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2008 Statistics on Social Work Education in the United States


The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) has collected data from social work programs since its inception in 1952. The Annual Survey of Social Work Programs (Annual Survey) is an annual census of accredited social work programs. In addition to the use of the data to understand social work education, the data is also used to determine program membership dues for accredited baccalaureate and master’s programs. The means of collection and reporting has changed over time, but the instrument itself remained largely unchanged.

In 2004, CSWE began an intensive and purposeful examination of the Annual Survey process to become more responsive to needs of programs, members, and other stakeholders for current, valid data on social work education. In 2005, CSWE appointed an Ad Hoc Research Task Force composed of deans, directors, faculty members, and researchers to assist with reviewing and revising the Annual Survey data with the hopes that the process would become easier and more streamlined for programs. The resulting edits focused particularly on updates to the financial aid sections, and additions to the master’s program survey to include dual degrees and certificate programs.

The Annual Survey has five parts: baccalaureate programs, master’s programs, doctoral programs, full-time faculty, and part-time faculty. The surveys were administered online through the survey platform Zarca Interactive. In the fall of 2008, survey invitations were e-mailed to program directors at all accredited social work programs (655) and to doctoral programs that are members of the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education (70). The program instruments include sections on program structure, enrollments, concentrations and field placements (BSW and MSW only), financial aid, and degrees awarded. Truncated text of the questions is used in most of this summary to conserve space; however, the entire text of the survey instruments is available at the CSWE Website (

Response Rates
Response rates increased in 2008 in every category when compared to 2007. Over 90% of all programs responded. The master’s programs, in particular, had a high response rate at 96.3%.



The response rates for the Annual Survey have failed to reach 100% for some time. The results presented here are therefore presented with the warning to use caution in interpretation. Introducing new measures, as well as our changes in question wording and category response, has altered the instrument. Due to these changes, comparisons between this year and previous years may be difficult.

1. Institutional Characteristics

Institutional Characteristics
Social work programs were asked to respond to questions about their structure and the institution in which they are housed. At the time of survey administration, there were 465 accredited baccalaureate and 190 accredited master’s social work programs in the United States, which are located in 480 institutions. Of these accredited programs, 61.7% (296) are baccalaureate-only, 10.8% (52) are master's-only; 27.5% (132) have both baccalaureate and master’s accredited programs at their institution.

Institutional Auspice
Programs were asked to identify their institutional auspice in one of four categories: (1) public-state, (2) public-other, (3) private-denominational, or (4) private-other. The majority of accredited social work programs (55.6%; 265) were housed in public institutions.


However, when looking at the institutional auspice by program level, it becomes evident that there is a higher percentage of baccalaureate programs housed in private-denominational institutions (31.4% compared to 11.1% and 10.9%), while there are more master’s and doctoral programs in public-state institutions.


Gender/Ethnic Identification of Institution
Programs were asked if their institutions identified with specific gender or ethnic groups. Programs predominantly self-identified as “non-ethnic, coeducational” institutions (84.4%; 385). The largest category of programs identifying with a diverse population self-identified as “Historically Black College or University (HBCU)” (7.9%; 36).


Primary Setting of Institution
Programs were asked to self-identify their institution’s primary location setting. Master’s and doctoral programs were much more likely to identify their institutional setting as urban. Only 3.1% (2) programs at the doctoral level identified their institutional setting as rural.


Carnegie Classification
Institutional Carnegie Classification was also collected in 2008. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching devised a framework for categorizing colleges and universities, which has been used extensively in higher education. A brief explanation of the basic categories is provided below, and further information can be found at the Carnegie Foundation website (

  • Spec/Med: Special Focus Institutions—Medical Schools and Medical Centers
  • Spec/Health: Special Focus Institutions—Other Health Profession Schools
  • Spec/Faith: Special Focus Institutions—Theological Seminaries, Bible Colleges, and other faith-related institutions
  • RU/VH: Research Universities (very high research activity)
  • RU/H: Research Universities (high research activity)
  • Master’s/S: Master’s Colleges and Universities (smaller programs)
  • Master’s/M: Master’s Colleges and Universities (medium programs)
  • Master’s/L: Master’s Colleges and Universities (larger programs)
  • DRU: Doctoral Research Universities
  • Bac/Div: Baccalaureate Colleges – Diverse Fields
  • Bac/Assoc: Baccalaureate/Associate’s Colleges
  • Bac/A&S: Baccalaureate Colleges—Arts & Sciences

The highest number of accredited programs are housed in institutions classified as Master’s/Larger Programs (30.5%; 144), followed by Research University/High Research Activity (14.0%; 66), Master’s/Medium Programs (12.1%; 57), and Research University/Very High Research Activity (10.4%; 49).


Again, there are some differences when looking at the distribution by program level, especially in the two “Research Universities” categories. RU/VH institutions housed only 5.5% (23) of baccalaureate programs, but 23.6% (43) of master’s programs and 60.9% (39) of doctoral programs. Again, RU/H institutions housed 13.4% (56) of baccalaureate programs, while housing 26.9% (49) of master’s programs and 23.4% (15) of doctoral programs.

Part-Time Programs
Another structural element asked was the availability of a part-time option. Almost half of baccalaureate programs offered a part-time option (46.8%; 198), compared to 90.5% (162) of master’s level institutions. More than half (57.8%; 37) of doctoral-level institutions offered a part-time option.

Title IV-E Stipends
Since 1980, the federal Title IV-E child welfare training fund has been a source of financial assistance for social work students specializing in child welfare work. It is necessary to have current data on the number of social work programs participating in this program when discussing funding for social work education and student debt load. A total of 144 (34.5%) baccalaureate programs offered IV-E stipends in 33 states. IV-E stipends were provided in 88 master’s level programs in 44 states and the District of Columbia. See the IV-E fact sheet on the NASW website for more information.

2. Social Work Faculty

Social Work Faculty
The faculty section of the Annual Survey asks programs for information on full-time faculty and aggregate data for part-time faculty. For 2008, programs reported a total of 6,048 full-time and 4,187 part-time faculty or instructional staff with a primary assignment to a social work program (baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral).

Full-Time Faculty
For the purposes of this Summary, “full-time” refers to faculty members who spend 50% or more of an FTE in social work education. The following analyses are based on a subset of 3,850 full-time faculty members for whom their institutions provided detailed individual information.

Information was provided about each full-time faculty member’s age, gender, and racial/ethnic identification. The largest percent (38.0%) of full-time faculty members fell into the 55-64 years old age category. Very few of the faculty members were under 35 years (4.6%; 169).


The majority (67.4%; 2,581) of full-time faculty are Female with 32.6% (1,251) identified as Male. The table below shows the racial/ethnic identification of the full-time faculty members. “Minority” faculty members (including categories African American/Other Black, Latino/Hispanic, American Indian/Native American, Asian American/Other Asian, Pacific Islander, and Other) accounted for 26.9% (1,034) of faculty members. Additionally, 1.4% (54) were identified as foreign (no resident visa).


Administrative Title and Rank
A majority of full-time faculty members had no administrative title (63.3%; 2,198). A majority of those faculty members had no administrative title (63.3%; 2,198). Of those faculty members with an administrative title, the program director titles were most common with 13.4% (467) holding one of those four titles, followed by Director of Field Instruction (279; 8.0%).


The most common ranks given to faculty members were Assistant Professor (28.9%; 1,100) and Associate Professor (28.2%; 1,073) with a slightly lower number receiving the rank of Professor (22.3%; 848).


Highest Earned Degree
Almost all reported full-time faculty members have an MSW degree (93.2%; 3,564). More than half of social work faculty members also hold doctoral degrees in social work (54.5%; 2,093) as their highest earned degree. For 26.1% (1,001) full-time faculty the MSW was their highest earned degree; only 0.8% reported a different master’s degree as their highest earned degree. An additional 16.8% (646) reported a doctoral degree other than one in social work.


The survey asked what licenses were held by faculty members; faculty members could report multiple licenses. A total of 2,777 licenses were held by 2,077 full-time faculty members or a little more than half (53.9%) of all full-time faculty members. The most commonly held license was the Licensed Clinical Social Work (LCSW) with 33.1% (1,276) holding the license. The most commonly reported “Other” licenses were Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW), held by 21 full-time faculty members, and Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW), held by 17 faculty members.


Tenure Status
In 2008, programs were asked to report information on full-time faculty tenure status. The largest percent of faculty members were tenured (47.2%; 1,807). Only 2.0% (77) of full-time faculty members were housed in institutions where there is no tenure system. 


There was a significant difference (p< .01) between tenure status based on gender of faculty. There was a higher percent of male faculty who are tenured and a higher percent of female faculty members who are not on tenure track in institutions where there is a tenure system in place.


Faculty Salary
The following faculty charts include salary information on full-time faculty with titles of full professor, associate professor, or assistant professor that do not have an administrative title (n = 2,197). Salaries were adjusted to reflect a nine-month academic period. If there were less than five faculty members in a single category, salary information was excluded to ensure confidentiality.

The average salary (adjusted for 9-months) for full-time faculty members with no administrative title was $94,405 for Professors, $69,008 for Associate Professors, and $56,208 for Assistant Professors. The table below shows the salary by rank and Carnegie Classification of the institutions where the faculty members are employed (see the Institutional section for more details on the Carnegie Classifications).


Salaries based on social work program to which the faculty member had primary responsibility are presented below. At each rank, faculty members had higher salaries if they had some assignment to the graduate program.


On average, full-time non-administrative faculty had the majority of their salary paid by the college/university (92.6%) and 7.4% paid by external sources.

3. Baccalaureate Programs

Baccalaureate Social Work Programs
In 2008, 426 accredited baccalaureate programs (91.6%) responded to the Annual Survey on Social Work Programs. New questions were added that addressed structural components of baccalaureate pro One question asked, “Does your program require students to fill out an application in order to declare social work as their major?” Most programs (79.5%; 334) reported that an application was required. Another question asked about the structure of the academic year. Almost all programs (95.7%; 399) reported that they operate on a semester system.

Baccalaureate Programs: Enrollment
Programs were asked to report student enrollment as of November 1, 2008. A total of 39,809 full-time students and 5,319 part-time students were enrolled as of November 1st for the academic year. Please note that only reported juniors and seniors are included in the following summary.


Applications received, accepted applicants, and those accepted applicants who enrolled were reported. It should be noted that the number of applicants most likely includes duplicates, since students may apply to more than one school. Looking at the data:

  • 80.7% of applications were accepted
  • 91.6% of accepted applicants enrolled for Fall 2008

There were 28,672 full-time juniors and seniors enrolled in 412 programs with an average of 69.6 students per program. The following graph shows the distribution of enrolled full-time baccalaureate students by gender and age. Overall, the majority of full-time baccalaureate students were 25 and under in age (60.5%) and female (88.9%).


There are 10,173 full-time minority students, comprising 35.5% of the total full-time enrollment. Part-time students’ gender composition was comparable to full-time students (87% female; 3,760). However, part-time programs had a greater percentage of minority students (48%; 2,135).


Baccalaureate Programs: Field Placements
Programs reported that 26,695 full-time and part-time students were in a field placement as of November 1, 2008. A series of categories representing types of field placements were provided and programs were asked to report how many students were in each placement type. The highest number of students reported was in the category “Other” (61.7%), which indicates that there is a need to re-evaluate the categories being used for field placements. Of the given categories, child welfare continued to have the highest concentration of students (19.8%; 2,023), followed by Family Services (12.6%; 1,288), School Social Work (9.6%; 986), Aging/Gerontological Social Work (9.3%; 948), and Mental Health or Community Mental Health (9.1%; 935).

Baccalaureate Programs: Degrees Awarded
During the 2007-2008 academic year, 426 baccalaureate programs awarded 14,707 degrees. Distribution of graduates was quite similar to that of full-time enrolled students. Most graduates were female (90%) and 36% were in a minority racial/ethnic group.


Programs were also asked to report on graduate debt. However, it should be noted that the graduate debt section had a lower response rate than other sections. On average 78% of graduates acquired loan debt while working towards a BSW (51% of respondents reporting). The mean debt load reported was $21,766.

4. Master's Programs

Master's of Social Work Programs
In 2008, 183 of 190 (96.3%) of master’s programs responded to the Annual Survey on Social Work Programs. Programs were asked to report whether tests were required for application, specifically the GRE, GMAT, and TOEFL. The majority of programs (81.8%; 144) required the TOEFL for students who do not consider English their native language. Most institutions did not require student to take the GRE or GMAT, with the highest percentage (20.5%; 36) requiring the GRE Verbal section and 18.8% (33) requiring the GRE Quantitative section (see doctoral enrollment for comparison of application processes).

Respondents were also asked to identify dual degrees and certificates that are offered through their program. Law was the most popular dual degree offered (25.0%; 42), followed by public health (15.9%; 27) and theology/divinity (13.3%; 22).


In certificates offered, the most frequently offered was aging/gerontology (29.0%; 49), followed by school social work (26.0%; 44), and Other (24.3%; 41). Given the frequency in reporting the other category, additional fields will be included for this question in the future.


Master’s Programs: Enrollment
There were 36,923 applications to master’s of social work programs in 2008. The acceptance rate for applications to full-time programs was 66.9%. The acceptance rate for applications to part-time programs was 72.3%. Because students may apply to multiple programs, there is no way for CSWE to produce a count of unduplicated applications; therefore, the actual number of people applying to social work programs is likely inflated. Of those students who were accepted for admission, 57.4% of full-time applicants and 78.7% of part-time applicants went on to enroll.


As of November 1, 2008, the total enrollment of full-time master’s students was 26,731; the total enrollment of part-time master’s students was 16,668. The graph below shows the distribution of enrolled full-time master’s students by gender and age.


The distribution of master’s students by gender is consistent with the baccalaureate level; overall, 86.2% (21,711) of full-time master’s students were female. The highest percentage of master’s students are “25 and under” in age (40.3%, 10,158), however, that is lower than the percent of students who are “25 and under” at the baccalaureate level (60.5%). Master’s programs had 32% (7,922) full-time minority students.


Overall, 86% (13,550) of part-time master’s students were female. Minority students comprised a slightly lower proportion of part-time master’s students (26.1%; 5,113) than of full-time master’s students.

Master’s Programs: Concentrations and Field Placements
Questions about concentrations offered were broken out into two parts – methods and fields of practice. Respondents were asked to report whether they offered a concentration and the number of students enrolled in each concentration. The table below shows methods concentrations and student enrollment, ordered by frequency of offering by programs.


Programs reported 30,660 full-time and part-time students with a declared method concentration. Enrollment in Direct Practice/Clinical concentrations far out-paced enrollment in all other methods, comprising 58.1% of methods enrollments. The next highest enrollment is in Advanced Generalist (12.4%) and Generalist (8.8%).

Programs reported 15,638 full-time and part-time students in a field of practice concentration. The concentrations in a field of practice are listed below by frequency of offering. Concentrations in Families, Children and Youth were the most popular both to offer (68.3%; 71 programs offering) and for students to enroll in (4,218; 27.0%). Other concentrations with a high number of students enrolled includes Mental Health (16.7%; 2,617), Other (13.8%; 2,152), and Health and Mental Health (8.3%; 1,292).


Master’s Programs: Degrees Awarded
During the 2007-2008 academic year, 18,640 master’s of social work degrees were awarded from 183 member programs. Eighty-seven percent (87%) of the graduates were identified as female. The percent of graduates identified with an ethnic/racial minority group was 27% (5,011) of graduates. About 1% (241) of graduates was identified as Foreign (no resident visa).


Programs were also asked about the debt load of MSW graduates. According to the 86 programs (47%) that responded, 75% of their graduates had loan debt of an average amount of $30,047.

5. Doctoral Programs

Doctoral Programs
In 2008, 64 doctoral programs (91.4%) responded to the Annual Survey of Social Work Programs. Doctoral programs were asked if they require students to take the GRE (verbal, quantitative, analytical, and written sections), MAT, or TOEFL. The percent of programs requiring the GRE was greater than at the master’s level. Few programs required the MAT at either degree level.


Doctoral Programs: Enrollment
Doctoral programs reported 1,622 applications for fall semester 2008. The acceptance rate for applications in 2008 was 36.1%. Because students can apply to multiple programs, an unduplicated count of applications cannot be determined. The majority of those applicants who were accepted went on to enroll in the program (71.6%).

Applications Received and Considered    1,622
Applicants Accpeted for Admission 585
New Students Enrolled 419

Newly enrolled students primarily came from a background in social work, with most (76.9%) holding a master’s degree in social work; an additional 4.0% have a BSW and a graduate degree from another field. Twenty percent (20.4%) held graduate degrees from other fields.


Doctoral programs were asked to identify enrolled students who fall into two categories – those who are taking coursework and those who have completed coursework as of November 1, 2009. There were 2,568 students enrolled in doctoral programs. The majority of students are full-time (70.1%; 1,801) and a slight majority have completed coursework (51.1%; 1,323).


In the table below there is a full break-down of the gender and racial/ethnic identification of enrolled students, including a comparison across the different enrollment statuses. There are a slightly higher percentage of female students enrolled part-time.


Doctoral Programs: Degrees Awarded
During the 2007–2008 academic year, 337 degrees were awarded from 60 doctoral programs. Most of the graduates were female (77%). The percentage of minority graduates was 39%. Over half of students took five to seven years to obtain their doctorates.


Twenty-two programs (34%) responded to questions about loan debt, reporting that about 49% of their graduates had loan debt. The average debt load acquired while working towards a doctorate was $25,451.

Doctoral Programs: Employment of Graduates
Programs provided information on the known employment status of 261 graduates (77.4% of reported graduates). Sixty percent (60.5%; 157) of the graduates were reported to be employed in an academic position (tenure-line faculty position in a program accredited by CSWE or equivalent; non-tenure-line faculty position in a program accredited by CSWE or equivalent; academic research position; or academic administrative position). At the time of reporting five graduates were known to be unemployed (1.9%) and an additional 76 had an unknown employment status.


January 06, 2015

2008 Statistics on Social Work Education in the United States

Annual data collection about social work programs, students, and faculty


Type: Document