Getting Your Social Work Degree

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 22,968
    A spokesperson for the National Association of Social Workers provides an overview on social work education including; degrees, field placement, supervision, and accredited social work education programs.

    Stacy Collins: Hi! I am Stacy Collins. I am a social worker and a Senior Practice Associate at the National Association of Social Workers. Today we are talking with you about how to become a social worker and specifically, I will be discussing social work education. Let's start with the basics. To be a social worker, you need a degree in social work from an accredited college or university program. The undergraduate degree is the Bachelor of Social Work or BSW. Graduate degrees include the Master of Social Work, an MSW, and a Doctorate or PhD in Social Work. Even if you have a Bachelor's degree in another field of study and want to become a social worker, you can pursue a graduate degree in social work. For example, I have an MSW but a Bachelor's degree in Political Science. Social work education is unique in a number of ways. The social work profession has its own body of knowledge, values, and code of ethics. While graduates of other human service fields may perform functions that social workers do, their educational backgrounds are distinctly different than that of social workers.

    Another unique feature of social work education is field placement. In addition to classroom study, all social work students have field experiences, that provide them an opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in a real world setting. A field placement can be any work setting in which social workers practice. Some examples include mental health clinics, child and family service agencies, and policy organizations. With the Bachelor of Social Work or BSW degree, you will be qualified for entry level positions in areas such as mental heath, aging services, or residential treatment. You will need an MSW to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. This means you can provide one-on-one psychotherapy or deliver advanced clinical services. If you want to have a program management or supervisory positions in social work, or work in politics on social justice matters, an MSW is a degree you should strive for. With a Doctorate in Social Work, a DSW, or a PhD in Social Work, you will gain advanced training in research, supervision, and policy analysis. Social workers with these advanced degree teach at the university level or have high level program or systems management positions. It's important that you get your social work degree from an accredited social work education program. These programs have met regular standards designed by social work educators and practitioners, to ensure that students are adequately prepared for professional practice. Your chances of being licensed or hired as a social worker are greatly enhanced by an accredited social work degree. There are more than 600 accredited schools of social work in the United States. To find a social work program near you, visit beasocialworker.


    Up next, Melvin will discuss tips on getting a job in social work.