What is Social Work?
Social work in a unique and interesting career field. It can be challenging yet extremely rewarding, and simply stated – it is not for everyone. Social work calls upon the most caring and compassionate professionals to lend a helping hand to those in need. There is a widespread need for social workers in order to assist with a variety of different callings in fields the deal directly with the public and the public need. Social work at its core is the direction and leadership of people within a community towards a better purpose. Upcoming professionals that show an interest in this field are a vital asset to the communities in which they live.
There Are Different Types of Social Work Degrees
There are currently over 700 different Social Work Programs accredited at the Bachelors and Masters levels by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), while other programs are considered candidates and are under review. As of the October 2016 COA meeting, there are:
- 511 accredited Baccalaureate Social Work programs
- 249 accredited Master’s of Social Work programs
- 17 Baccalaureate Social Work programs in candidacy
- 16 Master’s Social Work programs in candidacy
CSWE Accredited Social Work Certificates
Bachelors of Social Work
There are currently 774 universities providing Bachelor’s of Social Work degrees throughout the country. Of these 774, 511 are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Choosing an accredited college provides learners with a sense of relief in knowing that their degree will be accepted for future licensure.
Bachelor of Social Work degree programs can be obtained through traditional in-person colleges as well as online platforms. Online learning is becoming more popular as the years progress, making this a great option for busy professionals wanting something extra for their professional life. The widespread availability of degree programs can potentially open doors for students from all backgrounds. One of the most common degree paths for social work is at the bachelor’s level.
Social Behavior and Public Service
The Bachelor’s degree program in Social Work really dives deep into social behavior and public service – pulling together the various aspects of both that draw them together. These 4-year programs are suitable for individuals that wish to build a foundation in social work and potentially move to higher degree programs in the future. While in a bachelor’s program at this level, students will be taught the skills required to work with the public.
Additional Topics and Coursework for a BSW Degree
Community planning, social welfare and relationships to the judicial system, mental health topics, and administrative functions are taught in depth throughout this program. Students will learn about the various functions of social service agencies and how their contributions will lead to better lives for individuals throughout their career. The schematics of local and government agencies are also taught in the bachelor’s program, which can prepare learners for careers working for state or government agencies. The knowledge gained throughout these programs can provide a solid platform of social skills that can contribute to a meaningful career for those involved.
Career Options for a BSW
Wondering what can be done with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work is completely normal when considering this degree program. A degree can be a means for a better life, so considerations for future potential should always be a part of the decision process. It is always important to consider how much a degree can provide not only financially, but also with regards to quality of work.
Are There Licensing Requirements?
Licensing for social workers can be obtained at the bachelor’s level in some states, but most states require master’s degrees or higher in order to be licensed through the state. It is important for applicants to review their state’s current standards prior to choosing the right degree path. At the bachelor’s level, graduates have the potential to seek out careers in many different fields in the social domain.
Careers are available as mental health assistants – providing care and planning for individuals under the care of licensed mental health practitioners. Bachelor’s level social workers can also work for welfare agencies providing case planning and outreach for families receiving food and healthcare assistance from their respective states.
Youth care facilities that foster troubled youth also seek out social work professionals to fill positions such as activities coordinators and youth service officers. Various positions in community planning and administration also rely on knowledgeable social work professionals to fill their positions.
Masters of Social Work
Throughout the country, 327 colleges offer Master’s in Social Work programs. 249 of these programs are CSWE accredited, so it is vital to review each program prior to applying. A Master’s program is designed to train practicing professionals in order to create more knowledgeable and experienced social workers in the field.
Why Pursue a MSW?
Pursuing a Master’s degree in Social Work is a proud and exciting quest. The Master’s in Social Work degree opens learners up to the potential for licensing as well as more employment capabilities throughout a career. What a master’s degree means for upcoming students is a more in-depth look into the social work field and the opportunity to work hands on with the public during typical course studies.
Master’s programs integrate the social knowledge gained in undergraduate studies with the application of theories and practices in an in-person setting.
Online MSW Programs Are Becoming MUCH More Popular
Online Master’s Degrees in Social Work are also available through online, non-profit universities, making it a convenient choice for individuals that have families or current careers to maintain. Many universities are bringing their CSWE-accredited program online, while others are getting their established Online MSW program CSWE accreditation. View Online CSWE Accredited MSW Programs.
Online learning allows students to embark on independent learning and time management, which are important skills for social work professionals. Regardless of whether or not students to choose to pursue this degree in traditional environments or online, accreditation ensures that the curriculum is on point and accepted by future employers.
Length of a MSW Program
Typical Master’s degree in Social Work programs last about 2 years and require students to take part in an on-the-job practicum near the end. Depending on the university, students can choose either a clinical or non-clinical focus, which can change the scope of their class work as well as the requirements for the practicum. Students also have the potential to choose a specialty at this level.
Top MSW Specialty Program Areas of Concentration
Some examples of potential specialties include:
Specialty MSW Programs
Depending on personal preferences, one specialty may be more fitting for some than others. Regardless of which path is chosen, the curriculum within the master’s program is fitting for the most dedicated professionals.
Although obtaining a Master’s degree or higher in Social Work is an amazing achievement, it is not the end of the line for those seeking LCSW licensure. Social workers work directly with the public, so it is important to understand the professional and ethical concerns associated with positions of such value.
Due to the importance of these positions within society, most states place requirements on educational standards, experience, and personal history or applicants requesting licensure.
Licensing for MSW Graduates
Some states allow bachelor’s level graduates to become licensed upon graduation and completion of an exam and experience requirements, but most begin licensure at the master’s level. Depending on which state a student resides, he or she may be qualified for licensure after only a bachelor’s degree. Researching individual state requirements will ensure that applicants are knowledgeable of what their state requires and prepared for the road to licensure as they move along.
One state notes that applicants should have a degree from an accredited university. Master’s level applicants in this state are not required to take part in supervised work experience, but must pass a master’s level exam. Once these steps are completed, graduates are considered licensed to work in the social work field within their state.
Social Work Licensure
Research All Types of Social Work Degrees
Micro Social Work Degree
Micro social work is a classification of social work that considers individuals and small groups as direct clients for practice. This sector of social work can include working with people on a personal setting, helping them to connect with resources in the community that can improve their quality of life. Some common duties of micro social workers may include providing assistance to families that are seeking assistance with food or housing, advocating for juveniles during court proceedings, or working individually with people that have struggles with drug addiction or criminal behavior. Most of the work completed within this area of social work is concerned with the well-being of individual people or families.
Macro Social Work Degree
Macro social work is a field within the social work distinction that focuses more on the broad aspects of the social work field. The laws that regulate social work professionals are often analyzed and implemented by macro social work professionals at this level. This level of social work can also include the review and improvement of current social work policies that dictate services provided by micro and mezzo social workers. Macro social work is typically more concerned with the well-being of society from a broad perspective, rather than focusing on the specific needs of any specific groups.
Top Degree for Macro Social Work
- Macro Social Work MSW Programs
- Master’s in Social Work – Policy Planning and Development
Mezzo Social Work Degree
Mezzo social work focuses on the needs of small groups within society. Communities, neighborhoods, educational institutions, and organizations are often the focus of concern for social workers in this field. Mezzo social workers integrate medium-scale planning into their day-to-day activities, which can consist of brainstorming ideas for community improvement, public safety, or client advocacy. Some components within mezzo social work can have a direct effect on individuals throughout society and can also play a role in the integration of macro social work policies implemented at a higher level.
Advanced Generalist Social Work Degree
The Advanced Generalist Social Work degree program provides a broad outlook on the field of social work. This degree program does not consist of any focus of specialty, but rather the science of social work from an educational viewpoint. This program provides insight into the history and change of current social work programs, as well as the current social work system in society. Generalist social work professionals can gain a well-rounded expertise rather than just learning more about individual areas within this discipline.
Top Degree for Advanced Generalist Social Work
Administrative Leadership Degree
Social work degree programs in Administrative Leadership were designed to help students gain a better understanding of the administrative, financial, and ethical foundations present within management positions in social work. This program provides courses that can increase student awareness of client care, employee conduct, and budgeting in day-to-day business. Administrative Leadership can help increase students’ skills in communication, team building, and organization so that they can effective lead teams of social workers in a professional setting. This degree is popular for people that have some experience in the field of social work.
Top Degree for Administrative Social Work
Adult Needs Social Work Degree
Adult Needs Social Work is a sector of public health that focuses on the needs of adults that have needs that cannot be satisfied independently. This degree in particular helps to provide social workers with the skills to help adults make important life decisions such as those pertaining to healthcare, finances, and housing. Degree programs that focus on Adult Needs Social Work help students learn more about resources available to individuals within this population, as well as the financial assistance and programs provided through the U.S. Government. Graduates of this degree program can work with hospitals, retirement homes, or with social services.
Behavioral Health Social Work Degree
Behavioral Health Social Work degrees are geared towards helping psychological-based learners focus on the environmental and biological components of human behavior. These factors can play a role in determining why individuals act in specific ways and how these behaviors can have an effect on their overall health. Having this degree can help graduates implement strategies for better education, supportive behavioral health agencies, and counseling that can assist in helping people lead healthier lives. This degree can lead to careers in behavior counseling, community health, and research.
Top Degree for Behavior Health Social Work
Child and Family Social Work Degree
A degree in Child and Family Social Work consists of a look into the direct needs of children and their families. This degree can help to create effective social workers that can act as advocates for children within a state setting, provide assistance to families with financial needs, or assist during difficult family-oriented crises such as abuse, neglect, or adoption. The curriculum within this degree program is designed to help students understand the physical, emotional, and behavioral needs of individuals within this group.
Top Degree for Child and Family Social Work
Community Social Work Degree (Development, Management, Administration, Policy)
Community Social Work is a mezzo social work program that involve working within a small community. This degree program can include topics such as finance, management, planning, and policy development. There are many laws that govern social work, many of which can help guide professionals throughout their career. This program can help students to find future careers in city planning, leadership, and even local government. Courses within this program can include topics that can assist with effective decision making communication, and personnel management.
Top Degree for Community Social Work
Community Organization, Planning and Administration Degree
Community Organization, Planning and Administration is a degree program that focuses more on the hands-on approach to local social work. This program can help students gain skills necessary to effectively plan and lead important community programs centered around social work. Some planning that is included within this degree program can include community health and awareness plans and youth recreation. Choosing this degree program can help you gain expertise in management techniques that can lead to potentially successful career options within the social domain.
Top Degree for Community Organization
Counseling Social Work Degree
Programs that focus on Counseling Social Work were created to provide students with expertise in one-on-one engagement with the public. These types of programs focus on the different counseling techniques available for upcoming professionals, and the most useful methods for applying them to the public. Special topics such as substance abuse, youth studies, and marriage counseling may be a part of the curriculum in this program. This type of degree can lead to future licensure for graduating students, as well as careers working in counseling for the general public.
Top Degree for Counseling Social Work
Clinical Social Work Degree
Clinical Social Work is a practical application of social work for mental health or medical needs. The degree program for Clinical Social Work may include clinical components that can help students learn about proper treatment methods, available pharmaceuticals, and treatment evaluation and planning for patients in need. Students that complete this degree program can become licensed at Licensed Clinical Social Workers within their state and practice with the public. Social workers at this level can provide counseling services for individuals and groups within many different fields in society.
Top Degree for Clinical Social Work
Direct Practice Social Work Degree
Students that want to work on a personal level with clients may be best suited for the Direct Practice Social Work degree. This program is designed to help strengthen communication skills, advocacy skills, and knowledge within social service agencies and provisions. Students earning this degree are expected to maintain a close and professional relationship with clients to ensure that they are in contact with needed services and receiving the right type of care. Most graduates in this field maintain a case load of clients that require close monitoring and attention. Agencies that call upon social workers in this field may include social services, healthcare social work, and mental health services.
Top Degree for Direct Practice Social Work
- Master’s in Social Work – Direct Practice (Children’s or Adult’s)
Gerontological Social Work Degree
This degree program is an excellent choice for students that want to provide assistance to gerontological patients in a clinical setting. The purpose of this degree program is to educate students on the topics needed to help aging patients maintain stable financial wellness, make important healthcare decisions, and monitor the progress of relevant treatment plans. The curriculum in this program may include topics such as developmental health and wellness, adult care law, and social work systems for the aging population. Students that pursue this degree may find careers working for retirement homes, hospitals, or even in private practice.
Top Degree for Gerontological Social Work
Mental Health Social Work Degree
Mental Health Social Work degree programs integrate curricula from both Social Work and Psychology. These programs are based around the needs of individuals that have been diagnosed with mental health disorders and illnesses. Throughout the educational program, students can learn about the different responsibilities of social workers within this domain, as well as the different psychological disorders and services that are present within society. The result of this type of degree program can be careers working for mental health agencies, hospitals, or even patient advocacy centers. Students that earn this degree may even have the option of working for patients that are not clinically able to make their own financial or medical decisions.
Top Degree for Mental Health Social Work
Trauma Social Work Degree
Trauma Social Work is a specialized degree program that focuses on services for individuals that have experienced serious trauma within their every day lives. During the program, students can learn the different types of trauma and how these traumas can change the human brain. Counseling techniques, resources, and services provided to trauma victims may also be a topic of discussion throughout this course. Social workers that focus on Trauma Social Work can work for agencies that provide intervention during child abuse, domestic abuse, and even recovery services.
Top Degree for Trauma Social Work
Youth and Family Social Work Degree
This degree program is an excellent choice for individuals that are interested in the well-being of youth and their families. Working with clients to find resources, counseling, and services is a primary goal of this field – specifically for children and family members. In this degree program, students can learn about the different laws and regulations that govern work with youth, services provided by state and local governments, and laws regarding children and families. Once completing this degree program, students can work for social service agencies, schools, or even in private practice.
Top Degree for Youth Social Work
Council on Social Work Education – CSWE
Accreditation is a label that is affixed to degree programs that are approved by higher learning organizations. For social workers, an important organization to remember is the Council on Social Work Education.
This organization is the highest accrediting board for social work educational programs. When seeking out potential degree programs, it is extremely important to determine whether or not the chosen program has been accredited by this organization.
Accreditation of these programs provides learners with the assurance that the degree program is relevant and covers everything needed for a fruitful and ethical career.
Degree programs that are not accredited by the CSWE may not be accepted by certain states with an application for licensure and even some employers. Putting heart into a degree program is something that will pay learners off for a lifetime. It is worth the extra time to ensure that the degree programs available provide the same worth in the end.
Social Work CAS by the CSWE
SocialWorkCAS is a unique featured created by the CSWE that enables students to discover and apply to schools through the same platform. Schools are also able to communicate through this platform.
What is CSWE Accreditation?
Students considering enrolled into social work degree programs may see accreditation mentioned at both the institutional level and through state licensing agencies. Accreditation is an incredibly important component when seeking out degree programs in this field that can contribute to the types of careers you can obtain after graduation and your ability to become licensed in the future. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is the leading accreditation agency for degrees in social work. Institutions that are interested in receiving accreditation for their Bachelor’s or Master’s in Social Work programs must go through several levels of intensive review prior to advertising their programs as approved.
These intensive reviews include partnership with the CSWE commissioners on meeting quality standards within the outlined curriculum, including a strategic plan for field training, and a degree outline that meets the standards for accreditation in the U.S. Within the CSWE, professionals from the field of social work, educators, college personnel, and members of society work together to ensure the presentation of high-quality degree programs to incoming learners. The accreditation standards may also be regularly reviewed to meet the needs of current social issues and incoming social workers in the U.S.
One of the most important aspect of CSWE-accreditation is that your state may require accreditation for licensing. Your state’s licensing board should include specifically outline degree requirements that may be considered during the licensing process. If you are considering degree programs in social work for enrollment, choosing CSWE-accredited options can be the safest choice for your future. These options have met the quality standards outlined by this agency and include relevant and inclusive course work and field components for optimum growth.
Are There CSWE Accredited BSW Programs?
If you are just beginning your educational journey in the field of social work, you might be curious as to whether or not the CSWE offers bachelor’s-level learning opportunities for you to consider. The CSWE is a great provider of accredited programs for both entry-level learners seeking the Bachelor’s in Social Work (BSW) program and higher-level learners prepared to enter MSW options.
An interesting fact about CSWE accreditation is that it can be granted to both traditional and online BSW programs. Both types of programs can contain the needed educational training needed to establish a career within entry-level positions in the social work field.
Students that are currently seeking programs for enrollment can find a list of 551 traditional and 20 online BSW options holding accreditation through the CSWE website. Our team has provided some examples of accredited programs in the list below for you to review.
- Alabama A & M University: Traditional 4-year Bachelor of Social Work
- Fordham University: Traditional 4-year Bachelor of Social Work
- California State University at Chico: Online 4-year Bachelor of Social Work
- The University of Louisville: Online 4-year Bachelor of Social Work
- Western New Mexico University: Online 4-year Bachelor of Social Work
History of the CSWE
The road to development of the CSWE began more than fifty years before its creation. The first collegiate offerings for social work professionals were offered in 1898, through the Summer School of Philanthropy.
Soon after, more degree offerings were provided across the United States and the American Association of Schools of Social Work, or AASSW, was created. The first set of accreditation standards were created through this agency in the 1930s.
Starting at this point and carrying on over the next twenty years, different degree offerings and specialized programs were promoted as training programs for incoming social work professionals. However, the accreditation procedures in place were not able to satisfy the needs of the generalist social work field and the social issues they seek to address.
The accreditation requirements for different degree specializations varied, making it a complex process for both learners and state authorities. These complexities may have pushed new applicants away – marking a need for change.
The social work field may have been suffering a shortage of new professionals, making it necessary to create general degree programs that could prepare students for entering diverse specializations after graduation. A group of concerned institutions created the National Association of Schools of Social Administration (NASSA), which partnered with the AASSW to create the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
The CSWE was officially founded in 1952 and has been accrediting degree programs in social work since that time.
Governance of the CSWE
One of the most intriguing aspects of the CSWE is that it is driven and governed by professionals directly and indirectly employed in the field of social work. Council members can be elected to 3-year terms, during which they can contribute to the accreditation standards of programs seeking or holding current accreditation in the United States.
Within the CSWE, there are multiple commissions that act to represent various needs and subject areas within the social work field. The Commission on Accreditation is a group formed to approve and review bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in social work.
Supportive commissions within the CSWE include the Commission for Diversity and Social and Economic Justice, Commission on Educational Policy, Commission on Global Social Work Education, Commission on Membership and Professional Development, Commission on Research, and the National Nominating Committee.
Each commission holds its own responsibilities to the CSWE, including insight into social problems, representation of needs groups, and submission of research, and contributions to member nominations. Members within each commission may work to represent their subject area or participate in task forces as needed to help increase quality of programs over time.
The roster of CSWE’s council includes professionals employed by social work institutions, professionals from non-profit and for-profit social work agencies, educators, and even neutral parties with an interest in contributing to high-quality education in this field.
Mission of the CSWE
The CSWE was developed with the health and welfare of U.S. citizens in mind. When this agency was first created, there was a great need for a central governing agency for social work degree offerings, to help create and maintain programs for social work training.
The mission of the CSWE begins with reviewing and approving degree programs that currently offer social work degree programs at the bachelor’s and master’s level. This can help to provide protection to the many citizens within the country in need of social services, as well as the learners entering into these programs for formal training.
This agency also seeks to increase the overall quality of educators and their methods, as well as the costs and utility of degree programs in this field. Programs seeking accreditation can be provided with hands-on assistance from the CSWE in creating ideal programs for optimum student growth.
The CSWE works toward their mission through initial approval and continued approval processes. Institutions interested in becoming accredited may be required to meet the standards of the CSWE and submit to curriculum reviews, site visits, and COA reviews over time.
Through their commitment to quality educational programs, the CSWE seeks to promote excellence in the training of new social work professionals for the health and well-being of recipients of service throughout the U.S>
What Is the Plan for the CSWE?
The CSWE has outlined a strategic plan for their operations in the years to come. This strategic plan includes their overall missions and goals, as well as the steps they plan to include to help them be successful in their daily practices.
As an initial step in their planning, the CSWE seeks to establish itself as a guiding leader for social work programs, complex social scenarios, and future decision making. The inclusion of multidisciplinary professionals within its workforce helps to ensure they are leaders in terms of expertise and experience in the field.
The CSWE also outlines its desire to promote top-quality educational programs and career preparedness for learners engaging in their accredited degree programs. The dense accreditation and renewal process can help support this plan over time.
This organization also fosters and encourages a diverse workforce that is connected through a common interest in social justice, public policy, and love of the community. The agency seeks to offer partnership opportunities, gatherings, and conventions that provide a forum for connection among social workers in multiple fields.
A plan that the CSWE has outlined for itself is related to the services that it provides to institutions and agency members. In order to maintain its presence as a high-quality and reliable accreditation agency, the CSWE has developed a structure that includes diverse professionals and community members and utilizes data as its main source of research and development.
What Are the Goals of the CSWE?
The CSWE includes multiple formal sectors that seek to increase the quality of educational programs and social work professionals entering the field. While this agency is considered to be one of the most popular in this field, it also has alternative goals that make it unique within its field.
The CSWE and its members have also created goals that include advocacy for certain aspects of public services within the U.S. Members of this organization often interact with various public organizations in social work, as well as the U.S. Congress pertaining to certain issues.
In the field of education, the CSWE sets goals pertaining to policy and quality, specific to social work programs. Quality, affordability, and accessibility are major components associated with the CSWE’s goals within their education focus.
Another goal outlined by the CSWE is to represent and encourage social justice throughout the U.S. This agency utilizes work groups and members of the community to ensure their program recommendations are built around social justice for all people.
Through regular reviews, research, and consultation, the CSWE also promotes goals related to social work improvements in the areas of health and mental health. The CSWE contributes to research within the fields of behavioral health and seeks to educate future social works on the opioid crisis and its place within social services.
While the accreditation of degree programs in social worker may seem like a very straight forward process with end goals, this program seeks to increase the level of services and supports that are provided to people in need throughout society for the greater good.
Becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Licensed clinical social workers are found within many different areas of the community. In schools, social workers can provide educational reference and advice to students as well as working as advocates for children in need of guidance. Some social workers work for state agencies and maintain contact with educational institutions in an attempt to find more effective methods of providing education and support to students.
Social workers at this level can also pursue meaningful careers working with welfare agencies in an attempt to help families find better means of employment, medical or mental health services and even legal assistance. Master’s level social workers act as a third party in connecting community members to the services that they need.
Social Work Licensure
Hospitals work with social workers to find outside resources for their patients as well as support groups and medical insurance providers. Social workers act as advocates for children and the elderly in situations that require intervention and potential home placements. In the mental health field, social workers are an important part of maintaining a proper treatment program, both inside and outside of the home.
Being a master’s level social worker provides the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people from all walks of life. Learn more about LCSW careers here.
Choosing a Social Work Degree
Choosing social work as a degree path is a step in life that can potentially lead to better careers, more enjoyment and career fulfillment. There is definitely a sense of pride in knowing that this degree program provide so much for communities and the residents within.
However, with the high number of available online and in-person degree programs, it is important to consider what accreditation means not only for a degree program, but for licensure and potential careers in the future.
MSW Programs by State