Social Work Degrees, Schools, and Careers in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has long had the reputation as one of the best states in the country for higher education and that reputation is still well-deserved. Money ranked the country’s Top 50 colleges in July of 2014 and Massachusetts and California each had seven schools on the list, making them arguably the best states in the country for students looking into quality higher education. It shouldn’t be a surprise then that Massachusetts is one of the best states in the country for students interested in social work and social work degree programs.

As of 2014, Massachusetts was home to more than 25,000 professional social workers ranging from child and family social workers to substance abuse social workers and with 20 schools in the state that offer Master’s degree programs in social work, there are plenty of options for students not only looking for social work education but also career opportunities in the field after school as well.

The state recognizes four licenses for social workers:

  • Licensed Social Worker Assistant (LSWA) which requires a bachelor’s degree in any field or an associate’s degree or 60 credit hours in a human services field, or 1000 hours of education in social work.
  • Licensed Social Worker (LSW) which has different routes, the easiest of which is a bachelor’s degree in social work or a bachelor’s degree in any field plus two years of work experience in social work.
  • Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW) which requires a master’s degree in social work. There is no other route.
  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) requires a master’s degree in social work, plus applicants must have their current license as a LCSW, and two years of post-graduate work in the field and 100 hours of supervision from a current LICSW.

Each license has an exam that students must take before they can receive their certification. They will also need to include their transcripts and documentation of any experience with their license application. After licensure is approved, it is good for two years. To renew a license, social workers must earn need continuing education credits (CEUs), starting at 10 hours for LSWAs and increasing to 30 for LICSWS.

Entry into a graduate program can be competitive. Students will need to make sure they have the prerequisite classes for the program. Many programs may require a 3.0 GPA, but most programs do not require the GRE. Although the college may not require real world experience, it can make the difference in the application. Students may want to do some volunteer work in the field their interested in. A crisis hotline is a good place to see if can handle dealing with mental health issues. They should be prepared to submit their resume or CV and professional references. Most colleges will require a personal statement which discusses the student’s interest in social work and why they are pursuing their master’s degree.

If students are interested in looking outside the city of Boston for college, Salem State University has a nationally ranked social work degree program, UMass-Amherst has multiple social work degree programs worth considering and Smith College is one of the nation’s most respected liberal arts colleges and it has multiple social work degree programs as well.

Boston Social Work Degrees, Schools, and Careers

Contrary to popular belief, the city of Boston is not the only location in Massachusetts that has quality colleges and universities but it is obviously a great place to start. Out of the 20 schools in the state that offer MSW programs, 11 can generously be considered part of the Boston area including schools with nationally ranked social work degree programs like Boston College and Boston University. Other prestigious universities in the area that have social work degree programs include Harvard University, Tufts University, Northeastern University and Suffolk University. If students prefer cheaper options at public universities, UMass-Boston offers a Master’s degree in the related field of Public Policy Analysis.

As one of the most populated cities in the country, Boston is obviously home to the highest concentration of social workers in the state. In fact, the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy metropolitan area has the fifth-highest concentration of child, family and school social workers in the country at 4,850. In total, the metropolitan area has more than 10,000 professional social workers employed in the area. It should be noted of course that the heavy concentration of social workers correlates to the density of population in the same area, so this does not necessarily indicate an over-abundance of social worker careers in the region.

Online Social Work Schools in Massachusetts

The options for students interested in an online social work degree in Massachusetts are relatively limited. Massachusetts Colleges Online (MCO) is a consortium of the 15 community colleges and 9 state colleges of Massachusetts that offer online education. Unfortunately, none of the schools in the consortium offer a degree in social work. Schools like Bridgewater State and Westfield State offer online classes in social work and research related to social work, but none of the state colleges offer online degrees. Simmons College School of Social Work, does have an accredited online MSW program as does Boston University.

The content at Simmons is available 24/7 online and students can take their field practicums at clinical sites across the country. BU's program is a part-time program that focuses on clinical social work. Harvard has online courses in social work as well, but for the most part students should look into some of the national online social work degree programs such as the University of Southern California School of Social Work.

Career Opportunities for Social Workers in Massachusetts

Nationwide, the job outlook for social workers is growing at about 19 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most states have a reciprocal license procedure, so once someone has their MSW or LCSW, they can more easily get licensed to practice in another state. Nationally, the median pay is about $44,000.

In Massachusetts, social workers can expect an annual average salary of between $47,520 and $62,990, depending on the type of social worker and the job. According to Career One Stop, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, the projected annual job openings for healthcare social workers in Massachusetts is about 450. Considering the education, licensure procedure, and training involved in just earning the LSW, the outlook looks good for social workers. One report puts the job growth rate at around 25 percent through 2020.

Although social workers may have more opportunities in metropolitan areas, just by virtue of the population and number of hospitals, rural areas also need social workers. To provide services as an independent counselor, students will need the highest level of licensing in Massachusetts, the LICSW. With the BSW or LSW, students should find work in a hospital setting or counseling center that has LCSWs to supervise.

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

Child, Family, and School Social Workers Salary in Massachusetts

United States$27,800$34,230$43,250$56,740$75,140
Barnstable Town, MA$31,560$43,220$57,650$72,500$85,990
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA NECTA Division$30,270$40,850$53,830$79,230$95,020
Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, MA NECTA Division$30,870$34,430$41,040$50,870$61,400
Framingham, MA NECTA Division$27,990$32,730$38,700$54,420$66,620
Haverhill-North Andover-Amesbury, MA-NH NECTA Division$27,020$32,150$36,720$44,520$58,110
Lawrence-Methuen-Salem, MA-NH NECTA Division$24,010$34,290$43,200$51,750$62,190
Leominster-Fitchburg-Gardner, MA$22,840$26,210$30,430$51,710$61,880
Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, MA-NH NECTA Division$34,200$42,370$55,840$79,060$91,260
New Bedford, MA$29,620$33,490$38,360$47,610$61,630
Peabody, MA NECTA Division$34,780$41,100$46,960$56,670$72,500
Pittsfield, MA$26,700$31,190$38,050$47,310$56,030
Springfield, MA-CT$29,320$36,510$46,990$59,680$72,590
Taunton-Norton-Raynham, MA NECTA Division$32,460$36,550$44,290$55,000$67,830
Worcester, MA-CT$27,600$32,070$39,680$48,260$59,980

Table data taken from 2016 BLS (

Healthcare Social Workers Salary in Massachusetts

United States$32,750$41,620$53,760$65,860$80,020
Barnstable Town, MA$34,300$39,730$58,360$71,890$81,770
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA NECTA Division$38,040$51,170$61,550$72,150$82,050
Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, MA NECTA Division$31,180$35,310$43,690$60,370$73,740
Framingham, MA NECTA Division$43,420$51,370$60,200$70,700$77,500
Haverhill-North Andover-Amesbury, MA-NH NECTA Division$40,230$44,960$53,770$62,770$73,020
Lawrence-Methuen-Salem, MA-NH NECTA Division$33,370$39,800$53,140$63,800$76,140
Leominster-Fitchburg-Gardner, MA$32,380$37,260$45,740$62,170$77,610
Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, MA-NH NECTA Division$50,080$54,330$61,000$72,070$80,820
New Bedford, MA$43,540$52,600$61,860$71,660$78,090
Peabody, MA NECTA Division$40,670$48,330$57,670$67,100$74,570
Pittsfield, MA$38,500$46,980$57,580$68,970$76,430
Springfield, MA-CT$36,480$44,840$57,100$70,080$80,310
Worcester, MA-CT$34,130$43,020$55,070$64,780$74,080

Table data taken from 2016 BLS (

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Salary in Massachusetts

United States$26,730$33,240$42,700$56,610$74,650
Barnstable Town, MA$23,870$27,100$32,680$39,840$50,480
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA NECTA Division$23,800$32,630$47,080$71,100$85,730
Brockton-Bridgewater-Easton, MA NECTA Division$26,720$33,470$57,320$75,040$84,320
Framingham, MA NECTA Division$24,860$27,470$34,870$55,400$68,150
Haverhill-North Andover-Amesbury, MA-NH NECTA Division$35,510$40,870$45,930$54,140$62,260
Lawrence-Methuen-Salem, MA-NH NECTA Division$21,020$22,830$27,170$42,980$63,390
Leominster-Fitchburg-Gardner, MA$26,790$30,550$36,400$63,500$71,660
Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, MA-NH NECTA Division$27,470$32,970$57,640$73,000$80,240
New Bedford, MA$26,250$29,820$38,600$54,980$67,190
Peabody, MA NECTA Division$34,690$41,560$52,850$66,640$79,830
Springfield, MA-CT$22,160$26,480$39,450$65,850$78,110
Worcester, MA-CT$26,840$30,240$38,640$62,330$77,250

Table data taken from 2016 BLS (

Featured Massachusetts Schools with Social Work Degree Programs