This guide is all about getting an MSW degree in Tennessee. Included in the guide is a summary of the most popular universities offering a social work degree in Tennessee, the average salary for social workers, as well as information about obtaining a social work license in Tennessee.
CONTENTS OF THIS GUIDE
- Social Work In Tennessee
- MSW programs
- Online MSW programs
- How to become a social worker
- License requirements
- Social worker jobs and salary
- Job outlook
- School listings
- Expert advice
Social work in Tennessee
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) there are 13,840 social workers employed in Tennessee. More are needed, however, and the state of Tennessee encourages students to seek financial aid to help pay for their social work education.
For instance, social workers who are employed in public service jobs in Tennessee may be eligible for student loan forgiveness. The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 stipulates that after a publicly employed social worker has made 120 payments on their student loans there is a chance for the loans to be forgiven.
There is also the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program. In order to be eligible for this program a clinical social worker must spend at least two years working in an area of the state that has limited healthcare availability.
The state of Tennessee encourages all of its social workers to take advantage of these programs as they can help to make a MSW degree significantly more affordable. More information on these programs as well as other great opportunities for social workers in Tennessee is available here.
MSW programs in Tennessee
One of the most important factors when considering a MSW program is the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accreditation. The CSWE acts as an oversight body for the field of social work, ensuring that certain standards are met both in the workplace and at universities teaching social work.
Many employers will only consider hiring an applicant from a CSWE certified program so it’s highly advisable that students take a degree from a certified university.
Tennessee offers a number of different MSW programs, giving students a range of options for where they pursue their master’s degree. For instance, the Mid-Tennessee Collaborative Master of Social Work (MTC-MSW) Program allows students to take their MSW degree from one of three universities,
- Austin Peay State University
- Middle Tennessee State University
- Tennessee State University
The programs are available full time or part time, thus catering to students who may wish to continue working while they’re studying. All of the programs place a special emphasis on diversity, the promotion of client well-being and social justice through the improvement of public resources.
Another option is the University of Tennessee Knoxville (UTK). UTK offers more than half a dozen social work education programs, everything from a bachelor’s degree to a PhD in social work. The UTK MSW program is available on campus or as an online degree (more information on this in the following section).
Online MSW programs in Tennessee
When considering online MSW programs it’s important to note the difference between a hybrid program and a full online education. With a hybrid program some classes are viewed online while other lectures must be taken on campus. With a full online education 100% of the classes are taken over the internet and there is no requirement to visit the campus.
The University of Tennessee Knoxville’s MSW program is available fully online without the need to visit campus. The program is CSWE accredited and is taught by the same professors who teach the campus-based MSW classes.
Just like the campus-based program the online program can be taken part time or full time. There is also an advanced program for students who have an undergraduate degree in social work. All classes take advantage of sophisticated online tools to encourage discussion between students and professors. Some classes are pre-recorded while other classes are live and must be viewed as they happen.
Austin Peay State University also offers a hybrid online program for students who want to take their MSW education online. This degree is part of the Mid-Tennessee Collaborative program, mentioned in the previous section.
How to become a social worker in Tennessee
Unlike other states Tennessee allows bachelor degree holders to be employed as social workers. However, the role is limited and most of the work must be supervised. For the purpose of this article we’ll focus solely on graduate degree holders. The following is a brief overview of the steps that a person should take to become a social worker in Tennessee.
- Complete an MSW or PhD program in social work. A majority of social work positions require the candidate to have a master’s degree or higher.
- Pay a $230 fee and take the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam. The exam consists of 170 questions, of which only 150 are graded. A social worker should score 75 percent or higher on the exam.
- Pass a background check.
- Submit a license application form to the state social work board. The fee for the license application varies based on the license type.
- Wait for the license to be granted. Once that happens the social worker may begin to seek employment.
A PhD is a great degree for any social worker who aspires to manage a community center, have a hand in crafting policy or perform detailed statistical analysis. Anyone interested in learning more about a PhD program in social work can find all of the information they need on our doctorate degree page. Also included on the page is a list of PhD social work programs that are currently available in the United States.
Social work license requirements in Tennessee
The best source of information about social work licensure in Tennessee is the state’s Board of Social Workers. It’s advisable to get information directly from the state website as licensing requirements can change at any time.
Tennessee has three different types of licenses for social workers with a graduate’s degree.
Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)
This license allows a person to practice social work only under appropriate supervision. The license is also sometimes called a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW). To qualify for this license an applicant must have a master’s or Ph.D. degree and pass the ASWB exam with a score of 75 percent or higher.
Licensed Advanced Practitioner Social Worker (LAPSW)
A LAPSW license holder can engage in non-clinical social work without being supervised. Clinical social work is possible with this license but only under supervision.
In order to qualify for a LAPSW license the candidate must complete 3,000 hours or more of non-clinical social work. There is a requirement that at least 100 of these hours must be supervised. The candidate must also score at least 75 percent on the ASWB test.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
A social worker holding the LCSW license is permitted to practice unsupervised clinical social work. They may work in a private practice or for a public institution. This is the highest level of licensure available to social workers employed in Tennessee and LCSW licensed social workers typically earn the highest salary.
In order to qualify for a LCSW license the applicant must complete at least 3,000 hours of clinical social work, 100 of which must have been supervised work. The applicant will also need to take the ASWB and score 75 percent or higher on the exam.
Social work license renewal in Tennessee
Regardless of which license they have a social worker must renew their credentials once every two years. Each license has its own set of requirements that must be met before it can be renewed, (for example, continued education and a renewal fee). More information about license renewal is available here.
Social worker jobs and social worker salary in Tennessee
BLS data indicates the the average salary for a social worker employed in the state of Tennessee is $45,557 per year. That’s an average salary for social workers of all occupations. The salary range for a social worker in Tennessee is $39,980 at the low end and 53,000 at the high end.
It’s also possible to break down social work salaries and the number of social work jobs in Tennessee by sub-field. The following are the average yearly salaries for four different types of social workers.
- Child, family, and school social workers in Tennessee number 5,730 in this field and make an average annual salary of $42,720.
- Mental health and substance abuse social worker in the state account for 1,600 employed social workers and make an average salary of $39,980 a year.
- Healthcare social workers comprise 4,980 members of the work force and make an average salary of $48,280.
- Social workers all other – There are 1,530 social workers in Tennessee that don’t neatly fit into one of the other categories, including social workers that are employed in management, research, or private practice. They make an average of $53,000 a year.
Social workers in Tennessee have it good when it comes to future job prospects. Even social workers who are only starting their undergraduate education now can expect to find a good job after graduation.
That level of job growth rate for social workers is well above the national average and indicates that social work is a high demand field with more jobs than there are candidates to fill them. This is especially true for MSW and PhD social work graduates, as a graduate degree is mandatory for many social work positions.
Social Work Programs in Tennessee
- What are the most important factors for students deciding on an MSW program in Tennessee?
- What are the challenges or opportunities for becoming a social worker in Tennessee?
- Do you have advice or guidance for MSW graduates pursuing a license in Tennessee?
What are the most important factors for students deciding on an MSW program in Tennessee?
For most students I would say, location, cost, and reputation. Students oftentimes cannot move far away to attend graduate school due to life responsibilities so they look near their homes. Cost is also a factor as graduate school is pricey. Finally, students look for programs that have a reputation for faculty being responsive to student needs, available and having good class options.
What are the challenges or opportunities for becoming a social worker in Tennessee?
One challenge is the lower pay scale in some areas. More rural areas tend to pay less and have fewer opportunities and Tennessee has many rural areas. Also, when people work in their community oftentimes confidentiality can become an issue. You may see a distant relative or former high school classmate on the client roster then you have to deal with confidentiality issues in the agency.
What does the future of social work look like in Tennessee?
There are definitely more jobs on the horizon in many locales, schools are hiring more social workers for kids, more nursing homes have social workers, more individuals are seeking mental health assistance, and there are always employment opportunities in career planning and placement agencies. I can see social work growing in Tennessee as an occupation.
What types of jobs are MSW graduates finding in Tennessee?
In our area, near the Ft. Campbell Military Installation, many MSWs are affiliated with the military and veteran population. Outside of that, social workers at master’s level are highly employed in mental health, medical, school social work, chemical dependency and policy and planning. Some of our graduates have worked their way into director of local social service agencies rather quickly locally as well.
Do you have advice or guidance for MSW graduates pursuing a license in Tennessee?
Pay attention in your theory and skills classes. You will need these in the real world of social work. The theory part will help you understand human behavior and the skills we teach give you basic skills needed to guide your future practice. Also, attend practice based conferences to stay up to date on new interventions. Don’t let your skills get stale. Learn new ways to help people and keep growing as a professional.
Lastly, take care of yourself. Take vacation days, have a hobby, have a spiritual life if that is your gig, spend time with people you love and who love you. Try to prevent getting burned out by taking care of your needs too.