Learn about all of the different job and career opportunities you can seek after earning a MSW degree (Master of Social Work). We review what the top accrediting body in social work (the CSWE) recommends, core competencies in a CSWE accredited MSW program, and the different types of social work jobs you can consider.

Career Options You Could Have with a MSW Degree

Can You Be a Therapist with a MSW?

Short answer: It depends. Obtaining a Master of Social Work will satisfy some requirements for therapy professionals, but not those who are looking at clinical psychology or are going to be researching in the field. Becoming a psychologist requires separate licensure and a doctorate degree frequently. A professional labeling themselves as a counselor or therapist can achieve this with an MSW program but you should check with the department of social work to see for sure..

What is the difference between a licensed clinical social worker and a psychologist?

A LCSW identifies a person’s strengths and weaknesses to determine challenges they are facing in their life. They may work with their families and partners to help create changes in their lives to get them out of substance abuse or particular habits that are destructive to their advancement.

There are various types of therapy professionals can specialize in, such as psychotherapy or marriage and family counseling. Some universities to provide specific disciplines in counseling and/or therapy at the graduate degree level. There may be a type of concentration in social work where a student can gain these skills, such as addictions, mental health, and disabilities.

Several Jobs You Can Have with a MSW

Medical Social Worker

There are various types of medical social worker opportunities out there. For example, they may specialize in mental health and analyze patients to determine what treatments they may need or counsel them when they are in need. They may also be part of the inpatient and outpatient process, helping those patients adapt to their health care needs when receiving care and how to take care of themselves when discharged from the hospital.

What Would You Do As A Medical Social Worker?

At a macro level, social workers in the health care field may work with advocacy groups in communities to promote healthy lifestyles. This can include partnering with other organizations to change cafeteria offerings for their employees, workout opportunities with various fitness organizations, or providing better food options at grocery stores.

Nonprofit Executive Director

Obligations for an executive director at a nonprofit will change greatly depending on the type of organization. In general, they will be in charge of planning and implementing strategies to succeed, maintain fundraising capability and sign off on marketing techniques, and be able to solve any problems that the organization encounters.

What Would You Do Working at a Non Profit?

In addition to the many duties that a director oversees, they must be diligent in communication and leadership in order to lead an effective nonprofit. Other employees must be part of successful teams that work together efficiently and the director must listen and solve issues that employees may not be able to conquer themselves. Overall, an executive director must be one of the top experts of the nonprofit.

Public Policy Analyst

These professionals review the implementation of policy from elected officials and determine its effectiveness within the community. They may review data to determine if laws and regulations have improved the quality of life and make presentations on if there are any changes that should be made to enhance the capabilities of these laws. For example, they may want to make changes to income housing restrictions within a city.

What Would You Do Working in Public Social Policy?

In addition to reviewing current laws and regulations, they may advocate for new policy measures. This requires gathering information from a variety of accurate sources and demonstrating why these changes need to be made. They may partner with advocacy groups or evaluate various methods of research, such as focus groups, in order to determine if new law enforcement needs to be implemented in problematic areas within a community.

School Guidance Counselor

Guidance counselors are part of the youth and school services fields of social work, and their aim is to improve student performance and prepare them for the next chapter of their life. Students that are struggling to keep up with others may be asked to meet with the guidance counselor to determine specific problematic areas. In some cases, counselors may evaluate and determine additional steps beyond their own abilities, such as psychiatric treatment.

What Would You Do As A School Counselor?

Duties will differ when it comes to elementary, middle school, and high school counselors. At the high school level, counselors often act as a stepping stone for students when they look to enter the workforce or choose to pursue higher education. They may impact policies that a school has in place for enhancement, or work with other teachers and faculty members to update the curriculum.

Substance Abuse Counselor

Also known as mental health and behavioral disorder counselors, duties for these types of social workers include evaluating clients on their current condition and determining what treatment to proceed with. They may work with partners or family members in order to help with the treatment process to improve their quality of life. This can also include the recommendation of advanced, psychiatric treatment, or placing them in support groups with their specific problems they face.

What Would You Do As A Substance Abuse Counselor?

Specific to substance abuse counselors, they may lead step-by-step programs in order to help groups of patients that are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction. This includes developing the plan itself to get them off of their addiction and help them restore order to their lives, improving relationships and entering a successful career. Some counselors may specialize in crisis intervention when the patient’s life is in danger or a threat to others.

What Can You Do with a MSW Besides Social Work?

There are numerous career possibilities to consider with a Master of Social Work, and this is not exclusive to the field of social work. In a given MSW program, students will understand how to help others with substance abuse and addictions, have a thorough understanding of human rights, and there are a wealth of concentrations to consider to customize the program to specific career needs.

You Can Specialize in A Specific Area

Foundational topics are very similar for social work programs accredited by the CSWE. Common courses include learning about social policy, evaluation methods, and how diverse populations can be affected by policy. Specialization topics can also be interchangeable for different careers, such as counseling and management positions at a wide variety of nonprofit organizations.

Micro, Macro, and Mezzo Social Work

Two main types of specializations that students can consider when pursuing an MSW: micro and macro social work. At the micro level, this focuses on direct practice in specific field, such as with children or older adults. Macro social work emphasizes duties within the community, such as policy change or administrative procedures.

  • Advanced Generalist
  • Children, Youth, and Families
  • Clinical or Direct Practice
  • Health and Mental Health
  • Social Policy

Consider a DSW Degree After Your MSW

Holding an MSW can build on further education at the doctorate level, and students may consider a different discipline that is related. Many of the aforementioned topics can fit toward the path of pursuing a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, or a DSW degree. This can satisfy professionals that are looking at more research opportunities or becoming licensed as a psychologist instead of a clinical social worker.