Social Work, M.S.W.

Graduate Degree
The Social Work, M.S.W. degree program has an online option. Learn more about the Social Work, M.S.W. online degree program and Online Learning at Marshall University.

What is Social Work?

Social workers help individuals, families and communities solve problems related to addiction, poverty, child maltreatment, mental illness, discrimination, homelessness, truancy, chronic illness and legal issues. Social work is a profession grounded in the values of human rights and social justice, the worth and dignity of the person, and the importance of human relationships, integrity and competence.

Social workers make a difference in the world. Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, is well-respected for providing premier preparation of future professionals in this field with the Master of Social Work (MSW) graduate degree program.

A career in social work offers job security, since there will always be communities that need resources and advocates. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that job growth for social workers is expected to increase. Schools are expanding social work services and family drug courts are increasing in West Virginia. The number of substance use recovery programs continues to grow.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) reports that an MSW degree is often required for social work positions in healthcare. Healthcare social workers most often work in hospitals in areas ranging from pediatrics to oncology. Social workers’ caseloads include working with patients and families who need to come to grips with difficult diagnoses, locate resources and make major life decisions.

Why Study Social Work at Marshall?

The Department of Social Work in the College of Health Professions at Marshall University has offered the Master of Social Work graduate degree program since Fall 2016.

Marshall’s graduate program in Social Work is designed to accommodate working professionals who have a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) or a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as counseling and psychology.

The Master of Social Work (MSW) Program at Marshall consists of two different tracks:

MSW Generalist Curriculum – This two-year curriculum promotes a generalist perspective in which the simultaneous impact of many systemic levels (individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities) on clients’ lives is critically analyzed and recognized. The foundation builds upon a liberal arts base that fosters an understanding of society as a complex organization of diverse people and ideas.
MSW Advanced Curriculum – Advanced Social Work Practice: The advanced practice curriculum seeks to develop the use and application of critical thinking, relative to behavioral health, on all levels: in reading professional writing and research; in students’ practice; in the classroom and in the students’ own thinking. Consistently monitoring practice ethically, evaluating theoretical principles and epistemologies, and using technological advances become basic practice patterns.

Specialized Focus

The Area of Specialized Practice program option for the MSW is Behavioral Health. The program is available at Marshall’s main campus in Huntington, WV, via in-person classes. Courses are broadcast in real time as part of Marshall’s distance education to the University’s two other campuses in West Virginia: South Charleston and Pt. Pleasant.

The Behavioral Health specialization prepares students to conduct clinical social work practice in assessing, treating and evaluating mental health, substance abuse and physical health in relation to one another across practice settings. A focus throughout the specialization is on understanding the multiple factors that influence health disparities and best practices to increase health equity, particularly for marginalized populations. There is a special emphasis on effectively serving vulnerable populations with multiple needs. Generalist macro practice is enhanced and extended in the Behavioral Health specialization through practice, assessment and evaluation of integrated healthcare models and practice.


Marshall’s MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The CSWE is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) as the sole accrediting agency for social work education in the United States. Social Work master’s program faculty provide personalized attention and support to graduate students, and strong networks are formed as students go through classes as cohorts.

Affordability recognized Marshall University’s Master in Social Work degree program as one of the most affordable CSWE-accredited master’s programs in the nation for 2019-20. Marshall earns this recognition because the cost of its MSW program is more than $1,000 below the average cost of other CSWE-accredited master’s programs at public institutions in West Virginia.


Regular full-time students can expect to graduate within two years, and advanced standing students will be able to complete the program in one calendar year. Part-time options are available to master’s in Social Work students who cannot attend full-time classes. Classes for the graduate MSW program are offered primarily on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings with various courses offered online. Marshall accepts for admission Social Work master’s degree students from mid-January until March 30. Students can apply for admission online.

Social Justice Focus

The Marshall University Department of Social Work affirms its strong commitment to human rights and social justice. The MSW degree program represents Marshall’s unflinching commitment to the values of pluralism that have been crucial in weaving the strong fabric of our civil society.

The University does not support and will stand against any acts of bigotry, hate, harassment, bullying or discrimination toward any individual or group. Marshall welcomes, stands with and offers a safe place to all students regardless of race, color, immigrant status, culture, LGBTQ identification, disability, religious affiliation, spiritual belief, gender, or any other nuance of identity that may place one at risk of alienation.

Career Outlook for Social Work Majors

Graduates from the Marshall University Department of Social Work have an excellent track record in finding employment in the Social Work field. Marshall’s Social Work MSW alumni work in hospitals, mental health centers, shelters for battered women and numerous other human service agencies. There continues to be a growing need for social workers in the tri-state area and nationwide.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of social workers is projected to grow 13 percent through 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS reports that employment growth will vary by specialization:

Employment of child, family and school social workers is projected to grow 12 percent through 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Child and family social workers will be needed to work with families to strengthen parenting skills, prevent child abuse, and identify alternative homes for children who are unable to live with their biological families. In schools, more social workers will be needed as student enrollments rise. However, employment growth of child, family and school social workers may be limited by federal, state and local budget constraints.
Employment of healthcare social workers is projected to grow 14 percent through 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Healthcare social workers will continue to be needed to help aging populations and their families adjust to new treatments, medications, and lifestyles.
Employment of mental health and substance abuse social workers is projected to grow 17 percent through 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment will grow as more people seek treatment for mental illness and substance abuse. In addition, drug offenders are increasingly being sent to treatment programs, which are staffed by social workers, rather than being sent to jail.

Master’s in Social Work Jobs

A master’s degree in Social Work offers a variety of career options. Graduates with an MSW degree can be licensed in West Virginia and surrounding states, and are prepared to work in any agency with any population.

Opportunities are numerous for such positions as case manager, child welfare worker, nursing facility social worker, family navigator and more. With an MSW, social workers can work more independently as a therapist or other specialist. Opportunities for MSW graduates include work in such settings as:

Mental health
Substance abuse treatment
Prisons and other criminal justice facilities
Child welfare
Medical settings

Master’s in Social Work Salaries

The median (or midpoint) annual wage for social workers was $51,760 in May 2020. Within the salary range for social workers, the lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,020, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $85,820.

Opportunities for Social Work Majors

Unique MSW Benefits

As a new pilot program at Marshall University, WV TIME4K provides integrated services to elementary school-aged children who have been affected by the opioid epidemic. It focuses on the use of evidence-based mindfulness strategies to build coping skills for youth struggling with emotional regulation.

A trained Social Work graduate student from Marshall is assigned to each school under the supervision of the project treatment coordinator. MSW students work with every classroom, including teachers, to teach simple mindfulness techniques that can help defuse heightened emotional situations and improve focus.

By offering teaching resources combined with classroom activities and individualized interventions, TIME4K aims to cultivate a calmer, more effective learning environment for all and underscore the importance of trauma-informed care for affected children. Legal Aid of West Virginia assists families to resolve any outstanding legal issues, enhancing their stability and well-being; a host of community partners provides other services as needed.

TIME4K is currently being conducted at Spring Hill and Central City Elementary Schools in Cabell County and Ceredo-Kenova and Wayne Elementary Schools in Wayne County.

Behavioral Health Center

Located on Marshall University’s main Huntington campus in Gullickson Hall, the Behavioral Health Center allows MSW graduate students to gain hands-on, clinical experiences with individuals struggling with addiction, mental / behavioral health issues, social constraints and more. Marshall’s master’s in Social Work students work closely with Cabell County drug court officials to provide behavioral health therapy to both individuals and families in need of services.


MSW students trained in Integrated Behavioral Health are prepared for internships at the Marshall University School of Medicine’s Rural Health Initiative Programs. MSW students are on the cutting edge of interfacing with primary care physicians who work with underserved populations experiencing multiple chronic conditions. These applications include courses in mental health and substance abuse assessment and intervention; social work practice with families and groups; social policy issues impacting health service delivery; and social work practice with military families.

Additionally, there are many local internship and potential job placement sites through the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital and the VA outreach programs. Since Marshall University is located in a tri-state area, more opportunities exist than are normally available in more rural settings.

Student organization

The Marshall University Association of Student Social Workers is open to all BSW and MSW students interested in the human services field, providing peer interaction as well as community involvement. The purposes of the organization include:

Aiding in the further development of the educational, vocational and social atmosphere and facilitating student interaction on campus and within the community.
Interpreting and disseminating information relevant to Marshall Social Work students or individuals or groups within the community.
Increasing social and civic interests in domestic and international issues by seeking the involvement of the student body or community.
Promoting the profession of Social Work at Marshall University and educating the campus and community about the professional role and functions of social workers and their potential contributions to society.

In the past, the organization has participated in activities such as voter registration, sponsoring forums and workshops, attending conferences, commodities distribution for the Division of Human Services, fundraising, study groups and social events.

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