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5 reasons to pursue a master's degree in social work

Friday, January 20, 2017
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5 reasons to pursue a master's degree in social work
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Social work is a fascinating and challenging field, with professionals in this industry working to improve the lives of individuals from a wide range of backgrounds. Certainly, as detailed by the University of South Carolina, the purview of social work is broad: For example, the discipline can involve counseling individuals one-on-one to assist with issues such as addiction or mental illness, helping families negotiate issues such as child welfare and adoption, providing educational and career-based advice in a school setting, helping couples and families overcome familial issues and so on. Given the broad scope of the social work field, professionals in this area can be found in a variety of settings, from private clinics, to hospitals, to government agencies and schools. 

While it is possible to work as a social worker with a bachelor's degree, if you wish to further your career,  specialize in a particular area or work in a clinical setting, then it is time to consider applying to a master of social work program, socialworklicensure.org argued. Indeed, for young professionals in this important field, there are an array of benefits to earning an MSW degree. Read on to discover five important reasons why you should pursue an advanced degree in social work:

1. You can specialize
An MSW can help you move from a career as a general social worker or assistant to a social work professional who specializes in a particular area, Simmons College explained. For example, with an MSW you can transition to a career as a school or substance abuse counselor or a family social worker. Simmons explained that you are not required to specialize upon graduation from an MSW program, however. It is possible to forge a more general career in social work, helping individuals from different backgrounds with various issues. 

"You will need an MSW before you study to become a licensed clinical social worker."

2. It prepares you for clinical work
If you wish to qualify as a clinical social worker, or practice independently, then you need to earn an MSW degree first, U.S. News & World Report explained. An MSW degree will qualify you to study to become a licensed clinical social worker, Tori Canonge, writing in educational resource Owlcation, explained. This process begins once you have earned your MSW degree and generally lasts around 24 months. You will need to work alongside a supervisor in preparation for a final test to obtain your license. Once you have received your license to practice as a clinical social worker, you will be eligible for higher paid social work careers that entail more responsibility. Indeed, as socialworklicensure.org detailed, clinical social workers tend to focus more on assisting clients with mental health problems and are qualified to provide diagnoses, make general assessments and practice an array of therapy-based techniques with clients to help them work through and overcome issues. 

An MSW degree can prepare you for a career in a clinical setting.An MSW degree can prepare you for a career in a clinical setting.

3. You can command a higher salary
Salaries for clinical social workers are certainly reasonable, with popular careers website Glassdoor reporting that the national average salary for qualified professionals is close to $62,000 per year. Furthermore, socialworklicensure.org, reporting on a study from the NASW Workforce Center, found that salaries tend to be considerably higher for social work professionals with an MSW degree. The study offered figures for comparison: A social worker in the medical field with an MSW will typically take home a salary around the $60,000 per year mark - $20,000 more than a professional with a bachelor's in the same setting would make. 

4. You can gain invaluable experience in the field
As Canonge argued, writing for Owlcation, the knowledge and experience you can gain from an MSW program is invaluable and can help prepare you for a truly successful career. After all, you will be required by your program of enrollment to complete a specified number of practical hours in a professional setting. For example, you may complete your practicum work in a clinic or for a government agency. The purpose of this is to provide you with hands-on professional experience - experience that you can then use to impress employers and secure a decent job soon after graduation.

5. You can gain other skills
Studying for an MSW degree won't just prepare you for a career in the field. As with studying for any advanced degree, this program will help strengthen a number of core skills that you will no doubt come to rely upon during your professional life. As detailed by Simmons College, these important skills pertain to communication, both written and verbal, organization and time management, and the ability to deal with and solve often complex and nuanced problems. The degree can also help prepare you to deal with the stress and emotional tolls that are often a consequence of this tough yet rewarding career path.

To learn more about MSW programs across the country, visit Graduate Guide.

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