This guide is about how to become a social worker in Michigan. You will find key information about obtaining a master’s in social work (MSW) degree in Michigan, and information on how to become a licensed social worker in the state.
CONTENTS OF THIS GUIDE
- Social Work in Michigan
- MSW programs
- Online MSW programs
- License requirements
- Social work jobs
- Social worker salary
- Job outlook
- Expert advice
Social work in Michigan
Over the last several decades, Michigan has experienced widespread population changes and economic shifts. Currently, there are almost 10 million residents that call Michigan home. Even with the decrease in population, the industries of social services and healthcare have continued to grow, including roles for social workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are 24,670 social workers in the state.
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Social workers provide services in a wide variety of settings, serving people in the urban centers such as Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Flint, and expansive rural areas of Michigan including the Upper Peninsula and the areas throughout the Lower Peninsula.
Social workers in Michigan work with the state’s very diverse population providing support for a host of issues. Here a few examples of social service areas in Michigan:
- The state is home to over 150,000 people of Arab descent mostly concentrated in the metro-Detroit area, specifically, the town of Dearborn. While other states have a higher population, metro-Detroit has the highest concentration of Arab and Arab Americans in the country. Community organizations in the area, like the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), are leaders in the country for providing support to the Arab Americans, addressing their unique needs.
- Detroit, the most populous city in Michigan, has a poverty rate of about 35 percent with 50 percent of children experiencing poverty. These rates are about three times higher than the national average. Over half of Michigan’s social workers work in child welfare, child and family services, or in schools. Social workers provide services to families, work with foster youth, support students with disabilities in schools, secure housing, and make sure individuals get connections to all available resources.
Masters in social work programs in Michigan
Many social work positions in Michigan require a masters of social work (MSW) degree. MSW programs provide future social workers with important assessment, case management, and service provision skills in the context of a “person-in-environment model” which takes into account cultural factors that may impact needs. Most jobs and the licensure process require social workers to obtain degrees from schools that are accredited by the Council of Social Work Boards (CSWE).
The CSWE has basic academic standards that schools must meet to be accredited including the number of internship hours and a specific content that must be covered in coursework. The basic curriculum includes the following:
- Exploration of basic service provision with individuals, families, groups, and organizations.
- Use of research methods and understanding of the impact of policy, regulations, and laws on the practice of social work.
- Further course work specific specialization such as clinical work, school social work, organizational or administrative social work, or community organizing.
- Practicing cultural humility and providing culturally responsive practice.
- Electives are often offered in MSW programs to allow students to explore more specific types of social work such as working with families and couples, social work in sports, or grant writing.
- Engaging in hands-on social work experience, also called field placement, under the supervision of a professional social worker. The CSWE requires that master’s level social workers complete 900 hours of fieldwork throughout their social work education career.
Online MSW programs in Michigan
There are a number of CSWE-accredited MSW programs that offer online course work including Michigan State University and Spring Arbor University. Online programs can be a great option for students needing specific accommodations or flexibility when completing coursework. Some of these programs can be completed entirely remotely while others may require students to attend in-person classes or events.
How long does MSW coursework take?
The required number of credits for an MSW degree is 60 hours. Most traditional masters programs have students complete their 60 hours over four semesters, typically over two years. The University of Michigan, ranked as the top MSW program US News and World Report, offers a condensed four-semester track that can be completed in 16 months and a traditional track where students complete the program over two academic school years (within 20 months). Eastern Michigan University has a program for working social service professionals seeking their master’s degree where they can use their current job as a field placement experience. Some schools, such as Wayne State University, offer a part-time program that takes three to four years to complete.
Some applicants to schools of social work have a bachelor’s of social work (BSW) degree. BSW programs provide students with basic generalist skills to be applied in entry-level positions. Students who have a BSW can complete their program in 12 months in an “advanced standing” program. Most schools offer an advanced standing track for students.
Social work license requirements in Michigan
There are three masters level licensure designations for Michigan social workers: Licensed Masters Social Worker Macro, Licensed Masters Social Worker Clinical, or both. Licensing is managed by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Upon application, social workers will need to decide which license is appropriate based on the roles and responsibilities of their job or intended career path. The following describe the licensure requirements:
- Licensed Masters Social Workers Macro are permitted to provide generalist services that are guided by knowledge of “social resources, social systems, and human behavior.” Generalist services include “evaluation, prevention and intervention” services such as community organizing, administration, consultation, and supervision of bachelor’s level social workers. While licensure may not be required for macro jobs, it is required to supervisor other social workers.
- Licensed Masters Social Workers Clinical are permitted to engage in counseling and psychotherapy. This includes the ability to engage in the evaluation to ascertain mental, cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and interpersonal issues or conditions. LMSW’s with a clinical designation can also engage in the treatment of such issues or conditions.
Licensure process for social workers in Michigan
- Complete a master’s of social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited program.
- Apply and obtain a limited license (LLMSW) to practice while obtaining supervised hours.
- Obtain 4,000 hours of supervised practice in either the macro or clinical setting
- Pass the Association for Social Work Board (ASWB) exam. Macro social workers need to pass the Generalist Exam and clinical social workers need to pass the Clinical Exam
- Pass a criminal background check.
- If the social worker wants to apply for both designations, they can add the additional one by completing 2,000 more hours of supervised practice second practice area.
Social work jobs in Michigan
While Michigan’s population has declined over recent decades, the need for social workers has increased. Social workers provide services in healthcare facilities, community organizations, advocacy groups, nonprofits and government. The interruption in the economic and community services due to the COVID-19 pandemic may further impact the need for social workers.
Social workers will continue to be in high demand in community organizations and are a part of the fabric of our social services system, such as housing rights, affordable housing, food benefits, or public health.
Other organizations like child protective services and domestic violence centers are needing to come up with new and innovative ways to access clients. Healthcare social workers are essential workers alongside nurses, physicians, and other healthcare staff. While COVID has impacted non-emergency care, emergency services and psychiatric services, where licensed social workers often engage in practice, are still operational and in some ways, continuing to grow, especially in high needs areas like Detroit and Flint.
Social work salary in Michigan
The average salary for all social workers in Michigan is $52,784 according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Social workers in the state of Michigan have salaries that vary widely. The range of average salaries for social work job categories ranges from $50,440 at the lower end of the average spectrum to $57,280 at the higher end.
Key factors that affect social work salaries include:
- Education level As mentioned above, most social workers practicing direct case management have a master’s of social work degree (MSW).
- Licensure level While some organizations that hire social workers may not require a license, most clinical jobs do and all social workers require a license to supervise.
- Years of experience Like many other professional fields, social workers with more experience generally make more. According to the Indeed data, the average salary for a social worker with one year of experience in Michigan is $47,784 while the social workers with 10 years of experience make an average of $61,249 according to the employment website, Indeed.
- Location Social workers near major urban areas such as Detroit, higher average salaries than social workers in more rural areas of Michigan.
- Area of practice Social workers are paid differently depending on the specialty. Here is a breakdown of average wage estimates in Michigan by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- $51,410: Child, family, and school social workers
- $57,280: Healthcare social workers
- $50,440: Mental health and substance abuse social workers
- $56,150: All other social workers
Social work job outlook in Michigan
Michigan’s Department of Labor (MDOL) anticipates that the employment of social workers will increase by 2026 with mental health social workers seeing the most projected increase at over 8 percent. Healthcare and child and family social workers will also see increases in the next decade.
Mental health and substance abuse is another service area that is projected to require more licensed social workers. Even prior to COVID, a 19 percent growth rate was predicted for mental health and substance use disorder treatment services by 2026. In the age of COVID, it’s quite possible that this growth will increase.
Social Work Programs in Michigan
- What are the most important factors for students deciding on an MSW program in Michigan?
- What are the challenges or opportunities for becoming a social worker in Michigan?
- What does the future of social work look like in Michigan?
- Do you have advice or guidance for MSW graduates pursuing a license in Michigan?
What are the most important factors for students deciding on an MSW program in Michigan?
Students are motivated by addressing problems that are pervasive in the state of Michigan such as the Flint Water Crisis. Cities in Michigan, such as Flint and Detroit have limited resources, and many of the residents there live in poverty. Students are motivated to pursue an MSW degree so that they can be trained to address the needs of individuals and communities in these areas.
What are the challenges or opportunities for becoming a social worker in Michigan?
Challenges for becoming a social worker in Michigan may be limited funding and resources in low-resourced neighborhoods in Detroit or Flint, the state of the economy in Michigan (e.g., budget cuts), which can affect how resources and funding are being allocated in social service agencies, and a lack of social workers due to the pandemic. Some of the aforementioned problems (e.g., Flint Water Crisis) can provide social work students opportunities for students to hone in on their advocacy skills.
What does the future of social work look like in Michigan?
I believe there will be increasing demands for social workers in various sectors. Nationally, the job market for social work is very good, relative to other professions, and the State of Michigan is no different. I believe there will be greater demands for social workers who can provide treatment for mental health problems or substance use.
What types of jobs are MSW graduates finding in Michigan?
Social work jobs in Michigan are diverse, but many seem to be finding jobs related to mental health or addiction recovery. I’ve also had students who found jobs in the school and hospital settings where social workers are in demand.
Do you have advice or guidance for MSW graduates pursuing a license in Michigan?
Get the skills you need in the classroom (while you are in the MSW program); be sure to thoroughly prepare for the licensing exam, and be sure to utilize the resources that are available at your schools of social work. Many schools have resources for their alumni.