Social Work Degrees in Minnesota

Social workers help people of all ages and in a wide variety of settings, such as schools, hospitals, therapy practices, nonprofits, and the military. It is a rewarding career where professionals can help people overcome a myriad of challenges in their life.

According to DEED projections, jobs in child, family, and school social work will grow by 2.5%, healthcare social work by 12.5%, and mental health and substance abuse by 13.4% in the next 10 years.

The first step to entering this dynamic and growing field is earning a social work degree. In MInnesota, the state's Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) reports that the state is struggling to meet the demand for mental health workers -- including licensed social workers -- especially in rural areas. The state also anticipates an uptick in job growth for drug and alcohol counselors as a result of the growing drug epidemic. According to DEED projections, jobs in child, family, and school social work will grow by 2.5%, healthcare social work by 12.5%, and mental health and substance abuse by 13.4% in the next 10 years.

While many students complete a degree in social work to become clinical social workers, employment in a therapeutic setting is not the only option available. A social work degree can lead to careers in public policy, nonprofit program management, public health, or research. For those intending to become a clinical social workers in Minnesota, a master's degree in social work and licensure is required.

The first step to becoming a social worker in Minnesota is to complete a bachelor's or master's degree in social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) or the Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE). These programs include general education classes, as well as courses on psychology and human behavior, human development, family and group dynamics, strategies for intervention, and diversity. Social work programs also require students to work in the community and participate in hands-on, supervised field experience. Many of Minnesota's accredited institutions offer online social work programs to prospective students may consider.

The first step to becoming a social worker in Minnesota is to complete a bachelor's or master's degree in social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) or the Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE).

Licensure is required for any social worker who provides behavioral or mental health services in the state. Social work graduates may start the licensure process online with the Minnesota Board of Social Work, where applicants first submit their fingerprints for a criminal background check. Once approved, graduates begin work under supervision, which ensures that newly trained social workers are competent and behave ethically. The number of supervised hours -- and whether these hours are required before licensure -- varies depending on the type of license. Once all hours have been verified by the state, the final step in the licensure process is to pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Exam. Applicants may not register to take this national exam until the state notifies them.

Social workers in Minnesota must renew their licenses every two years. The renewal process includes 40 completed hours of continuing education -- such as academic courses or training workshops -- to help social workers stay current with professional best practices.

Social work positions vary in their educational requirements. A few jobs demand only an associate degree, although a bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for licensure and for most jobs in the field. Full-time students can generally complete an associate degree in two years, and a bachelor's in four. Clinical social workers must have a master's degree, which is usually an additional two-year commitment. Some social work schools in Minnesota also offer doctoral degrees, which take three or more years to complete. Generally speaking, an advanced degree means more time and increased costs for students. However, this investment of time and money can pay off with more job opportunities and better pay in the long run. Pay rates for social workers with a license are higher than for those without, and the rate of licensure is higher among those with master's degrees than those with bachelor's degrees.

Associate Degree
This degree does not qualify graduates to work as social workers, though there are many careers in human services available to them, such as case manager assistant, residential or substance abuse counselor, or preschool teacher. An associate degree program includes core and introductory courses, and can be used to transfer to a bachelor's program.
Bachelor's Degree
BSW students usually complete general education requirements in their first two years, before moving on to social work-specific coursework like psychology and human behavior. BSW programs also include practical field experience, giving students real-world practice in the field. A BSW prepares graduates for the workforce or a graduate degree in social work.
Master's Degree
An MSW is required to work as a clinical social worker. The degree provides additional coursework in counseling and intervention strategies, as well as field work and courses in a selected concentration. This degree prepares graduates to work directly with clients and in leadership positions in social service organizations.
Doctoral Degree
A doctorate is not required to provide clinical care to patients in the field of social work. Earning a DSW, however, prepares social work practitioners for more advanced clinical work and for leadership roles in organizations that provide clinical care. A Ph.D. in social work also qualifies degree holders to conduct research and teach at the university level.

Social workers help individuals, families, special interest groups, and whole communities overcome challenges and improve their lives. They sometimes specialize with particular age groups -- children, teens, adults, or the elderly -- and can be found in a variety of settings. They are often employed in private clinics, non-profit organizations, and throughout local, state, and federal government agencies. In today's global economy, social workers even hold positions inside corporations to help employees and companies navigate workplace challenges.

Child and Family Social Worker

These specialists work with children and their family members to improve the social and psychological climate of families. They interview family members to identify problem areas, provide appropriate counseling, set goals, and determine additional services that may aid the family.

School Social Worker

These professionals interact with children who struggle with social and psychological issues at school. They consult with students, parents, teachers, and other school personnel to identify problems and implement plans to enhance a child's well-being and school performance.

Healthcare Social Worker

These professionals work with patients and families struggling with serious illness or health-related issues. They provide support to help people cope with the emotional, financial, and social issues associated with chronic and terminal conditions. These professionals usually work in a hospital setting.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker

These mental health providers work closely with individuals to identify challenges in everyday life due to mental illness, drug abuse, or both. These specialists provide clinical care directly to clients as clinical social workers, or refer them to the appropriate specialists.

As with all other states, Minnesota requires clinical social workers -- and anyone providing mental health services directly to clients -- to be licensed and hold a master's degree. Those with a bachelor's degree may become licensed social workers in Minnesota, but they cannot provide clinical services. Applicants for a license in social work in Minnesota must first complete a degree in social work from an accredited program and pass a criminal background check. They must then practice under supervision and pass the national ASWB exam, however prospective social workers should note the number of supervised practice hours varies according to the type of license. It should be noted that while it is possible to work in social work or a related field without licensure, DEED indicates licensed social workers have a higher chance of finding stable, full-time jobs than those holding the same degree but no license.

Minnesota social workers may apply for four different licenses: Licensed Social Worker (LSW), Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW), Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW), and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW).

Social workers may also pursue optional certification through the Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW). Certification does not enable one to practice as a clinical social worker, but it does demonstrate one has met national standards in the field, and can make it easier to find a job or gain a license in a new state.

The types of social worker licenses (and their requirements) vary from state to state. Minnesota social workers may apply for four different licenses: Licensed Social Worker (LSW), Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW), Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW), and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). With the exception of the LSW, all of these licenses require a graduate degree and enable holders to work as clinical social workers. Each must also pass a different ASWB exam.

Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials

Choosing the right social work program in Minnesota can be tricky, as there are several aspects to consider. First, consider what you can afford and examine the total costs of prospective programs, including travel, room and board, and whether you must attend classes in person. You should also note a school's location: do you need a program close to home, or one that you can complete online? Social work programs also include hands-on work in the community, so compare where programs place students for their field experiences.

Licensed social workers in Minnesota must possess a degree from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) or the Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE). Before applying to any program, find out if they have concentrations or minors in any specialty areas of interest.

A significant factor in the cost of a program is how long it takes to complete. Associate degrees generally take two years to finish, while a bachelor's degree can take four years if enrolled full-time. A master's degree usually take an additional year or two, and a doctoral degree even longer. If you work while going to school or take classes part-time or online, it may take longer to complete your degree, but you may be better able to afford school while managing other obligations.

Can You Earn a Social Work Degree Online in Minnesota?

Many jobs in social work -- and all those in clinical social work -- require a license in Minnesota. Licensure requires a degree in social work from a program accredited by the CSWE or the CASWE, and these same agencies also handle accreditation of online programs. There are several accredited online degree programs in social work available in Minnesota, but students also have the option of accredited programs from institutions outside the state, often at no additional cost. This gives Minnesota residents even more options to consider.

Because social work requires strong interpersonal skills, schools often offer online programs in social work in a hybrid format. These programs require some meetings on-campus or at designated locations, as well as field placements and internships in social service agencies. Also, some accredited degrees in social work that are not online degrees may offer coursework remotely. Additionally, it may be possible to transfer credits already earned into an online degree-completion program or enter an accredited social work degree program after completing a lesser degree.

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

How long it takes to complete an online degree in social work depends on whether the student is taking courses full-time or part-time, and whether they progress at their own pace or as part of a cohort. Participating in a cohort means that you progress through courses, in-person meetings, and all other degree requirements with the same group of students, and graduate at the same time. Other programs are more flexible and allow students to take courses at their own pace. On average it takes two to four years to earn a master's in social work online, with most MSW programs requiring around 60 credits of coursework plus fieldwork.

How long it takes to complete an online degree in social work depends on whether the student is taking courses full-time or part-time, and whether they progress at their own pace or as part of a cohort.

An associate degree can be the first step to becoming a social worker. Associate degrees range from 60 to 90 credits and typically take two years to complete full-time. If enrolled part-time, students can take three or four years to finish their online associate degree. Meanwhile, a traditional four-year, 120-credit bachelor's degree can take anywhere from three to eight years to complete online. Students who transfer credits into a bachelor's completion program, however, may be able to finish sooner.

Doctoral programs typically consist of two or three years of coursework, plus the time it takes to complete a dissertation. It is possible to complete a DSW or Ph.D. in three years if working on the degree full time.

How Much Does a Social Work Program Cost in Minnesota?

Community colleges offer affordable associate degrees for as little as a few thousand dollars. Transferring these credits into a four-year program can bring the cost of a bachelor's degree down significantly. It should be noted, though, that the cost of tuition is higher at private schools than public state schools, such as the University of Minnesota or Minnesota State University. At a private school, a BSW can cost about $1,300 - $1,400 per credit, whereas at a state school the cost may be as little as $200 - $300 per credit. For graduate degrees, Minnesota residents will generally pay about $450 - $800 per credit. It is essential to factor in any financial aid, scholarships, or fellowships you might receive to calculate the real cost of a program. Check the National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator for the cost of attendance for schools that interest you.

To become a licensed social worker in Minnesota, degree holders must pass a national ASWB exam, which costs $230 or $260, depending on the particular exam. License applicants pay a $45 application fee and then a license or renewal fee of $81 - $238.50, depending on the type of license. License holders must also earn 40 continuing education credits every two years, which may be fulfilled through workshops or academic courses that charge fees.

Directory of Social Work Programs in Minnesota

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There are many specializations that social work students can pursue. Those who enjoy working with children can become child and family therapists or work with students as school social workers. For those hoping to work in the medical field, there are many options available, including substance abuse counselors, hospice counselors, hospital social workers, and behavioral health providers; each of these practitioners work in medical settings to provide clinical care or coordinate the care of people enduring health challenges.

Mental Health Social Worker

These mental health providers help clients manage their mental illnesses. Workdays revolve around counseling sessions and treatment plans. Clinical care jobs require at least an MSW and state licensure.

Substance Abuse Social Worker

These professionals work with individuals battling drug and substance abuse issues, helping prevent relapses.

Healthcare Social Worker

These social workers help those struggling with chronic or terminal illnesses. They provide support by advising, educating, and counseling individuals and their families, often within a hospital setting.

Child and Family Social Worker

Children and families in need benefit from the expertise of these practitioners. Social workers provide clinical care to children and families, and must have a graduate degree and state license.

School Social Worker

These social workers help school children struggling with social and psychological issues get the support they need to succeed. Jobs in schools generally require a graduate degree and a state license.

Median Salaries and Employment For Social Work Specialties in Minnesota

  Employment Annual Mean Wage
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 7,470 $54,310
Healthcare Social Workers 3,720 $58,530
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 2,840 $51,860
Social Workers, all other 970 $56,280
Source: BLS

The greatest obstacle to finishing any degree can be the cost of tuition. To help ease the burden of financing their training, many institutions and organizations offer scholarships to social work students. Those seeking financial help with pursuing a degree in social work in Minnesota will find many options available.

Social Work Scholarships

Minnesota Social Service Association (MSSA) Scholarship $1,500

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be graduate students enrolled in a health and human service program, and have at least two semesters of college remaining from a school in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota or South Dakota. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher and one reference letter. View Scholarship

Minnesota School Social Workers Association (MSSWA) Scholarship $500

Who Can Apply: Applicants must provide proof of acceptance to an accredited Minnesota social work program, two or three references, a current resume, and a college transcript. Applicants must also write an essay of approximately 200 words about their future in school social work. View Scholarship

Minnesota State Loan Repayment Program Up to $20,000 annually

Who Can Apply: This program is for various professionals including LICSWs. Funds are provided to repay qualifying education loans in exchange for working full time in a nonprofit private or public facility located in a Health Professional Shortage Area within Minnesota. View Scholarship

Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial MSW Scholarship Up to $4,000

Who Can Apply: This MSW scholarship is awarded annually to 10 applicants committed to working with minority groups. Applicants must be an NASW member in good standing, attending a CSWE-accredited program, have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and complete a biographical essay. View Scholarship
  • Minnesota School Social Workers Association (MSSWA) This association was founded in 1968 with the mission “to promote academic success by reducing social, emotional, economic, and environmental barriers to learning.” Membership is free to BSW students, while discounted rates are available to all MSSWA sponsored conferences. A bevy of resources are available via MSSWA, including information on school social work jobs available across Minnesota.
  • National Association of Social Workers (NASW) The NASW is one of the world's largest organizations for professional social workers. The NASW promotes the professional growth of members by providing access to both the Social Work Journal and continuing education programs. It also provides members with legal assistance on a variety of issues concerning social workers and their practice.
  • Minnesota Social Service Association (MSSA) The MSSA was founded in 1893 to share best practices for improving the care of clients in need. Members represent all areas of human service from the private and non-profit sectors to numerous government agencies. Members are eligible for a 10% tuition reduction at Walden University.
  • Minnesota Nursing Home Social Workers Association (MNHSWA) As the population of the U.S. continues to age, so does the need for social workers dedicated to the elderly. The MNHSWA was formed in 1972 with the mission of enhancing “Total Person Care” for clients in long-term care facilities.
  • Minnesota Society for Clinical Social Work (MSCSW) This organization advances the field of clinical social work. Members enhance their professional development by networking with each other, attending study groups, seminars, and full-day workshops. The MSCSW also offers a private practice consultation group for new and established practices.