Social workers serve an important function in our society. Without them, many problems would escalate quickly and many innocent children and elderly people would suffer. However, becoming a social worker can be an arduous process for someone who does not understand exactly how to maximize college credits or become licensed.
In most states, social workers need at least a four-year degree. Many social workers seek a master’s degree in social work (MSW) in order to succeed in their field.
Social workers often hold undergraduate degrees in sociology, psychology, or another liberal arts field. However, the majority of social workers hold a bachelor’s in social work, a degree that is available from many four-year colleges and universities. Clinical social workers must hold a master’s degree.
There are programs that allow students to combine the bachelor’s and master’s portions of their social work degrees in a seamless program to accelerate the degree path. In many cases, Bachelor of Social Work candidates practice for some time then go back to school to take the Masters Degree which normally takes two years to complete. However, many schools are seeing the benefit of a program that allows a student to take the bachelors degree in four years then segue directly to a masters program that takes one year to finish. This allows students to get both degrees in five years rather than six.
Social work degrees have their own pre-determined curriculum, but a student who has taken an undergraduate degree in psychology, sociology, or criminal justice may usually seek a master’s in social work as long as they have the requisite courses. Most social work degrees require a minimum of classes in psychology, social justice, political science, and economics as well as sociology.
In order to determine the courses required for your degree, you should examine your school’s curriculum and talk to an academic advisor. If you already know that social work is your chosen field then discuss streamlined programs that allow you to obtain a master’s degree in the shortest time possible.
Social workers spend their days working with programs that benefit people. There is a great deal of personal interaction with clients and those who work with other agencies such as welfare departments or police departments.
Direct-service social workers deal directly with clients by offering access to services and helping clients solve personal problems such as lack of food or housing. Direct-service social workers may work through another agency such as a school or healthcare facility where clients are directed to them, or they may work for private agencies that seek out clients through various programs.
Clinical social workers usually deal with more global jobs such as gaining funding for programs and administering large-scale projects. They also work with the psychological aspects of social work, providing services to clients who suffer from mental or emotional issues.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers’ median annual salary is $42,480. However, social workers in certain fields such as healthcare earn a median salary of $47,230 and social workers in elementary and secondary school settings earn a median salary of $54,260 per year.*
Every state requires licensure for clinical social workers, although other social worker jobs may not require a license. While the requirements for direct-service social workers vary by state, some states do offer licensing options for these social workers as well.
Licensure boards for each state set the standards for issuing certification, and candidates must often pass a written exam to receive a license. Many states also require proof of a certain number of hours of clinical internship and observation before issuing a license.
*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Community-and-Social-Service/Social-workers.htm/#tab-5)