If you’re thinking about becoming a social worker, you might be wondering whether you need a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) to pursue a master’s degree in social work (MSW). It’s a common question, and the answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think.
In some fields, like psychology or philosophy, having a related bachelor’s degree is a strict requirement for further studies. But in the world of social work, things are a bit different. The short answer is, “No, you don’t need a BSW to get an MSW.” However, that’s just the beginning of the story.
To explore the ins and outs of this question in a way that’s easy to understand, SocialWorkDegrees.org breaks down the role of a BSW, the advantages it can offer, and what options you have, regardless of your academic background. Whether you’re just starting your educational journey or considering a career change, this guide will help you navigate your path – BSW or no BSW – to becoming a social worker.
Join us as we unpack the nuances of social work education and discover the various routes you can take to make a meaningful difference for people who need help the most.
Is a BSW Necessary for an MSW?
Again, the short answer is “no,” – a BSW is not necessary to gain admittance to an MSW program, but that is only the short answer. All ‘short answers’ have long, complex versions with added stipulations, which is no different for this question.
No, one does not need a bachelor’s degree in social work to obtain a master’s degree in social work, but it is better to have a bachelor’s degree in social work than not if your goal is getting a master’s degree in social work.
While not necessary, having a bachelor’s degree in social work is much better than having a non-social-work bachelor’s degree for applying to MSW programs, and there are several reasons for this.
A bachelor’s degree will prepare you for a master’s degree by giving you the core competencies required to go further in social work. With such skills already at hand, admissions committees will be keener on your application than those without social working skills.
This does not mean that having a bachelor’s in another discipline will dramatically reduce your chances of admission – the sciences, liberal arts, and psychological sciences are all perfectly close-enough majors that social work admissions committees are unlikely to exclude you based on.
Options, however, are better in the world of social work careers with a bachelor’s degree in social work as opposed to without one.
That is, however, if you are only interested in a traditional master’s degree in social work, as opposed to an advanced standing master’s degree in social work, then having a bachelor’s degree in social work needn’t concern you or your future career prospects.
The only way to obtain an advanced standing social work master’s degree is by first obtaining one’s BSW. Advanced standing degrees in social work are not available to students who do not have a bachelor’s degree in social work.
There are benefits to advanced standing master’s programs in social work over traditional programs worth considering, as this could impact whether you’d like to pursue a bachelor’s in social work or not.
Advanced standing programs have a different set of requirements and a different curriculum than traditional master’s degrees in social work. Apart from needing a BSW, applicants will need a 3.0 GPA in their BSW to be eligible for advanced standing in a social work master’s program. Furthermore, much of the coursework required of traditional master’s programs can be curtailed in an advanced standing program and replaced with both advanced coursework and more time to focus on areas of specialization.
Thus, the advantages of being in an advanced standing master’s program – and, therefore, in having a BSW, as opposed to any other bachelor’s degree major – are quite pronounced.
It allows one to be as knowledgeable as the average social worker before actually doing social work.
The advanced standing program will give you an edge over traditional master’s students, both in skill-set and in future job opportunities – the former being largely responsible for the latter.
Therefore, if you want to have a competitive edge in graduate school for social work, having a bachelor’s degree in social work beforehand will preemptively give you that advantage.
The typical stipulation for master’s degree applicants with a bachelor’s degree in a major other than social work is that they meet department-specific GPA and standardized testing (GRE) requirements. In some cases, prerequisite courses are required for admission.
Usually, schools of social work require that students have somewhere between a 2.5 to a 3.5 GPA, and GRE scores are increasingly less of a requirement across all programs – though it is worth checking first before committing to studying for and taking the GRE!
Some schools will also ask for a personal statement, a CV with relevant work experience as its contents, and official transcripts from one’s undergraduate institution.
Whether or not your bachelor’s degree major was in social work, these requirements are standard. However, because the specifics vary from school to school, it is crucial to read through the admissions pages of departments you plan on applying for so you don’t neglect any application materials.
The process of how long it will take to become a social worker varies from student to student, and that should be evident in the distinction between having a BSW when applying for MSWs and only having a regular bachelor’s degree.
With a BSW, not only will students be able to enter their master’s programs better equipped to handle course material and fieldwork, but they will also be given more significant challenges to further bolster their skillset that are simply unavailable to students in traditional programs.
But what other factors – besides bachelor’s degree choice paramount— contribute to the variance of the duration of becoming a social worker?
How to become a social worker requires us to know what the time constraints of this career choice will be – and this includes the steps that precede working in the social work field, such as job experience, education, and even the state you live in. Start looking for a social work degree program that fits your life and chart your social work path today.