This guide covers masters of social work (MSW) programs in Virginia. It also covers how to get a social work license in Virginia. Finally, the guide also covers salary ranges, job opportunities, and job outlook for social work in Virginia. Ready to explore the world of social work in Virginia? Let’s get started.
CONTENTS OF THIS GUIDE
- Social Work in Virginia
- 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 Virginia
As is the case in most other states, social workers are in high demand in Virginia. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are currently 17,860 social workers in Virginia. However, the demand for social workers will continue to grow as the population evolves.
- Population growth statistics show that the demographics in the population of Virginia are starting to shift. The overall population is aging and slowing down more. This may open a wealth of opportunities for social workers for the aging and elderly populations.
- Virginia is made up of large swaths of rural populations in between high-density urban areas. The overall population is expected to grow to almost 9.5 million by 2030. Experts believe that most of this growth will happen in urban locations while rural locations will see a decline in population.
- Criminal justice social workers are needed to help combat above-average crime rates. Within the urban populations, such as Richmond, the crime rate is above average.
- The overall focus on mental health means that there will be a growing demand for social workers that specialize in helping others in crisis. From ongoing global pandemics to economic uncertainty, there will be a growing need for social workers who understand how to help others who might be struggling with mental health.
- Virginia has the second-largest veteran population – only California tops Virginia. Demand for social workers who specialize in veterans’ affairs will continue to grow.
While these are the predominant factors in social work statistics in Virginia, a wide variety of opportunities that extend beyond these main specialties. From pediatric social work to substance abuse counselor, the need for social workers in Virginia will continue to grow and evolve with its changing demographics.
MSW programs in Virginia
Earning your master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) is the first step towards becoming a licensed social worker in any state. Virginia has a whole handful of schools that specialize in social work, where you can obtain your MSW. Here are just a few of the potential MSW programs based in Virginia:
- George Mason University – The MSW program at George Mason University was started in 2002. There are two, three, and four-year MSW paths that you can choose from. Each program starts with a generalist year. The following year(s) are specialization years, where you decide to home in on your focus within the broad category of social work. If you’ve already obtained a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a CSWE accredited program, you might be eligible for their Advanced Standing program. They also offer an online program.
- Norfolk State University – Norfolk State University offers both a master’s and doctoral program in social work. To increase your chances of getting accepted into the MSW program, you’ll need a BSW from an accredited university. You can still apply if you don’t have a BSW, but you’ll need to show that you’ve met some of the behavioral science and prerequisite requirements. This program typically takes two years but can be extended to a 6-semester period with approval from the school.
- Radford University – Radford University offers an MSW program focused on rural practice. However, this doesn’t mean that Radford graduates exclusively practice in rural areas. There are three different program paths that you can take: the standard 5-semester program, the advanced 4-semester program, and the part-time 3-year program based in Roanoke. Radford University’s programs are fully CSWE accredited and will count towards professional licensure in most states.
- Virginia Commonwealth University – VCU’s MSW program is ranked 11 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. They offer programs for both an MSW and PhD in social work. If you don’t already have your BSW, you can also obtain that from VCU. You can choose from three different, in-person programs: one-year, two-year, or four-year. The one-year program is an advanced standing program and has a more rigorous acceptance process. The two-year program is their standard MSW program and the four-year program is for part-time students who wish to obtain their MSW. They also offer online programs.
Online MSW programs in Virginia
If you can’t pursue your MSW in-person, then you might consider one of these online MSW programs offered by Virginia-based schools:
- Virginia Commonwealth University – VCU offers a CSWE accredited MSW online program. They offer a full-time, four-semester program and a part-time, ten-semester program. All online students specialize in clinical social work.
- George Mason University – This online MSW program is CSWE accredited. With a focus on social justice, online students can specialize in Adults & Healthy Aging, or Children, Youth & Families. The online program offers flexibility for part-time students.
There are also online MSW programs from out-of-state universities that offer the CSWE accredited programs that you need to obtain your professional licensure in Virginia. Here are some of your options:
- University of Kentucky – UK’s online MSW program is CWSE accredited. The typical program is a 4-semester program, although they also offer an advanced standing 2-semester program.
- Florida State University – This college has one of the top-ranked CSWE accredited MSW programs in the country. Their online programs offer a traditional, 3-year path as well as an advanced standing 2-year path.
- University of Denver – The University of Denver’s online MSW program ranked #17 on U.S. News and World Report’s list of CWSE-accredited schools. With their advanced standing program, you can obtain your MSW online in as few as 18 months.
How to become a social worker in Virginia
There are several requirements you’ll need to meet to become a social worker based in Virginia. While we’ve covered formal education, here are all the requirements you’ll need to meet:
- Obtain your degree (either BSW or MSW) from a CSWE-accredited program
- Get practical experience under a licensed professional’s supervision. If you’re focusing on clinical work, you’ll need at least 3,000 hours of approved supervision in the clinical field. LBSW applicants do not need supervised experience as of March 5, 2020.
- Sit for your respective exam
- Pass your exam and apply for licensure
Social work license requirements in Virginia
While social work is fairly consistent across state lines, there are some specifics you’ll need to know if you plan on working within the state of Virginia. In Virginia, you can obtain three different types of licensure: a licensed baccalaureate social worker (LBSW), a licensed social worker (LSW), and a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).
According to Virginia’s state licensing board, you’ll need to meet the following requirements to become a LBSW in Virginia:
- Obtain your BSW from a CSWE accredited program.
- Apply for and pass the LBSW exam
For an LSW you’ll need to meet the following requirements to become a LBSW in Virginia:
- Obtain your MSW from a CSWE accredited program.
- Apply for and pass the LMSW exam
To obtain your LSCW licensure in Virginia, here is what the Virginia state licensing board requires:
- Obtain your MSW degree with a clinical focus from a CSWE accredited program
- Apply for supervision approval
- Complete post-MSW supervised experience in an in-state clinical setting
- Apply for the LCSW licensure exam
- Pass the ASWB clinical level exam
Social worker salary in Virginia
Virginia employs a significant number of social workers across the state. Out of 17,860 total social workers. Like most other states, the average salary depends on which area you specialize in. Here is the breakdown on salary data for social workers in Virginia, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data:
The average social worker salary in Virginia is $54,444, while the range of average salaries goes from $52,800 to $71,600.
- Child, family, and school social worker – There are 9,270 child, family, and school social workers in Virginia. The reported average annual salary for this group of social workers is $52,800 a year.
- Healthcare social worker – There are 3,410 healthcare social workers employed in the state, making an average salary of $57,640.
- Mental health and substance abuse social worker – The 4,540 mental health and substance abuse social workers in Virginia make an average annual salary of $52,980.
- Social worker (all other) – The last group of social workers, which includes researchers, managers, professors, and private practice social workers numbers 640. They make a reported average annual salary of $71,600.
Social work job outlook in Virginia
The demand for social workers in Virginia is projected to continue to grow. The COVID-19 pandemic has put strain both economically and mentally on many Virginians. In 2016, the Governor of Virginia declared the opioid abuse crisis a public health emergency. Healthcare and Social Assistance is projected to be the largest growing industry through 2024. You don’t need to worry about your return on investment if you choose to spend your time and money on becoming a social worker. As is the case across the nation, Virginia will continue to need more social workers for the foreseeable future.
Social Work Programs in Virginia
- What are the most important factors for students deciding on an MSW program in Virginia?
- What does the future of social work look like in Virginia?
- What types of jobs are MSW graduates finding in Virginia?
- Do you have advice or guidance for MSW graduates pursuing a license in Virginia?
What are the most important factors for students deciding on an MSW program in Virginia?
My answer may be a bit different if I was located in a different part of the state, but I would say the most important factors are cost, flexibility, and a positive view of the institution. Many students who decide to come back to college for their MSW are working professionals, or they’re changing careers. Often they have families they have to support, or other requirements of their life they can’t just drop to go back to school. For those students having a lower cost option that is flexible is incredibly important. Finally, with the many MSW options available, prospective students often rely on word of mouth and whether they have a positive view of a program when deciding on where to apply.
What does the future of social work look like in Virginia?
I think the future of social work in Virginia, in many regards, mirrors that of what the profession looks like nationally. One thing that the pandemic has demonstrated is that telehealth is here to stay, and a viable option for providing social work services. However, I don’t believe that it will replace the more traditional face-to-face work that we do in the profession. Instead, I see the future of the profession being one where practitioners must be adept at delivering services in-person, online, via text, and potentially other mediums. This inevitable means that the social workers will have to hone a variety of skills that allows them to be successful at delivering services in a variety of means. I also think that social work will continue to grow in importance as society continues to combat stigma associated with getting help. Add in the increasing means we can connect with clients, and the future is bright for the profession.
What types of jobs are MSW graduates finding in Virginia?
In my part of the state (SW Virginia) MSW graduates are filling a variety of roles. They range from clinicians in a variety of settings, to grassroots social justice organizers. More concrete examples of areas where MSW graduates work are: veterans administration, substance abuse, case management, hospital social work, geriatric, and in-patient settings. However, that is only a small list of the places that graduates may choose to work, since one of the things that an MSW affords a graduate is flexibility in choosing how they want to apply the degree, even in a more rural setting.
Do you have advice or guidance for MSW graduates pursuing a license in Virginia?
My biggest piece of advice for future, current, or recently graduated MSW students is to sit down and create a plan for your career trajectory. You don’t have to go into great depth with 3- and 5-year plans, but have an idea of the path that you ultimately want to walk. Once you do that, work on what you need to for that trajectory to come into being. With licensure, become familiar with the state requirements, and incorporate them into your trajectory. For those who are deciding on whether — and where — to apply for a MSW, this can help determine what program may be the best fit for you. Sometimes it may be one that offers you the opportunity to intern with a population or agency that will give you the skills to ultimately work in your area of interest. For those students who are current MSW students, creating a trajectory may help you to decide where you want to intern, or electives and additional training that will help you go in the right direction. Students who are recent MSW graduates can then focus on what they need to do to complete licensure requirements, while working towards securing the training and expertise to work in the area they are passionate about.