Social workers support children struggling in school, individuals coping with addiction, and elderly individuals managing the healthcare system. The field appeals to individuals who want to support the wellbeing of others in their communities. Graduates from social work programs can find jobs as healthcare social workers, social service managers, and clinical social workers. They may work in government agencies, healthcare facilities, schools, and nonprofit organizations.
In Washington, child, family, and school social workers earn an annual mean wage of over $50,000. BLS
In Washington, child, family, and school social workers earn an annual mean wage of over $50,000. Other social workers earn around $68,000, depending on their area of expertise. The field is also experiencing significant growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that in Washington, jobs for healthcare social workers will increase 18.2% by 2024. The BLS also projects increases of 22.8% for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, 17.2% for postsecondary social work teachers, and 11.7% for child, family, and school social workers.
How to Become a Social Worker in Washington
To become a social worker in Washington, candidates must earn at least a master's degree in social work or a related field. Before pursuing a master's degree, students must first complete a bachelor's program. A bachelor's degree typically includes 120 credits of coursework and a practicum, internship, or field experience. Master's programs include 60 credits of coursework and a longer, more intense field experience. Students may also complete clinical hours as part of their graduate education.
To become a social worker in Washington, candidates must earn at least a master's degree in social work or a related field.
Some jobs, including community service manager, do not require a license. However, all clinical and nonclinical social workers must hold a license in order to practice. Candidates with a master's degree qualify for two social work licenses offered by the Washington State Department of Health: licensed advanced social worker and licensed independent clinical social worker.
To obtain one of these licenses, candidates must first complete 3,200-4,000 hours of supervised work experience. Washington issues an associate social worker credential for individuals who are working toward requirements for a full license. Potential social workers must also pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam and complete continuing education credits.
Types of Social Work Degrees in Washington
Social workers can earn degrees at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Each degree allows graduates to pursue different career paths. For example, licensed clinical social workers must complete a master's program, while jobs in human services and social services may only require an associate or bachelor's degree. According to the BLS, a bachelor's degree is the entry-level educational requirement for positions in social work, including at nonprofit human service organizations and government social services.
In Washington state, social workers must hold a master's degree to complete licensing requirements. A master's program also prepares graduates for specialized fields like mental health counseling, social services management, and clinical social work. Social workers who want to specialize in research, teach at the college level, or manage social work organizations can pursue a doctorate.
Many states, including Washington, require candidates to hold a degree accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
- Associate Degree
- An associate degree prepares graduates for entry-level positions in human services. After earning an associate degree, students can transfer to a bachelor's program. Full-time students can complete an associate degree in two years.
- Bachelor's Degree
- A BSW allows graduates to find work or apply to an graduate program. Most social work bachelor's programs incorporate an internship or practicum so students can gain experience in the field. Full-time students with an associate degree take two years, while full-time students without an associate degree take four years. In order to obtain a Washington state social work license, students must continue to a master's program.
- Master's Degree
- Considered the most important degree in the field, an MSW qualifies candidates for a Washington state license and most certifications. Graduates can obtain advanced positions as clinical and nonclinical social workers. Most graduate programs require two years of full-time study, including a field experience. Coursework focuses on vulnerable populations and advanced social work skills.
- Doctoral Degree
- At the doctoral level, social workers may earn a Ph.D. in social work or a doctoral degree in social work. The Ph.D. emphasizes research, while the DSW focuses on practice. Both require a minimum of three years.
Finding a Social Work Program in Washington
Prospective students have many options when it comes to finding a social work school in Washington. When researching schools, students should consider factors such as cost, location, program length, and specializations. Some students choose an on-campus social work program in Washington, while others choose an online program at an out-of-state school. All students interested in a social work license must attend a program accredited by CSWE.
For many prospective students, cost is a top consideration. The cost of a social work degree varies greatly depending on the school. Washington residents benefit from in-state tuition at public institutions. Many colleges and universities also provide discounts for online students. Number of credits and graduation requirements can affect both cost and length of time to degree. Some social work programs in Washington offer concentrations in areas such as healthcare or family social work. Students should research schools with specializations that fit their career goals.
Can You Earn a Social Work Degree Online in Washington?
Online social work programs in Washington meet all the same licensing requirements as in-person programs. Most schools confer identical diplomas for online and on-campus courses. Additionally, online programs usually hold the same accreditation as on-campus programs from the same school. Distance learners should still check to make sure their chosen online program is accredited by CSWE.
Online social work programs in Washington meet all the same licensing requirements as in-person programs.
Many students benefit from earning a social work degree online. Online programs offer greater flexibility and accessibility, both of which appeal to students with work or family obligations. Self-paced online programs allow students to progress through coursework as quickly or slowly as they would like. Cohort-based programs, on the other hand, require students to work through courses at the same pace as a group of peers. Cohort programs allow students to collaborate and build relationships. Some online social work programs in Washington allow students to take certain courses on campus and certain courses online.
Online social work degrees still require students to complete internship requirements. Most schools allow learners to complete field experiences at pre-approved sites in their local communities. Distance learners should research whether their chosen program requires students to ever visit campus.See The Best Online MSW Programs
How Long Does It Take to Become a Social Worker in Washington?
Education is the most-time consuming step in the process for becoming a social worker. Social workers in Washington typically earn either a bachelor's or a master's degree. A bachelor's in social work is the entry-level education for many jobs, including community service manager. In order to obtain a license and do clinical work, candidates must earn a master's degree. A bachelor's degree typically takes four years, while a master's degree typically takes an additional two years. A doctorate, the highest degree in the field, prepares individuals for careers as professors or social work researchers. Many students take an additional three to five years to earn their doctorate.
After earning a degree, it takes candidates a few weeks or months to obtain an associate license. To earn the LASW or LICSW license, candidates must complete several years of supervised work experience.
How Much Does a Social Work Program Cost in Washington?
Becoming a social worker doesn't just require an investment of time, it also requires significant financial commitment. The cost of earning a social work degree in Washington varies depending on the institution and the level of degree. A bachelor's in social work typically costs $10,000 per year a public institution, but may cost more at a private college or university. Schools typically charge higher rates for graduate tuition. Many master's programs require applicants to take the GRE, which costs $160.
In Washington, licensed social workers must pass an ASWB exam, which costs $260. Applicants also pay $216 for the license. In order to remain licensed, social workers must pay a $116 fee each year. In Washington, social workers must complete 36 hours of continuing education every two years. NASW offers free and discounted continuing education courses for its members.
Directory of Social Work Programs in Washington
Types of Social Work Licenses in Washington
All 50 states require clinical social workers to have a license, and most states also require nonclinical social workers to have a license. Exact requirements vary from state to state, and licenses do not necessarily transfer over state lines. Many licenses require a master's degree in social work plus work experience. Most licenses also require candidates to pass an ASWB exam.
Washington State issues three different types of social work licenses: licensed advanced social worker (LASW), licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW), and associate licensed social worker.
Washington State issues three different types of social work licenses: licensed advanced social worker (LASW), licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW), and associate licensed social worker. The associate license is a temporary credential that allows candidates to complete the work hours necessary for the LASW or LICSW. Both the LASW and the LICSW require a master's degree in social work. LASW candidates must complete at least 3,200 hours of supervised experience after graduation, while LICSW candidates must complete at least 4,000 hours. For both licenses, the initial license costs $216, and the annual renewal costs $116.
In order to obtain social work licenses in Washington, candidates must earn passing scores on the relevant ASWB exam. Applicants for the LASW license take the advanced generalist exam, while LICSW candidates take the clinical exam. Both options cost $260. Social workers should not register for the examination until the Department of Health approves their application.
In addition to the state license, social workers also earn certificates demonstrating their skills or expertise in a particular area. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) offers credentials in areas such as gerontology, palliative care, healthcare, and addiction services. Applicants must have a BSW or an MSW. Certifications usually require several years of work experience and an examination. While many organizations offer certifications for social workers, the examples below are all offered by NASW.
Associate Advanced and Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW)
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)
Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials
Certified Social Work Case Manager (C-SWCM)
Certified Advanced Children, Youth, and Family Social Worker (C-ACYFSW)
Certified Clinical Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs Social Worker (C-CATODSW)
Clinical Social Worker in Gerontology (CSW-G)
Certified School Social Work Specialist (C-SSWS)
Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Social Worker (ACHP-SW)
Career and Salary Outlook for Social Work Degree Graduates
Professionals with a social work degree can find jobs in healthcare, mental health, school services, and clinical settings. Social work professionals may specialize in areas like mental health, substance abuse, family services, or management. While some positions require only a bachelor's degree in social work or a related field, other positions require a master's degree and work experience.
Social WorkersSocial workers, including clinical social workers, help people cope with a variety of challenges. While some social work positions only require a bachelor's degree, clinical social workers must have an MSW and two years of experience. Social workers may also need a state license.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social WorkersThese social workers help people struggling with mental and behavioral problems, including addiction. Typically, practitioners need a master's degree in social work or a related field.
Social and Community Service ManagersThese professionals oversee programs for children, homeless people, veterans, and other groups. They analyze program effectiveness, write funding proposals, and identify necessary programs for the community.
Healthcare Social WorkersHealthcare social workers assist individuals, families, and groups coping with illnesses. They also promote health and help patients gain access to healthcare services.
Child, Family, and School Social WorkersThese social workers help children and their families. Some focus on school services such as truancy and academic success, while others assist parents during the adoption process.
Median Salaries and Employment For Social Work Specialties in Washington
|Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
|Child, Family, and School Social Workers||7,020||$50,540|
|Healthcare Social Workers||3,610||$61,050|
|Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers||2,170||$54,980|
|Social Workers, All Other||750||$68,180|
Scholarships for Social Work Majors in Washington
Students earning a social work degree in Washington qualify for several scholarships and other forms of financial aid. The state's health professionals program helps licensed social workers repay up to $75,000 in student loans. Students can also apply for scholarships from local businesses, private foundations, and professional organizations.
Social Work Scholarships
Society for Social Work Leadership in Healthcare - Washington Scholarship $2,500
Pride Foundation Social Work Scholarship Varies
Washington State Health Professionals Program Up to $75,000
Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial MSW Scholarship Up to $4,000
Resources for Social Work Students in Washington
- National Association of Social Workers - Washington Chapter The Washington chapter of the NASW represents over 2,300 members across the state. The organization promotes diversity, inclusion, and social justice. Members benefit from new research, professional resources, and networking opportunities.
- Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care - Washington Chapter The SSWLHC Washington Chapter promotes universal availability, accessibility, and effectiveness of healthcare through social work. Members work in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care.
- Washington State Society for Clinical Social Work Established in 1973, the WSSCSW supports clinical social work practitioners. Members receive continuing education opportunities, access to networking and professional growth events, and special programs designed for new professionals. The Washington chapter is affiliated with the Clinical Social Work Association.
- Washington State Department of Health The Washington State Department of Health issues and renews social worker licenses. The department also provides resources for health professionals and maintains a contact database for social workers.
- National Association of Social Workers NASW represents more than 120,000 members, making it the largest membership organization for social workers in the world. The organization creates and maintains professional standards and provides professional growth and development opportunities. Members receive free and discounted continuing education resources.