MSW Programs in California
MSW degrees in California have similar structure and curricula to other MSW programs nationwide. Each degree features 40-60 credit hours of classes, which usually takes 2-3 years to complete at a full-time pace. To graduate, you also need to complete 1,000-1,200 supervised internship hours. These work placements can grant valuable experience in the field.
A typical curriculum covers human social behavior and groups, patient assessment, diagnosis, and social welfare policy. Some colleges offer concentrations for students who want to specialize in a particular type of social work. Common specializations include clinical, medical, school, and youth and family social work.
Program costs vary by school. The average annual cost for graduate degree tuition and fees is $19,749 nationwide, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Types of MSWs in California
There are several varieties of MSW degrees available in California, including the following:
Traditional degrees are full-time programs in which you take 3-4 classes per term. It may be possible, though challenging, to work while attending a traditional master's program.
Accelerated programs compress all the coursework and clinical experience into as little as 12 months, leaving little time to work while enrolled.
Advanced standing programs let you skip some introductory courses because you must already hold a bachelor's in social work (BSW) to enroll.
Part-time degrees are relatively common, because many graduate students prefer to keep working while taking one or two classes at a time.
Admissions Requirements for an MSW
You must have a bachelor's degree to apply to an MSW program. Because graduate school is competitive, you might need a GPA of 3.0 or above to be considered. You don't necessarily need an undergraduate social work degree, but having a BSW might let you enroll in an advanced standing program that takes less time to complete.
To apply, you'll typically need to provide the following:
Online MSW Programs in California
Most online master's degrees contain asynchronous courses, which you complete at your own convenience and don't require live meetings. Some programs might have synchronous elements, such as live online discussions over video conferencing apps. You might also find hybrid degrees with a mixture of online and on-campus classwork.
In most cases, you must complete all internships in person at the assigned facility. This is true even for degree programs with completely asynchronous online courses.
How To Become a Social Worker in California
In this section, we describe the specifics of becoming a social worker in this state, broken out by the different fields of social work.
Becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in California
As the name implies, you need a license from the California Board of Behavioral Sciences to be a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). Obtaining an LCSW license is the most arduous path for a social work student to take in California. The standards are so high because these professionals are given wide latitude to diagnose and treat serious mental illnesses. To get this credential, you must complete these steps:
- Earn an MSW from a program that's currently accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)
- Register as an associate clinical social worker (ASW), a kind of LCSW-in-training
- Pass a background check
- Take an ethics course and pass the associated exam
- Obtain at least 3,000 hours of supervised work experience over a minimum period of two years
- Pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) licensing exam for California
Becoming a Child and Family Social Worker in California
These social workers often work for state agencies, but there are no special licenses required to start down this career path in California. You will need a BSW at minimum, and some higher level positions might require an MSW. Your degree will most likely need to be accredited by the CSWE, and studying for a concentration in youth and family social work may prove beneficial in the job market.
Becoming a Medical Social Worker in California
You can practice medical social work — also called healthcare social work — in California with a BSW, though an MSW might improve your employability. Most employers prefer graduates from CSWE-accredited programs, and it might help you to highlight any healthcare social work classes you took during interviews. There are no licensure requirements in California for this kind of social work.
Becoming a School Social Worker in California
There are no school social work licenses in California, but public schools typically require job candidates to hold the state's Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) Credential. This credential requires 45 post-bachelor's credits in school social work, which in practice means that you need a CSWE-accredited MSW with a school concentration. You must also complete a basic skills test.
CSWE-Accredited Online MSW Programs by State
What Can I Do With an MSW in California?
MSW degrees qualify you for careers in social work. You can potentially work in a range of specialties within that broad category, such as medical or clinical social work. But faculty generally assume that master's students are dedicated to becoming or remaining social workers for their entire careers, so they teach from that perspective. However, you may choose to apply your education and skills to other fields, such as counseling or community health.
Social Work Salary in California
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists mean annual salaries for several types of social workers. For three of the following careers, California is among the top five highest paying states in the country.
- Child, family, and school social workers: $64,940
- Healthcare social workers: $84,690
- Mental health and substance abuse social workers: $79,450
- Social workers, all other: $68,540
Social Work Job Outlook in California
The BLS projects 9% growth in social worker positions for the 2021-2031 period, which is higher than the 5% average for all jobs combined. However, the BLS doesn't break down the outlook for California specifically.
According to Lightcast data, California was by far the top state for social worker demand in the last 12 months.
For recent trends, we turn to the analytics company Lightcast. According to Lightcast data, California was by far the top state for social worker demand in the last 12 months: Employers in the state posted 29,026 social work positions in that time. The Los Angeles area featured the second-highest demand among U.S. cities, with 9,188 social work jobs posted. San Francisco was sixth with 5,160 job ads.