Medical and Public Health Social Workers

The role of medical and public health social workers is changing due to health care reform, and demand will be increasing as the baby boomers age and they and their families turn to social workers to provide care and connect them with social services. Because of these and other factors, medical and public health social workers are on the state’s list of high priority/high paying/high skills jobs and they continue to be priority occupations in Western Massachusetts.

Medical social workers provide the emotional and social support needed by individuals and their families to help deal with chronic, acute, or terminal illnesses (such as Alzheimer’s or cancer) or the period after a severe stroke or heart attack.

Medical and public health social workers:

  • Educate and counsel patients and their families regarding their conditions, treatment options, and available support services
  • Perform discharge planning and assessmentfor patients in long-term care facilities or hospitals
  • Connect patients with services such as housing, meal services, transportation, or hospice care for a terminally-ill patient
  • Create care plans by monitoring, evaluating, and recording a patient’s progress according to measurable goals

Employment opportunities can be found in:

Education and training requirements

Most social workers hold a bachelor’s (BSW) or master’s degree in social work (MSW), and in Massachusetts, you must also be licensed by the Massachusetts Board of Registration of Social Work.

An LSW (Licensed Social Worker) requires a bachelor’s degree or a combination of education and work experience. Learn more about the requirements for an LSW.

There are two degrees of licensure that require a master’s degree – LCSW (Licensed Certified Social Worker) and LICSW (Licensed Independent Certified Social Worker). An LICSW requires a current license as an LCSW as well as a certain number of hours of clinical and supervised experience. An LICSW certification allows you more independence in your practice.

Medical and public health social workers are also expected to have:

  • A deep understanding of human development and behavior
  • Strong cultural competence, including appreciation for the effects of various social, economic and cultural factors, and an understanding of how these factors interact
  • The ability to work independently and as a part of a team

Western MA Fast Facts

  • Workers in Pioneer Valley: 1,090
  • Education Requirements: Masters degree
  • Entry Level Wage: $22/hour
  • Experienced Wage: $34/hour
  • Learn more at