Social work is a broad field that assists individuals, families, and other groups in various settings. Multiple levels of social work require different types of education and credentials.

As such, the salary range for social workers and related professionals can vary widely. This article will explore the factors that influence how much social workers earn, including educational level, work environment, and geographic location. Leslie Reyna, an admissions counselor for the University of Texas at Arlington’s School of Social Work, also provides insight into what aspiring social workers can expect when they enter the field.

Average Social Worker Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which collects, calculates, analyzes, and publishes data related to the U.S. labor force, the median annual wage for social workers in the U.S. was $55,350 as of May 2022. The agency describes this as “the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.”

The lowest 10 percent of social workers earned less than $36,600 annually in 2022, while the top 10 percent earned more than $87,300. The median annual salary across all occupations that year was $46,310.

A number of factors, outlined below, contribute to this wide range of salaries for social workers.

Social Worker Salary by Education Level

Different levels of education lead to different types of social work positions, with salaries typically increasing for positions that require an advanced degree.

Broadly speaking, social work jobs fall into two categories: clinical and non-clinical. For most non-clinical jobs, a bachelor’s degree in social work is the minimum level of education required. These positions focus more on administrative and high-level responsibilities, with an average annual salary of $52,521.

To practice as a clinical social worker and provide treatment directly to clients, individuals must have a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree and a state-issued license. Clinical social workers tend to earn more than non-clinical social workers, with an average annual salary of $94,158.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) salary

While some social work positions are open to individuals with an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree is a standard requirement for most non-clinical social work jobs. Non-clinical social workers work at the macro level, helping connect individuals, families, and other groups with resources, developing social work policies and programs, and advocating for local, state, and federal reforms. Some social workers focus on non-clinical work throughout their careers, while others hold these positions while they continue their education to become clinical social workers.

Some typical non-clinical social work jobs include:

    • Salary range: $28,610-$58,770
    • Median annual wage (2022): $74,240
    • Salary range: $46,770-$123,320
    • Median annual wage (2022): $59,860
    • Salary range: $38,550-$101,080

Master of Social Work (MSW) salary

To practice as a clinical social worker and provide direct treatment services to clients, individuals must have a master’s degree in social work. The most common graduate degree is a Master of Social Work, although other advanced degrees in this field exist. Clinical social workers can work with individuals of all ages, including children, as well as couples, families, and other groups. They treat a variety of issues, including mental and behavioral health, substance addiction and recovery, trauma, grief, and more.

Some typical clinical social work jobs include:

  • Clinical social worker: Works directly with clients in an individual or group setting to diagnose and treat mental, emotional, or behavioral health issues.
    • Median annual wage: $94,158
    • Salary range: $44,000-$159,000
  • Marriage and family therapist: Diagnose and treat cognitive, behavioral, or similar disorders in the context of couples and other relationships.
    • Median annual wage: $56,570
    • Salary range: $36,840-$98,700
  • Mental health counselor: Treat clients who have a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, grief, and stress, and help with emotional health and relationship problems.
    • Median annual wage: $49,710
    • Salary range: $34,580-$82,710

Doctorate or PhD in Social Work salary

Some social workers pursue a doctorate in social work for advanced training and research opportunities. These individuals may work at the micro level as clinicians or at the macro level, researching and designing social work policies.

Some jobs that social workers with a doctoral degree can obtain include: 

  • Public policy researcher: Work to raise public awareness of social issues, such as crime prevention, access to healthcare, or education, and advocate for proposed solutions.
    • Median annual wage: $117,000
    • Salary range: $90,000-$153,000
  • Postsecondary instructors: Teach college-level courses as adjunct or tenured faculty at post-secondary institutions, including two- and four-year colleges.
    • Median annual wage: $80,840
    • Salary range: $47,370-$173,730

Learn More About Social Work Degrees

Social Work Salary by Work Setting

Social workers work in various settings, including medical and psychiatric hospitals; local, state, and federal government agencies for social services; veterans affairs and child welfare; inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities for mental and behavioral health issues and substance misuse; schools, and more.

The environment in which a social worker is employed also impacts how much they earn. For example, according to the BLS, the top earners are social workers employed in medical settings like public and private hospitals. The median annual salary for these social workers is $66,300.

Meanwhile, social workers who work for local government agencies earn a median annual wage of $62,390, while the median yearly salary for those who work for state government agencies is $52,640. Social workers in settings that work with individuals and family services can expect a median annual salary of $46,670.

Social Work Salary by Location

A social worker’s location can also impact how much they earn. Within the U.S., at the macro level, salaries can vary widely based on whether employees are in a rural, suburban, or urban area. There are also variations by state, as demonstrated by the chart below:

Average salary for social workers by state

State Child, Family, and School Social Workers Healthcare Social Workers Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
Alabama $44,670 $51,540 $36,810
Alaska $63,370 $68,430 $57,640
Arizona $44,760 $63,130 $45,420
Arkansas $42,160 $56,630 45,380
California $66,340 $88,380 $81,720
Colorado $58,930 $58,310 $56,460
Connecticut $71,970 $73,720 $79,080
Delaware $45,950 $58,100 $52,770
District of Columbia N/A $69,980 $72,990
Florida $49,910 $55,270 $47,520
Georgia $47,790 $57,640 $53,570
Hawaii $63,880 $72,660 $65,270
Idaho $53,700 $61,610 $50,030
Illinois $60,740 $59,030 $54,870
Indiana $47,940 $57,150 $47,770
Iowa $51,460 $57,920 $49,850
Kansas $50,080 $60,340 $50,730
Kentucky $45,710 $56,280 $45,080
Louisiana $50,600 $59,830 $46,580
Maine $61,760 $60,430 $68,900
Maryland $66,850 $58,980 $55,880
Massachusetts $55,880 $65,440 $56,860
Michigan $53,760 $59,390 $53,110
Minnesota $64,490 $64,080 $67,230
Mississippi $38,650 $54,760 $43,360
Missouri $41,240 $51,580 $43,980
Montana $43,360 $57,320 $41,790
Nebraska $44,200 $54,340 $39,750
Nevada $59,160 $69,940 $54,760
New Hampshire $56,520 $71,200 $65,760
New Jersey $75,590 $71,660 $92,850
New Mexico $52,860 $63,180 $52,390
New York $70,690 $60,440 $79,700
North Carolina $50,420 $63,110 $53,940
North Dakota $60,880 $58,890 $56,320
Ohio $48,780 $59,720 $49,020
Oklahoma $51,070 $53,020 $40,360
Oregon $59,390 $77,150 $54,370
Pennsylvania $52,230 $62,410 $46,360
Rhode Island $66,460 $74,110 $61,460
South Carolina $44,890 $59,270 $46,990
South Dakota $46,710 $48,950 $44,890
Tennessee $48,940 $53,320 $42,070
Texas $49,810 $62,500 $44,100
Utah $56,140 $68,050 $68,130
Vermont $54,820 $65,290 $56,080
Virginia $59,530 $57,570 $54,660
Washington $62,800 $71,270 $58,250
West Virginia $41,110 $56,940 $36,450
Wisconsin $50,950 $61,110 $52,860
Wyoming $47,640 $60,780 $54,560


Frequently Asked Questions About Social Work

Is a social work degree worth it?

Earning a social work degree provides many benefits, according to Reyna.

“A social work degree provides students with many career opportunities,” she says. “Many jobs want resourceful employees who can help navigate the complex service systems in the United States and create bridges between the service provider and the communities they are trying to serve. The skills students learn with a social work degree can help them in any career field because all career fields require working with people.”

Individuals with a social work degree can also create their own opportunities. “I’ve seen many social workers create their own counseling centers and non-profits after achieving licensure,” Reyna says.

From a financial perspective, advanced degrees in social work can lead to higher pay. “Although the starting salary for social workers varies across states, as students become licensed, they can earn upwards of $75,000 to $90,000 annually depending on the state.”

What is the average cost of a social work degree?

Multiple factors influence how much it costs to get a social work degree, including what degree you earn.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average annual tuition for undergraduate degrees during the 2022-23 academic year was $9,750 at public institutions and $38,421 at private institutions. Based on a traditional four-year bachelor’s degree enrollment, students would pay a total of $39,000 at a public university and $153,684 at a private school. Meanwhile, the average annual tuition for graduate programs was $12,596 at public colleges and $29,931 at private institutions. Based on a two-year program, this would translate to $25,192 for an MSW at a public college and $59,862 at a private college.

Because tuition varies, “It’s important to ensure that the overall cost of the program is reflective of the job pay for an entry-level or MSW social worker in your state,” Reyna says. Students can also help defray the cost of their degree with scholarships, grants, work-study, and employer tuition assistance.

How can I pay for a social work degree?

There are multiple ways to fund undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work. Students who want access to federal student aid, such as federal student loans, grants, and work-study, must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Schools use the information from this application to determine eligibility for federal student aid and institutional need-based aid, such as scholarships. Students entering the social work field may be able to obtain jobs that are eligible for the federal government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.

Most colleges also award scholarships based on academic achievement, athletics, or extracurricular activities. Students can also explore options for scholarships and grants from external resources such as non-profits and educational foundations, professional organizations, and community and religious groups.

Students working while enrolled in a social work degree program should find out if their employer offers tuition assistance benefits, which can help offset the cost of their education.

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