Career Attributes

  • $37,560
  • 64,000
  • 2.9
  • 8.3%
  • Master's degree
  • Social Work
More Attributes


A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) is the most common requirement for entry-level positions. However, some employers may hire workers who have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as psychology or sociology. BSW programs prepare students for direct-service positions such as caseworker or mental health assistant. These programs teach students about diverse populations, human behaviour, and social welfare policy. All programs require students to complete supervised fieldwork or an internship. Some positions, including those in schools and in healthcare, frequently require a master’s degree in social work (MSW). All clinical social workers must have an MSW.

How long does it take to become a Social Worker?

A bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) is not required to enter into a master's degree program in social work (MSW). In fact, a degree in almost any major is acceptable (which takes three to four years). However, coursework in psychology, sociology, economics, and political science are recommended.

A master’s degree in social work (MSW) generally takes two years to complete. Some programs allow those with a bachelor's degree in social work to earn their MSW in one year. MSW programs prepare students for work in their chosen specialty and develop the skills to do clinical assessments, manage a large number of clients, and take on supervisory duties. All programs require students to complete supervised fieldwork or an internship.

Licensure varies by jurisdiction - all regions have some type of licensure or certification requirement. All require clinical social workers to be licensed. However, some regions provide exemptions for clinical social workers who work in government agencies. Becoming a licensed clinical social worker usually requires a master’s degree in social work and two years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience after graduation. After completing their supervised experience, clinical social workers must pass an exam to be licensed.

Should I become a Social Worker?

There are hundreds of careers out there that will offer more money, more recognition and more thanks than that of a social worker. It takes a very special type of person to consider a career in social work - the type of person that has a combination of organizational skills, sensitive communication skills, and emotional resilience. Also needed is an intense motivation to make a difference in other people’s lives.

If you are thinking that social work might be a field you may be interested in, here are a few pros and cons to consider before committing yourself:


Connecting With the Community

  • Social workers interact with their community by providing their clients access to resources, referring them to other professionals, and by connecting to individuals and families through counseling.

Making a Difference in Someone’s Life

  • Social workers can dramatically change someone’s living conditions, whether it be with housing, food, education, or literacy training. This is done through the resources they are able to provide.

Pursuing a Passion for Advocacy and Social Justice

  • Becoming a social worker is an effective way to help those who have not been born with the privilege that others have. Social work allows one to advocate for the needs of people who struggle for rights and resources, from the poor and homeless to the LGBT community, to immigrants.

Work Variety

  • Social workers are able to work in government departments, correctional facilities, family courts, social housing organizations, schools, community health centres, advocacy organizations, mental health clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, social service agencies, family service agencies, child welfare settings, the military, or in private counseling.

Job Security

  • There will always be communities that need resources and advocates, and social work degrees and licenses can be transferred from state to state within the United States.


Heavy Workloads and Odd Hours

  • Heavy workloads often add to the stress of the job, and with all the paperwork and difficult cases, many social workers are overworked. Some social workers work unsocial hours (for example, in the area of residential care), and those in other areas may need to be flexible about their hours in emergency situations.

Emotional Exhaustion

  • Being a social worker is not easy, especially when dealing with difficult circumstances. At times it is difficult to separate one's own personal life from the job, and can be emotionally draining. Maintaining boundaries between work and home life is crucial, as is building positive relationships with one's team and supervisor and seeking professional support from them when needed.


  • Social workers are in this career for the love of making a difference in people's lives, not for the money. Social work is not one of the top earning careers, however it is a secure income, and many social workers can have an average financial life. The wages for social workers vary, making some positions more attractive than others when it comes to a paycheque. For example, social workers that work in hospitals or schools earn more than those working in community health centres and family services.

Deciding on whether or not a career in social work is for you takes a lot of thoughtful consideration. If, however, a passion for social justice and an interest in both your community and job security appeal to you, then social work may be exactly the career you’ve been looking for.

What are Social Workers like?


Based on our pool of users, Social Workers tend to be predominately social people. Take our career test to see what career interest category best describes you.

Social Workers by Strongest Interest Archetype

Based on sample of 2883 CareerExplorer users

Are Social Workers happy?


Social workers rank in the 30th percentile of careers for satisfaction scores. Please note that this number is derived from the data we have collected from our Sokanu members only.

A passion for helping people can make social work an inviting field of work. There are very few jobs where one has the ability to make a difference and help others. Those that work as social workers get to advocate for the rights of others for a living. This type of work can often be rewarding and offers a different type of compensation and motivation than other professions.

However, the emotional toll that this profession takes is unmatched. It can be very frustrating and disappointing to see clients being held down by the legal system, or see resources that they need not readily available to them. Social workers sometimes find it difficult to maintain their level of hope and ability to make a difference when they are constantly dealing with these challenges.

Social Worker Career Satisfaction by Dimension

Percentile among all careers

Education History of Social Workers

The most common degree held by Social Workers is Psychology. 27% of Social Workers had a degree in Psychology before becoming Social Workers. That is over 4 times the average across all careers. Social Work graduates are the second most common among Social Workers, representing 22% of Social Workers in the CareerExplorer user base, which is 40.7 times the average.

Social Worker Education History

This table shows which degrees people earn before becoming a Social Worker, compared to how often those degrees are obtained by people who earn at least one post secondary degree.

Degree % of Social Workers % of population Multiple
Psychology 26.5% 7.0% 3.8×
Social Work 21.6% 0.5% 40.7×
Sociology 10.4% 2.1% 4.9×
English Literature 6.5% 4.9% 1.3×
Criminal Justice 5.2% 1.4% 3.7×
Business Management And Administration 4.0% 6.5% 0.6×
Political Science 3.6% 2.9% 1.2×
History 3.5% 2.3% 1.6×
Anthropology And Archeology 3.0% 1.3% 2.4×
Philosophy And Religious Studies 2.9% 1.6% 1.8×
Social Sciences 2.7% 0.5% 5.4×
Communications 2.4% 3.4% 0.7×
Counseling Psychology 2.4% 0.4% 6.7×
Criminology 2.1% 0.4% 4.7×
Liberal Arts 2.0% 1.9% 1.0×
Intercultural And International Studies 1.8% 0.6% 2.8×
Theology And Religious Vocations 1.8% 0.4% 4.5×
International Relations 1.5% 1.5% 1.0×
Women's Studies 1.5% 0.2% 6.9×
Fine Arts 1.4% 2.2% 0.7×
Foreign Language Studies 1.4% 1.3% 1.1×
Community Organization 1.4% 0.2% 9.6×
Studio Arts 1.3% 0.5% 2.5×
Economics 1.3% 4.0% 0.3×
Drama 1.2% 1.1% 1.1×
Journalism 1.2% 1.1% 1.0×
Public Administration 1.2% 0.5% 2.6×
Early Childhood Education 1.1% 0.5% 2.1×

Social Worker Education Levels

68% of Social Workers have a master's degree. 28% of Social Workers have a bachelor's degree.

No education 0%
High school diploma 1%
Associate's degree 2%
Bachelor's degree 28%
Master's degree 68%
Doctorate degree 0%

How to Become a Social Worker

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Further Reading

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Recommended Books

  • Human Behavior Theory and Social Work Practice (Modern Applications of Social Work)

    Human Behavior Theory and Social Work Practice remains a foundation work for those interested in the practice and teaching of social work. Roberta Greene covers theoretical areas and individual theorists including classical psychoanalytic thought, Eriksonian theory, Carl Rogers, cognitive theory, systems theory, ecological perspectives, social construction, feminism, and genetics.

  • Social Work: An Introduction

    In this book, Joyce Lishman, Chris Yuill and Jill Brannan provide an essential introduction to the core knowledge and skills necessary for students embarking on their social work degree. Spanning the entire curriculum, the text is split into four sections: Part One establishes a broad knowledge base; Part Two considers methods of assessment; Part Three outlines methods of intervention; and Part Four examines social work practice.

  • Social Work: A Critical Approach to Practice

    Now in it's Second Edition, this book considers the critical tradition of social work and updates it with postmodern thinking. Jan Fook draws on critical reflection to help social workers deliver flexible, responsible and responsive practice and to celebrate the ageless ideals of the profession.

  • Advances in Social Work: Special Issue on The Futures of Social Work

    This special issue of the journal Advances in Social Work captures the vision of 21 different social work scholars looking ahead to the future in their area of practice.

  • Social Work, Social Justice, and Human Rights: A Structural Approach to Practice

    Social workers take pride in their commitment to social and economic justice, peace, and human rights, and in their responses to related inequalities and social problems. At a time when economic globalization, armed conflict, and ecological devastation continue to undermine human rights and the possibilities for social justice, the need for linking a structural analysis to social work practice is greater than ever.

  • A Brief Introduction to Social Work Theory

    This crisp text, by one of social works most highly regarded commentators, offers the perfect entry point into the complex world of social work theory. Written in a clear conversational style and organized into short, clearly labelled chapters, students and practitioners will find this an invaluable point of refreshment and reference.

Career Attributes

  • $37,560
  • 64,000
  • 2.9
  • 8.3%
  • Master's degree
  • Social Work
More Attributes