Determining Your  Social Worker Salary

Armed with a passion to serve and advocate on behalf of others, coupled with the pressures of earning a decent living, finding a sustainable wage in your dream geographic location is your number one priority. Although the national average pay for an MSW is $46,968, the pay varies significantly across the nation, based on your area of specialization.

An overview of 3 areas of the highest paid social work industries, the top paying states, and the national average salary, will help you make a more informed decision.

Top Paying Social Work FieldsMental Health and Substance Abuse

Mental health and substance abuse social workers specialize in the treatment and assessment of mental, emotional, and substance abuse related problems. Clinical social workers with a Master’s degree can often provide psychotherapy to individuals and families troubled with addictions and illnesses that often require case management support to help them navigate the path to treatment. Outpatient care centers, individual and family service organizations, and residential developmental disability and substance abuse facilities are industries with the highest level of employment with most working in Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals.

Top paying states include New Jersey ($71,600) California, Connecticut, Maine, and Nevada ($57,460), with a national mean wage estimate of $47,880.

Child, Family and School

Child, family, and school social workers aid students and families to help maximize children’s social, academic and psychological functioning.  Expertise in misbehavior, truancy, community resources, and social and developmental challenges are areas that require further professional development.

Our Lady of the Lake University’s Master of Social Work – Advanced Standing Option Available.
Offered through the acclaimed Worden School of Social Service at Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU), the online Master of Social Work degree program will prepare you to change the lives of children and families in need, while building the foundation for your own career in social service leadership and advanced direct practice.

Keen knowledge of community agencies relating to housing, healthcare, adoption, child and protective services is most beneficial to assist families in their overall well-being.  Individual and family services, state and local government, and K12 education are the industries with the highest levels of employment with 46% of social workers working in elementary or secondary school settings, earning an annual mean salary of $62,170.

Top paying states in this area of concentration include Connecticut ($66,410), District of Columbia, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Illinois ($58,790) all paying considerably above the national mean wage of $47,510.


Providers in this area of specialty concentrate on case management, patient education of illnesses, counseling and psychosocial support, disease prevention, and barriers to access quality healthcare. Social workers employed in the hospital setting may often work all hours of the day and night coordinating care, advising on end of life planning issues, as well as crisis intervention.

Medical and surgical hospitals, individual and family services, and home healthcare are industries offering the highest levels of employment with most working in the home healthcare service industry.

The national mean wage is significantly higher with this specialty being $55,510 with the top paying states of California with the highest wage offered at $71,080, Nevada, District of Columbia, Connecticut, and Oregon ($66,240).

Social workers vary in salary, working conditions, job roles and responsibilities, and overall job outlook, based on their educational background and area of specializations. It is important to do your due diligence in researching your area of interest in the field of social work to ensure your overall professional growth and happiness.