Medical social workers help patients and families deal with the psychological and practical challenges of illness. They help people navigate the health system, for example, making arrangments for hospital release and home care services. The basic job requirement is a bachelor's degree in social work, but many medical social workers have master's degrees. In addition to educational credentials, the type of job and its location affect a medical social worker's pay.
Average and Range of Pay
The average full-time medical social worker earned $50,500 per year as of 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but wages varied over a wide range.The lowest-earning 10 percent earned $31,160 per year or less, while the top 10 percent earned $73,040 or more. The master's degree credential of some social workers explains part of the difference. In 2012, workers with a master's degree in any subject averaged approximately $12,000 more in annual income than those with a bachelor's degree, according to the BLS.
Nearly 70 percent of medical social workers are employed by hospitals, individual and family services, nursing facilities, home health care or local governments, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics survey. As of 2011, the average wage for medical social workers in hospitals was $56,060 annually. Individual and family services reported average wages of $42,050 per year, and nursing care facilities reported an average of $45,230. Home health care had the highest pay among major industries, paying medical social workers an annual average of $55,020, while wages averaged $47,960 per year in jobs for local governments.
States with the Most Jobs
Three states reported more than 9,000 jobs each for medical social workers in the 2011 BLS survey. California reported 12,300 jobs and average pay of $60,490 per year, while New York reported 10,230 jobs at an annual average wage of $54,100. In Massachusetts, 9,970 social workers earned average annual pay of $53,100.
Top-Paying District and States
Pay for medical social workers in the District of Columbia was higher than in any state in 2011, averaging $71,130 per year, according to the BLS. The highest-paying state was Nevada, with average salaries of $66,930 per year, followed by California and Connecticut, with average annual salaries exceeding $60,000.
Medical social workers in four metropolitan areas received average annual pay exceeding $70,000 per year in 2011, as reported to the BLS. The highest-paying metropolitan area was the combined Burlington and South Burlington, Vermont area, which reported average pay of $85,590. The combined Sherman and Denison, Texas area came in second, reporting pay of $78,090 per year on average for medical social workers. The Vallejo and Fairfield, California metropolitan area and the Las Vegas and Paradise, Nevada area also reported average incomes exceeding $70,000 per year.
The number of jobs for medical social workers will increase by 34 percent through 2020, much faster than the average for all jobs, predicts the BLS. An aging population will need more health services, contributing to job growth for qualified medical social workers.