Bachelor's degrees in social work prepare you for entry-level generalist careers in many fields, where you might work with children, the elderly and diverse individuals in need of assistance. Although Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees are available, the most common degree for social workers is the Bachelor of Social Work, or BSW.
In addition to general education requirements, core subjects cover human behavior, social environment, social research and social work. You may also take courses like these:
- Anatomy of violence
- Family resilience and diversity
- Generalist practice
- Policies for social change
- Relationships, intimacy and sexuality
A fieldwork component provides supervised experience for the practical application of classroom knowledge and theory; students are usually placed in a social work department, agency or institution. Some programs require volunteer experience for a specified number of hours at a human services agency. All states mandate that social workers be licensed, certified or registered although standards vary by state.
Social work career options, outlook and salaries
Social workers can serve in areas such as child welfare, community organization, corrections, long term care, occupational social work, policy and planning, political activism, schools, substance abuse, women's advocacy and more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects excellent employment growth for these related careers between 2010 and 2020, shown with 2010 median annual wages:
- Child, family and school social worker: 19.7 percent growth; $40,210 salary
- Community and social service specialist: 21.8 percent growth; $38,100 salary
- Mental health and substance abuse social worker: 31.3 percent growth; $38,600 salary
- Social and community service manager: 26.7 percent; $57,950 salary
Leadership and management positions typically ask for related experience as well as the four-year degree in the field.
Social work higher education opportunities
A master's degree is required for private practice and is preferred for social work supervision, administration, training and some teaching positions. Some schools offer a bridge program to accelerate master's degree studies. To work in research, policy analysis or teaching at the college level, you would generally seek a doctorate in social work or social welfare.
Although social work degrees usually call for fieldwork experience, much of the academic coursework can be completed online. Web-based studies make it convenient to work around your existing obligations and the on-site hours required by your program. Help yourself to an education so you can help others to a better life.