Master of Social Work (MSW)
School social workers play an integral role in the lives of children, helping students balance school, home and community to achieve academic success. They work in a school setting where they interact and communicate directly with students and their families. Through social, emotional and behavioral competence, social workers help students plan for and achieve success that suits their individual needs.
The main goal of a school social worker is to ensure that students are mentally, physically and emotionally present in the classroom. School social workers are required to adapt to the ever changing school policies, nationwide educational models and social contexts of today’s complex educational landscape. Many of the issues that school social workers face are unique to a school environment, such as school attendance, bullying, school violence and support for students with multiple learning problems or risk factors.
If you majored in a general mental health field such as psychology or sociology and are interested in working in a school setting, earning a Master of Social Work (MSW) may be the right choice for you. With this degree, you can dive into a field that makes a great difference in the lives of students.
A Master of Social Work from an accredited institution may be required to become a practicing school social worker and, along with state certification, would allow you to become a school social worker at any grade level. More specialized and technical roles may be available to you when you have a master's degree.
Each MSW program has its own prerequisites, so you should contact your accredited institution for detailed information regarding its policies. Depending on your school, you will be required to submit some or all of the following:
- Application: Fill out an initial application, which you can find on the website of the accredited institution of your choice. Paper and online forms are both generally accepted.
- Bachelor’s degree: You should have a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent from an accredited institution prior to applying to an MSW program.
- Transcripts: Request transcripts in advance of the application deadline, and upload one official copy of each transcript from any postsecondary schools you have attended.
- Experience: Include any experience in social work that may be relevant.
- Personal statement: Write a personal statement, which is typically in the form of an essay. You may be required to submit multiple essays to fully express the intent and purpose of your application. Below are some common topics that should be mentioned in a statement.
- Your main academic and personal interests
- Experiences in school or work that have helped to prepare you for this course of study
- Why you wish to study for the degree you’ve chosen
- Why you wish to study at the university
- Your plans for the future after you earn your degree
The curriculum and number of credits required to complete a master’s program vary widely depending on your school and specialization. However, a typical MSW program includes courses in:
- Social work in a school setting
- Mental disorders in children and adolescents
- Behavior management and instruction
- Field experience in a school setting
After completing a master’s program in school social work, the next step is to get licensed. This certification will enable you to officially work in the field of your choice. Every state has its own licensure requirements for becoming a school social worker. The average salary for a school social worker employed in elementary and secondary schools in 2013 was $60,480. School social workers can work at the elementary, middle, or high school level.
Find out more details about having a career as a School Social Worker here.