Ph.D. in Social Work Salary – 2021
Written By: Editorial Staff @ NursingProcess.org
Like nursing, the highest level of study in social work has two academic degrees: the clinically oriented Doctor of Social Work (DSW) degree and the research-oriented Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree. The average Ph.D. in social work salary is $86,720; DSW degree holders earn approximately the same amount. Both Ph.D.-educated and DSW-educated social work professionals are found in academic teaching jobs, managerial positions and senior roles at private companies, but Ph.D.-educated social work professionals are found more often in pure research jobs.
In the U.S., social workers advocate on behalf of low-income people, helping them connect with government resources such as food stamps, Medicaid and Medicare, subsidized housing programs, and subsidized childcare programs. The economic fallout associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on low-income people, which has emphasized the need for more efficient policies when it comes to delivering these social services. Social work professionals with advanced degrees are most often tapped to draft these policies and to write the plans by which such policies will be implemented. How much do Ph.D. in social work graduates make? Keep reading for a comprehensive analysis of the salary for Ph.D. in social work graduates in 2021.
Is There A High Demand For Ph.D. In Social Work Graduates?
The demand for social work professionals with graduate degrees is there, but federal, state, and local budget constraints continue to have a significant effect on employment opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the employment of social work professionals at all educational levels will rise 13 percent between 2020 and 2030
, which is slightly higher than the average for all occupations. The Masters of Social Work (MSW) is considered the terminal practice degree of the social work profession
, and no professional license or certification is specifically designated for doctorate holders. (Most states require an MSW for licensure and certification.) Only 2 percent of all licensed social workers go on to earn a Ph.D.
Salary is usually a good indicator of demand, and the average Ph.D. in social work salary is low compared to the salaries of Ph.D.-educated professionals in related fields. The average Ph.D. in nursing salary, for example, is $99,000 annually, which is 14 percent higher than the average Ph.D. in social work salary, while at $110,300, the average Ph.D. in public health salary is 27 percent higher. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue a Ph.D. in social work if you feel a strong calling to effect social change at the macro level and want to have more control at the administrative and policy levels. It may mean, however, that the salary for Ph.D. in social work should not be your number-one reason for pursuing Ph.D.-level studies.
What Career Opportunities Exist For Ph.D. In Social Work Graduates?
Ph.D.-educated social work professionals have two main employment avenues open to them: tenure-track and adjunct teaching positions at colleges and universities, and research opportunities. Research opportunities exist in a surprising number of settings outside of academic institutions in organizations where individuals can use the statistical analysis skills they learned in their Ph.D. programs to assist with program planning, implementation, and assessment.
• Government agencies:
Individuals with Ph.Ds. in social work are often tapped for leadership roles in federal, state, and local public welfare agencies.
• Independent research institutions:
Independent research institutions—more commonly referred to as “think tanks”—hire Ph.D.-educated social work professionals to lead research initiatives into societal issues like poverty, homelessness, and criminal justice reform.
• Medical centers:
Social work plays an integral role in the U.S. healthcare delivery system since specially trained medical social workers are called upon to provide services to individuals and their families who are impacted by hospitalizations. Ph.D.-educated social work professionals oversee these efforts and write the programs that make these services accessible to clients. Professionals with Ph.Ds. in social work also supervise many of the substance abuse programs whose efforts are critically important in helping to stem the current opioid crisis.
Hourly Salary For Ph.D. In Social Work Graduates
What is the average Ph.D. in social work salary per hour in 2021? The average Ph.D. in social work salary per hour in 2021 is $41.69 an hour. This is nearly four times the average hourly earnings for employees in the U.S. across all occupations, which is $11.26 an hour
. Ph.D.-educated social work professionals typically work for 10 years before they reach this benchmark.
As entry-level employees, Ph.D. in social work graduates earn $24.90 an hour, which is only 60 percent of the average earnings for this profession. Graduates with one to four years of experience can expect to earn $31.22 an hour, which is an increase of 25 percent more than average hourly starting earnings, while graduates with five to nine years of experience earn $39.74 an hour, an increase of 60 percent more than average hourly earnings. A Ph.D. in social work graduate with 20 or more years of experience can anticipate earning $60.09 an hour, which is roughly one and a half times his or her starting salary.
Hourly pay rates are influenced by local industry standards—meaning the market pay rates for people doing similar work in similar industries within any given locality. Occupations that are similar to social work include psychologist, public health nurse, and community health specialist. Average hourly earnings for a psychologist with a Ph.D. are approximately $51 an hour
while nurses with Ph.Ds. earn $47.60 an hour, and public health Ph.Ds. (for this is the category that community health specialists fall into) earn $53.03 an hour. As you can see, hourly earnings for Ph.D. in social work graduates tend to fall at the low end of the professional pay scale, which is another indicator of relatively modest demand.
More data exists on MSW salaries than on social work Ph.D. salaries, but it’s a safe extrapolation that social work Ph.D. salaries follow the same trends as MSW salaries. Individuals with MSW degrees have higher hourly earnings in larger cities and urban clusters
, and the same is most likely true of Ph.D. in social work graduates.
| Level of Experience|| Earnings|
| Entry-Level|| $24.90|
| 1-4 Years of Experience|| $31.22|
| 5-9 Years of Experience|| $39.74|
| 10-19 Years of Experience|| $49.73|
| 20 Years or More Experience|| $60.09|
| Average Earnings|| $41.69 |
Starting Salary For Ph.D. In Social Work Graduates
What is the starting salary for Ph.D. in social work graduates in 2021? The average starting Ph.D. in social work salary in 2021 is $24.90 an hour, which multiplies out to $4,320 a month or $51,790 a year. While this is 59 percent higher than the average starting salary for employees across all occupations in the U.S. ($32,592 a year
), it’s still significantly lower than the starting salary of a Ph.D.-educated psychologist ($80,000 a year
), a Ph.D.-educated nurse ($71,720) or a Ph.D.-educated public health professional ($64,820).
Compared to other professional entry-level salaries, starting salaries for jobs related to social service delivery are typically low because these jobs initially require a great deal of mentoring and supervision. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when every client faces a unique set of challenges. Social work professionals at the Ph.D. level are rarely service providers, of course; they are more likely to be hired either to manage service providers or to plan the service options that the professionals working beneath them will provide. Still, it may take a while to get up to speed, and the relatively low starting salary for Ph.D. in social work reflects this. The more time existing employees must spend orienting and overseeing new employees, the less time they have to spend on their existing responsibilities. This has an impact on an organization’s overall operational costs, and the more modest salaries of entry-level employees are one way to compensate for this.
Entry-level salaries also reflect competition for employees within any given industry. Little data has been collected that relates specifically to Ph.Ds. in social work, but employment analysts have noted the oversupply of social science Ph.Ds. generally
, and when there is a large pool of qualified applicants for a small number of entry-level jobs, the salaries associated with those jobs may go down because employers don’t have to pay premium rates to attract top employees.
| Hourly||$24.90 |
| Monthly|| $4,320 |
| Annual|| $51,790 |
Average Salary For Ph.D. In Social Work Graduates
What is the average Ph.D. in social work salary in 2021? The average salary for Ph.D. in social work graduates in 2021 is $41.69 an hour, which works out to be $7,230 a month or $86,720 a year. The average Ph.D. in social work salary varies considerably from state to state. California is the state where you’ll find the highest-paid Ph.D. in social work salaries. In the Golden State, the average salary for Ph.D. in social work is $119, 030. In contrast, South Dakota—where you’ll find the lowest-paid Ph.D. in social work salaries—pays these professionals $65,151 annually, which is only 54 percent of the average California salary. Why does this disparity exist?
Average salaries are significantly influenced by the cost of living differentials. California’s cost of living is 50 percent higher than the cost of living throughout the U.S. on average
, but South Dakota’s cost of living is 12 percent less than the U.S. average
. This doesn’t entirely explain the difference in social work Ph.D. salaries between these two states, though. In California, Ph.D.-educated social workers make 37 percent higher than the national average while in South Dakota, they earn 25 percent less.
Another key factor influencing Ph.D. in social work salary may be how much the services that those Ph.Ds. provide are valued from state to state. As noted above, not much data has been collected on the average salary for Ph.D. in social work generally. In order to understand how public welfare services are valued from state to state, it may be useful to look at per capita expenditures on social services in different states.
In 2019, California spent $3,397 per resident on social services; in contrast, South Dakota spent $1,359 per resident on social services
. While social service expenditures are administered at the state and local levels, approximately two-thirds of these expenditures are financed through the transfer of federal funds
. It can be assumed, therefore, that state-subsidized portions of any state’s social support service expenditures represent the relative importance that each state assigns to the provision of social services.
The average per capita amount spent yearly on social services throughout all 50 states is $2,265. California spends 50 percent more than this average while South Dakota spends 40 percent less. it’s hard not to assume here that California may value social services more highly than South Dakota does. But many other factors may contribute to this discrepancy such as property values within a given state (since property taxes are a major source of local and state income) and other sources of tax income. South Dakota has no state income tax while California does; California has the highest property values in the nation while South Dakota has some of the lowest. South Dakota simply can’t support the same levels of social support provisions that California can, even should it want to.
| Hourly||$41.69 |
| Monthly|| $7,230 |
| Annual|| $86,720 |
Salary For Ph.D. In Social Work Graduates By Level Of Experience
The longer you stay in the workforce, the higher your salary for Ph.D. in social work is likely to be. Ph.D.-educated social work professionals with one to four years of experience earn $64,940 annually, which is 25 percent more than their entry-level counterparts earn, while Ph.D.-educated social work professionals with five to nine years of experience earn 60 percent more than their entry-level counterparts. With 10 to 19 years of experience, you can expect to earn slightly more than twice your entry-level salary. One of the reasons for this is that a great many Ph.D.-educated social work professionals work for either federal, state and local agencies or for colleges and universities, and in both of these settings, periodic increases on the basis of performance and seniority are a built-in part of the salary structure.
Another reason is most Ph.D.-educated social work professionals work in an administrative or managerial capacity, which calls for well-honed leadership skills. While leadership theory can be taught in the classroom, actual leadership skills are competencies learned on the job for the most part. Experienced professionals make a higher average Ph.D. in social work salary because they are seasoned leaders who require minimal oversight from their own managers.
Ph.D.-educated social work professionals with 20 or more years on the job earn $124,980 a year, which is more than twice the average entry-level salary. Seasoned Ph.D. in social work graduates have a substantial amount of experience, which is an invaluable resource for management and administrative planning. A substantial number of these professionals work for the government, which means they can retire after 20 years, collect a pension and start a consulting business. Offering a high Ph.D. in social work salary to these individuals, then, can be looked upon as a retention strategy.
| Level of Experience|| Hourly|| Monthly|| Annual|
| Entry-Level|| $24.90|| $4,320|| $51,790|
| 1-4 Years of Experience|| $31.22|| $5,410|| $64,940|
| 5-9 Years of Experience|| $39.74|| $6,890|| $82,650|
| 10-19 Years of Experience|| $49.73|| $8,620|| $103,430|
| 20 Years or More Experience|| $60.09|| $10,420|| $124,980|
Average Annual Compensation For Ph.D. In Social Work Graduates
While salaries get the lion’s share of attention, they’re not the only part of compensation. Employees also receive benefits, which are non-cash perks that can carry a high cash value. Ph.D.-educated social work professionals typically receive paid leave for vacations and illnesses, medical insurance, and contributions toward retirement. They may also receive payments for approved career development continuing education classes and professional certifications. Benefits are non-taxable.
Employee benefits typically cost employers 31 percent of their total payroll
. While some benefits like workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation are mandated by law, most benefits are offered at an employer’s discretion. Employers use benefit packages to attract and retain top-notch employees. When evaluating a job offer, it's important to focus on both prospective salary and benefits.
For Ph.D.-educated social work professionals who work in the for-profit sector, the cash value of benefits averages 42 percent of their total salary. That means the total average compensation is $123,115 a year since their average salary is $86,550 a year, and the average cash value of their benefits is $36,565 a year. Ph.D.-educated social work professionals who work for state and local governments do even better where benefits are concerned: The cash value of their benefits averages 62 percent of their total salary. That means the total average compensation is $141,793 a year since their average salary is $87,770 a year, and the average cash value of their benefits is $54,023 a year.
| Component|| Private Industry|| State and Local Government|
| Paid Leave|| $9,111|| $10,776|
| Supplemental Pay|| $4,309|| $1,418|
| Insurance|| $9,603|| $16,590|
| Retirement and Savings|| $4,186|| $17,582|
| Legally Required|| $9,357|| $7,799|
| Total Benefits|| $36,565 || $54,023 |
| Average Annual Salary|| $86,550|| $87,770|
| Total Average Compensation|| $123,115 || $141,793 |
How Does Ph.D. In Social Work Salary Compare To Other Social Work Degrees?
At $86,720 annually, Ph.D. in social work graduates on average earn salaries that are 38 percent higher than MSW graduates. Their salaries are 49 percent higher than the salaries of individuals who graduated with a Bachelor’s in Social Work (BSW) and 55 percent higher than individuals who graduate with an Associate in Social Work degree.
It can be challenging to find employment opportunities that require a Ph.D. in social work outside an academic setting, however, and many research-oriented jobs will accept either an MSW or a Ph.D. as qualification. The typical MSW takes two years to complete
while the typical Ph.D. in social work takes anywhere from three to six years to earn
. Every individual must make his or her own decision whether the salary differential associated with the higher academic credential is worth the additional educational costs.
| Rank|| Type Of Degree|| Average Salary Per Year|| Comparison|
| Number || %|
| 1|| Ph.D. in Social Work|| $86,720 || 0|| 0.00% |
| 2|| Master’s in Social Work (MSW)|| $62,760|| +23,960|| +38.18%|
| 3|| Bachelor’s in Social Work (BSW)|| $58,190|| +28,530|| +49.03%|
| 4|| Associate Degree in Social Work|| $55,950|| +30,770|| +55.00%|
WHAT IS THE AVERAGE PH.D. IN SOCIAL WORK SALARY BY STATE?
(Listed in alphabetical order, below you will find the average salary for Ph.D. in Social Work graduates in every state for 2021.)
The average salary for Ph.D. in social work graduates in Alabama is $33.31 an hour or $69,281 a year, which is 20 percent below the average salary for Ph.D. in social work graduates throughout all parts of the U.S.. Alabama’s lead public welfare agency is the Alabama Department of Human Resources
, and Alabama’s per capita expenditures on public welfare services amount to $1,697 annually. At 16.8 percent, Alabama has the fifth-highest poverty rate in the nation
| Hourly|| $33.31|
| Annual|| $69,281|
Alaska has been doing its own version of universal basic income since 1976, paying eligible residents $1,600 a year as a Permanent Fund Dividend
. Additionally, the Last Frontier State allocates $3,798 per capita annually to public welfare expenditures. In Alaska, Ph.D.-educated public health professionals earn $43.02 an hour or $89,473 annually.
3. Arizona: The Arizona Department of Economic Security
| Hourly|| $43.02|
| Annual|| $89,473|
is the agency charged with disbursing public welfare services in the Grand Canyon State. The average Ph.D. in social work salary in Arizona is $41.96 an hour or $87,279 a year, but Ph.D.-educated social work professionals in Phoenix earn 1 percent more than that ($88,384). Arizona’s per capita expenditures on public welfare services come to $2,181 annually. Census Bureau numbers peg the Arizona poverty rate at 13.5 percent
| Hourly|| $41.96|
| Annual|| $87,279|
In Arkansas, Ph.D.-educated social work professionals earn $36.80 an hour or $75,538 annually on average. Public welfare services in the Natural State are administered from the Arkansas Department of Human Services
. The state spends per capita annually on public welfare services. Arkansas’s poverty rate of 17.2 percent is the seventh highest in the nation
| Hourly|| $36.80|
| Annual|| $76,538|
The average Ph.D. in social work salary in California is $57.23 an hour or $119,030 a year, but there’s a considerable amount of salary variation from region to region. Cities in the San Francisco Metropolitan Area offer salaries that are 21 percent higher than the state average while in San Diego, close to the Mexican border, salaries are 11 percent lower than the state average. The Golden State spends $3,397 per resident on public welfare services every year.
| Hourly|| $57.23|
| Annual|| $119,030|
The average salary for Ph.D. in social work graduates in Colorado is $40 an hour or $83,192 a year. This varies from location to location throughout the state: Ph.D.-educated social work professionals in the Denver Metropolitan Region earn 1 percent more than the state average while their counterparts in Colorado Springs earn 6 percent less. The Colorado Department of Human Services
is the agency responsible for administering and delivering social services in the Centennial State.
| Hourly|| $40.00|
| Annual|| $83,192|
Connecticut’s per capita expenditures on public welfare services come to $1,122 annually. Nevertheless, with yearly salaries averaging $103,040, the Constitution State’s social work Ph.Ds. are the fourth-highest paid in the U.S. Connecticut’s lead agency in the administration and delivery of public welfare services is the Department of Social Services
| Hourly|| $49.54|
| Annual|| $103,040|
Delaware spends $2,709 per resident on social services annually, and its lead agency for the delivery of these services is its Department of Health and Social Services
. Ph.D.-educated social work professionals can anticipate earning $36.51 an hour or $75,936 a year in the First State.
| Hourly|| $36.51|
| Annual|| $75,936|
The average Ph.D. in social work salary in Florida is $37.40 an hour or $77,800 annually. In Jacksonville and Tampa, these professionals earn marginally higher salaries, but in Miami, they earn 3 percent less. Florida doesn’t have a single lead agency for the provision of social services. Food stamps are administered through the Department of Children and Families
while services for senior citizens are administered through the Department of Elder Affairs
. The Sunshine State’s per capita expenditures on public welfare services amount to $1,341 a year.
| Hourly|| $37.40|
| Annual|| $77,800|
Though the average Ph.D. in social work salary in Georgia is $35.67 an hour or $74,186 a year, social work Ph.Ds. in Atlanta, the Peach State’s largest city, earn 4 percent more than that. The agency that oversees the delivery of social services in Georgia is the Department of Human Services
. Georgia spends $1,247 a year per resident on social services. Some 16.9 percent of the state’s population lives beneath the federal poverty line
| Hourly|| $35.67|
| Annual|| $74,186|
Ph.D.-educated professionals in Hawaii can expect to earn $50.61 an hour or $105,277 a year, making the Aloha State the place where the second-highest-paid Ph.D. in social work salaries are paid. Hawaii’s spending on social services comes to $2,088 per year per resident. Hawaii’s network of social services is administered by its Department of Human Services
| Hourly|| $50.61|
| Annual|| $105,277|
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare
oversees the provision of social services in the Gem State. Idaho spends $702 per resident on social services every year, which is one of the lowest social service allocations in the nation. In Idaho, Ph-D.-educated social service professionals can anticipate earning $39.73 an hour or $82,633 a year.
| Annual|| $82,633|
The programs that deliver social services to the residents of Illinois are overseen by the Land of Lincoln’s Department of Human Services
, and Illinois spends $1,899 per state resident every year providing them. The average Ph.D. in social work salary in Illinois is $39.05 an hour or $81,227 a year, but professionals in Chicago earn 2 percent more than that. Illinois’s poverty rate is 11.5 percent
, which is marginally above the national poverty rate ( 11.4 percent
| Hourly|| $39.05|
| Annual|| $81,227|
The average salary for Ph.D. in social work graduates in Indiana is $38.48 an hour or $80,037 annually. In Indianapolis, the Hoosier State’s largest city, social work Ph.Ds. can count on salaries that are 2 percent higher. Indiana’s expenditures on public welfare services every year amount to $2,233 per resident. Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration
is the agency responsible for overseeing the administration and provision of public welfare services in the state.
| Hourly|| $38.48|
| Annual|| $80,037|
On average, Ph.D. in social work graduates earn $37.13 an hour or $77,226 a year in Iowa. Public welfare services designed for needy state residents are overseen by the Iowa Department of Human Services
. Per capita expenditures on public welfare services in the Hawkeye State amount to $2,093 every year.
| Hourly|| $37.13|
| Annual|| $77,226|
In Kansas, a Ph.D. in social work graduate can anticipate earning $39.68 an hour or $82,534 a year on average, which is 5 percent less than the national average. The Sunflower State spends $1,637 per capita on public welfare services for its residents every year. Social service provision is overseen by the Department for Children and Families
(formerly the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services).
| Hourly|| $39.68|
| Annual|| $82,532|
Kentucky’s Ph.D. in social work graduates can look forward to earning $36.07 an hour or $75,018 a year on average though Louisville-based professionals make 1 percent less than that. The Bluegrass State’s lead public welfare agency is the Department of Community Based Services
. Per capita expenditures on social services in the Bluegrass State come to $2,463 a year.
18. Louisiana: With an overall poverty rate of 19 percent
| Hourly|| $36.07|
| Annual|| $75,018|
, Louisiana has one of the largest populations of low-income residents of any of the 50 states. The agency responsible for delivering social services to this population is the Department of Children and Family Services
. The Bayou State spends $2,715 per resident on public welfare services every year. The average salary for Ph.D.-educated professionals in Louisiana is $38.23 an hour or $79,521 a year.
| Hourly|| $38.23|
| Annual|| $79,521|
Maine spends $2,624 per resident on social services every year. Professionals with Ph.Ds. in social work can expect to earn $39.16 an hour or $81,443 annually in the Pine Tree State. The state’s network of public welfare services is administered from its Department of Health and Human Services
| Hourly|| $39.16|
| Annual|| $81,443|
The average salary for Ph.D. in social work graduates in Maryland is $41.47 an hour or $86,261 a year, which is only fractionally less than the average salary for Ph.D. in social work graduates throughout all 50 states. Ph.D. in social work graduates employed in Baltimore make 2 percent more than that. Maryland’s lead public welfare agency is called the Department of Human Services
. The Old Line State spends $2,303 per capita on public welfare services every year.
| Hourly|| $41.47|
| Annual|| $86,261|
Massachusetts has the second-highest per capita expenditures on public welfare services among the 50 states; in 2019, the Bay State spent $3,574 per resident. The average Ph.D. in social work salary in Massachusetts is $43.19 an hour or $89,832 a year, although, throughout the Boston area, it’s 5 percent higher. Social services throughout the commonwealth are administered by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services
. The Bay State’s poverty rate is 11.1 percent
, which is less than the national poverty rate of 11.4 percent.
22. Michigan: The city of Detroit holds the dubious distinction of having the highest poverty rate in the U.S.
| Hourly|| $43.19|
| Annual|| $89,832|
More than 30 percent of the Motor City’s population lives beneath the federal poverty line. The Wolverine State spends $1,903 per resident every year providing social support services to its population. Social support services are overseen by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
. The average Ph.D. in social work salary in Michigan is $39.95 an hour or $83,106 a year.
| Hourly|| $39.95|
| Annual|| $83,106|
The salary for Ph.D. in social work graduates in Minnesota is $39.96 an hour or $83,120 a year. In the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan Region, however, Ph.D.-educated in social work graduates earn salaries that are 1 percent higher. Per capita expenditures on social support services in the Land of Lakes amount to $3,021 a year. The Minnesota Department of Human Services
is responsible for the provision of public welfare services throughout the state.
| Hourly|| $39.96|
| Annual|| $83,120|
The second lowest-paid Ph.D. in social work salaries are found in Mississippi where Ph.D.-educated social work professionals can anticipate earning $33.27 an hour or $69,210 a year. The Magnolia State’s per capita expenditures on social services is $2,123, which is only slightly less than the average amount spent on social services throughout the U.S. ($2,265). The Mississippi Department of Human Services
administers the state’s public welfare programs.
| Hourly|| $33.27|
| Annual|| $69,210|
Missouri’s network of social support programs is administered through the state’s Department of Social Services
. The average salary for Ph.D. in social work graduates in Missouri is $33.82 an hour or $79,343 a year, though professionals in the Kansas City Metropolitan Region can count one earning 20 percent higher. The Show-Me State $1,601 per resident on social support services in 2019. Missouri’s poverty rate is 12.9 percent
| Hourly|| $33.82|
| Annual|| $70,343|
In Montana, Ph.D.-educated social work professionals earn $35.78 an hour or $74,430 a year on average. The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
oversees the provision of public welfare support programs in the Big Sky State. Montana spends $2,152 per resident on such services every year.
| Hourly|| $35.78|
| Annual|| $74,430|
Nebraska spends $1,502 per resident on social support programs every year. The agency responsible for administering these programs is the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services
. In the Cornhusker State, Ph.D. in social work graduates earn $34.85 an hour or $72,494 a year, which is 16 percent below the national average.
| Hourly|| $34.85|
| Annual|| $72,494|
At $45.59 an hour or $94,823 a year, the salaries Ph.D. in social work graduates earn in Nevada are the sixth highest in the U.S. Las Vegas-based Ph.D. in social work graduates earn salaries that are 4 percent more than the state average. The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services
is charged with administering and promoting social support services throughout the Silver State. Nevada allocates $1,508 per resident per year on public welfare services.
29. New Hampshire:
| Hourly|| $45.59|
| Annual|| $94,823|
New Hampshire social work Ph.Ds. earn $45.51 an hour or $94,665 annually. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services
oversees the administration of public welfare programs throughout the Granite State; it is the largest agency in New Hampshire’s state government. In 2019, New Hampshire’s per capita expenditures on public welfare services totaled $1,821 per resident.
30. New Jersey:
| Hourly|| $45.51|
| Annual|| $94,665|
The average Ph.D. in social work salary in New Jersey is $44.56 an hour or $92,686 a year, and Ph.D.-educated social work graduates who live in cities like Newark that are considered to be part of the Greater New York City Metropolitan Area probably make more than that. Social programs in the Garden State are overseen by the Department of Human Services
. The Garden State allocates $2,303 per resident yearly toward the provision of social support services.
31. New Mexico:
| Hourly|| $44.56|
| Annual|| $92,686|
At $3,012 per year, New Mexico’s per capita state public welfare expenditures are one of the highest in the U.S. Its Human Services Department
is responsible for administering social service programs. New Mexico-based social work Ph.Ds. can expect to earn $40.44 an hour or $84,110 a year, but social work Ph.Ds. in Albuquerque earn 4 percent less than the state average.
32. New York:
| Hourly|| $40.44|
| Annual|| $84,110|
The average Ph.D. in social work salary in New York is $42,41 an hour or $88,211 a year. Ph.Ds. in social work operating out of the Greater New York City Metropolitan Area can expect to earn 5 percent more than that. In 2019, the Empire State spent $4,067 per capita on the provision of social support services, the highest amount in any of the 50 states. Thirteen percent of New York’s population lives below the federal poverty line
. The Empire State’s lead social service agency is the Department of Family Assistance
33. North Carolina:
| Hourly|| $42.41|
| Annual|| $88,211|
The average Ph.D. in social work salary in North Carolina is $39.76 an hour or $82,705 annually, which is 5 percent less than the national average. In 2019, 13.6 percent of North Carolina residents lived in poverty
. The administrative agency responsible for the oversight of public welfare programs in the Tarheel State is the Department of Health and Human Services
. North Carolina spends $1,493 per resident every year on public welfare programs.
34. North Dakota:
| Hourly|| $39.76|
| Annual|| $82,705|
Per capita expenditures on social support services in North Dakota amount to $2,050 a year. The North Dakota Department of Human Services
administers the Peace Garden State’s public welfare services. Social work Ph.Ds. can expect to earn $38.68 an hour or $80,463 annually, which is 7 percent less than the national average.
| Hourly|| $38.68|
| Annual|| $80,453|
The average Ph.D. in social work salary in Ohio is $39.31 an hour or $81,772 annually. Social work Ph.Ds. working in Columbus make marginally higher salaries. More than 13 percent of the state’s residents live beneath the federal poverty line
. The Department of Job and Family Services
is the agency responsible for administering most of the Buckeye State’s social support programs. Every year, Ohio spends $2,533 per resident on public welfare services.
| Hourly|| $39.31|
| Annual|| $81,772|
Oklahoma-based Ph.Ds. in social work earn $35.76 an hour or $74,387 a year on average, though in Oklahoma City, they earn 5 percent more than that, while their counterparts working in Tulsa earn 1 percent less. Per capita expenditures on social support services in the Sooner State come to $1,777 a year.
| Hourly|| $35.76|
| Annual|| $74,387|
The second-highest-paid Ph.D. in social work salaries are found in Oregon, where social work Ph.D.-educated professionals earn $52.21 an hour or $108,604 annually. In Portland, the Beaver State’s largest city, these professionals make 1 percent less. Oregon spends $2,878 per resident every year on social support services.
| Hourly|| $52.21|
| Annual|| $108,604|
The average Ph.D. in social work salary in Pennsylvania is $39.58 an hour or $82,317 annually, but social work Ph.Ds. in Philadelphia make 1 percent more than that. In the Keystone State, services that support the state’s most financially vulnerable residents are administered by the Department of Human Services
. Pennsylvania’s spending on social support services comes to $2,784 every year. Twelve percent of the Keystone State’s residents live below the federal poverty line
39. Rhode Island:
| Hourly|| $39.58|
| Annual|| $82,317|
Graduates of Ph.D. in social work programs in Rhode Island can anticipate earning $47.99 an hour or $99,813 a year. Per capita expenditures on social support programs in the Ocean State amount to $3,104 a year. The Rhode Island Department of Human Services
administers the state’s social support and economic safety net services.
40. South Carolina:
| Hourly|| $47.99|
| Annual|| $99,813|
Professionals with Ph.Ds. in social work can look forward to making $39.84 an hour or $82,877 annually in South Carolina. The Palmetto State’s lead agency for the supervision of public welfare programs is the Department of Social Services
. South Carolina’s poverty rate hovers near 14 percent
, and in 2019, the state spent $1,508 per resident on social support services aimed at alleviating some of the burden for the state’s most financially vulnerable population.
41. South Dakota:
| Hourly|| $39.84|
| Annual|| $82,877|
Social work Ph.Ds. make their lowest salaries in South Dakota where they can anticipate earning $31.32 an hour or $65,151 a year. Per capita expenditures on public welfare programs come to $1,359 every year in the Mount Rushmore State. The South Dakota Department of Social Services
administers the state’s public welfare services.
| Hourly|| $31.32|
| Annual|| $65,151|
The average salary for Ph.D. in social work graduates in Tennessee is $34.47 an hour or $71,691 annually, but Ph.D.-educated social work professionals in Nashville average 5 percent more than that while their counterparts in Memphis average 20 percent more than that. The Volunteer State spends $1,853 per resident on social support services every year. Tennessee’s poverty rate hovers just below the 14 percent mark
. Public welfare services are administered by the state’s Department of Human Services
| Hourly|| $34.47|
| Annual|| $71,691|
When it comes to Ph.D. in social work salaries, there’s quite a bit of regional variation in the Lone Star State. While the average Ph.D. in social work salary in Texas is $41.22 an hour or $85,745 a year, professionals in El Paso average 6 percent less than that while their counterparts in Austin and San Antonio average 9 percent less. Meanwhile, Ph.D.-educated professionals in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metropolitan Region average 3 percent more than the state average while their counterparts in the Houston Metropolitan Region average 9 percent more.
| Hourly|| $41.22|
| Annual|| $85,745|
The Beehive State allocates $1,348 per resident to social support programs every year. On average, social work Ph.Ds. earn $45.53 an hour or $94,708 a year in Utah. The Utah Department of Human Service
s is the state agency charged with the administration of public welfare services.
| Hourly|| $45.53|
| Annual|| $94,708|
In 2019, Vermont spent $2,985 per capita on providing social support services to state residents who needed them. Vermont’s Agency of Human Services
oversees the administration of social support services in the Green Mountain State. Professionals with Ph.Ds. in social work can expect to average $39.13 an hour or $81,385 annually.
| Hourly|| $39.13|
| Annual|| $81,385|
Though the average Ph.D. in social work salary in Virginia is $38.85 an hour or $80,812 annually, salaries in Virginia Beach average just $69,095 annually, which is 14 percent less than the state average and the lowest Ph.D. in social work salary in any of the 50 most populous U.S. cities. The commonwealth spends $1,568 per capita every year on social support services. Virginia’s lead agency for the administration of public welfare programs is its Department of Social Services
| Hourly|| $38.85|
| Annual|| $80,812|
The average Ph.D. in social work salary in Washington is $45.34 an hour or $94,306 a year, but social work Ph.Ds. employed in the Seattle Metropolitan Area can expect to average 8 percent more than that. The Department of Social and Health Services
is the state agency responsible for delivering social services to Washington residents. In 2019, the Evergreen State’s per capita expenditure on social service programs came to $1,669.
48. West Virginia:
| Hourly|| $45.34|
| Annual|| $94,306|
West Virginia spends $2,692 per capita every year providing social support services to its neediest residents. These services are administered by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources
. Social work professionals with Ph.Ds. can expect to earn $36.23 an hour or $75,348 a year in this state.
| Hourly|| $36.23|
| Annual|| $75,348|
The average salary for Ph.D. in social work graduates in Wisconsin is $38.69 an hour or $80,482 a year, but salaries in the Milwaukee Metropolitan Area are 6 percent higher. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services
oversees the network of social support services designed for vulnerable residents. Per capita expenditure on public welfare programs in the Badger State comes to $2,340 annually.
| Hourly|| $38.69|
| Annual|| $80,482|
In Wyoming, professionals with social work Ph.Ds. make salaries that average $43.68 an hour or $90,850 a year, which is 5 percent higher than the national average. Wyoming spends $1,511 per capita on social support programs every year, and these programs are administered by the Wyoming Department of Family Services
| Hourly|| $43.68|
| Annual|| $90,850|
What Are The 10 Highest And Lowest Paying States For Ph.D. In Social Work Graduates?
As noted above, the highest-paid Ph.D. in social work salaries are found in California while the lowest-paid Ph.D. in social work are found in South Dakota. There isn’t enough data to explain why these salary differentials exist, but it’s tempting to speculate that they may be correlated in some way with the amounts these states allocate toward public welfare programs out of their own general funds. State allocations may be a general approximation of the importance any given state assigns to public welfare services.
Unfortunately, though, no trend in state spending exists that backs up the existence of such a correlation. At $69,210 annually, Mississippi is the second-lowest paying state for Ph.D. in social work salary but the Magnolia State spends $2,123 per capita on public welfare services, which is more than Connecticut ($1,122
), Nevada ($1,508), Utah ($1,348), New Hampshire )$1,821) and Washington ($1,569) spend even though the average salary for Ph.D. in social work is more than 25 percent higher in those five states than it is in Mississippi. Variation in the average Ph.D. in social work salary from state to state is probably the result of many factors, that include how much social services are valued at the state level, cost of living, and the state’s tax base. These factors interact with one another in complex ways.
| Rank|| Highest Paying States || Lowest Paying States |
| State|| Salary|| State|| Salary|
| 1|| California|| $119,030|| South Dakota|| $65,151|
| 2|| Oregon|| $108,604|| Mississippi|| $69,210|
| 3|| Hawaii|| $105,277|| Alabama|| $69,281|
| 4|| Connecticut|| $103,040|| Missouri|| $70,343|
| 5|| Rhode Island|| $99,813|| Tennessee|| $71,691|
| 6|| Nevada|| $94,823|| Nebraska|| $72,494|
| 7|| Utah|| $94,708|| Georgia|| $74,186|
| 8|| New Hampshire|| $94,665|| Oklahoma|| $74,387|
| 9|| Washington|| $94,306|| Montana|| $74,430|
| 10|| New Jersey|| $92,686|| Kentucky|| $75,018|
Average Ph.D. In Social Work Salary By City For 2021
Just as there’s variation in the average salary for Ph.D. in social work from state to state, so there may be variation from city to city within the same state. The cities where the highest average Ph.D. in social work salary is found are Oakland and San Francisco, both in the Greater San Francisco Bay Metropolitan Area. In Oakland and San Francisco, Ph.D.-educated social work professionals earn $143,998 annually, which is 21 percent higher than the average salary earned by Ph.D.-educated social work professionals throughout California and 66 percent higher than the average salary earned by Ph.D.-educated social work professionals throughout all parts of the U.S. In San Diego, California, however, Ph.D.-educated social work professionals earn $105,306 annually, which is 12 percent lower than the state average, although still 21 percent higher than the national average.
In Texas, where the average Ph.D. in social work salary is $85,745 annually—or 1 percent lower than the national average—Ph.D.-educated social work professionals in the Houston Metropolitan Area earn $93,303, which is 8 percent above the national average and 9 percent above the state average, while Ph.D.-educated professionals in the Austin Metropolitan Area earn $78,015, which is 10 percent lower than the national average and 9 percent lower than the state average.
| City||Hourly|| Annual|
| Albuquerque, NM|| $39.32|| $81,787|
| Arlington, TX|| $42.62|| $88,642|
| Atlanta, GA|| $37.02|| $77,011|
| Austin, TX|| $37.51|| $78,015|
| Baltimore, MD|| $42.35|| $88,082|
| Boston, MA|| $45.42|| $94,478|
| Charlotte, NC|| $38.99|| $81,098|
| Chicago, IL|| $39.81|| $82,805|
| Colorado Springs, CO|| $37.41|| $77,814|
| Columbus, OH|| $39.46|| $82,074|
| Dallas, TX|| $42.62|| $88,642|
| Denver, CO|| $40.53|| $84,296|
| Detroit, MI|| $38.80|| $80,697|
| El Paso, TX|| $38.89|| $80,883|
| Fort Worth, TX|| $42.62|| $88,642|
| Fresno, CA|| $62.48|| $129,958|
| Houston, TX|| $44.86|| $93,303|
| Indianapolis, IN|| $39.39|| $81,930|
| Jacksonville, FL|| $37.51|| $78,029|
| Kansas City, MO|| $40.66|| $84,569|
| Las Vegas, NV|| $47.27|| $98,322|
| Long Beach, CA|| $57.54|| $119,690|
| Los Angeles, CA|| $57.54|| $119,690|
| Louisville, KY|| $35.84|| $74,544|
| Memphis, TN|| $41.46|| $86,232|
| Mesa, AZ|| $42.49|| $88,384|
| Miami, FL|| $36.20|| $75,305|
| Milwaukee, WI|| $41.19|| $85,673|
| Minneapolis, MN|| $40.47|| $84,182|
| Nashville, TN|| $36.11|| $75,118|
| New Orleans, LA|| $38.47|| $80,023|
| New York, NY|| $44.50|| $92,557|
| Oakland, CA|| $69.23|| $143,998|
| Oklahoma City, OK|| $37.54|| $78,087|
| Omaha, NE|| $36.47|| $75,850|
| Philadelphia, PA|| $39.93|| $83,049|
| Phoenix, AZ|| $42.49|| $88,384|
| Portland, OR|| $51.76|| $107,658|
| Raleigh, NC|| $44.64|| $92,858|
| Sacramento, CA|| $51.83|| $107,816|
| San Antonio, TX|| $37.53|| $78,072|
| San Diego, CA|| $50.63|| $105,306|
| San Francisco, CA|| $69.23|| $143,998|
| San Jose, CA|| $68.24|| $141,947|
| Seattle, WA|| $48.99|| $101,893|
| Tampa, FL|| $37.64|| $78,287|
| Tucson, AZ|| $40.62|| $84,497|
| Tulsa, OK|| $35.34|| $73,498|
| Virginia Beach, VA|| $33.22|| $69,095|
| Washington, DC|| $45.97|| $95,626|
What Is Salary Outlook For Ph.D. In Social Work Graduates?
As noted above, the demand for social work professionals with graduate degrees is there, but it’s not clear if this demand extends beyond MSW degree holders to Ph.D. graduates. Social work is a social science, and many employment analysts believe that there’s an oversupply of social science Ph.Ds. in the job market. And, too many research areas in the domain of social work fall just as easily into the domains of public health, psychology, economics and even nursing, which suggests a certain redundancy in social work as an academic discipline.
Demand for this specialty, in other words, is not high at present, and this will have an effect on the salaries that Ph.D.-educated social work professionals earn. However, the salary for Ph.D. in social work graduates may rise if the salary for MSW graduates increases. Since the demand for MSW graduates is projected to be above average in the next decade, it’s likely MSW salaries will increase, which means that Ph.D. salaries are likely to increase too.
3 Ways To Boost Your Ph.D. In Social Work Salary
Ph.D.-educated social work professionals who are interested in boosting their salaries have several avenues open to them. Here are three:
While Ph.Ds. in Social Work don’t have the same flexibility that clinical social workers do in terms of specialization, they can still choose to focus on niche areas that can increase their earning capacity. Medical social work is a very hot topic right now with multiple research opportunities. Focusing on child welfare issues, drug and addiction issues and criminal justice issues may also increase your marketability.
As a Ph.D., you’re an expert in your field, and there are organizations that will pay for your expertise. Networking is critical to success as a consultant, so make sure to keep your memberships current in professional organizations like the American Clinical Social Work Association
, the National Association of Social Workers
, and the Society for Social Work and Research
. Check the terms of your current employment too as some employers object to their employees doing this kind of outside work.
As you have learned, the average salary for Ph.D. in social work fluctuates from state to state and between different localities in the same state. Moving may be a way to hoist your money-making potential.
Summing It Up
How much do Ph.D. in social work graduates make? Ph.D.-educated social work professionals make a comfortable salary, but it’s not lavish compared to the salaries Ph.Ds. in comparable fields like public health and nursing make. That doesn’t mean you should not pursue a Ph.D. in Social Work if you feel passionate about researching and addressing the underlying causes of systemic inequities, but it does mean that if you go into this field, the salary for Ph.D. in social work graduates in 2021 should not be your chief consideration.
We have used the following sources to compile the salary data on this page.
1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
3. NP Editorial Assessment