Your Guide to a Degree in Social Work
At SocialWorkDegrees.org, we use the United States Department of Labor and US Census Bureau, as well as the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) as our data sources to aggregate all the social work programs and pertinent information for working in the social work field. We have visited thousands of web pages and reviewed hundreds of different schools of social work at US universities. For starters, here is a sample of the different types of social work degrees:
In addition, we have writers and contributing experts that have their BSW, MSW, and PhD in Social Work to ensure our data is accurate, but helpful for prospective students.
Start navigating the programs below to figure out which social work degree or career path is best for you.
Social Work Degrees Fast FAQS
Here are a variety of quick points that you should know if you are looking to work within the social work field.
What social work degrees are available?
Associates, Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate, and PhD
Where can I find a social work program?
Across the US, there are over 1,350 colleges offering degrees in social work. Prospective students should rest assured in knowing that there are ample sources of support for upcoming students that are interested in making the right decisions about a degree program.
Are online social work degrees available?
Yes, the Online MSW is the most common.
Are advanced standing degrees available?
Yes, for those with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW).
How does social work licensing work?
Varies by state, but you must pass specific education and experience prerequisites to be a licensed social worker.
What is the minimum degree to be licensed?
MSW (Master of Social Work), in most cases. One of the more popular degrees in social work is the Online Master of Social Work, and for good reason. To become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) or a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW), you must have your master’s degree in social work. This is one of many reasons universities are beginning to take their MSW program online.
What can you do with a social work degree?
With ever-growing opportunity and positions available across the US, social work careers exist in such fields as:
- Child and family
- Community outreach and social services
- Medical and mental health
- School social worker
- Substance abuse
Bachelors of Social Work
One of the most common degree paths for social work is at the bachelor’s level.
There are currently over 770 universities providing Bachelor’s of Social Work degrees throughout the country. Of these, the vast majority 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.
In-Person and Online BSW Programs
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, making this a great option for busy professionals wanting something extra for their professional life. Thus, the widespread availability of social work degree programs can potentially open doors for students from all backgrounds.
Dive into 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 are taught the skills required to work with the public.
Social Work Courses & Additional Topics
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.
Are there Licensing Requirements for a BSW?
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.
BSW Career Opportunities
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 the quality of work.
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.
- 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 – seeking out social work professionals to fill positions such as activities coordinators and youth service officers.
- Community planning and administration positions – relying on knowledgeable social work professionals.
Masters of Social Work
Throughout the country, over 300 colleges offer Master’s in Social Work programs. About three quarters 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 to create more knowledgeable and experienced social workers in the field.
Is a MSW Worth It?
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 their 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.
Growing Popularity of Online MSW Programs
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.
Online learning allows students to embark on independent learning and time management, which are important skills for social work professionals. Regardless of a traditional environment or online, accreditation ensures that the curriculum is on point and accepted by future employers.
How Long are MSW Programs?
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.
Different Types of MSW Programs
With many MSW programs to choose from, what is best depends on your personal preferences and your experience and education level. Here are some examples:
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 in, 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.
Micro, Mezzo, and Macro Social Work
The field of social work is divided into three, interrelated levels of practice: micro, mezzo, and macro social work. Though sharing similar core values and ethical standards, career options and job descriptions are distinct and with key differences.
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:
- Aiding 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.
Top Degrees for Micro Social Work:
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.
Top Degree for Mezzo Social Work:
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:
- Master’s in Social Work – Policy Planning and Development
Research Various Types of Social Work Degree Programs
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
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
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
CSWE Accredited Social Work Degree Programs
Currently, over 700 different social work programs are accredited at the Bachelors and Masters levels by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), while others are candidates under review.
CSWE Accredited Social Work Certificates
Based on data from the CSWE Annual Survey of Social Work Programs, below are the top studied certificate programs at the MSW level.
What is CSWE Accreditation?
Students considering enrolling into social work degree programs may see accreditation mentioned at both the institutional level and through state licensing agencies. Accreditation is an incredibly critical component when seeking out degree programs in this field. Accreditation is a label that is affixed to degree programs that are approved by higher learning organizations. It can contribute to the types of careers you can obtain after graduation and your ability to become licensed in the future.
For social workers, an important organization to remember is the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
State Licensing and CSW Accreditation
One of the most important aspects of CSWE-accreditation is that your state may require accreditation for licensing. Your state’s licensing board should 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 coursework and field components for optimum growth.
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 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.
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 a sense of pride in knowing that this degree program provides so much for communities and the residents within.
Also, it is important to consider what accreditation means not only for a social work degree program, but for licensure and potential careers in the future. Therefore, view BSW and MSW Programs by state – whether it’s a degree program near you or the state in which you want to begin you career in social work.
BSW Programs by State
MSW Programs by State