Social Work Degrees in Massachusetts

A social work degree prepares students for careers helping individuals, families, and communities manage and resolve everyday social problems. Issues may include mental, emotional, and behavioral problems at the clinical level. Employees in the social work field find careers in schools, hospitals, prisons, and mental health organizations and work with diverse populations, including children, the elderly, and individuals being treated for substance abuse.

In Massachusetts, approximately 80,520 workers were employed in community and social service occupations in 2017

Social work remains a growing field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment of social workers will grow much faster than the national average, with projections set at 16% from 2016 to 2026. While job growth depends on specialization, demand for healthcare and social services drives the need for social workers throughout the country. In Massachusetts, approximately 80,520 workers were employed in community and social service occupations in 2017, according to the BLS. Some agencies in Massachusetts, however, report a social worker shortage, where organizations cannot find enough employees to fill open positions. Therefore, those with a social worker degree can find jobs in Massachusetts with relative ease.

A graduate with a bachelor's degree in social work may become a family advocate, child counselor, community resource manager, legislative aide, or mental health assistant. A graduate with a master's degree in social work may find employment as a policy analyst, financial or life coach, health care administrator, or community outreach worker. However, in order to become a clinical social worker, a graduate must hold a master's degree from an accredited college or university.

To become a social worker in Massachusetts, students need to complete an exam and minimum education requirements. Social worker candidates must also successfully obtain a state license after graduation. Several educational institutions offer social work programs in Massachusetts that include field placement for internships that lead to experience and meeting influential leaders at hospitals, schools, and healthcare organizations.

Several educational pathways exist for learners interested in becoming social workers. Candidates may pursue an associate degree to start out or a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree if they want more advanced learning. A high school graduate may even acquire an entry-level position and licensure in Massachusetts with documented social work experience.

A bachelor's degree in social work focuses on ethics, social welfare policy, human behavior, and diverse populations. A master's degree in social work helps students develop management and clinical skills. Typically, both undergraduate and graduate social work programs in Massachusetts require candidates to complete supervised fieldwork, practicums, or internships.

An applicant does not necessary need to hold a bachelor's degree in social work to enter a graduate program. However, most social work schools recommend that learners complete coursework in economics, sociology, psychology, and political science. Graduates with a social work degree in Massachusetts must complete a multiple-choice test to acquire a state license. The state may also require additional documents for a license application, including professional references and proof of supervised experience. Licensure requirements depend on the qualification level. To maintain their licensure, social workers must renew the licence every two year and complete continuing education requirements.

Candidates may pursue different levels of social work degrees. A higher degree can provide you with more opportunities and better salary potential. For example, to obtain a job as a clinical social worker, an applicant must hold at least a master's degree in social work.

According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), employees with a doctoral degree earn $17,000 more annually than social workers with a master's degree, while graduates with only a bachelor's degree earn $15,000 less than social workers with a master's degree. A doctoral degree can also provide a graduate with leadership and career advancement opportunities.

A bachelor's degree in social work usually takes four years to finish, while a master's degree usually takes two years to complete. However, some institutions offer students the opportunity to earn a master's degree at an accelerated pace in just one year.

Associate Degree
An associate degree in social work prepares graduates for entry-level positions or a bachelor's degree. Graduates can also become a licensed social worker assistant in Massachusetts. In an associate program, students receive an introduction to psychology, sociology, and human development.
Bachelor's Degree
A bachelor's degree in social work teaches students about human behavior, social welfare policy, ethics, and diverse populations. A social work degree in Massachusetts at this level prepares learners for direct-service positions, such as caseworker or mental health assistant, and entry-level administrative positions. Most undergraduate programs require candidates to complete an internship or supervised fieldwork.
Master's Degree
By focusing on developing clinical assessment and management skills, a master's degree in social work prepares candidates for employment in a speciality. Requiring an internship or supervised practicum, a master's degree in social work curriculum includes studies in human behavior, social policy, and advanced clinical practice.
Doctoral Degree
Designed for experienced practitioners, a doctorate degree in social work prepares graduates for leadership roles in education, research, and policy. Most graduates with a doctoral degree in social work serve as teachers or researchers in an academic setting. Most schools require a doctoral candidate to complete a qualifying examination or dissertation.

When pursuing a degree at a social work school in Massachusetts, students may choose a specialization to deepen their knowledge of a specific place or population, such as schools, healthcare facilities, elder care, or family care. Candidates usually choose a specialization when pursuing a master's degree. The list below shows four common specializations in Massachusetts that can lead to different career opportunities.

Child and Family Social Worker

This specialization trains candidates for careers as child and family social workers who work in schools, hospitals, organizations, and child protective services. Candidates learn about the effects of trauma on interpersonal relations and development, as well as different clinical approaches to use with children, families, and teens.

School Social Worker

This concentration prepares learners to work with parents, school administrators, and teachers to improve academic performance and social development. The specialization also evaluates how to assess and provide interventions for school issues such as the social, emotional, and cultural barriers school-age children face.

Healthcare Social Worker

Designed to educate clinical social workers about the healthcare system, this specialization prepares learners for employment in hospitals, community health centers, primary care practices, and other health care organizations. Candidates learn about disease prevention and health disparities.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker

Designed for learners interested in helping people struggling with mental health disorders and addictions, this concentration teaches students about different treatments and practices for addicts. Graduates prepare for employment at detoxification facilities, hospital programs, mental health clinics, and family agencies.

While all states require clinical social workers to receive licensure, all social workers in Massachusetts must acquire licensure to practice in the state. Only social workers employed for a county, state, municipality, or a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) may receive an exemption and practice without a license. License qualification levels vary by state. In Massachusetts, the levels of qualification include licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW), licensed certified social worker (LCSW), licensed social worker (LSW), and licensed social worker assistant (LSWA).

In Massachusetts, graduates seeking non-clinical employment must also acquire licensure

Depending on the level of licensure, an applicant must hold an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree and pass a corresponding social worker exam administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). A clinical licensure requires at least a master's degree in social work. After graduating with a master's degree, a social worker must complete two years of supervised experience. In Massachusetts, graduates seeking non-clinical employment must also acquire licensure. A student may qualify to become an LSWA with a high school diploma or an associate or bachelor's degree.

Social workers may also seek out certification for professional advancement. The NASW grants social work credentials and certifications. While some certification requires membership, other credentials remain open to all social workers through an evaluation process. With credentials, social workers receive a number of benefits, including belonging to a widely recognized network. Employers may also require credentials for leadership positions. While various organizations provide certifications for social workers, the NASW offers several advanced certifications. You can find out more about the different licensure levels in Massachusetts from the list below.

Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials

When choosing a social work program in Massachusetts, you will want to consider factors such as cost, program length, available specializations, and location. For example, students should consider that tuition rates sometimes differ for in-state and out-of-state residents, and that they will need to pay for additional costs, such as books, transportation, utilities, and housing.

The length of program can also affect a student's decision. Some social work degrees in Massachusetts offer accelerated programs, meaning a learner can graduate faster and enter the workforce sooner. Candidates should also verify whether the program requires an internship, practicum, or field experience, which lengthen the time to degree completion.

Moreover, learners need to research a program's available specializations, which allow candidates to focus studies on a particular area of social work. Choosing a specialization enables graduates to prepare for a specific career track. Student should also research whether a school offers training for a Massachusetts' social work license. Finally, students may want to consider online social work programs, which provide flexibility and more affordable costs. Find out if you can earn an online social work degree in Massachusetts in the section below.

Can You Earn a Social Work Degree Online in Massachusetts?

Distance learners can earn an online social work degree in Massachusetts. However, most social work schools in Massachusetts offer only master degrees in social work online. An educational institution may refer to an associate or bachelor's degree in social work as a "human service" degree or concentration.

Earning an online social work degree in Massachusetts offers many advantages. Students can earn a degree anytime of day, giving learners the flexibility to maintain their work and family obligations. Candidates already working in social work may even complete an internship at a current place of employment.

Some online social work programs in Massachusetts provide field placement for an internship in states other than Massachusetts. Distance learning also allows students to complete a degree from any location, enabling the learner to continue living and working in a specific community. However, distance learners should check licensure requirements in the state you plan to practice social work, as they vary by state. A distance learner should also verify if an online social work school in Massachusetts holds accreditation, meaning the educational institution meets the acceptable standards for a quality education.

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges serves as the regional accreditation association for all educational institutions in Massachusetts. Educational institutions or online social work programs in Massachusetts may also receive accreditation from the CSWE.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Social Worker in Massachusetts?

Most online social work programs in Massachusetts offer different tracks. Students can complete a degree full time, part time, at an accelerated pace, or through an advanced standing option.

An online associate degree in human services or social work typically takes two years, while an online bachelor's degree typically takes four years. On average, candidates can complete an online master's degree in Massachusetts in two years by attending full time and four or more years by following a part-time track. An average online master's degree in social work in Massachusetts requires 65 credits. A doctorate degree in social work can take four to six years to complete.

With an online social work degree from a program accredited by the CSWE, students can enroll in an accelerated track that allows them to graduate with an online master's degree in social work in as little as 15 months. An accelerated track usually requires students to complete an internship.

An advanced standing option allows students with a specified minimum GPA and a bachelor's degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program to use previous credit towards a master's degree. Using college credit can reduce the time it takes to complete an online social work degree.

When researching social work schools in Massachusetts, learners should determine whether the online social work degree offers an individual pace or a cohort learning model. Individual pacing refers to a student following his or her own prescribed course sequence and timeline. Alternatively, a cohort model refers to a student entering and completing a program sequence in concert with a group of students.

How Much Does a Social Work Program Cost in Massachusetts?

The cost of a social work degree can vary depending on the school, degree level, and residency status. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, undergraduate tuition and required fees during the 2015-2016 school year in Massachusetts cost a yearly average of $11,670 for in-state residents and $27,736 for out-of-state residents. Nationally, graduate tuition and required fees during the 2015-2016 school cost an average total of $11,303 at public institutions and $23,919 at private institutions.

Social workers in Massachusetts must also complete licensure exams. Administered by the ASWB, any exam at the associate, bachelor's, or master's level currently costs $230. Applicants must pay $260 to take an advanced generalist or clinical examination. An initial licensing fee of $173 applies to all new applicants. Once licensed in Massachusetts, social workers must renew the license by Oct. 1 of every even-numbered year. The renewal fee varies according to the credential: $42 for a LSWA, $54 for a LSW, $68 for a LCSW, and $82 for a LICSW. Social workers in Massachusetts must also complete continuing education credits before the license renewal deadline every even-numbered year. The required amount of credits depends on the following types of licenses: 10 hours for a LSWA, 15 hours for a LSW, 20 hours for a LCSW, and 30 hours for a LICSW.

Social workers who perform services for the state, county, or other government agency in Massachusetts may receive an exemption from the continuing education requirement. Additionally, the NASW offers continuing education credits, which can cost $15 to $60 each credit.

Directory of Social Work Programs in Massachusetts

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Social workers must convey patients, empathy, and compassion and possess strong interpersonal, communication, organizational, and problem-solving skills. They may work weekends, holidays, evenings, and even "on call" in either an office setting or at a specified location. Graduates with an online social work degree follow a variety of career paths, including the five occupations described in the list below.

Social Worker

Serving as advocates for programs and clients, social workers help clients solve and cope with everyday problems. Social workers also maintain case files and records, research community resources, and develop programs and services. Entry-level positions may only require a bachelor's degree.

Clinical Social Worker

Clinical social workers diagnose and treat behavioral, mental, and emotional disorders. Most clinical social worker positions require a master's degree, two years of experience in a supervised clinical setting, and state licensure.

Child and Family Social Worker

Child and family social workers find housing and social services for clients, including food stamps, adoptions, and foster services. They also intervene when children face danger.

School Social Worker

Working with teachers, parents, and school administrators, school social workers develop programs and services to improve academic performance and social development for students. School social workers also meet with students and families to resolve behavioral issues.

Healthcare Social Worker

Working with patients and families, healthcare social workers help patients understand a diagnosis and transition from staying at a hospital to returning home. Healthcare social workers also provide information about health and social services.

Median Salaries and Employment for Social Work Specialties in Massachusetts

  Employment Annual Mean Wage
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 11,570 $48,470
Healthcare Social Workers 11,540 $57,440
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 6,720 $44,740
Social Workers, All Other 620 $73,940
Source: BLS

Social work students may apply for a variety of available scholarships, including awards specifically designed for learners pursuing a social work degree in Massachusetts. The list below shows four different scholarships for social work students.

Social Work Scholarships

Helen Hamilton Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: The Helen Hamilton Scholarship provides monetary assistance to learners who demonstrate financial need and academic achievement. Undergraduate or graduate students who reside in Franklin, Hampden, or Hampshire County qualify. They must major or intend to major in housing or urban studies, counseling, human development, community organizations, family and child studies, social justice, social work, or a related field. View Scholarship

MetroWest Health Foundation Medical/Clinical Scholarship $2,000-$8,000

Who Can Apply: Awarded by the MetroWest Health Foundation, this scholarship provides funding to students residing in 25 towns in the MetroWest area of Massachusetts. Only degree candidates accepted in certain medical or clinical programs, including social work, may apply for the award. Applicants must write an essay and submit a letter of recommendation. View Scholarship

Cenie 'Jomo' Williams Tuition Scholarship $2,500

Who Can Apply: This scholarship provides funds to an African-American student who holds a minimum 2.5 GPA, demonstrates community service, expresses research interest in the black community, and attends an accredited social work program full time. View Scholarship

Patty Gibbs-Wahlberg Scholarship $1,000-$3,000

Who Can Apply: The Patty Gibbs-Wahlberg Scholarship honors leadership and student services. In addition to the scholarship, the first-place winner receives an all-expense-paid trip to a directors' conference, where the student will present his or her work. Eligible members of the Phi Alpha Honor Society for Social Work may apply for the scholarship. View Scholarship
  • National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts Chapter The NASW Massachusetts chapter serves more than 6,400 members in a variety of settings, including healthcare, education, and private practice. Membership benefits include continuing education services, test preparation discounts, a mentor program, newsletters, and an ethics hotline.
  • Massachusetts Board of Registration of Social Workers This organization oversees social workers in the state and ensures that they obtain legal licensing. The agency provides valuable information online for students, educators, and practicing social workers, including policies, regulations, and statutes. The agency also provides an online portal, where you can apply for a social worker license.
  • Massachusetts Council of Human Service Providers Inc. This organization serves as the state's largest human service trade association. It provides members with job listings, continuing education and training, scholarship opportunities, mentoring, and access to an annual convention. The association offers a provider membership for private human service agencies and an associate membership for businesses and institutions.
  • Council on Social Work Education The CSWE represents more than 800 accredited social work programs. Members include social work educators, deans, students, practitioners, and agencies. The CSWE also provides members with an annual subscription to the Journal of Social Work Education, electronic newsletters, discounts on event registration and publications, and access to an annual meeting.
  • School Social Work Association of America The SSWAA promotes the profession of school social work. It provides members with benefits, including professional liability insurance, professional advocacy, biweekly emails with news and information, discounts on professional publications and event registration, and access to the SSWAA website.