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What degree do you need to be a social worker?

Social workers are an integral part of the healthcare system in the U.S., but they are also present in other sectors of the economy – including child welfare, services to the elderly, and in the philanthropic world. These professionals seek to improve the quality of life for various groups – including individuals and communities – through direct intervention and academic research, among other means. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in social work, pay attention to the degree requirements and inquire with your state’s Department of Social Services to determine whether you need a license.

Social Work Degree Requirements

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that a bachelor’s degree is required for most direct-service social work positions. “Direct-service” means the social worker interacts frequently with the target subject, whether it is an individual, a group or a community. According to BLS research, a master’s degree is often the norm for some social work, depending on the employer or if the position has some academic component. To become a social worker, seek a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW), making sure to take all the prerequisite courses that may later be needed if you decide to seek a license. A typical bachelor’s degree requires 120 credits of coursework, 60 of which are general education requirements. Depending on the institution, the requirements for a BSW degree may be different, but general education courses typically include Introduction to Psychology, Introduction to Sociology, Introduction to Human Biology, Introduction to Computers, and Introduction to Social Work. The other 60 credits required for graduation relate to specific Social Work major courses, such as Human Behavior and Social Environment, Issues of Diversity in Social Work Practice, and Field Practicum. You can take electives (up to 12) to meet the overall credit requirement.

Similar Occupations to Social Work

BLS surveys show that professionals from other fields can veer into social work, provided that they possess solid experience in fields that require substantial human interaction. For example, if you are a psychologist or an educator, you may transition to social work if you meet some conditions. Check with state officials in the area where you live for further information. Other occupations with job duties that are similar to those of social workers include health educators, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, rehabilitation counselors, and social and community service managers. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors as well as social and human service assistants also may have good job prospects if they want to make a career transition into social work.

Social Work Licensure

Some states require that social workers meet specific requirements to obtain a license. These requirements often entail academic qualifications – say, a bachelor’s degree in social work or a similar field – experience, adherence to ethical values, and the successful completion of a state-supervised exam. Check with your state’s Department of Social Services officials to learn more about the specific requirements. Licensed social workers also may be required to comply with continuing-education rules and take specific training periodically.

Useful Links

http://careerplanning.about.com/od/occupations/p/social_worker.htm
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Community-and-Social-Service/Social-workers.htm
http://www.careerbuilder.com/JobSeeker/Jobs/JobDetails.aspx?APath=2.21.0.0.0&job_did=JB76RJ73NJ92PY4MVBR&IPath=JRKV0A
https://www.mercy.edu/academics/school-of-social-and-behavioral-sciences/department-of-psychology-and-social-work/bs-in-social-work/
https://www.mercy.edu/schools/socialbehavioralscience/SOC%20WRK%20HANDBOOK%202012-13.pdf

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