Social work is an inherently compassionate field. Every day, and in an astonishingly wide range of ways, America’s social service professionals help people overcome poverty, addiction, abuse, and life-threatening mental health crises. But that doesn’t mean social workers should ignore their own needs.
Social workers need salaries that can support them and their loved ones. According to the BLS’s (Bureau of Labor Statistics) most recent employment survey, the national mean yearly wage for social workers is $54,880. While this figure can be a good benchmark, it only tells part of the story.
In the United States, the federal government lets each individual state draft its own social work licensing laws. This, along with other variables like education and experience level, means social work salaries can vary widely by state. If you’re thinking about starting a career in social work or are exploring the idea of relocating, here is the mean social work salary by state for every state as reported by the BLS.
Social Work Salary By State
Each state’s estimated mean annual wage represents child, family, and school social workers from a variety of educational and professional backgrounds. Though plenty of social workers work outside of this context, the BLS’s data about child, family, and school social workers covers quite a large group and could help many people entering the field plan their careers and education.
To provide some context to these figures, each state’s potential social worker wage comes with licensing and career information taken from a variety of government agencies and professional social work organizations. Fully answering the question of, “How much do social workers make?” means taking these complex regulations into account.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $45,200
While the BLS lists child, family, and school social workers as the most common types of social workers in Alabama, the state is home to a few unique programs. According to the Alabama State Board of Social Work Examiners website, the Office of Deaf Services and the Alabama Department of Public Health have career opportunities and training courses available for new and current social workers.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $61,580
There are three levels of licensed social workers in Alaska: LBSW (licensed baccalaureate social worker), LMSW (licensed master social worker), and LCSW (licensed clinical social worker). With this simple licensing structure and a relatively high estimated annual mean wage, Alaska could be a great home for new and experienced social workers alike.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $43,660
According to the Arizona Commerce Authority, the healthcare and social assistance sector in Arizona is expected to grow by almost 50% by 2030. This growth could indicate great job stability for social workers in the state.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $41,110
The Arkansas Chapter of the NASW (National Association of Social Workers), the world’s largest professional social worker organization, says that anyone who operates under the title of social worker in Arkansas needs to be licensed. This combined with a straightforward three-tiered licensing system could make becoming a social worker in Arkansas a somewhat organized, straight-forward process.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $64,940
Home to about 47,000 social workers according to BLS statistics, California employs more social workers than any other state. On top of that, it has the fifth highest estimated annual wage for social work professionals. But what really sets the state apart is that according to the California Chapter of the NASW, most California social workers don’t need licenses to practice.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $59,790
Until recently, Colorado only offered LSW (licensed social worker), CSW (certified social worker), and LCSW licenses. However, the Mental Health Practice Act Sunset Bill of 2020 added a new licensing option for MSW (Master of Social Work) graduates. This could open career paths for different types of social workers in the state.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $70,690
Connecticut offers the second highest estimated social work salary by state. However, the state only offers LMSWs and LCSWs. So to get a social work license in Connecticut, a person needs at least a Master’s degree.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $41,450
Delaware law dictates that anyone practicing social work or presenting themself as a social worker in any capacity must be licensed by the state. However, this law makes exemptions for clergy and some human services workers who don’t engage in behavioral health assessment.
District of Columbia
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $70,340
Washington, DC, hosts the third highest estimated annual mean wage for social workers in the nation. To meet the district’s needs, all DC social workers must complete 40 hours of continuing education courses including mandatory LGBTQ and public health training.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $48,890
Florida regulates licensing for CMSWs (Certified Master Social Workers) and clinical social workers. To promote and empower new social workers, they also offer licenses to clinical and non-clinical social work assistants and interns.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $48,200
The Georgia Board of Professional Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage & Family Therapists grants licenses to clinical and Master’s-level social workers. Unfortunately, the state does not offer licenses by endorsement or reciprocity to out-of-state social workers.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $61,790
Though the BLS doesn’t rank Hawaii at the very top of social work salary by state, the state does have a higher than average mean wage. As another potential benefit of working in the state, the Hawaii Chapter of the NASW boasts multiple networking and support events and scholarship opportunities.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $47,560
Idaho licenses bachelor’s, Master’s, and clinical social workers so there could be room for people at every level of education. The only social workers in Idaho who can operate without a license are those enrolled in recognized collegiate programs under the direct supervision of a licensed social worker.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $55,930
In Illinois, the only licenses currently available are the LSW and LCSW. As of January 2022, new LSWs do not have to pass a licensure exam per Public Act 102-0326. With these comparatively lax regulations and a close-to-average social work salary by state, Illinois may be a welcoming home for new and current social workers.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $45,520
According to the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, Indiana requires licenses for bachelor’s, Master’s, and clinical-level social workers. The state allows for license reciprocity meaning social workers new to the state can get an Indiana license based on their former state’s regulations. However, all new licensees must pass the Indiana jurisprudence exam.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $50,380
Like many states, Iowa regulates LBSW and LMSW licensure, but they also offer a third, more unique choice: an LISW (licensed independent social worker). This designation allows social workers to provide clinical and non-clinical services and requires an MSW or doctorate in social work.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $47,850
According to the NASW Kansas Chapter website, Kansas was one of the first states to enforce social work licensing in 1976. This gave rise to the three-tiered LBSW/LMSW/LSCSW system many states, including Kansas, still use today.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $43,440
Data from the Kentucky Center for Statistics indicates that over the next five years, Kentucky may have another 2,000 job openings in its already robust social work system. Currently, the Kentucky chapter of the NASW lists LSW, CSW, LCSW as the levels of licensure available in the commonwealth.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $45,010
Though Louisiana regulates CSW, LMSW, and LCSW licensure like other states, the state offers two uncommon licenses. The first is the RSW (registered social worker) for new bachelor’s-level workers. The second, referred to as the LCSW-BACS, is for board-approved clinical supervisors, a career path social workers eyeing administrative roles may find attractive.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $61,070
Maine lawmakers recently approved a 2021 bill that could waive rigid requirements for social workers already licensed in other states. And with one of the higher potential social work salary by state averages, Maine could be great for career-minded social service providers.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $62,440
Though Maryland doesn’t currently have reciprocity for out-of-state social workers, the Maryland Board of Social Work Examiners is developing a comprehensive interstate licensure compact with other stakeholders across the nation. Combined with a high potential salary range for social work professionals, this could mean a bright future for social workers in Maryland.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $54,980
Massachusetts currently regulates licensing for four types of social workers. The state’s unique LSWA (licensed social work associate) classification could help people with associate’s degrees and high school diplomas become licensed social workers through a streamlined process.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $51,900
In Michigan, social work licensure is regulated for LBSWs, LMSWs, different types of clinical social workers, and people in training for those licenses. However, there’s also the RSST (registered social services technician) designation for those hoping to put their tech and administrative skills to work in the field.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $60,940
Minnesota’s social work salary by state is a bit higher than average and their four-tiered licensing system could be beneficial to social workers of all specialties. In addition, the state makes licensing exemptions for students, social workers employed by Native American tribes, and social workers employed by specific counties.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $36,900
The Mississippi Board of Health employs social workers to help the state’s residents through everything from newborn screening to health policy improvement. It should be noted, though, that all licensed social workers in Mississippi must be 21 years of age or older.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $41,070
To become one of the five types of licensed social worker in Missouri, one must pass an ASWB (Association of Social Work Boards) exam. For workers moving to Missouri who have been licensed in other states for one year or more, the state offers a streamlined licensing process.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $41,980
Before 2019, there was only one social work license available in Montana, the LCSW, and it required an MSW. Now, there’s a three-tiered system more in-line with the licensing systems of other states.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $43,730
According to regulations outlined by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, “Social work activities do not require certification (or licensure); however, you must be certified in Nebraska in order to represent yourself as a Social Worker.” Certification requires either a BSW (bachelor of social work) or an MSW, but there is no exam to earn CSW certification in Nebraska.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $57,670
Nevada grants licenses to four types of social workers: LSWs, LMSWs, LCSWs, LISWs. The first requires a BSW while the rest require at least an MSW. This organized structure could provide a wide social worker salary range in the state.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $55,650
The New Hampshire Office of Professional Licensure and Certification only lists clinical and school social workers as the types of social assistants they regulate. The clinical license requires an MSW, but the school license is flexible in that applicants can have an MSW or acquire social work experience as outlined by state regulations.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $75,410
New Jersey has the highest mean social work salary by state according to BLS estimates. Anyone working in the state under the term social worker must have one of the three available licenses with exceptions made for students, school district employees, and some civil servants.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $46,870
New Mexico requires licensure for all LBSWs, LMSWs, and LISWs. Current or prospective clinical social workers should note that in this state, LISW is roughly equivalent to the LCSW license offered in other states.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $68,660
New York only offers LMSW and LCSW licensing. Both require Master’s degrees and additional training on child abuse reporting. Along with this simplified system, New York also boasts the fourth highest potential social work salary by state according to BLS metrics.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $51,060
North Carolina’s four-tiered system regulates licensing for CSWs, CMSWs, LCSWs and the state-specific CSWM (certified social work case manager). This certification is for master’s or Doctorate-level social workers who wish to become high-level case managers.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $59,390
All three types of social work licenses in North Dakota require passing either the clinical, bachelor’s, or Master’s level ASWB exam. Only LSCWs may practice social work in a private capacity in the state.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $48,200
Non-clinical social workers in Ohio generally seek LSW licensure while advanced and clinical workers are typically licensed as LISWs. Entry-level social workers can apply for SWA (social work assistant) or SWT (social work trainee) licenses. There is also a specific LISW supervision license for high-level administrators.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $43,580
All social workers in Oklahoma must be licensed per the state’s Social Worker Licensing Act of 1980. This includes clinical, baccalaureate, and Master’s-level social workers as well as all administrators.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $54,790
Oregon’s social work licensing practices mimic the stages of a social worker’s education. There are three clinical licenses and two non-clinical licenses. Each stage comes with progressively more rigorous experience, supervision, and educational requirements.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $49,390
In Pennsylvania, social workers must apply for one of three licenses. There are separate ones for people with BSWs, MSWs, and clinical experience. If social workers licensed in other states meet certain educational and supervised experience requirements, the State Board of Social Workers, Marriage, and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors may grant state licenses after a thorough review.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $63,550
Currently, Rhode Island only requires licensure for clinical social workers. Also, the Rhode Island Department of Health says that until at least 2025, LCSWs do not need to take the clinical-level ASWB exam to be eligible for a license.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $45,710
In many states, LISWs generally have the authority to practice clinical social work. Not so in South Carolina. Their regulations feature an LISW-CP license for clinical workers and an LISW-AP for non-clinical workers. There are, however, separate licenses for social workers with BSWs and MSWs.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $44,770
Instead of dividing social work licenses into clinical and non-clinical, South Dakota divides them up by experience and education. The entry-level license, called the social work associate license, is open to people with non-social-work bachelor’s degrees or social-work-specific associate degrees. The highest level, the certified social worker in private or independent practice license, requires either an MSW or a doctorate in social work along with two years of specialized, supervised experience.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $46,280
Along with licenses for LBSWs and LMSWs, Tennessee enforces licensure for advanced clinical and non-clinical social workers. Acquiring any of these four licenses requires passing the corresponding ASWB exam.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $49,310
To become an LBSW, LMSW, or LCSW in Texas, social workers must pass an ASWB exam.
According to Texas Labor Market Information, an online economic data tool hosted by the Texas Workforce Commission, the social assistance sector in this state is projected to grow by 30% through 2030.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $51,650
Three types of social workers make up Utah’s professional licensing structure: SSWs (social service worker), CSWs, and LCSWs. But future social workers who have not yet passed the required ASWB exams may opt to gain experience by becoming certified social service worker interns. However, interns cannot begin fulfilling clinical requirements until they become CSWs.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $53,060
Entry-level non-clinical social workers in Vermont don’t generally need licenses, but advanced workers are required to be licensed as LMSWs or LICSWs (licensed independent clinical social workers) per state Office of Professional Regulation guidelines. Both licenses require an MSW.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $58,100
Virginia enforces clinical and non-clinical social work licensure at five levels meaning professionals of all kinds generally need a license to practice in the state. Unlike most states, Virginia requires that social work licenses be renewed every year.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $60,230
When ranking social work salary by state, Washington comes in high on the list. This might be partly because all four social work licenses in the state require Master’s or Doctorate degrees and passing ASWB exams. However, the licensed social work associate advanced level is specifically designed for practicing social workers who have not yet gained enough experience to qualify for an advanced social worker license.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $41,230
West Virginia has a four-level licensing system (with additional temporary licenses available), but the state is unique in that it offers provisional licenses for people without formal social work education. This could be a great path for people who may have already attended school but not necessarily for social work. It can lead to becoming a full-fledged, licensed social worker.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $48,910
According to the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services, there are four social work licenses available in the state ranging from the general certified social worker to the advanced certified independent worker. Each one requires passing the appropriate ASWB exam.
Estimated Annual Mean Wage: $50,090
Social workers in Wyoming generally practice as CSWs or LCSWs. However, if a person is currently progressing towards becoming a clinical social worker, they must apply for a PCSW (provisional clinical social worker) license. This is a temporary license that helps the state regulate the supervision and educational standards of clinical social work.
Find Accredited Social Work Programs In Your State
Each estimated social work salary by state comes with its own set of variables. More experienced social workers may earn a higher salary than new ones. Social workers in different fields like criminal justice, child welfare, and substance abuse counseling have different titles and certifications available to them. But advancing your own social work education could help you make those variables work in your favor.
To start, search for a social work degree program in your home state or future home. Whether you’re starting with a BSW or want to potentially enhance your earning potential with an MSW, entering the right social work program could be life-changing not just for you, but for the under-served people you want to help.