Social Work Degrees, Schools, and Careers in New York

New York has the distinction of being the No. 1 state in the country when it comes to social work education. According to the Council on Social Work Education, an organization responsible for accrediting all undergraduate and graduate level social work degree programs in the country, there are 50 accredited social work degree programs in the state of New York. There are 33 baccalaureate degree programs in the state and 17 MSW programs as well, which is five more degree programs than the next nearest state (Pennsylvania). Although the majority of these social work programs are obviously located in New York City, there is a diverse variety of programs that are spread out across the state as well.

The state is also unsurprisingly home to a large and flourishing professional social work industry. In 2014, New York State issued 4,245 social worker licenses and that doesn’t even take into account those individuals working in the field with a Bachelor’s or Master’s in Social Work (BSW or MSW) who have not gone through the licensing process. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, outside of California, no other state in the country employs more social workers than New York. The data shows that New York is home to more than 40,000 professional social workers and those social workers make an annual average salary of between $54,090 and $59,930 depending on the specialty of the social worker.

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There are two different master’s level license in New York, the Licensed Master Social Worker License (LMSW) and the Licensed Clinical Social Worker License (LCSW). Those with an LMSW can provide clinical therapy and diagnosis so long as they are working in a clinical setting under supervision of an LCSW or other mental health professional like a psychologist or psychiatrist. The LCSW is more independent, more advanced and can provide supervision.

For either license, the applicant must meet these requirements:

  • be of good moral character
  • be 21 years or older
  • have earned a Master’s degree in Social Work from a university accredited by the Council of Social Work Education
  • take and pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Clinical Level Examination
  • license fee

There are some differences however. For example, the LCSW license includes a post-graduate fieldwork requirement of 2,000 hours of direct client contact and at least 100 hours of supervision from an LCSW. Although the license does not expire, it must be renewed every three years with 36 hours of continuing education credits. In New York, it is the Office of the Professions that governs the licenses, and any applicant is expected to be knowledgeable about the laws and regulations considering the profession.

New York Social Work Degrees, Schools, and Careers

Most MSW programs are designed to be completed in two to three years, whether students attend classes on campus or online. This may vary for students, based on how many classes are taken each semester and any prerequisites that need to be met. Although graduate school can be competitive, the need for social workers is growing by about 19 percent annually, according to the BLS. Colleges have recognized the need to get students into their programs and through graduation to meet the demand.

Most colleges will require a minimum 3.0 GPA for admission to the MSW program. Students should expect to submit a personal statement and letters of recommendation along with their resume or CV. Any experience in social work or volunteering for community agencies shows a commitment to the field and that the applicant understands the profession. It’s important to demonstrate the ability to handle the stress of dealing with vulnerable individuals while keeping your own identity. Some colleges require a BSW, while others will accept any bachelor’s degree, provided a student has the undergraduate coursework in social work to meet their prerequisites.

Coursework consists of lectures on how best practices and ethics of social work. Some colleges include a capstone or thesis project in their requirements. All social work programs require the practicum, which is where a student directly works with clients in a supervised setting. Not only does this provide the opportunity for applied learning, it also gives the student a chance to discuss their own behavior and outcomes with experienced social workers for the chance to grow in a controlled environment. In addition, this work can be included on a resume post-graduation when applying for jobs.

New York has many universities which offer the master’s degree and bachelor’s degree in a traditional classroom setting and it is important to start with schools located outside of New York City for students looking for a more rural feel for their education. Syracuse University is a national name that offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs in social work. SUNY Stony Brook and SUNY Albany are examples of state colleges that offer both undergraduate and graduate degree programs as well while SUNY Buffalo only offers a Master’s degree in the subject. Skidmore and Siena College are small private liberal arts schools that also offer bachelor’s degrees in social work and Roberts Wesleyan University in Rochester isn’t as well-known but it offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the subject as well.

New York City Social Work Degrees, Schools, and Careers

It should come as no surprise that the biggest city in the country not only is full of social work degree options but is also home to a bustling community of social work professionals as well. In fact, according to the BLS, the New York City metropolitan is home to more than 90 percent of the professional social workers in the state and they make an annual average salary of between $56,000 and $65,000.

For those looking for education, an Ivy League school like Columbia University and its nationally ranked social work degree programs (including a PhD program) are always popular. New York University is another prestigious school that offers multiple social work degree programs and Fordham University has a similar reputation and offering as well. Even more niche schools like Touro University and Yeshiva University have MSW degree programs.

Online Social Work Schools in New York

The best place for finding online social work degree information in New York is through Open SUNY, a marketplace for online degrees and online classes offered through the state universities of New York. Unfortunately, the only university that offers a true online degree in social work is the University of Buffalo, which offers a part-time online MSW program. Fordham University also offers an online MSW program but only to students who live in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut. The U.S. News and World Report’s top-ranked University of California-Berkeley offers an online program for social work. For a college closer to home, check out Northeastern University in Boston, another high ranked college in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

Career Opportunities for Social Workers in New York

Social workers need a broad base of knowledge to be effective within the community. There are many opportunities for employment in social work in both the private and public sectors, whether students are licensed or still working towards their license. Even students with a BSW find employment in the field, working under the direct supervision of an LCSW providing case management and assessment, but not clinical therapy.

Social workers primarily work in community programs and healthcare, helping individuals adjust to new situations and to find resources that meet their needs. In New York, some places currently looking for qualified social workers include the Department of Health, the Office of Mental Health, St. Joseph Hospital, KIPP NYC, NYU Langone Medical Center, Mount Sinai Health System and many more. It’s a profession that changes lives. People of all ages require social workers to assist them in managing the complexities of today’s society. Make a difference by choosing to study social work.

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

Child, Family, and School Social Workers Salary in New York

United States$27,800$34,230$43,250$56,740$75,140
New York$33,290$41,760$53,370$67,980$91,490
Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY$19,790$33,520$49,230$62,890$77,830
Binghamton, NY$29,660$34,950$42,680$51,700$69,920
Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY$26,970$32,480$45,700$63,830$76,040
Elmira, NY$34,560$39,790$48,700$66,770$76,160
Glens Falls, NY$25,140$34,470$44,720$54,760$66,580
Ithaca, NY$34,280$39,020$50,280$59,270$68,640
Kingston, NY$35,680$42,490$52,960$69,940$87,360
Nassau-Suffolk, NY Metropolitan Division$38,700$45,780$60,780$92,790$119,110
New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division$34,500$42,560$53,550$71,010$91,770
Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, NY$30,960$36,780$59,390$74,130$88,710
Rochester, NY$28,860$36,020$46,310$58,840$72,030
Syracuse, NY$31,060$38,470$49,950$62,030$74,360
Utica-Rome, NY$31,900$35,650$44,220$58,360$73,640

Table data taken from 2016 BLS (

Healthcare Social Workers Salary in New York

United States$32,750$41,620$53,760$65,860$80,020
New York$37,630$46,100$58,350$72,230$82,460
Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY$35,610$41,650$50,060$58,170$67,890
Binghamton, NY$33,330$40,580$48,260$59,510$69,300
Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY$31,130$34,260$39,460$52,460$65,890
Ithaca, NY$33,350$41,460$50,280$56,980$61,000
Kingston, NY$42,610$49,260$56,620$72,280$94,940
Nassau-Suffolk, NY Metropolitan Division$36,210$50,110$59,530$71,790$83,900
New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division$40,140$49,250$63,430$74,780$89,910
Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, NY$33,800$38,590$55,100$75,200$87,480
Rochester, NY$35,610$42,460$50,290$57,270$61,610
Syracuse, NY$31,970$36,970$44,560$56,520$69,450
Utica-Rome, NY$37,090$43,980$52,440$59,570$68,060

Table data taken from 2016 BLS (

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Salary in New York

United States$26,730$33,240$42,700$56,610$74,650
New York$35,490$42,690$53,000$67,990$79,020
Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY$33,360$38,770$54,690$68,290$77,260
Binghamton, NY$33,290$43,460$55,590$66,760$75,720
Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY$29,930$34,100$40,770$48,250$61,440
Elmira, NY$46,010$55,540$65,420$73,560$81,090
Glens Falls, NY$42,940$53,240$65,530$81,150$92,150
Ithaca, NY$39,340$43,950$51,220$57,120$60,660
Kingston, NY$28,640$34,770$48,240$58,670$67,450
Nassau-Suffolk, NY Metropolitan Division$33,660$41,760$53,600$67,910$77,220
New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division$34,010$41,160$51,440$67,540$82,310
Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, NY$33,200$36,960$46,230$61,700$75,770
Rochester, NY$33,390$40,040$49,140$59,580$71,030
Syracuse, NY$34,560$40,030$49,080$68,400$78,680
Utica-Rome, NY$48,940$60,790$68,080$74,570$82,120

Table data taken from 2016 BLS (

Featured New York Schools with Social Work Degree Programs