Guide to Social Work Programs
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Completing a practicum is an important park of your social work training.
Explore the services social workers provide and find out if you have the interpersonal skills necessary to become an effective social worker.
Though you may target a specific area in which to specialize, there are some basic social work courses you must take.
If you plan to become a licensed social worker, confirm that your program has been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.
Learn How You Can Study Social Work
Social work degrees are offered to students through offline, online, and hybrid degree programs at traditional universities and online schools. Compare the pros and cons of each option below.
Learn What Social Workers Do
Social work helps people understand, cope with, and solve social and emotional problems. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) states that social workers provide services like counseling and therapy to individuals, families, and other groups in the following areas of practice:
- Adolescent Health
- Behavioral Health
- Bereavement/End-of-Life Care
- Children, Youth, and Families
- Clinical Social Work
- Diversity and Equity
- Peace and Social Justice
- School Social Work
Social workers typically work in clinical settings like hospitals and mental health clinics, though others work in office environments or assist nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Social workers should not, however, be confused with NGO volunteers. Social workers are trained professionals who are educated and qualified to provide counseling services in a variety of areas, whereas those who volunteer with NGOs do not typically provide treatment or diagnose patients.
See if you fit the profile of a typical social work student
A prospective social work student should be attentive to detail, passionate about helping others, and enjoy talking to other people. Attention to detail is necessary to diagnose problems and conduct effective therapy. Passion for helping others and a natural ability to communicate are necessary for maintaining motivation and effectively meeting the needs of others.
A social work degree is not a good choice for all students, however. Students who are more driven by tangible, quantitative results won’t thrive in the social work field, in which emotional intelligence and the ability to handle one’s own emotions and those of social service users are paramount. Likewise, students who are very introverted or lack well-developed communication skills will struggle to establish a rapport with clients and families.
Find Out How to Earn a Social Work Degree
While pursuing a traditional or online social work degree, you will take social work courses on human behavior, social service organizations, social work practice, and social work research, in addition to courses in psychology, government, and economics.
Discover what you will do in social work colleges
In social work programs, you will test your knowledge of social resources and learn how to effectively provide counseling and connect users to the most relevant service channels. You will spend a great amount of time in lectures, learning about the fundamentals and theories of good social work practice. Once you finish your introductory courses, you will conduct social work research and engage in field experiences wherein you will be placed in an agency based on your interests and the needs of local organizations.
See what social work courses you will take
You will learn about social systems in this course and how these systems affect the behavior of individuals. You will study the effects of families, groups, organizations, and cultures on behavior, as well as how these structures interact with one another.
You will examine the policies, organizational theories, and delivery systems of social service groups in this course. You will learn about the inner workings of these groups and how they use social workers, volunteers, and other personnel to meet community needs.
You will learn statistical analysis skills in this social work course. You will study how to analyze data, interpret that data, and draw meaningful conclusions from your research.
Consider your specialization
You may choose to specialize in areas like military social work, community planning, or social justice during your social work degree program. You will take courses that provide unique perspectives on these issues in addition to the typical social work program requirements. These specializations can make it much easier to break into relevant fields. For example, if you are interested in working in veterans’ affairs, you should consider a specialization in military social work rather than a general social work degree.
Discover the Social Work Degree Levels Schools Offer
An associate’s degree takes two years to attain, and is best for students who are not yet sure they are interested in social work. Most associate’s degree holders pursue jobs as administrative assistants or entry-level personnel in NGOs and other social work organizations.
A bachelor’s degree is a good choice for students who are interested in practical social work, and takes around four years to complete. Graduates from bachelor’s degree programs find employment as counselors, social workers, and psychiatric aides.
A master’s degree is ideal for students who have some social work experience and would like to become clinical social workers. It takes an additional two to three years after the bachelor’s degree to complete, and opens up job opportunities as a clinical social worker and school counselor.
A doctoral degree is a good choice for students who have decided they want to perform advanced social work research, rather than practice clinical social work. A doctoral degree can take four to seven years, but opens the door to positions like university professor and researcher.
Find Out What You Need to Know About Accreditation
The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredits bachelor’s and master’s programs in the United States. Doctoral degree programs, however, are not accredited by the CSWE, as they focus more on research and policy than the practice of social work. Accreditation is particularly important for those who want to become licensed social workers or clinical social workers, as students applying for these licenses must have degrees from accredited schools.
Discover the Job Landscape for Social Work Professionals
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that employment opportunities are expected to grow at least 25% for social workers over the next decade, which is significantly faster than the expected average growth rate for all occupations in the United States. The BLS also reports that social workers earn an average annual salary of $42,480, which is higher than the average individual salary for all occupations.