Social Work Degrees, Schools, and Careers in Florida

Florida has long been one of the leaders in higher education nationally. But when it comes to social work education, students accustomed to a plethora of higher education options in Florida may be surprised to learn that the state’s higher education options for a degree in social work are more limited. According to the Council on Social Work Education, the governing body responsible for accrediting social work degree programs, Florida is home to just 24 social work degree programs and there are only 14 institutions of higher education that offer these degree programs. This can be both a blessing and a curse for students looking at social work education in Florida. On one hand, it doesn’t give students the same kind of flexibility they might find in California or New York. But on the other hand, it does allow students to do the research more comprehensively. The other good news is that most of the schools do offer an MSW program, which is far and away the most popular social work degree choice for students.

Florida is also a pretty solid state for students who just graduated and are looking for work in the social work industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for social workers over the next ten years will grow by about 19 percent annually. Florida has one of the highest levels of employment for social workers in the United States, as the state has more than 20,000 professional social workers employed and those social workers earn an average annual wage of between $39,340 and $60,860. Jobs for licensed social workers are available in both the government and private sector, with the ability to focus on children or seniors, finding resources for individuals or providing clinical therapeutic services.

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In Florida, the greatest opportunities for employment is in major cities such as Orlando, Miami, Tampa and Tallahassee, but social workers are required both rural and urban settings. Hospitals and community service organizations hire social workers to help their clients adjust to new diagnoses or find the services they need to live productively, but there are other places that hire social workers.

Florida recognizes two social work licenses – the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW). The main difference is the focus of the coursework for the degree. A CMSW is more administratively focused while the LCSW is clinically directed. The Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage & Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling is the state agency which oversees all licenses for social work in Florida.

Both licenses require:

  • MSW from an accredited university
  • Post-degree supervision
  • Pass the masters level exam by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)
  • Continuing education in specific courses, such as medical errors, HIV/AIDS, and domestic violence. The license is good for two years, then re-application with proof of continuing education is required. A provisional license is available for applicants while they work towards the LCSW.

To get licensed as a social worker in Florida, an applicant is required to have a Masters in Social Work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CWSE). Getting into these programs can be competitive. Expect to provide letters of reference from professors or professionals, transcripts with a minimum 3.0 GPA, and an essay explaining why the social work degree is important to the applicant’s future. Most programs don’t require the GRE, but it’s important to check with the college before application.

Jacksonville Social Work Degrees, Schools, and Careers

In a state full of recognizable cities, it seems kind of surprising that Jacksonville isn’t just the largest city in the state in terms of population, it is at least double the size of any other city in the state. The professional social work community is sizable but not enormous in Jacksonville. According to the BLS, there are roughly 1,400 professional social workers working in Jacksonville and those social workers earn an annual average salary of between $38,770 and $59,020. Unfortunately, Jacksonville is something of a desert when it comes to higher education options, especially social work degree options. In fact, the University of North Florida is the only school located anywhere near Jacksonville (it is located in Jacksonville) and it only has a Bachelor’s degree program in Social Work.

Miami Social Work Degrees, Schools, and Careers

Miami is the second-largest city in the state but it is also the most glamorous and has the most to offer in terms of social work education. The number of social workers working in Miami is slightly skewed because the BLS considers Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach as part of the Miami metropolitan area. But according to the BLS, Miami has more than 4,000 professional social workers in the area and they make an annual average salary of between $40,600 and $57,070. The education options are where Miami really shines however. One of Barry University’s graduates recently earned the Social Worker of the Year for her work with mothers and babies and the school has both undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Florida International University, #89 on the U.S. News & World Report for the MSW degree, provides the MSW, as well as the PhD in Social Work. Also, Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton offers advanced standing for BSW students, which allows for quicker completion of the MSW.

Online Social Work Schools in Florida

The online programs that are accredited by the CWSE include the same type of courses that a student would attend if they were in a traditional classroom setting, but the coursework is done online. Most programs are designed to be completed in two to three years, but it does depend on the number of classes taken each semester. The field practice is handled differently within each college, some allowing the practicum experience to take place in the student’s community under supervision of a LCSW while some require the practicum to take place in designated communities.

Florida State University is the only online program accredited by the CSWE but the program is only open to Florida residents and is a part-time program only. Also, Saint Leo University offers online program to Florida residents. Some of U.S. News & World Report’s top-ranked universities which offer the MSW on their campus also offer an online program for students who can’t get to the actual university to attend classes. Number 11 on the list of universities that provide the MSW is the University of Southern California, which gives a student the flexibility of taking classes as time permits while still providing interaction with other students and professors.

In addition to lectures and coursework, each MSW student will complete at least one practicum in the field with real clients. Check with the college to see how the practicum is handled for the program. Some online programs require the student to work in the area where the school is located, while others let a student work under supervision in their hometown. University of New England, another top-ranked college, lets students do all of the work online without a college visit. Indiana University which ranks high on the U.S. News College Report also has a great online program for MSWs.

Career Opportunities for Social Workers in Florida

According to their website, the largest employer of social workers in the country is actually the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In Florida, the chapter is located in Orlando and sure enough, the Department of Veterans Affairs in Orlando is actively looking for qualified social workers to join its staff. But government bodies and hospitals are hardly the only places that are looking for social workers in Florida. For example, there are places like the Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach that is looking for a case manager with social work experience or the Florida Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale that is looking for a Director of Case Management. There are also companies like PeopleFirst Florida HR, Family Preservation Services of Florida in Naples and Children's Home Society of Florida in Defuniak Springs that are all looking for social workers. Even universities like Florida Atlantic University and the University of Miami are looking for licensed social workers with experience. It is true that the state and hospitals will be the largest employers of social workers in Florida, but don't make the mistake of assuming that those are the only options.

For more information about the process of becoming a social worker in Florida, visit our page on Florida social worker license requirements.

Child, Family, and School Social Workers Salary in Florida

United States$27,800$34,230$43,250$56,740$75,140
Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL$31,530$33,830$38,000$47,660$68,230
Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL$24,620$28,410$35,590$44,500$69,630
Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL$19,260$28,290$37,860$44,280$49,100
Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, FL Metropolitan Division$30,710$34,320$40,120$52,290$60,760
Gainesville, FL$21,250$28,850$35,660$42,570$48,190
Jacksonville, FL$22,650$30,470$38,320$46,890$61,220
Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL$29,430$33,590$38,570$51,860$60,980
Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, FL Metropolitan Division$29,960$34,940$43,060$56,850$74,360
Naples-Marco Island, FL$22,050$25,840$33,900$42,920$51,920
North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, FL$22,860$28,480$35,790$45,230$61,200
Ocala, FL$25,960$33,290$40,010$44,780$50,210
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL$24,670$28,390$36,560$46,520$67,050
Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL$25,780$29,320$36,440$44,390$53,700
Panama City-Lynn Haven-Panama City Beach, FL$23,220$28,070$33,530$38,350$44,200
Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL$17,780$20,250$33,180$38,700$44,690
Port St. Lucie, FL$28,300$33,610$39,860$45,650$49,730
Punta Gorda, FL$20,340$27,150$45,770$56,640$78,640
Sebastian-Vero Beach, FL$29,420$34,090$43,090$56,350$64,500
Tallahassee, FL$23,560$28,300$34,290$40,380$50,040
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL$19,100$27,570$37,860$54,210$67,200
West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Boynton Beach, FL Metropolitan Division$27,060$32,450$37,710$44,870$54,930

Table data taken from 2016 BLS (

Healthcare Social Workers Salary in Florida

United States$32,750$41,620$53,760$65,860$80,020
Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL$33,040$39,100$45,440$53,160$59,150
Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL$26,090$28,290$32,750$42,640$75,920
Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL$30,390$36,550$46,370$56,160$62,350
Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, FL Metropolitan Division$32,740$41,220$54,690$68,830$105,320
Gainesville, FL$36,790$44,300$53,420$61,820$72,170
Jacksonville, FL$26,960$33,940$44,670$55,880$61,940
Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL$33,270$41,840$49,540$57,980$63,540
Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, FL Metropolitan Division$25,780$32,720$41,460$56,200$67,940
Naples-Marco Island, FL$36,470$44,320$53,790$63,210$106,850
North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, FL$27,670$42,040$51,710$56,820$59,890
Ocala, FL$34,480$41,600$46,850$62,490$82,550
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL$28,420$36,740$45,720$57,070$69,310
Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL$29,950$44,720$54,410$61,690$71,200
Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL$36,140$41,430$46,270$53,500$60,670
Port St. Lucie, FL$34,310$40,860$51,580$64,440$74,170
Punta Gorda, FL$41,830$45,460$51,360$56,790$60,050
Sebastian-Vero Beach, FL$33,130$41,670$46,560$54,180$60,980
Tallahassee, FL$28,730$33,910$40,890$47,200$55,840
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL$25,280$29,600$36,780$48,560$60,160
West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Boynton Beach, FL Metropolitan Division$29,530$34,690$44,230$57,090$77,170

Table data taken from 2016 BLS (

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Salary in Florida

United States$26,730$33,240$42,700$56,610$74,650
Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL$19,300$24,880$29,940$34,960$37,990
Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL$31,790$34,900$40,870$47,770$122,010
Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, FL Metropolitan Division$25,880$31,910$41,390$50,580$59,600
Gainesville, FL$31,310$33,500$37,580$44,210$50,150
Jacksonville, FL$30,360$32,580$35,370$38,720$57,760
Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL$27,570$32,110$44,340$53,590$59,030
Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, FL Metropolitan Division$21,200$30,840$38,740$48,900$58,540
North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, FL$32,620$34,650$39,320$60,400$132,860
Ocala, FL$20,990$24,580$37,960$46,860$61,590
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL$25,750$28,090$33,990$44,000$49,790
Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL$26,830$32,790$36,540$43,020$66,960
Panama City-Lynn Haven-Panama City Beach, FL$30,270$35,330$42,130$48,230$55,670
Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL$27,340$31,170$37,270$44,030$48,390
Tallahassee, FL$31,320$32,720$32,740$39,230$41,830
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL$22,360$26,240$34,400$46,960$60,790
West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Boynton Beach, FL Metropolitan Division$19,340$32,090$36,900$46,720$58,790

Table data taken from 2016 BLS (

Featured Florida Schools with Social Work Degree Programs