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A social work degree is the most basic requirement for working in human and social services. Put simply, social workers help people function within society.

Social workers have a variety of career and specialization options, from school social work to family therapy, all of which are in demand in Michigan. While a social work degree can lead to work in other fields, most people with these degrees pursue careers as social workers. A master’s of social work is required for clinical work and allows access to the widest variety of careers and credentials, but many positions only require a bachelor’s of social work.

Social work jobs in Michigan are in demand, and many organizations are dedicated to helping social workers find jobs

Social work jobs in Michigan are in demand, and many organizations are dedicated to helping social workers find jobs. The state’s changing economic and political landscape as well as its many diverse communities continues to create situations in which residents need assistance.

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How to Become a Social Worker in Michigan

Social work is a regulated and demanding profession that impacts the lives of many people. Degrees, licenses, and credentials exist to ensure that only qualified, dedicated professionals can practice. The result is a field that is constantly evolving and improving in order to provide the best care and service.

To become a social worker in Michigan, you need at least an associate degree in social work, with more advanced degrees allowing for more career options. Your degree must come from an accredited institution, and all levels of license require a certain number of hours of work, although these hours can be accrued anywhere. Licenses in Michigan can be earned by meeting these requirements and passing exams, either in the state or by having your scores sent from another state.

Obtaining a master’s degree opens up several career avenues. Many credentials offered by the National Association of Social Workers come in two versions: standard, which requires a bachelor’s of social work, and advanced, which requires a master’s of social work.

Social workers are expected to undertake continuing education to ensure they stay up-to-date within their field, and many credentials, such as a specialization in school social work, require a certain number of specific continuing education hours to qualify.

Types of Social Work Degrees in Michigan

Social work programs in Michigan offer a variety of degrees that can lead to a number of specializations and career options. The higher the level of degree you earn, the more opportunities you have. The master’s of social work (MSW) is considered the terminal degree in the field, and allows you to earn the most advanced credentials. The bachelor’s of social work (BSW) prepares graduates for many of the same careers and similar credentials, with the exception of clinical work, which requires a MSW.

More advanced degrees take longer to earn, but their post-degree work is generally the same, with most licenses requiring 4,000 hours of post-degree work regardless of level. These allow for greater salary potential.

Associate Degree

This degree prepares students for careers as social service technicians who work alongside social workers. They help clients by suggesting further options or recommending full social workers for assistance.

Bachelor’s Degree

This degree allows students to become fully licensed social workers. This is the lowest level degree that offers specializations and credentials, making it a good starting point for many careers.

Master’s Degree

For the most advanced licenses and credentials, you need a master’s of social work. This is generally the terminal degree for social workers.

Doctoral Degree

It is possible to pursue a doctoral degree in social work, but such programs are less common than the MSW and generally intended for those who wish to teach social work in universities.

Finding a Social Work Program in Michigan

Choosing a social work degree program can be difficult, as there are several factors to consider. Many people need student loans or to seek scholarships and grants in order to pay for college. Tuition costs, housing expenses, and the time it takes to complete a degree can all impact expenses.

School location also makes a difference, especially when it comes to choices of specialization, internships, and other resources. Some schools are more closely associated with state governments or medical centers, which can lead to better networking opportunities. If you intend to work in Michigan, attending a local school may be the best choice, as faculty is familiar with the state’s requirements and specific needs.

Online programs often provide greater flexibility than those on campus, and make it easy to transfer credits. This allows you to take general education classes at a less-expensive school and finish your specialization elsewhere.

Can You Earn a Social Work Degree Online in Michigan?

You can get your social work degree in Michigan, online or on campus, from a number of institutions. Online programs adhere to the same requirements as those offered on campus, but may offer different completion timetables or pricing structures. Studying at a Michigan-based institution is especially helpful for those who already live in the state or plan to work there. Different states have various license requirements, which can be best addressed during college by faculty familiar with them and licensed in the state.

Top Online Social Work Program in Michigan

For any school to offer a degree in social work, it must be accredited by state or federal accreditation boards. Other groups may offer additional accreditation to a school which has upheld more subject-specific standards, such as the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

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

The time it takes to earn an online degree in social work depends mostly on the type of degree pursued. Generally, an associate degree takes about two years, a bachelor’s about four, and a master’s another two years, with the requirement that you already have a bachelor’s. If you’re not attending full-time, earning a degree will take longer.

Another important factor is how the program is offered. Some schools offer their program in a cohort format, in which a group of students follow a predetermined path through courses in lockstep. Other programs allow students to take courses at their own pace.

How Much Does a Social Work Program Cost in Michigan?

Earning any kind of degree requires an investment, but there are many ways to mitigate certain costs. Living on campus generally costs more than off-campus housing, while transferring general education credits from a community college can significantly reduce the cost of a bachelor’s degree.

The average tuition, per year, for a master’s of social work at a public university is around $14,000, with private schools costing more. Online education is sometimes cheaper per credit hour than on-campus courses — particularly for out-of-state students, who may be allowed to pay in-state tuition — and many online programs offer a variety of ways to reduce cost, including intensive courses and generous transfer policies.

Board exams, required to receive a license, cost around $250. Licenses come with fees, but in Michigan the highest fee is $61.60. The cost of continuing education hours varies widely, depending on who offers the course and where. Membership in professional organizations can help reduce or eliminate these costs, as many groups offer or subsidize continuing education.

Types of Social Work Licenses in Michigan

All social workers in Michigan must be licensed, and there are three levels of qualification based on what degree you have earned and how much post-degree work you have completed. There are full and limited versions at each level for those who have completed the allotted work-hours, or who are gaining those hours, respectively. The limited forms are generally not required for applicants who have met the full-license requirements in another state.

All social workers in Michigan must be licensed, and there are three levels of qualification based on what degree you have earned

If you wish to practice clinical social work, allowing you to diagnose and treat mental health, emotional, and behavioral issues, you will need to earn a master’s degree in social work to obtain proper licensure. However, there are many career paths within social work that do not require a clinical license.

There are many certifications and other credentials attached to certain areas of specialization or earned through continuing education. These may be required for certain positions, but in general they exist to show you have training and experience with a specific aspect of social work. While getting a license at one of the levels offered by the state is enough to launch your career, earning certifications and other credentials will help you advance in your career.


Available with a clinical or macro (administrative) designation, this license requires a master’s degree and 4,000 hours of post-degree work. As the state’s most advanced license, it allows social workers to pursue any career path they wish.


Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials


Case management focuses on helping clients within social systems, addressing the problems of those systems, and working towards goals determined in conjunction with the client. This credential requires a BSW and 4,500 hours of work within an organization that handles case management.


Career and Salary Outlook for Social Work Degree Graduates

Graduates of online social work programs in Michigan can pursue a variety of careers. Read on to learn more about five of the most common positions in the field.

Rehabilitation Counselors

These professionals help patients recovering from or living with disabilities maintain an independent life, including helping them find employment or housing.

Marriage and Family Therapists

These professionals help couples, families, and other groups manage their relationships in order to improve mental health and wellbeing. They help them overcome interpersonal problems to maintain functional relationships.

School and Career Counselors

Often working in schools or colleges, these professionals help students overcome barriers to learning, help older students develop a career path, or even a combination of the two.

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

These professionals work within the justice system to help those who have been mandated prison terms or social service. They help rehabilitate inmates and reintegrate those who have served time.

Social and Community Service Managers

These professionals help manage federal, state, local, or private programs designed to help the public. They ensure the proper running of such programs and oversee social workers dealing directly with the public.


 EmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Child, Family, and School Social Workers13,450$49,190
Healthcare Social Workers5,270$56,500
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers3,600$50,650
Social Workers, All Other770$61,240

Source: BLS

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Scholarships for Social Work Majors in Michigan

Earning a scholarship helps you fund your education and makes you a more valuable candidate for internships, jobs, and further educational opportunities. Below are four examples of scholarships geared toward social work degree programs.

Social Work Scholarships


Who Can Apply: Any NASW member in good standing, pursuing an MSW, and maintaining a 3.0 GPA may apply. View Scholarship


Resources for Social Work Students in Michigan

  • Michigan Association of School Social Workers The MASSW helps ensure that all students have access to social services. They advocate for the professional and educational development of members, and work to promote the causes of members and clients. The MASSW promotes legislation that enhances education and social services for children and young adults.
  • Michigan Social Work Continuing Education Collaborative The CEC strives to ensure that social workers have access to the best continuing education options, and that those options meet the guidelines of the Social Work Licensure Law. They provide information about the continuing education requirements of social workers, as well as details on exams and courses.
  • Geriatric Social Workers of Southeast Michigan The GSWSM unites geriatric social workers for networking and continued support by maintaining chapters in five of the state’s most heavily populated counties. They seek to promote the geriatric specialization and provide resources such as scholarships, continuing education, and quarterly meetings.
  • Michigan County Social Services Association The MCSSA works to improve the quality of human services throughout the state through education and professional development. The association brings together the social services leaders of each Michigan county, and promotes active involvement of local citizen boards as well as social work professionals.
  • National Association of Social Workers (Michigan Chapter) The NASW is a leading organization for social work professionals, with more than 6,000 members in the Michigan chapter. They work to promote the professional practice of social workers and the general quality of life for people in the state.