If you work in or are considering entering the rewarding field of social work, you have likely heard social workers who hold an advanced degree have some advantages.
While a Master of Social Work is not typically required to begin working in the field, it can help you to compete for attractive positions, earn more money, get promoted quickly, stay current in the field and, perhaps most importantly, feed your craving for knowledge.
In fact, if you plan to make a career of social work, it is hard to imagine the rationale for not earning an MSW. Here are some of the benefits:
1. Increased Job Opportunities
It’s true that you can get numerous jobs in the social work field with just a bachelor’s degree in a related subject. However, entry-level positions often come with limited influence and responsibility, relatively low salaries and heavy caseloads. Positions where you are more likely to make a large impact in the lives of your clients without sacrificing your personal life often go to social workers with more experience and better credentials.
Some positions also require that employees be a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) or a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), a licensure that requires years of professional experience, in addition to the successful completion of a standardized test. To learn about the licensure requirements in your state, you can visit the Social Work License Map website.
2. Salary Boost
Most social workers don’t enter the field with the intention of getting rich, but a hard-working and successful social worker can make a comfortable living, and some do very well in non-traditional positions or private practice. In 2009, social workers holding MSWs made an average of $15,000 more per year than their counterparts without advanced degrees. With that kind of boost to your earning power, the degree will pay for itself and begin to provide a return on your investment very quickly.
3. Possible Promotions
If you are interested in taking on supervisory, administrative or clinical responsibilities within your current social work organization, a master’s degree can ease and expedite your climb up the ladder. If you are deeply motivated to influence the lives of your clients and their communities, you will likely want to do all you can for them – and, in the modern world, that often requires credentials.
4. Keeping Current
Especially if you’ve been out of school for some time, grad school can be a great way to catch up with recent developments in the social work theory, research, and practice. Once you have finished your degree, you will likely find that your clients, colleagues and superiors appreciate the timely and informed perspective you bring to your work.
5. For The Sake Of Learning
All practical considerations aside, one of the best reasons for returning to school is the desire for education itself. If you enjoy studying and attending classes, you will likely benefit more from the education you receive. After all, social work education isn’t all books and theory; it involves real world experience in which you put everything you learn into practice. Perhaps the best reason to earn a Master of Social Work is that the thought of learning new and better ways to do your job excites you.
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