Social Work Degrees in New York

Social work degrees prepare students to improve the well-being of individuals and the community. Undergraduate social work degrees combine theoretical elements of the field, such as understanding mental health and the intricacies of human behavior, with professional practice. Most programs include substantial practicum requirements that allow students to put their learning to use in a monitored environment. With a degree in social work, graduates can work in hospitals, clinics, child services, and community development organizations. While an undergraduate degree in social work can lead to entry-level jobs in the field, a master's degree combined with work experience is the minimum requirement to become a clinical social worker. In addition to making a positive impact on the people around them, aspiring social workers also benefit from a healthy job market.

The wide job diversity available to professionals who earn a social work degree in New York is part of what makes the work so readily available

In New York, the career outlook for community and social service occupations is especially promising. Currently, the state maintains one of the largest employment fields for the profession, and the financial compensation also ranks favorably. The wide job diversity available to professionals who earn a social work degree in New York is part of what makes the work so readily available. Most major industries require social workers, including healthcare organizations and government agencies. Each of these environments demand social workers with specific skill sets and training. Additionally, as public awareness regarding mental health improves, the need for treatment and social services should increase further. Nationally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the field will grow much faster than the average career, and in New York this projected growth is even larger.

The diverse field of social work allows professionals with different educational backgrounds and experiences to enter its ranks. In New York, social workers generally divide into three camps: professionals with a bachelor of social work (BSW), licensed master social workers (LMSW), and licensed clinical social workers (LCSW). Each of these paths receive regulation from the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), and each require the completion of a post-graduate examination. In New York, the Office of the Professions of the New York State Education Department governs social workers.

social workers generally divide into three camps: professionals with a bachelor of social work, licensed master social workers, and licensed clinical social workers

When searching for on-campus or online social work programs in New York, note that bachelor's degrees lead to a variety of entry-level positions. Many BSW programs provide concentrations that allow for specialized learning. To complete a program, students must undertake a field placement and the BSW exam. Many graduates opt to increase their earning potential and job opportunities by pursuing an MSW, and some schools also offer doctorates in social work, which prepare candidates for careers in advanced professional practice and educational settings; however, most social work professions see the MSW as the terminal degree. Regardless of the level, every social work program should hold accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Completing an MSW requires students to pass a final examination and accrue substantial practicum hours. Graduates can then apply to become an LMSW and take the licensing exam. After gaining sufficient experience in a non-clinical setting, LMSWs can become advanced generalists. If an individual's work experience is in a supervised clinical setting, social workers can take the LCSW licensure exam. Once licensed, all social work professionals must take a set number of continuing education credits every three years.

Members of the social work field in New York hold many different specialities, degree levels, and types of licensure. More advanced degrees tend to bring graduates higher salaries and greater career opportunities. With a two-year associate degree in social work, graduates typically fill entry-level positions or use their degree as a springboard into a bachelor's degree. With a four-year bachelor's degree, professionals gain access to many different non-clinical social work settings. Career options include community programming, public policy, and child services.

One of most common routes followed by aspiring social workers is to earn a master's in social work. This degree is mandatory for licensed clinical social workers, and many students opt to take the additional two years of study required to earn a graduate degree. After graduate school, individuals can become licensed as LMSWs and start accumulating experience. In New York, the experience needed to earn advanced credentials is typically three years and 2,000 hours. Experienced MSWs in a non-clinical setting can become advanced generalists, whereas experienced MSWs in a clinical setting qualify to become licensed as LCSWs.

Associate Degree
This degree provides students with a solid foundation in the study of social work. Through courses in psychology and counseling, students gain a broad understanding of the field. Upon completion, graduates may choose to enter the field and pursue limited entry-level positions or continue their studies in a bachelor's program.
Bachelor's Degree
This degree provides students with an in-depth understanding of human psychology, mental health, and child development. In addition to preparing students to pursue an advanced degree in social work and advanced licensing, individuals who hold a bachelor's degree may qualify for many entry-level positions in the social work field.
Master's Degree
This degree is the standard for candidates seeking licensure in New York. In addition to gaining a more complex understanding of psychology and counseling, students accrue extensive practical experience. After graduation, individuals begin to accumulate the experience needed for licensure. Individuals can pursue different licenses (i.e., LMSW or LCSW) depending on the type of experience they gain; thus, candidates should choose their postgraduate work based on their desired career path.
Doctoral Degree
The doctoral degree in social work is typically designed for professionals looking to assume leadership positions in clinics or work in the educational field. These degrees often feature organizational policy courses and focus on administration, teaching, and instruction.

Social work professionals can focus their education and work experiences to pursue various career specialties. Depending on their interest, students can specialize in child services, education, healthcare, or mental health and addiction services. Each field presents different challenges and opportunities and requires different skill sets.

Child and Family Social Worker

In this field, professionals work with families and children in difficult situations. They provide counseling, support, and help clients access aid. Working as part of an agency or in private care, these social workers may also be responsible for setting up and running outreach programs.

School Social Worker

These social workers find positions at a specific school, school district, or region. Professionals collaborate with students, parents, and school administrators to develop school-wide support programs or individualized plans to help students overcome personal issues.

Healthcare Social Worker

Many of these social workers find employment at hospitals and handle a variety of patient issues. Workers may run support groups within a hospital or help patients transition back into their daily lives while recovering from illness. Healthcare social workers can specialize in certain areas or provide general support for their clientele.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker

In this field, professionals provide different services to clients suffering from mental illness and/or addiction. Social workers may work at a hospital or clinic and host various support programs.

In the state of New York, the license requirements for an LCSW resemble those in the rest of the country. To receive the LCSW title, candidates must complete 2,000 hours of field work and accrue three years of clinical experience. After fulfilling these requirements, candidates must then pass the licensing exam hosted by ASWB. Candidates should also have experience in psychotherapy, diagnosis, and treatment planning. LCSWs from other states may be eligible for transfer into New York if they possess at least 10 years of experience.

To receive the LCSW title, candidates must complete 2,000 hours of field work and accrue three years of clinical experience

For non-clinical social workers, New York offers an LMSW license. After graduating with a master's degree in social work, candidates must complete the master's exam hosted by ASWB. The state educational requirements for the LMSW license mandate at least 900 hours of field experience and successful completion of courses in social work ethics, diversity, human behavior, social work practice and evaluation, social welfare policy, and advanced social work practice. Licensed candidates from another state wishing to transfer must take the master's exam and meet all of the aforementioned requirements to become licensed as an LMSW in New York. Candidates who meet these license requirements may receive a limited permit until full actual license comes through.

Professionals in the social work field can also earn certificates in specialized areas. To earn these credentials, individuals must satisfy specific course and training requirements. In New York, one of the more common certificates available to social workers is the school counselor certificate. This certificate, issued by the New York State Education Department, qualifies professionals to work in a school setting. All state social workers must also complete sufficient child abuse training to qualify for licensing. The state of New York recognizes many certificates and credentials; however, these do not replace licenses.

Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials

When looking at social work schools in New York, prospective students should first ensure that an institution holds the appropriate accreditation. In New York, schools receive regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Additionally, top social work programs hold national accreditation from the CSWE.

Students should also consider their desired educational experience, including how much time and money they can afford to spend on a program. Travel times and expenses should be calculated for any necessary commutes, and a school's location can also affect potential internship and practicum placements.

Another important aspect to consider is whether a program prepares students to work in a certain state. New York features specific requirements and regulations that professionals must meet in order to gain licensure; if you plan to work in New York, ensure that prospective programs meets those standards. Furthermore, take time to explore what social work fields present the best career opportunities in New York and seek out a program that offers specializations or courses in those areas. It may also be worthwhile to investigate online social work degrees. Online programs may cut down on travel time, costs, and even reduce the overall time to graduation.

Can You Earn a Social Work Degree Online in New York?

Aspiring social workers looking for educational options with increased flexibility should consider pursuing an online social work degree. New York hosts several online social work programs, which can reduce travel requirements and program costs. First, make sure to verify that a school is accredited by the MSCHE and that the program is accredited by the CSWE. Next, understand what residency requirements online programs feature. Finally, students should ensure that the curriculum for an online social work degree offers courses and/or specializations that can help them meet their career goals.

Choosing an accredited online social work degree program ensures that licensing and examination requirements will be met. Online programs prepare students in the same way as on-campus programs but offer more flexibility in terms of study times. Since social work degrees typically include substantial field work requirements, potential online students should understand how their program deals with practica. While many online programs allow students to earn work experience locally, some programs may require distance learners to work in specific environments, particularly when it comes to clinicals.

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

The length of a social work program depends on the course load and the program structure. While on-campus programs tend to use similar schedules (based on semesters or trimesters), online social work degrees vary considerably in terms of their length and format. The typical length for an on-campus associate degree is two years, while bachelor's programs take four years (or two additional years if a student already holds a transferable associate degree). Master's degrees take two more years on top of a bachelor's degree, and doctoral degrees take an additional 3-5 years of post-master's study.

Online programs, however, may feature different structures. Some programs boast shorter, accelerated terms, allowing students to finish their studies more quickly. Alternatively, many online programs enroll part-time students, giving individuals extra time to earn their degrees. Some online programs, such as programs using a cohort-based format, run similarly to on-campus programs. In this format, students join a group of their peers and work through the same classes together until graduation.

Much of the time spent earning an advanced degree in social work, either on campus or online, is related to work experience/practicum requirements. At the bachelors' degree level, students typically spend about 400-700 hours on their practicum experience, while master's students spend anywhere from 900-1,200 hours. Additionally, at the doctorate level, residencies make up most of the time required for the degree.

How Much Does a Social Work Program Cost in New York?

The overall cost for a social work degree varies considerably depending on the school and program. At the bachelor's degree level, tuitions ranges widely; some programs charge a few thousand dollars per year, while others can be in excess of $50,000 annually. After graduation, students decide whether they want to join the workforce immediately or continue studying and earn advanced degrees and/or certificates. These credentials require students to pass examinations hosted by ASWB. Exam options include a bachelor's exam (which costs $230 to sit for), a master's exam ($230), an advanced generalist exam ($260), and a clinical exam ($260). Each exam features its own prerequisites and leads to different opportunities.

When it comes to licensing in New York, the Office of the Professions of the New York State Education Department provide two options for candidates with a master's degree: the LMSW and the LCSW. The license and registration for either of these credentials cost $294. Additionally, licensed social workers must renew their licenses every three years for a fee of $179. In order to meet the requirements for renewal, professionals must complete 36 credits of continuing education over that three-year period. The costs for these credits range from less than $100 to $500 per credit. For a complete list of acceptable continuing education providers in New York, you can explore this list prepared by the Office of the Professions.

Directory of Social Work Programs in New York

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Aspiring social workers benefit from a wealth of potential career choices -- each boasting unique and exciting opportunities. Graduates can also pursue different types of work within the same specialization; for example, students interested in counseling can work in school systems, probation offices, or even hospitals. The list below describes a few of the more popular career options for graduates of social work programs.

Social Worker

Social workers identify people and communities in need of help, advocating for their clients. Candidates with a master's degree can pursue clinical licensure, which typically leads to more career opportunities and higher salaries.

Social and Community Service Managers

Community services managers help improve community and social service programs, making them more accessible and effective. These professionals typically hold a bachelor's degree, although a master's degree and a license/certification better prepare candidates for management positions.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Counselors

Mental health and addictions counselors help people struggling with dependencies and/or mental health issues. Many of these careers require a master's degree and an appropriate license.

Probation Officers

Probation officers help rehabilitate the incarcerated population. Workers need a bachelor's degree at minimum, although additional training in criminal justice is helpful. Advanced degrees and licensing may lead to leadership positions.

Social and Human Service Assistants

Social service assistant positions represent entry-level work appropriate for individuals who hold an associate or bachelor's degree. These professionals work with community members and nonprofit organizations to improve local communities.

Median Salaries and Employment For Social Work Specialties in New York

  Employment Annual Mean Wage
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 25,330 $56,650
Healthcare Social Workers 12,650 $60,680
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 10,580 $60,460
Social Workers, All Other 7,940 $64,530
Source: BLS

Financial aid comes in many different forms, but scholarships represent the most beneficial opportunities for students because they do not have to be repaid. These awards include national scholarships (available to all U.S. students), state scholarships (available to residents of a specific state), and program-specific scholarships (available to students pursuing certain career paths, including social service work).

Social Work Scholarships

James F. Reville Scholarship $3,000

Who Can Apply: This scholarship fund is presented to students who aspire to work in a field that deals with intellectual or developmental disabilities, such as social work. Applicants must be New York state residents and/or attending attending a college or university in the state. View Scholarship

A Place For Mom Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: This scholarship is available to students studying in the field of aging or gerontology. Applicants must be enrolled in a social science or medical degree program and submit a video that addresses the annual theme of the competition. View Scholarship

Verne LaMarr Lyons Memorial MSW Scholarship $5,500

Who Can Apply: Students enrolled in an MSW program with an interest in healthcare and/or mental health can apply for this award. Applicants must have school or field experience working in health/mental health practices with African American communities, hold a minimum 3.0 GPA, and be NASW members. View Scholarship

The NYS Licensed Social Worker Loan Forgiveness Program Varies

Who Can Apply: This loan forgiveness program is available to graduates working in the human services field. Applicants must be New York residents and have completed at least 12 months of continuous licensed work. Applicants must also possess student loan debt. View Scholarship
  • New York State Education Department - Office of the Professions The Office of the Professions provides several resources related to social work in the state of New York. Individuals can access Information about laws, rules and regulations, and licensure details. Students can also find information about industry trends, helping them decide which career paths to follow.
  • New York State Society for Clinical Social Work This network of licensed social workers endeavors to improve standards in the field, in terms of both education and practice. In addition to advocating for the profession and its members, the association provides continuing education and professional development opportunities.
  • National Association of Social Workers, New York City Chapter The New York City chapter of NASW represents the largest group of social workers in the world, striving to improve professional standards and advocating for its members. The association provides networking, educational, and professional development opportunities for members at all levels.
  • Association of Social Work Boards ASWB is a regulatory body overseeing the licensing of social workers across the country. This organization provides information about licensing requirements, testing, and professional standards.
  • New York State Social Work Education Association This association consists of a network of professionals who share information, improve the educational and professional standards of the industry, and identify areas that need improvement. The association also hosts networking opportunities and industry events.