The following guide outlines master of social work (MSW) degree programs in New Jersey. Also included in the guide is an overview of the requirements for getting a social work license in New Jersey as well as the social work job outlook in the state.
CONTENTS OF THIS GUIDE
- Social Work in New Jersey
- MSW programs
- Online MSW programs
- How to become a social worker
- License requirements
- Social work salary
- Social work outlook
- School Listings
- Expert Advice
Social work in New Jersey
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) there are 10,260 social workers in New Jersey. A disproportionate number of these social workers are employed in the fields of mental health and substance abuse, as opposed to “general” social work. That’s the result of the high prevalence of drug abuse in New Jersey.
This trend is unlikely to change. As we continue to hear calls to defund the police, it will be social workers who step in to fill the gap. There are many situations where it makes more sense to call on a mental health professional rather than an armed police officer.
Another area of concern in New Jersey is the wealth disparity between white residents and residents of color. According to the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, New Jersey has one of the most exaggerated wealth gaps in the United States. The average white family in New Jersey has a net worth of $309,000, while the average net worth for a family of color is less than $10,000.
There is a big opportunity for social workers to make a difference in communities of color in New Jersey. From helping children through school and into college — to improving families’ access to state and federal resources — social workers in New Jersey have a chance to make the lived experience better in communities all across the state.
MSW programs in New Jersey
Before we cover some of the master’s programs available in New Jersey it’s important to mention the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accreditation. This is an accreditation that guarantees that an educational program meets a high standard and only teaches current practices in the field of social work. Many employers will only hire graduates from a CSWE accredited MSW program.
One of the most popular CSWE accredited MSW programs in New Jersey is offered by Rutgers University. The Rutgers MSW is well-reviewed by the U.S. News and World Report and the program can be taken at several different locations throughout the state. A specific advantage of Rutgers is their large network of social workers which can make finding a job after graduation easier.
Stockton University also has a good MSW program in New Jersey. The Stockton program places a special focus on social issues including discrimination, oppression, and other forces that prevent individuals from realizing their potential. Stockton believes it’s the role of the social worker to help their clients to find ways to overcome difficult situations so that they can thrive.
Online MSW programs in New Jersey
There are two online, CSWE-accredited MSW programs in New Jersey and both are offered by Rutgers University. The first is a 100 percent online program, where all instruction takes place over the internet.
Unlike a traditional MSW, students enrolled in the fully online program complete their degree in three years rather than two. The classes are asynchronous which means that students can view the lessons at any time, there is not a set schedule. In this program, students will interact with their instructors via forums and other online discussion methods.
Rutgers also offers a hybrid program, where some of the lessons are taken online while others are campus-based. The campus-based classes are flexible, however, as they can be taken at any of Rutgers’ three campuses including Camden, Newark, and New Brunswick.
How to become a social worker in New Jersey
Every social worker who wants to start a career in New Jersey must complete a certain set of steps in order to become legally eligible to work in the state. The following information explains how to apply for and receive an LSW license, as this will be the first license that an MSW graduate applies for when they enter the workforce.
- Seek board approval to take the ASWB exam. To take the exam a candidate will need to pay a $75 fee as well as submit a transcript from their MSW program. It’s possible to apply for the exam during the final semester of an MSW program, however, many social workers wait until after graduation to apply.
- Complete the ASWB master’s exam and receive a passing grade. The test includes 170 multiple-choice questions but only 150 are scored. The testing fee is $230 and once the results come in they are sent to the New Jersey social work board.
- Apply for the LSW license. An applicant should fill out the LSW application and submit it to the New Jersey social work board as soon as they’ve received permission to take the ASWB, it is not necessary to wait until after the test has been taken.
- Pass a background check. Before a social worker can seek employment in New Jersey they must pass a criminal background check.
- An LSW license will be issued once the applicant has received a passing grade on the ASWB exam, passed their background check, and submitted their application for the LSW license. The license will be issued by the New Jersey social board.
- With the LSW license, a social worker is legally allowed to work in New Jersey and can begin applying for jobs.
A PhD is the highest level of education possible for a social worker in New Jersey. PhD holders often work in management positions or conduct research and perform statistical analysis, rather than handling a caseload. Students who are interested in learning more about earning a PhD in social work can visit our doctorate degree page. The doctorate degree page also includes a list of PhD social work programs in the United States.
Social work license requirements in New Jersey
To get the most up to date information about licensing in the state of New Jersey a social worker can check the state’s consumer affairs licensing website.
In New Jersey, there are three different types of certifications for social workers. All three social work licenses require the applicant to have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
- Certified Social Worker (CSW) — The only social work license in New Jersey that can be obtained with a bachelor’s degree. The CSW grants the license holder the authority to carry out policy research, administrative tasks, community organization, and client assessment. CSW license holders are not permitted to perform clinical social work.
- Licensed Social Worker (LSW) — A candidate must have an MSW in order to obtain an LSW license in New Jersey. LSW license holders may perform all of the same tasks as a Certified Social Worker, however, they may also engage in clinical social work provided that the work is done under supervision.
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) — An LCSW requires the candidate to have a master’s or doctorate in social work. Licensed clinical social workers are the only type of social worker authorized to perform unsupervised clinical social work in New Jersey. Before this license can be acquired a social worker must complete a certain amount of supervised clinical social work.
License renewal in New Jersey
Social work licenses in New Jersey must be renewed every two years. In order to renew a license, a social worker must complete five hours of education in ethics and three hours of training in social and cultural issues.
Each license also has its own additional requirements for renewal. More information is available on New Jersey’s licensing website, linked to above. Social workers may also find some of these tips useful in making the license application process easier.
Social worker salary in New Jersey
Different types of social workers earn different salaries in New Jersey. According to the BLS, there are 10,260 social workers in New Jersey. The average reported salary for a social worker in New Jersey is $69,806 per year. However, the range of salaries extends from a low of $64,150 to a high of $83,050.
The following is a breakdown of social worker salaries in New Jersey.
- Child, family, and school social worker – There are 4,910 child, family, and school social workers making an average of $68,830 a year.
- Healthcare social worker – Roughly 3,200 social workers are employed in New Jersey’s healthcare system, making an average salary of $64,150.
- Mental health and substance abuse social worker – There are 1,670 mental health and substance abuse social workers in the state, making an average salary of $83,050.
- Social worker all other – There are 480 social workers that fall into the category of “all other,” which could include research social workers and private practice social workers. The reported average annual salary for this group is $71,420 a year.
Across the United States, the job outlook for social workers is excellent. The BLS predicts a level of job growth well above the national average.
As there are now 10,260 social work positions in New Jersey, an 11 percent growth rate would suggest that New Jersey will be adding approximately 1,100 social work positions by the year 2028.
Social Work Programs in New Jersey
1. What are the most important factors for students deciding on an MSW program in New Jersey?
2. What are the challenges or opportunities for becoming a social worker in New Jersey?
3. What does the future of social work look like in New Jersey?
What are the most important factors for students deciding on an MSW program in New Jersey?
The most important factor should be finding a program that meets each student’s unique strengths, interests, and needs. The student should ask themselves why they want to be a social worker and what goals they have for a social work profession. The student should, however, not limit themselves to a particular field or population. Many students find their interest in certain types of populations and sites is piqued when they have an opportunity to do a field placement at a site they never considered before. Students should also consider the size of the program. Many of our students at Seton Hall have reported that they like and prefer small classes where they can get to know their peers well and their instructors know who they are and what their strengths are.
What are the challenges or opportunities for becoming a social worker in New Jersey?
Certainly, the challenges are financial. Social work is not the profession to go into if one wants to become wealthy. That said, a social worker can certainly make a comfortable living while doing good work and having an impact on individuals, families, communities, and social justice. Additionally, while student loans are always a concern, many social work jobs could fall into the student loans public service forgiveness program. While the prior record of this program has been abysmal, the program is currently being reviewed by members of Congress and the administration to improve the participation rates and approvals. Beyond that, the most direct way to improve one’s status in the field and compete for the better paying jobs is to become licensed at the master’s level and then at the clinical level.
What does the future of social work look like in New Jersey?
Social work is a profession that will always be needed. The current global crises of the pandemic and the resulting unemployment, poverty, homelessness, long term medical issues, anxiety, depression, violence are all issues that social workers are trained to address at the micro, mezzo and macro levels. Furthermore, the increasing awareness of bias, prejudice, violence, hate crimes, micro-aggression against BIPOC and LGBTIQA communities are primary concerns of the social work profession. I foresee social work moving further into the social justice realms as well as the clinical and direct service work.
What types of jobs are MSW graduates finding in New Jersey?
The research continues to tell us that there is growth in social work in the healthcare settings as we learn more from neuroscience about the mind/brain/body connection, and the social determinants of health. Also, the research indicates growth in mental health and trauma informed interventions, and in substance abuse due many factors including the opioid crisis. Many of our students have obtained positions in the latter areas of mental health and substance use treatment, probably because one of our concentrations is on behavioral health with a focus on substance abuse. We have also seen students who were taking our forensic social work concentration obtain employment in the courts and corrections field. Given the current focus on police reform, we believe that there will be a greater role for social workers in this area. One of our faculty is working with the community of South Orange NJ to develop an innovative program and one of our graduates is working on this project with him. And trauma informed practice is growing and becoming a necessity for effective interventions. Again, bringing in neuroscience and new understandings like polyvagal theory and trauma, and the ACES (adverse childhood experiences) assessments is uncovering a deeper understanding of trauma, health, and behavior.
Do you have advice or guidance for MSW graduates pursuing a license in New Jersey?
Prepare!!! The licensure exam is unlike any exam graduates have taken in quite a while. Get prep books developed by those with a university and/or Association of Social Work Boards connection. Take prep classes if you can afford them and give yourself a good couple of months of preparation. Create a plan, not only to integrate the information but to be able to sit and focus for four hours without distraction. Learn how to break down multiple choice questions and be patient. And finally, be realistic in expectations. Students have been overly conditioned to expect A’s or perfect scores all the time. We know this leads to anxiety and mistakes. No one is expected to get a perfect score on these kinds of tests and your future employers usually won’t ask about your score. We care about what you can do, not what you did on a test.The goal is to pass to show you are competent in your knowledge and skills as a social worker.