This guide will explain all that you need to know about becoming a licensed social worker in Massachusetts. It will also detail the on-campus and online social worker programs you can find in Massachusetts. The guide focuses on the MSW or master of social work degree since these degrees are required to become a licensed clinical social worker and they’re popular among social work students.
CONTENTS OF THIS GUIDE
- Social work in Massachusetts
- MSW programs
- Online MSW programs
- How to become a social worker
- License requirements
- Social worker job and salary
- Job Outlook
- School Listings
Social work in Massachusetts
Massachusetts is well-known as a center for academic excellence and opportunity, and Boston in particular as a metropolis with big centers for medical research and tech development.
However, the state also has a high number of mental health care facilities and hires a large number of mental health and healthcare social workers, especially compared to other states in the US. This means that future social workers (and particularly those that require a social work license in the state of Massachusetts) will find ample employment opportunities because of the number of facilities, the statewide focus on mental health, and the social work opportunities brought about by high immigration levels.
MSW programs in Massachusetts
An MSW or master of social work degree is needed if you want to become a licensed clinical (or similar) social worker in Massachusetts and beyond. These degrees can only be acquired through a Council on Social Work Education accredited program, which ensures that the program in question has enough academic rigor and teaches up-to-date social work concepts and techniques.
CSWE-accredited MSW programs will include:
- A variety of classes and coursework that goes over the fundamental and advanced social work concepts you’ll need to succeed. Topics may include sociology, ethics, biology, psychology, de-escalation, and more
- Some programs include specialized class opportunities, allowing you to become a particular type of social worker and ready you for certain clinics or areas
- All MSW programs include clinical practice experiences. These are real-world opportunities to get the expertise you need to treat patients in a real-world clinical context. After graduation, you’ll need to complete more of these hours to reach a minimum for certification
- You’ll also be able to take extra electives to round out your education
It should be no surprise that there are a number of top-ranked MSW programs in Massachusetts. For instance, Boston University, a private institution, has one of the best MSW programs in the nation. It’s offered in full or part-time schedules, with the latter being available through satellite campus locations rather than the main Boston campus. You can also complete this program part-time and online with a clinical focus.
Boston College also offers an MSW program. This program allows students to focus on “macro practice” or “clinical” specializations, plus select concentration areas such as “children, youth and families,” “health and mental health,” “older adults and families,” and more.
Online MSW programs in Massachusetts
Online MSW programs can be found both at universities in Massachusetts and schools outside the state. Furthermore, online MSW programs are usually better for those with busy schedules or students in need of a part-time pace to juggle multiple extracurricular responsibilities.
As mentioned, BU’s excellent online MSW program is a favorite throughout the state for its rigor and scheduling flexibility.
Regardless, online MSW programs still require students to complete the clinical practice requirements needed for licensure and/or graduation. These hours will be completed at local clinics or medical facilities rather than at clinics associated with the university’s campus-based programs. This allows students to complete all the requirements needed for graduation without having to travel vast distances.
How to become a social worker in Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Board of Registration of Social Work handles the requirements for social work licensure throughout the state. There are four types of licensed social workers in Massachusetts, each with different requirements.
Licensed Social Worker Associate (LSWA)
This basic credential allows beginner social workers to find employment within the profession. However, an LSWA is restricted from practicing clinically. This license is often used as a stepping stone credential.
- Submit your LSWA application to the Board, along with a $173 fee
- Take the Board’s Associate Exam. This is comprised of 170 multiple-choice questions and costs $230
- If you pass the exam, then you will be eligible for a license
Licensed Social Worker (LSW)
This is a more advanced form of license that allows practicing social workers to offer basic services, like consultations, while still avoiding clinical services. However, these professionals can offer clinical services under the supervision of a higher licensed social worker.
- Submit your application to the Board and pay the $173 fee
- Take the ASWB Bachelor’s exam. This is 170 questions and costs $230
- You’ll receive your license if you pass the exam
Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW)
This form of licensure allows social workers to provide independent non-clinical social work, plus achieve higher social work positions at facilities.
- Obtain an MSW from a CSWW-accredited program or a Board-approved doctoral degree in social work
- Submit your LCSW application to the Board, plus a $173 fee
- Take the ASWB Master’s exam, which is 170 questions and costs $230
- Receive your licensure if you pass the exam
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
This is the highest form of social work licensure you can acquire in Massachusetts. It allows holders to provide clinical or nonclinical social work services without supervision. You must become an LCSW before achieving this licensure in addition to the following requirements.
- Obtain the required clinical practice experience (detailed below)
- Submit your LICSW application to the Board and pay the $173 fee
- Take the ASWB Clinical Exam, which is 170 questions and which costs $260
- You receive licensure if you pass the exam
Even after acquiring licensure, you must renew your license every two years by completing a certain number of hours of continuing education dependent on your licensure level. Continuing education hours can range from 10 hours to 30 hours, and those hours must include at least one course in domestic and sexual violence.
Social work license requirements in Massachusetts
To become a LICSW, social workers must have a certain amount of clinical practice hours under their belts. Candidates must complete 3500 hours in no less than two years. Furthermore, 100 hours must be supervised by an overseeing LICSW.
Massachusetts is rare in that its Board offers licensure by reciprocity to any applicants that are licensed and in good standing in other states. This means existing social workers and other states can become license in Massachusetts without having to complete other requirements or retake the exam. An additional application must be completed for this process.
Social worker jobs and social worker salary in Massachusetts
Determining social worker salary in Massachusetts is best done through data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which separate social workers into four categories:
- Child, family, and school social workers can expect annual salaries of $50,770 and hourly wages of $24.41. There are currently around 10,780 in the state.
- Healthcare social workers receive average annual salaries of $61,650 and hourly wages of $29.64. This group is comprised of 10,280 healthcare social workers in Massachusetts.
- Mental health and substance abuse social workers have an average annual salary of $46,900 and an hourly wage of $22.55. Currently, 6,870 of these professionals are employed in the state.
- All other social workers collectively receive an annual average salary of $74,390 and an hourly wage of $35.76. There are only 520 of these licensed in Massachusetts at this time.
These salary levels are, in general, a little higher than average social worker salaries throughout the country, which hover at just over $50,000. This makes sense considering that Massachusetts has a higher than average cost of living compared to many other states.
Job outlook for social workers in Massachusetts
The job outlook for social workers in Massachusetts is promising. As discussed earlier, Massachusetts prioritizes mental health more than many other states in the country and has a high number of open social work and mental health clinics. Furthermore, national projections indicate that social worker positions across the country should increase by about 11 percent over the next eight years.
In other words, social workers everywhere are experiencing new opportunities. Massachusetts alone should also offer a number of new positions over the next few years.
Social Work Programs in Massachusetts