Social Justice

5 Social work careers you could pursue with an MSW

Social Work Careers

Perhaps you already have years of social work experience under your belt and you want to transition to a clinical setting. Or maybe you just finished your undergrad and want to pursue an advanced degree right away. Either way, a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree is the next logical step.

So, what can you do with a masters in social work, anyway? We dug into some information to outline a handful of MSW careers that would allow you to make a real impact. Take a look to see which position might suit you best. But first, let’s take a closer look at the training.

How an MSW qualifies you for advanced practice social work

Master of Social Work programs like the one at UMass Global prepare prospective advanced practice social workers for a robust career. Our curriculum incorporates real-world learning that teaches students to confront complex problems with multidimensional problem-solving in concert with evidence-based assessment and intervention models.

The mission of the UMass Global online MSW is to provide a flexible, accessible, personalized, and innovative program that prepares graduates who are

  • Competent and ethical advanced practice social workers serving individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.
  • Innovative leaders of change who advocate and promote social, economic, and environmental justice.
  • Able to effectively use technology to promote practice advancement of the social work profession.

MSW degree holders are expert generalists who understand how global issues — human trafficking, wars, natural disasters, epidemics and outbreaks — affect the people they serve. Graduates of a high-quality MSW program are equipped to work in a broad spectrum of settings, including:

  • Child protective services agencies
  • Mental health and substance abuse treatment programs
  • School-based settings
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Home-based programs
  • Hospitals and other health care settings
  • Human rights and advocacy organizations
  • Criminal justice and legal service organizations
  • Local, state and federal agencies

5 meaningful Master of Social Work jobs to consider

Once armed with a quality education, there are several jobs with an MSW to choose from.  Keep reading to explore five excellent career paths for MSW-qualified candidates.

1. Health care social worker

As a health care social worker, you’d provide individuals and families with the psychosocial support needed to cope with chronic, acute or terminal illnesses. You might educate and counsel patients, advise family members and caregivers, make referrals for other services and collaborate with other professionals to evaluate a patient’s needs.

In hospital environments, health care social workers also oversee paperwork and recordkeeping related to Medicaid- and Medicare. Additionally, these professionals may have the opportunity to conduct social research to advance knowledge and also develop or advise on social policy. 

Health care social worker positions almost always require a master’s degree in the field. Job openings are projected to increase 11 percent by 2031, which is double the rate of all occupations nationwide.

2. Mental health and substance abuse social worker


Social workers who specialize in mental health and substance abuse work closely with clients who experience mental, emotional, or substance abuse problems. Duties include providing individual or group therapy from a trauma-informed approach, crisis intervention, case management, client advocacy, prevention strategies, and education.

These professionals often collaborate with counselors, physicians, and nurses to coordinate patient treatment. They connect clients with housing and meet with family members to assist them in understanding, communicating with, and supporting loved ones in recovery.

One of the most sought-after qualifications for mental health and substance abuse social workers is an MSW. And note that these positions are expected to see notable growth — a projected 11 percent hike in job openings by 2031.

3. Marriage and family therapist


Marriage and family therapists specialize in diagnosing and treating mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage and family systems. These psychotherapy professionals counsel clients regarding any concerns they may have related to unsatisfactory relationships, divorce and separation, financial difficulties or parenting.

Marriage and family therapists apply psychotherapeutic, family systems theories and other techniques to enhance their client’s skills and strategies for confronting their problems in a constructive manner. They typically develop individualized treatment plans that help families work through traumatic events, relationship issues, destructive behavioral patterns, and more.

All marriage and family therapists are required to have earned a master’s degree in psychology, marriage and family therapy, or social work. These professionals are in particularly high demand, with jobs in this sector projected to grow 14 percent by 2031.

4. Child, family and school social worker

The primary mission of child, family and school social workers is to improve the social and psychological functioning of children and their families. These social workers aim to maximize family well-being, along with the resiliency skills and academic functioning of children.

Child welfare social workers consult with and counsel parents, arrange adoptions, and find foster homes for children who have been neglected, abandoned, or abused. In schools, social workers apply a strengths-based approach to address a variety of problems, including teenage pregnancy, truancy, and disruptive misbehavior. These professionals sometimes work within the legal system and may need to assist with court hearings or even provide testimony to inform custody arrangements.

While some child, family and school social worker positions will hire candidates with a bachelor’s degree in the field, many prefer master’s-qualified social workers. These positions are expected to grow 9 percent by 2031, which is faster than the national average for all occupations.

5. School counselor

Counselors in the school setting go by a number of different titles: school counselor, educational counselor, guidance counselor, student development advisor and vocational counselor. While a school psychologist may sound synonymous with a school counselor, there are some nuanced differences between these roles.

In general, school counselors serve the entire population within their school. They focus on supporting their social and emotional needs while also helping students prepare for future educational and professional endeavors. School counselors often facilitate workshops on topics like drug prevention or parenting.

These professionals work with elementary, middle and high school aged students. School counselor positions are often filled by master’s-qualified candidates, and they’re projected to grow 10 percent by 2031.

Find your ideal MSW career

Can you visualize yourself finding fulfillment in one of the Master of Social Work jobs listed above? Or perhaps you aren’t set on your specific career path yet, but you enjoy the versatility that an MSW can provide. Either way, advancing your education could be the right move.

Check outUMass Global's MSW degree program to learn more about how a postgraduate degree in social work can prepare you for success. 

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