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Masters in Social Work Careers

Obtaining a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from The Catholic University of America’s National Catholic School of Social Services (NCSSS) allows you to fulfill your calling to social justice, and making a difference in lives and communities. You will be prepared to serve a wide range of clients and treat complex issues with progressive knowledge and experience.You’ll be able to reach further into your community, wrapping your arms around a larger client base to help more individuals and communities achieve an optimal level of health and well-being.

Overall, the social worker career outlook is strong, with position growth of a higher-than-average 12 percent.1 The demand for those who specialize in healthcare, substance abuse, and individual and family or marital counseling is as high as 19 percent.2

Bar graph depicting the 2014-2024 projected percent of change in employment for social workers.

Online MSW graduates are prepared for a number of new professional opportunities, including:

  • Marriage/Family/Individual Therapist
  • Clinical Social Worker For At-Risk Families
  • Trauma Counselor
  • School Social Worker
  • Play Therapist
  • Healthcare Social Worker
  • Social Work Educator
  • Program Administrator
  • Social Work Researcher
  • Community Advocate

Fields of Work

A number of large changes in the social services landscape have had a major impact on the demand for qualified, advanced-level social workers. For example, healthcare policy now mandates mental healthcare is covered, and at an equal rate to medical coverage — allowing more people to seek affordable care and counseling, and allowing more medical care providers to refer patients to treatment. Additionally, the laws surrounding the consequences of drug abuse have changed. Many substance abuse users are now being sent to rehabilitation programs, rather than correctional facilities, so that the underlying causes of substance abuse are addressed as offenders regain physical and mental health. Catholic’s online MSW has been designed to prepare you to work in a variety of fields where an MSW is required, including:

  • Healthcare
  • Mental Health
  • Substance Abuse
  • Elderly Care
  • Child Welfare
  • K-12 Education
  • Research
  • Advocacy


Healthcare social workers are found in the medical field. They assist clients, and their clients’ families, in achieving an optimal quality of life and level of care that’s within everyone’s abilities, or after a life-altering medical diagnoses.

Titles Include

  • Geriatric social workers find joy in helping senior citizens obtain holistic care, comfort and safety in their current state of living.
  • Hospice and palliative care social workers bring comfort to terminally ill patients and educate them and their families through the transitions of end-of-life care.
  • Medical social workers specialize in connecting clients and their families to resources and care after a hospital stay.

Career Snapshot

Healthcare social workers are experiencing an above-average growth rate of 19 percent, and a high median annual salary of $52,380. As a healthcare social worker, you’ll readily find work in general medical and surgical hospitals, home healthcare services, and nursing care facilities. If you choose to work in the top-paying industry of scientific research and development services, you’ll earn a median salary of $60,520 — $8k above the average salary of this group.2

Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Mental health and substance abuse workers treat mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and grief, which sometimes share a causal relationship with substance abuse. In this role, you’ll determine the relationship, if any, between the two, and treat clients to restore their mental health.

Titles Include

  • Individual therapists work with clients one on one to help them overcome personal issues that affect their mental health and may compound other challenges.
  • Trauma counselors are often on the first line of defense in a crisis to help staunch the suffering it causes.
  • Substance abuse counselors help clients to understand their addictions and treat the underlying causes that drive them to abuse.

Career Snapshot

Mental health and substance abuse social workers’ career outlook is excellent; they’re experiencing an above-average growth rate of 19 percent, and a median annual salary of $42,170. In this role, you’ll readily find work in outpatient care centers. In the offices of other health care professionals, you’ll earn $66,730 — $24K above the average salary in this industry.3

Child, Family, and School

This group chooses a career in social work to support children through struggles like bullying and learning challenges, and crises such as being removed from the home. In this role, you’ll work with children, their families, and their schools so they may cope with their life challenges and overcome them.

Titles Include

  • Play therapists work with younger children to diagnose, understand and treat disturbed behavior by playing with toys that allow them to simulate their own situations.
  • Clinical social workers for at-risk families are employed when it’s clear the child may not be safe. They work with the entire family to build parenting and communication skills, and act as a child advocate for children in a crisis.
  • School social workers help children achieve balance and control in the classroom and their lives as they address mental health and behavioral concerns.

Career Snapshot

Child, family, and school social workers are experiencing an average growth rate of 6 percent, and a median annual salary of $42,350.4 In this role, you’ll readily find work in individual and family services. Working in elementary or secondary schools offers you a top-paying-industry wage of $60,750 — $18K above the average salary.4

Marriage and Family Therapists

These professionals bring a family-centered approach to counseling, regardless of whether they see an individual or the entire family. They help their clients improve communication regarding the challenges they’re facing, whether that’s the addition of a new family member, adjustment to a divorce, or coping with a medical diagnosis of one of the members.

Career Snapshot

Marriage and family therapists are experiencing a higher-than-average growth rate of 19 percent, and a median annual salary of $48,600. In this role, you’ll readily find work in individual and family services. Working in state or local government sectors (excluding education and hospitals) offers you a top-paying-industry wage of $69,700 — $21K above the average salary. 5


This generalized term applies to social workers who can direct change at the micro-, mezzo-, and macro-levels in their careers in social work. They coach their team of social workers, develop treatment programs, and act as a community resource.

Titles Include

  • Program administrators/clinical supervisors work internally to provide supervision, continuing education, and program development. Externally, they establish relationships with those who oversee community resources and programs, acting as a conduit between the two to improve care.
  • Community advocates reach out to groups of individuals who share a common challenge to connect them to supportive resources that help them achieve balance and wellness.
  • Social work educators/researchers question how the roles of social workers, and the types of treatment they provide, affect a population. They work to prove their theories and educate administration of their findings to provide more effective treatment.

Career Snapshot

Social and community service managers have a higher-than-average growth rate of 10 percent, and a median annual salary of $63,530. In this role, you’ll find work in government, nonprofit, and private social service companies. The highest 10 percent of social and community service managers earn more than $108,960.6

We welcome and encourage students from all religions and cultures to discover how they can apply theory and expand their reach as a social worker. To learn more about our online MSW, click here or call 855-295-5711 today.


1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Social Workers, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm (visited September 21, 2016).
2 http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211022.htm (visited September 21, 2016, page last updated March 2016).
3 http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211023.htm (visited September 21, 2016, page last updated March 2016).
4 http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211021.htm (visited September 21, 2016, page last updated March 2016).
5 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm (visited September 22, 2016).
6 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Social and Community Service Managers, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/social-and-community-service-managers.htm (visited November 17, 2016).