Social Worker Salary

A common question among prospective MSW students is, “What is the typical salary for MSW graduates?” The salaries for MSW graduates vary according to the field in which they work, the organization(s) they work for, and their region of residence. As a result, there is no typical MSW salary that students can expect upon graduation.

This resource article uses government data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to give individuals a sense of the range that is possible for social worker salaries. The BLS is a Federal agency that gathers and analyzes employment growth data, average salaries for different professions, and economic growth in different industries as well as in the nation overall. Through statistical research and analysis, the BLS measures labor market activity and working conditions in the United States.

The BLS classifies social work professions according to their work settings and the different clients they work with. Its three main classifications for social work careers are:

While the BLS generally classifies social workers in the three fields described above, they also measure the salaries and labor market demand for social workers who work in other industries, classifying these social workers in a “Social Workers, All Other” category. Social workers in this category may work in industries such as:

      • Geriatric Care: Geriatric social workers provide guidance and emotional support to elderly individuals and their families. They typically help senior citizens and their family navigate the process of finding adequate medical, home, and/or nursing care.
      • Hospice and Palliative Care: Social workers who focus on hospice and palliative care help patients suffering from severe chronic and/or life-threatening conditions to find assistance, such as support groups or grief counselors, and also help their families to cope with these medical conditions.
      • Social Advocacy Organizations: Social workers who work for advocacy organizations can conduct research, lobby for legislative changes, educate the public, and promote awareness of various social issues affecting vulnerable populations such as children, the unemployed, and the elderly.

Salaries for Social Workers | By Profession

While the BLS provides salary information for different social work careers, actual salaries vary greatly by location, as well as by an applicants’ level of professional experience. Social work licensure and the type of industry can also impact the earnings of individuals in this field. Though variance in salaries is inevitable across social work jobs, the BLS does provide useful national averages of the annual earnings of social workers in various fields (Note: The following salary values are mean averages of national BLS data):

Healthcare Social Workers

In 2017, healthcare social workers earned a mean annual wage of $56,810. The top 10% of earners in this field had an average salary of $81,560 per year, while the bottom 10% of earners had an average annual salary of $33,260.

Child, Family, and School Social Workers

Social workers working with children, families and in schools earned a mean annual salary of $48,430 in 2017. The top 10% of earners for this profession earned an annual salary of $75,940, while the bottom 10% of earners had an average salary of $28,520 per year.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

On average, mental health and substance abuse social workers earned $47,830 annually in 2017. The top 10% of earners in this field had an average annual salary of $76,020, while the bottom 10% of earners took home $27,230 per year, on average.

Social Workers, All Other

Other social workers, which includes social workers working at social advocacy organizations, emergency services and relief aid, government departments, and other organizations that did not fall into the categories of healthcare, child and family, and mental health and substance abuse social work, earned a mean annual wage of $60,900. The top 10% of earners in this category took home an average of $86,760 per year, while the bottom 10% of earners took home $36,640 annually.

Salaries for Social Workers | By Industry

Social worker salaries tend to vary by industry. Additionally, prospective MSW students should note that the highest paying industries for social workers might not be the industries with the most available jobs. For example, consider the variance between the national annual mean wages of healthcare social workers in the top paying industries for their profession, versus the salaries of healthcare social workers in the industries with the highest employment levels (Note: The following salary values are mean averages of national BLS data):

Healthcare Social Worker Salaries and Jobs

HEALTHCARE SOCIAL WORKER BY TOP PAYING INDUSTRY
Top Paying Industries Salary Jobs
Insurance and Employee Benefit Funds $69,860 30 Jobs
Other Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services $65,720 40 Jobs
Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services $65,600 920 Jobs
Scientific Research and Development Services $62,740 150 Jobs
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals $62,510 47,960 Jobs

 

HEALTHCARE SOCIAL WORKER BY HIGHEST EMPLOYMENT LEVEL
Highest Employment Levels Salary Jobs
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals $62,510 47,960 Jobs
Individual and Family Services $50,630 22,690 Jobs
Home Health Care Services $59,970 20,540 Jobs
Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities) $50,910 14,510 Jobs
Outpatient Care Centers $57,730 11,360 Jobs

(Back to Top)


This variance across salaries is also present in other fields of social work. For example, consider the national mean average salaries for child, family, and school social workers and the average salaries for mental health and substance abuse social workers in the following industries: 

Child, Family, and School Social Worker Salaries and Jobs

CHILD, FAMILY, AND SCHOOL SOCIAL WORKER SALARIES AND JOBS BY INDUSTRY
Top Paying Industries Salary Jobs
Elementary and Secondary Schools $62,690 39,940 Jobs
Business, Professional, Labor, Political, and Similar Organizations $62,030 130 Jobs
Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services $61,550 130 Jobs
Technical and Trade Schools $55,700 90 Jobs
Other Schools and Instruction $54,700 280 Jobs

 

CHILD, FAMILY, AND SCHOOL SOCIAL WORKER SALARIES AND JOBS BY HIGHEST EMPLOYMENT LEVEL
Highest Employment Levels Salary Jobs
Individual and Family Services $42,300 76,480 Jobs
State Government (OES Designation) $48,020 63,100 Jobs
Local Government (OES Designation) $54,680 54,450 Jobs
Elementary and Secondary Schools $62,690 39,940 Jobs
Elementary and Secondary Schools $62,690 39,940 Jobs
Other Residential Care Facilities $38,540 9,670 Jobs

(Back to Top)


Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker Salaries and Jobs

MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE SOCIAL WORKER SALARIES AND JOBS BY TOP PAYING INDUSTRY
Top Paying Industries Salary Jobs
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools $61,360 710 Jobs
Specialty (except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals) $59,660 250 Jobs
Offices of Other Health Practitioners $56,560 7,350 Jobs
Other Ambulatory Health Care Services $55,980 90 Jobs
Home Health Care Services $55,640 410 Jobs

 

MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE SOCIAL WORKER SALARIES AND JOBS BY HIGHEST EMPLOYMENT LEVEL
Highest Employment Levels Salary Jobs
Outpatient Care Centers $45,140 25,140 Jobs
Individual and Family Services $46,190 17,100 Jobs
Residential Intellectual and Developmental Disability,
Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Facilities
$38,480 13,060 Jobs
Local Government (OES Designation) $50,830 11,690 Jobs
Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals $52,830 10,300 Jobs

(Back to Top)

 

Salaries for Social Workers | By State

Social worker salaries also vary considerably by state. Furthermore, the states with the highest employment levels for social workers are not necessarily the states with the highest salaries for this profession. For example, compare the salaries of healthcare social workers in the top paying states for this profession with the salaries of healthcare social workers residing in states with the highest employment levels (Note: All salary values are mean averages of state-level BLS data):

Healthcare Social Worker Salaries and Jobs

HEALTHCARE SOCIAL WORKER SALARIES AND JOBS BY TOP PAYING STATES
Top Paying States Salary Jobs
Nevada $78,940 730 Jobs
California $72,770 18,150 Jobs
District of Columbia $70,580 530 Jobs
Oregon $70,190 1,480 Jobs
Connecticut $69,840 2,170 Jobs

 

HEALTHCARE SOCIAL WORKER SALARIES AND JOBS BY HIGHEST EMPLOYMENT LEVELS
Highest Employment Levels Salary Jobs
California $72,770 18,150 Jobs
New York $60,680 12,620 Jobs
Massachusetts $57,440 11,540 Jobs
Texas $57,980 9,980 Jobs
Ohio $54,170 9,810 Jobs

(Back to Top)


As the numbers above illustrate, employment levels and salaries vary quite a bit across states. This variance is also present in other fields of social work. For instance:

Child, Family, and School Social Worker Salaries and Jobs

CHILD, FAMILY, AND SCHOOL SOCIAL WORKER SALARIES AND JOBS BY TOP PAYING STATES
Top Paying States Salary Jobs
Connecticut $67,780 5,530 Jobs
New Jersey $66,610 5,470 Jobs
District of Columbia $64,800 2,100 Jobs
Rhode Island $61,530 1,520 Jobs
Illinois $58,140 12,420 Jobs

 

CHILD, FAMILY, AND SCHOOL SOCIAL WORKER SALARIES AND JOBS BY HIGHEST EMPLOYMENT LEVELS
Highest Employment Levels Salary Jobs
California $55,830 32,050 Jobs
New York $56,650 25,330 Jobs
Pennsylvania $42,860 19,440 Jobs
Texas $43,980 17,560 Jobs
Michigan $49,190 13,450 Jobs

(Back to Top)


Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker Salaries and Jobs

MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE SOCIAL WORKER SALARIES AND JOBS BY TOP PAYING STATES
Top Paying States Salary Jobs
New Jersey $75,870 1,560 Jobs
Hawaii $72,290 400 Jobs
District of Columbia $62,900 520 Jobs
Connecticut $62,800 1,910 Jobs
New York $60,460 10,580 Jobs

 

MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE SOCIAL WORKER SALARIES AND JOBS BY HIGHEST EMPLOYMENT LEVELS
Highest Employment Levels Salary Jobs
California $55,730 12,600 Jobs
New York $60,460 10,580 Jobs
Pennsylvania $36,800 8,640 Jobs
Massachusetts $44,740 6,720 Jobs
Texas $41,740 5,110 Jobs

(Back to Top)

Prospective MSW students should also note that the salary estimates above do not distinguish between entry level and more advanced roles. Additionally, these estimates are not just for licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) salaries and MSW graduate salaries, but also incorporate the wages of social workers who only hold a BSW.

Tips for Current and Prospective MSW Students

Due to the variance in the salaries of jobs that MSW graduates may qualify for, current and prospective MSW students should thoroughly research their desired career options to make sure they prepare both academically and through internships for a job that meets (or at least puts them on the right path towards) their salary goals.

Some recommendations for potential and current MSW students:

  • Students should reach out to professionals in the fields that interest them, whether these fields are directly or tangentially related to social work and/or social service. Once they have successfully connected with one or more professionals, students should request an informational interview. During the interview, students can ask about the types of graduate degrees that prepare individuals for a given field of work, the typical path towards advancement, the expectations employers in this field have, and other questions that can help them optimally prepare while in school.
  • Students should research typical salaries for the specific jobs that interest them, using sites such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online, Salary.com, and Payscale.com.
  • Students can benefit from making an appointment at their school’s career center and talking with a career counselor about their goals. A career counselor can help students map out a plan to achieve their desired profession, and can help them evaluate the salary potential of different career paths.
  • Students should check to see if the MSW programs they are thinking of applying to publish lists of where their graduates work. Looking at these lists can help students get a broader idea of where MSW graduates can work after they earn their degree.

Sources:


All salary and job information for all social workers was retrieved and updated as of 02/2019.