What are the Highest Paying Specialties in the Field of Social Work?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of social work is expected to grow by 16 percent between 2016 and 2026. Though there are some types of social workers in the U.S. that practice with a bachelor’s degree, immense benefits exist — in terms of access to highly-specialized fields and more competitive pay — for candidates that earn their Master of Social Work (MSW) degree.

For starters, social work degree jobs typically pay 30 percent more to holders of an MSW than to those who hold a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree. It is worth also noting that a social worker salary can vary significantly between states.

Average Social Worker Salary by State

Those in search of the highest paying social work jobs would do well to look for opportunities in New York or California after graduating, as both rank in the top-10 nationally among all states in terms of average social worker salary. Per 2016 figures, child, family, and school social worker salary in NYC is roughly a little under $58,000 annually. Social workers in the Golden State don’t do too badly, either, as an average MSW salary in California hovers just over $54,000 per year. 

State averages aside, though, just how much does a social worker make a year? Well, a lot of that depends on their specialty. 

Types of Social Workers and How Much They Make

Clinical social workers, by and large, provide therapy to those in need of mental or emotional support. The environments in which they work range from substance abuse treatment centers to residential nursing facilities, and they are often critical in assessing patients for disorders. In doing so, they are able to come up with a treatment plan for patients and refer them, as needed, for additional support.

Qualifications for this form of social work include an MSW along with relevant state-specific licensing and experience in bereavement counseling and crisis intervention. The U.S. median clinical social worker salary is roughly $54,000.

Medical Social Workers deal heavily in patient interaction. They interview patients about their medical history, track their progress over the course of a treatment, and are also often responsible for referring patients to qualified specialists when needed.

A BSW or degree in counseling is necessary for this field of work, while an MSW is often an added plus. Additional experience in dialysis, palliative care, and geriatrics can all contribute heavily to a practitioner’s final salary, which, on average, is just over $52,000 a year.

At $48,319 per year, a school social worker salary falls slightly under the national median for social workers. That doesn’t make the work they do any less important. Serving as primary reference points for students and parents in need of counseling, school social workers identify psychological and social influences that may be getting in the way of a student’s ability to realize their full potential. Though an MSW is generally not required for this type of social work, school social workers are required to have university degrees in child or education-related psychology or sociology along with up-to-date area-specific certifications.

It Boils Down to Qualifications and Experience

Though there are many different types of social workers, the average social worker salary depends heavily on an array of factors. In fields of social work where an MSW is required, the average starting salary for MSW graduates can be affected by soft skills, relevant experience, and the state in which they work. In the end, the more you bring to the table, the more you can expect to earn.