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Social Work Major

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Social Work

31,270 Master's Degrees Annually
579 Doctor's Degrees Annually
#3 in Popularity (Master's)
$58,470 Median Salary

Types of Degrees Social Work Majors Are Getting

The following table lists how many social work graduations there were in 2018-2019 for each degree level.

Education Level Number of Grads
Master’s Degree 31,270
Doctor’s Degree 579
Graduate Certificate 455

What Social Work Majors Need to Know

O*NET surveyed people in occupations related to social work and asked them what knowledge areas, skills, and abilities were important for their jobs. The responses were rated on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being most important.

Knowledge Areas for Social Work Majors

Social Work majors often go into careers in which the following knowledge areas are important:

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  • Psychology - Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
  • Therapy and Counseling - Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Customer and Personal Service - Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
  • Sociology and Anthropology - Knowledge of group behavior and dynamics, societal trends and influences, human migrations, ethnicity, cultures and their history and origins.

Skills for Social Work Majors

The following list of skills has been highlighted as some of the most essential for careers related to social work:

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  • Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Social Perceptiveness - Being aware of others’ reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
  • Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.

Abilities for Social Work Majors

Social Work majors often go into careers where the following abilities are vital:

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  • Oral Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Oral Comprehension - The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Problem Sensitivity - The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
  • Written Comprehension - The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Inductive Reasoning - The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).

What Can You Do With a Social Work Major?

Below is a list of occupations associated with social work:

Job Title Job Growth Rate Median Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 14.2% $46,270
Counselors 14.2% $42,130
Healthcare Social Workers 20.1% $56,200
Marriage and Family Therapists 23.4% $50,090
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 19.4% $44,840
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists 5.7% $53,020
Social and Community Service Managers 18.0% $65,320
Social Work Professors 9.4% $68,300
Social Workers 8.3% $63,140

Who Is Getting a Master’s Degree in Social Work?

31,270 Master's Degrees Annually
87% Percent Women
41% Percent Racial-Ethnic Minorities
This is one of the most frequently chosen graduate majors. It is the 3rd most popular in the country with 31,270 students graduating with a master’s in social work in 2019. The major attracts more women than men. About 87% of the recent graduates in this field are female.

Racial-Ethnic Diversity

At the countrywide level, the racial-ethnic distribution of social work majors is as follows:

Racial-Ethnic Diversity of Social Work Students with Master's Degrees
Race/Ethnicity Number of Grads
Asian 907
Black or African American 5,672
Hispanic or Latino 5,065
White 16,947
International Students 476
Other Races/Ethnicities 2,203

Geographic Diversity

Social Work appeals to people across the globe. About 1.5% of those with this major are international students. The most popular countries for students from outside the country are:

  • China
  • Canada
  • South Korea
  • Saudi Arabia
  • India

How Much Do Social Work Majors Make?

Master’s Degree Starting Salary

The U.S. Department of Education found that students who graduated in 2015-2017 with a master’s degree in social work made a median starting salary of $42,800 per year. During this timeframe, most salaries fell between $40,300 (25th percentile) and $46,100 (75th percentile).

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We don’t know for sure if all of these people took jobs related to social work so take that into consideration.

Salaries According to BLS

Average salaries range from $49,760 to $62,660 (25th to 75th percentile) for careers related to social work. This range includes all degree levels, so you may expect those with a more advanced degree to make more while those with less advanced degrees will typically make less.

To put that into context, according to BLS data from the first quarter of 2020, the typical high school graduate makes between $30,000 and $57,900 a year (25th through 75th percentile). The average person with a bachelor’s degree (any field) makes between $45,600 and $99,000. Advanced degree holders make the most with salaries between $55,600 and $125,400.

Median Salary for a Social Work Major  ( 49760 to 62660 )
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Median Salary for a High School Graduate  ( 30000 to 57900 )
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Median Salary for a Bachelor's Degree Holder  ( 45600 to 99000 )
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Median Salary for an Advanced Degree Holder  ( 55600 to 125400 )
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250K

Some degrees associated with social work may require an advanced degree, while others may not even require a bachelor’s in the field. In general, the more advanced your degree the more career options will open up to you. However, there is significant time and money that needs to be invested into your education so weigh the pros and cons.

How much schooling do you really need to compete in today’s job market? People currently working in careers related to social work have obtained the following education levels.

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Education Level Percentage of Workers
High School Diploma - or the equivalent (for example, GED) 1.8%
Post-Secondary Certificate - awarded for training completed after high school (for example, in agriculture or natural resources, computer services, personal or culinary services, engineering technologies, healthcare, construction trades, mechanic and repair technologies, or precision production) 0.9%
Some College Courses 1.7%
Associate’s Degree (or other 2-year degree) 2.4%
Bachelor’s Degree 36.1%
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate - awarded for completion of an organized program of study; designed for people who have completed a Baccalaureate degree but do not meet the requirements of academic degrees carrying the title of Master. 0.8%
Master’s Degree 39.3%
Post-Master’s Certificate - awarded for completion of an organized program of study; designed for people who have completed a Master’s degree but do not meet the requirements of academic degrees at the doctoral level. 8.4%
First Professional Degree - awarded for completion of a program that: requires at least 2 years of college work before entrance into the program, includes a total of at least 6 academic years of work to complete, and provides all remaining academic requirements to begin practice in a profession. 0.2%
Doctoral Degree 7.2%
Post-Doctoral Training 1.3%

Online Social Work Programs

In the 2018-2019 academic year, 823 schools offered some type of social work program. The following table lists the number of programs by degree level, along with how many schools offered online courses in the field.

Degree Level Colleges Offering Programs Colleges Offering Online Classes
Certificate (Less Than 1 Year) 75 4
Certificate (1-2 years) 30 1
Certificate (2-4 Years) 1 0
Associate’s Degree 151 21
Bachelor’s Degree 51 8
Post-Baccalaureate 75 4
Master’s Degree 316 86
Post-Master’s 19 0
Doctor’s Degree (Research) 79 10
Doctor’s Degree (Professional Practice) 6 0
Doctor’s Degree (Other) 0 0

Is a Degree in Social Work Worth It?

The median salary for a social work grad is $58,470 per year. This is based on the weighted average of the most common careers associated with the major.

This is 47% more than the average salary for an individual holding a high school degree. This adds up to a gain of about $371,400 after 20 years!

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You may also be interested in one of the following majors related to social work.

Major Number of Grads
Public Administration 17,444
Human Services 13,768
Public Policy 6,021
Community Organization & Advocacy 2,832
Other Public Administration 971

References

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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