If you’ve found yourself exploring the wide world of social work, you’ve come to the right place. Social work is a vast field with a virtually endless amount of educational and professional opportunities. From criminal justice social work to pediatric social work, there’s a specialization to fit any interest.
This guide will focus on MSW social work programs and social work opportunities more broadly in the Washington DC area. From historical data to future trend predictions, social workers’ demand in Washington DC will continue to grow.
We’ll start by exploring the demographics of Washington DC and the implications they have on the field of social work in the area. Then, we’ll look at MSW programs in Washington DC. After that, we’ll list the steps you’ll need to follow to become a licensed social worker in Washington DC. Finally, we’ll examine the job outlook and salary data for social workers in Washington DC.
CONTENTS OF THIS GUIDE
- Social work in Washington D.C.
- MSW programs
- Online MSW programs
- How to become a social worker
- License requirements
- Social worker jobs and salary
- Job Outlook
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Social work in Washington DC
Although the field of social work is relatively consistent across the board, geo-demographic variations create unique demand according to location. Here are some of the factors that play a role in social work opportunities in the Washington DC area.
- With a population of 7.5 million people, the greater Washington DC metro area (including Arlington and Alexandria) has one of the country’s largest and most robust economies.
- However, much of the wealth is concentrated into a relatively small, upper-class demographic. Over 16 percent of the Washington DC population lives below the poverty line. As housing costs rise, those who fall into the bottom tiers of the economic ladder will continue to feel the pressure of staying afloat. For this reason, the demand for social workers within the community and nonprofit organizations will grow in the Washington DC area.
- Washington DC is also home to nearly 27,000 active-duty military personnel. This number is expected to increase dramatically because of the growth in the national defense budget. There are also nearly 32,000 military veterans in Washington DC. There will be many opportunities for social work within the government sector, including VA social work.
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are currently 3,320 social workers in the Washington DC area. As the DC metro area population continues to grow, the demand for social workers will also increase. A large portion of its citizens is either active (or retired) government employees. The bustling political scene in Washington DC makes it the perfect location to use social work education to influence, shape, and improve public welfare policies.
These are examples of only a few types of social work opportunities within the Washington DC metro area. Keep in mind that the demand for pediatric social workers, criminal justice social workers, and school social workers will be just as needed as the population continues to grow.
MSW programs in Washington DC
One of the primary steps to becoming a social worker in Washington DC is to obtain your Master’s of Social Work (MSW) degree from a CSWE accredited university. Here are a few licensed MSW programs in Washington DC.
- Catholic University of America – The Catholic University of America offers an MSW program under the direction of its National Catholic School of Social Service. This program offers some flexibility, which can be helpful for returning students or working adults. To graduate with an MSW, you’ll need at least 60 credit hours – 30 hours of foundational knowledge and 30 hours of advanced learning. This degree can be completed in as little as two years or up to five years, depending on your needs.
- Gallaudet University – The MSW program at Gallaudet University specializes in training and education for social work with the deaf and hard of hearing populations. This program requires 61 credit hours, and they offer an advanced program as well. The advanced program features a full 512-hour internship in the Spring semester.
- Howard University – Howard University offers two different degree options from its School of Social Work. Students can choose an MSW or PhD Unlike other traditional schools, Howard is increasingly integrating hybrid courses into its curriculum, incorporating elements of in-person learning and asynchronous online learning.
- George Mason University – George Mason University offers both in-person and online MSW programs for students. There are three plan options: two, three, or a four-year track. If you already obtained your BSW from a CSWE-accredited program, you may be eligible for the advanced standing program. In addition to the general curriculum, students must practice 600 hours of clinical practicum before they can graduate.
Online MSW programs in Washington DC
Although most schools are starting to integrate more digital courses, not every CSWE-accredited school offers an online program. Here’s a list of CSWE-accredited schools that offer hybrid and online MSW programs.
- George Mason University – George Mason University offers in-person and online MSW programs for increased flexibility.
- Howard University – Howard University offers both in-person and hybrid classes for its MSW program. It was ranked 33rd in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. You can specialize in criminal justice, gerontology, mental health, healthcare, family and child welfare, or displaced populations.
- Catholic University of America – This MSW program is renowned for its flexibility. Not only does The Catholic University of America offer a 100 percent online MSW program, but they also offer flexible on-campus learning if you prefer to attend classes in-person.
How to become a social worker in Washington DC
Pursuing a career in Washington DC is very similar to the path you would take in other states. Here are the general steps to become a social worker in Washington DC:
- Obtain your degree from a CSWE-accredited program. This can be a BSW, MSW, or PhD depending on the career path you choose
- Sit for your exam
- Supervised practice under a licensed professional
- Apply for a license after you pass the exam and complete your supervised work hours
Many social workers choose to enrich their education further by pursuing a PhD in social work. There are two school options within Washington DC that offer a PhD program:
Social work license requirements in Washington DC
There are four different paths you can take if you’re pursuing social work in Washington DC:
- Licensed Social Work Associate (LSWA)
- Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)
- Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW)
- Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)
Each certification has different educational and professional application requirements. To work independently or in your own practice, you should obtain your LISW or LICSW certifications.
According to the Washington DC licensing board, here are the steps you will need to take to obtain your MSW and become an independent social worker in Washington DC.
- Obtain your BSW from a CSWE accredited program.
- For an LGSW, LISW, or LICSW certification, you’ll need to obtain your MSW from a CSWE accredited program.
- Sit for the licensing exam. Please note that this exam is required for any of the four levels that you choose.
- Work under a licensed supervisor to gain practical experience. For an LGSW, you’ll need at least 100 hours of in-person supervision. For the independent social work licenses (LISW & LICSW), you’ll need at least 3,000 hours of supervised practice. This typically takes two to four years. It cannot exceed a five-year period.
- Apply for your license.
Social worker jobs and social worker salary in Washington DC
There are 3,320 total social workers in Washington DC. While the number of social workers in Washington DC might seem small, it is quite astonishing when you consider the overall percentage of the small population. Below we dig into the details and see the statistics for each of the social work specializations according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While social work is a very rewarding job, it can be hard work. To make your efforts worthwhile, here is the breakdown on salary information for social work jobs in Washington DC:
Average: $70,885, Range: $66,080 – $74,160
- Child, family, and school social workers are 2,250 in number in the DC-area and they make an average of $71,590 a year.
- Healthcare social workers number 440 in the District of Columbia. This group makes an average annual salary of $74,160 a year.
- Mental health and substance abuse social worker make up 630 members of the social work workforce in Washington DC, making an average salary of $66,080
- Social worker (all other) – While no data exists about specific numbers of people working in other forms of social work (such as private practice), there is data on the average salary of this category, which is $70,885.
Overall, the number of social workers per capita has room to grow. As the COVID pandemic continues to increase economic and mental burdens on Washington DC citizens, there will be an increased need for social workers as a support system. Additionally, its geographic location as the nation’s governmental and military headquarters makes it an excellent choice for social workers who are looking to influence, improve, and change public welfare policy for the better.
Between 2016 and 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the demand for social workers will grow by 16 percent – well above the national average for other professions. Like the national trends, demand for social workers in Washington DC will continue to grow.