Social Work Salaries

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Social work salaries have a high variability. Social work salaries vary depending upon a number of factors, including geographic location, highest social work degree and area of practice.

Social Work Employment Outlook, 2016-2026


16% Growth Projected in Overall Social Worker Employment
14% Growth in Child, Family & School Social Work Positions
20% Growth in Healthcare & Medical Social Work Positions
19% Growth in Mental Health & Substance Abuse Positions
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections


Hospitals; state, local, and private $58,490
Local government, excluding education and hospitals $52,900 Ambulatory healthcare services $48,340
State government, excluding education and hospitals $46,120
Individual and family services $40,800
Mental health and substance abuse social workers $43,250
Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Variables with Significant Relationships to Salary

  • MSW salaries are $13,000+ higher than BSW salaries
  • PhD & DSW earn $20-$25,000 more than MSWs
  • MSW males earn $1200 more than females
  • PhD females earn $7,000 more than males
  • MSWs earn more in research organizations, government agencies and hospital inpatient facilities
  • MSWs earn higher salaries in large cities or in urban clusters
Results of the Nationwide Survey of 2017 Social Work Graduates by the National Social Work Workforce Study

NASW Research

In 2015, NASW released a profile of the 2015 Social Work Workforce Study that offers data on what social workers earn.

According to the NASW study, the median annual salary for social workers that have earned a graduate degree $48,000. 

For individuals with a master’s degree or higher, the highest median incomes are in national security and international affairs ($69,000), elementary and secondary education ($60,000), executive offices and legislative bodies ($57,500), insurance carriers ($57,000), hospitals ($56,000), and other health care settings ($56,000). 

The average salary in individual and family services, the largest single setting where MSWs work (31%), was $45,000.

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Social Work Salaries Facts

Males have higher salaries than females

Census Division:
Pacific region has highest social work salaries; South Central has lowest social work salaries

Social Work Degree:
DSWs have highest social work salaries; MSWs have second highest social work salaries

Metropolitan areas have highest social work salaries; rural areas have lowest social work salaries

Size of Primary Caseload:
Social workers without caseloads have the highest social work salaries; social workers with 11-15 and 26-50 clients have the lowest social work salaries

Employment Sector:
Private practice has highest social work salaries; private nonprofit has lowest social work salaries

Years of Experience:
Each year of experience is associated with about $419 increase in salary

Variables with a statistically significant relationship with estimated salaries of licensed social workers working full time in a single social work job. From NASW National Study of Licensed Social Workers, 2004.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2006 social workers held about 595,000 jobs. According to the Bureau, employment of social workers was expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2016. 

The rapidly growing elderly population and the aging baby boom generation were creating greater demand for health and social services, resulting in particularly rapid job growth among gerontology social workers.

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JobLink search tool enables you to search and apply to jobs, upload your resume, sign up for alerts, and more.

JobLink is free to all job seekers, but only NASW members can post their resume.

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