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Help Those Who Serve Us by Becoming a Military Social Worker
Military man in uniform shaking hands with civilian woman.

Do You Have a Master's of Social Work?

The men and women of our military have very specific needs that go beyond the needs of a civilian. Besides the potential for psychological counseling and other mental health needs, military members wrangle with the Veteran’s Administration to get benefits, collaborate with the government on paperwork, and may need help transitioning to the private sector for work.

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The Guide to Military Social Work tells us that “military social workers help their clients address these issues through a combination of individual and/or family counseling, resource navigation services, education, and the development of programs and initiatives aimed specifically at serving military professionals and their families.

“Military social workers can work as embedded social workers within active military units and can even serve as Active or Reserve Duty personnel within a unit. They can also work in civilian settings with military members who are off duty or veterans who are coping with the trauma of their past work.”

How to Become a Military Social Worker

Individuals looking to work with the military must hold a master’s degree in social work to apply. They are eligible to become commissioned officers in the military or military reserve units.

You can complete your MSW with a concentration in military social work. This is an excellent way to prepare for a career working with service members and veterans. This specialization is available at several universities and includes coursework in military culture and military clinical practice as part of the MSW degree. Most programs will also offer field placement options that allow students to work directly with military populations.

MSW holders who are trained to work in military social work are eligible to earn an Advanced Practice Specialty Credential from the National Association of Social Workers. Both the MVF-CSW (Military Service Member, Veterans and their Families – Clinical Social Worker) and the MVF-ASW (Military Service Member, Veterans and their Families – Advanced Social Worker) require a master’s degree in social work and three years of professional military social work experience.

It is essential that you complete your MSW before pursuing a career in military social work. There are online programs offered around the country.

Online Courses/Training

There are multiple institutions in America that offer online programs:

Fordham University

  • Four main areas of focus: individuals and families, organizations and community, evaluation, and policy practice and advocacy
  • CSWE-accredited program featuring full-time and part-time study options

Baylor University

  • Ethically integrates faith and social work practice
  • Specialize in clinical practice or community practice

University of Denver

  • Research-driven faculty dedicated to making an impact on social problems
  • Prepares you to apply social work skills across practice settings

University of Southern California (USC)

  • Offered by USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, a top-ranked graduate school by U.S. News and World Report
  • Features virtual and in-person field education in or near student's own communities

Simmons University

  • Four clinical specializations: child and family, trauma and interpersonal violence, mental health and addictions, and health and aging
  • Three program tracks: traditional, accelerated and extended

Each of these is an accredited institution where you can receive a good education and excellent training for your MSW.

Coursework for the MSW

The MSW can be completed at hundreds of universities across the country. You will start with an undergraduate bachelor’s degree in one of the following concentrations: biology, psychology, sociology or social work. While these are not required undergraduate studies, they will offer the best foundation if you choose to continue working toward your MSW.

The coursework for the MSW is as varied as the work done by a social worker. You will complete courses in culture, such as Asians in America, Hispanics in America, diversity issues, working with the elderly, social change, working with dementia patients, international perspectives, and immigration.

You will also complete coursework in data and statistics, including intro to statistics in social work, practical methods, management practices, social work research methods, undergraduate research project, and research abroad. These types of courses will prepare you for the management and research functions of a social worker.

There are also courses you must complete in human behavior: behavior and cognitive methods for social work; trauma informed social work; motivational interventions; family therapy seminar; mental health policies and service; child, youth and family services; integrated behavioral health and health care; and gender relations.

While this is not an exhaustive list of the coursework, this gives you a sense of what it takes to become a licensed social worker with a master’s degree.

Job Experience, Salary and Outlook

Prior to any appointment for a military social worker position, you must have at least three years of experience in social work. This can be with any and all populations, but three years is the minimum.

A military social worker will earn approximately $50,000 annually. You must be certified as a military social worker prior to searching for a job. The job growth outlook is average with an estimated 100,000 jobs coming available in the next seven years.

Being a military social worker requires dedication not only to the clients but also to the country. You must have a deep understanding of the commitment military members make and how their service is the root of their being.

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