportunity for professional activities like field supervision, teaching and research.

Social work salaries vary considerably based on educational level, employer, and years of experience. For example, someone with an MSW degree typically earns more than someone with a BSW degree. 

How long does it take to get an MSW?

Individuals with a BSW can return to school and earn their MSW in 1-2 years. Individuals with other undergraduate degrees can earn it in 2-4 years. Both a masters and a bachelors in social work programs are accredited by the Council of Social Work Education. However, they differ from one another by areas of specialization and their size, context and cost.

Should I get an MSW?

If you want to help people, social work might be the career for you!

Concerned about going back to school? Check out these tips for overcoming challenges as an adult student.


At Bluffton University…

Bluffton University offers Master of Social Work graduate degree with a mental health specialization. The program is conducted in partnership with Goshen College and has Higher Learning Commission approval.

Bluffton’s MSW is designed to equip students with the advanced knowledge and skills required to meet the mental health needs of their communities and offers students a holistic approach to the field of social work. With an emphasis on spiritual and religious integration, the program prepares social work professionals to positively connect with and assist clients of diverse backgrounds.

Applications are accepted year round. For more information on Bluffton’s MSW program, visit www.bluffton.edu/msw.

Written by Jeannette Harder, MSW program director, and Tricia Bell, content manager