8 Jobs You Can Get with an MSW Degree

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn more about the different career paths you can explore once you graduate with your Master of Social Work (MSW) degree.

[Featured image] A social worker wearing a stethoscope and holding a tablet speaks with a member of his community.

You can make a career out of helping others on an individual, group, or community basis when you earn your Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. In this article, we'll go over the common jobs you can explore once you earn your advanced degree in the field.

What is an MSW degree?

The MSW degree is a graduate degree that prepares you for state licensure to do social work. Traditional MSW degree programs take around two years to complete. These tend to be for students who earned their bachelor's degree in another area.

You may qualify for accelerated programs if you have a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW). In that case, you can get your master's degree in around one year of full-time study.

Learn more: Your Guide to Social Work Degrees

8 jobs you can pursue with an MSW degree

Social work professionals are in demand. Social worker roles are expected to grow by 12 percent in the next decade, while substance abuse and mental health counselor roles are expected to grow by 23 percent, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) [12].  

When you’ve completed your MSW degree, you’ll likely find many job openings in the private and public sectors. These include:

1. Clinical social worker

Many MSW graduates become clinical social workers, meaning they have a clinical practice—or work as part of one—that services some portion of the population, like children, teenagers, adults, couples, and more.

Consider a clinical social worker position if your career goal is to help people with mental illness or behavioral disorders. In this job, you’ll have an opportunity to work in various settings like government agencies, mental health clinics, or hospitals.

2. Child protective services worker

As a child protective services worker, you'll be an advocate for at-risk children. Because you may encounter child neglect, abuse, or malnutrition, this type of work can be stressful. However, the ability to help make home environments healthier or remove children from harmful situations can also make this job very rewarding.

3. Art therapist

While talk therapy is a popular form of working with others, art therapists instead use art to help clients express themselves and work through difficult, often traumatic, experiences that can exist beyond language and be difficult to communicate.

Similar to social workers, art therapists work with individuals or groups. They might be self-employed, run their own practice, or work as part of an organization or agency.

4. Medical social worker

Like social workers in hospice and palliative care, medical social workers support patients coping with serious illness and their families. As a medical social worker, you’ll often be the liaison between medical professionals and patients or family members, ensuring patients and families can access the services they need.

5. Public policy advisor

Many local, state, and national governments build policies that are meant to help residents and citizens. Policy advisors are specialists who understand the particular challenges different populations face and can conduct research to advise on new and existing policies to improve people's lives.

6. School social worker

School social workers help students, teachers, and parents or guardians address concerns like behavior issues, psychological problems, and truancy. As a school social worker, you may work in a specific school or for a school district composed of multiple schools.

7. Community center director

Community center directors can draw on their background in social work, along with a firm understanding of business administration, to run community centers that service a local population. The role can include brainstorming new initiatives, training team members, overseeing budgets, and more.

8. Criminal justice social worker

Much like more specific social workers handle a certain issue or population, criminal justice social workers use their training to work in the legal system. They may handle highly sensitive cases involving domestic assault or child neglect, providing research and, in some cases, direct testimony.

Learn more: What Can You Do with a Master's in Public Health (MPH)?

Keep learning on Coursera

If you're interested in social work, learn more by taking classes from renowned universities on Coursera. Or you might want to consider a master's degree in a related area like public health. You can earn your Master of Public Health (MPH) from the University of Michigan or Imperial College of London, both of which offer more flexibility than in-person programs. Learn more today.

You are Currently on slide 1

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Social Workers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm." Accessed June 9, 2023.

Keep reading

Updated on
Written by:

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.