Illinois MSW Programs | (2023)

Illinois is considered a Midwestern state, but differs significantly from other Midwestern states such as Nebraska, Kansas or Missouri. With a population of almost 13 million, Illinois contains several large cities, the most well known being Chicago, otherwise known as the “Windy City.”

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The economy of Illinois relies heavily on manufacturing, agriculture, iron, steel, transportation equipment, industrial machinery and technology. Coal mining, oil production and meat packing are also essential industries in the state (1).

A State of Stark Differences

Life in the city of Chicago varies greatly from neighborhood to neighborhood, and life in the city is extremely different from life on the vast farmlands of the rural parts of the state. Social workers in the state will find opportunities to serve in a wide variety of roles, ranging from urban poverty and criminal justice work to working with underserved rural populations.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Illinois has the fifth largest foster care system in the nation, with a total of 16,840 children in foster care and 31,515 cases of child maltreatment in the year 2018 (6th highest in the nation for that year) (2). If you want to work with child and family services, you will find opportunity in Illinois.

Illinois’ urban areas have high crime rates, but the rural areas have low crime rates. You might assume that Chicago is the city with the highest crime rate in the state, but actually, Springfield (the state capital) has a much higher crime rate (for both property and violent crime). According to FBI data, both cities have much higher crime rates than the national average (3). In fact, Springfield, Illinois was ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in the nation (per FBI data on violent crime) in September, 2020 (4). If you are interested in working with the criminal justice system or working with troubled youths, Illinois could use your contribution.

There are many projects in Chicago that are of interest to social workers, such as the Chicago Area Project, considered one of the first programs for juvenile delinquency in the country. It stems from Shaw and McKay’s work in the late 1920s and 1930s, which provided many of the theories related to social disorganization and placed importance on the environment as a cause of delinquency. Research still continues with the help of the University of Chicago (5).

Aside from the problems noted above, Illinois is an impressively healthy state in many ways. The US Census Bureau reports that the state has a lower than average percentage of the population living in poverty (11.5 percent, compared to the national average of 10.5 percent). It also has a lower than average percentage of the population over the age of 65, and a higher than average percentage of the population holding a high school diploma or bachelor’s degree. Homeownership rates are higher than average, and the median salary is also higher than the national average (6). The number of people diagnosed with mental illness is lower than the national average as well (7).

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MSW Programs in Illinois: Getting a Top Notch Social Work Education in Illinois

If you’re thinking about studying to get your MSW in state, you are in luck! According to the 2019 US News & World Report school rankings, the University of Chicago’s School of Social Work is ranked third in the nation, and there are many other MSW programs in the state. Especially noteworthy are the following schools: the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, which is ranked number 22; the University of Illinois Chicago’s Jane Addams’ College of Social Work, which is ranked number 25; and Loyola University’s School of Social Work, which is ranked number 33 in the nation (8).

Pursuing a master’s degree can be expensive, but you might qualify for loan forgiveness after graduation. You might want to look into the National Health Service Corps loan forgiveness program (NHSC), which rewards social workers that decide to work in “Health Professional Shortage Areas” (HPSAs).

A Wide Variety of Positions and Opportunities in Illinois Social Work

Whether you want to work as a clinical social worker that specializes in counseling, or as a criminal justice social worker that works with underserved communities, you will find plenty of opportunities in the state of Illinois. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, job growth in this field is steadily increasing. Child, family and school social work jobs are expected to expand by 8 percent each year (9). Healthcare social work positions are expected to expand by 8 percent (10), and mental health and substance abuse social work jobs are predicted to grow by 6 percent (11).

Pay varies considerably across the state and by type of social work. Mental health and substance abuse social workers make the least, averaging a median salary of $44,260 per year. However, the pay range varies from as low as $36,580 in Peoria and as high as $54,060 in Springfield (12).

Healthcare social workers make a median salary of $53,620, but again pay varies by location. In Peoria, you can expect to make a mean salary of $37,960, compared to a mean salary of $59,990 in the Kankakee-Bradley area (13).

Child, family and school social workers are the best paid in the state, making a median salary of $52,860. Once again, pay varies by location from a low of $34,350 in the Cape Girardeau-Jackson area, to a high of $57,910 in Springfield (14).

Licensure and Professional Development Resources

Universities Offering Master’s in Social Work Programs in Illinois

Sources Cited

  1. Illinois, 2014. Info Please.
  2. Child Welfare Outcomes Report Data, 2018. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
  3. Compare Crime Rates, 2021. Sperling’s Best Places.
  4. America’s Most Dangerous Cities, 2020. Forbes.
  5. Chicago Area Project, 2020. Chicago Area. and
  6. State and County QuickFacts, 2019. United States Census Bureau.,US/PST045219
  7. State Estimates of Adult Mental Illness, 2017-2018. National Surveys on Drug Use and Health.
  8. Graduate School Search – Social Work Programs, 2019. US News and World Report.
  9. America’s Career InfoNet – Career Profile, 2019. Career One Stop.
  10. America’s Career InfoNet – Career Profile, 2019. Career One Stop.
  11. America’s Career InfoNet – Career Profile, 2019. Career One Stop.
  12. Statewide Statistics for Illinois, 2019. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  13. Statewide Statistics for Illinois, 2019. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  14. Statewide Statistics for Illinois, 2019. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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