In this article:
Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work
The four-year Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) Degree is generally accepted as the base requirement to work in the field. The School of Social Work at Arizona State University lists these as its core courses at the bachelor’s level:
- Social Service Systems – federal, state, not-for-profit, for-profit
- Theoretical Foundations of Social Work Practice
- Human Behavior in the Social Environment – individuals, groups, organizations, communities
- Social Work Practice – building relationships, interviewing
- Research Methods in Social Work
- Statistics for Social Workers – interpreting statistics
- Diversity and Oppression in a Social Work Context – issues of social inequality related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disability
This degree level qualifies graduates to work in these capacities:
- Case consultant, evaluating cases and meeting with individuals in need of services
- Child life specialist, advocating for children in the health care system and alleviating the stress of hospitalization for children and their families
- Child protective services worker, investigating claims of child abuse, neglect and juvenile delinquency
- Court-appointed special advocate, working on behalf of children brought before the court
- Gerontology social worker, offering emotional support and helping the elderly with housing, transportation, and long-term care
- Criminal justice social worker, providing services to inmates and their families
Master’s Degree in Social Work
The Master of Social Work (MSW) has become a standard requirement for specialized positions in the field of social work, including clinical, psychiatric, policy, and administration roles.
Doctoral Degree in Social Work
This degree program, which takes between two and four years to complete, focuses heavily on research techniques and analysis methods. Holders of a social work doctorate work as social work professors, heads of social work practices, and policy advisors.
Skills you'll learn
Communication and Interpersonal Skills
Perhaps one of the most challenging demands of working in social work is that it asks its practitioners to constantly and consistently interact, to listen, to understand, and to present possible solutions to the issues their clients face.
Counseling people with various backgrounds and problems requires building trust. Clients have to feel safe and supported if they are to share their burdens and accept help.
Patience and a Sense of Humor
The work of helping people cope with social and psychological problems is not easy work. And it is not fast work. The role calls for patience, for an appreciation of small victories, and sometimes, even for a sense of humor.
An Appreciation for Diversity
Social workers are exposed to people from different backgrounds and home environments. They are called upon to cultivate an understanding of and a capacity to work effectively with people from diverse racial, ethnic, cultural, and gender backgrounds.
Assessment and Report Writing
Social work involves tracking, assessing, and recording client progress. These are skills that are transferrable to many professional sectors.
Understanding of Human / Social Behaviors
Through their course of study, social work students naturally develop a certain competency in interpreting how and why humans conduct themselves as they do.
Throughout the process of earning a degree in social work, students are frequently reminded of the concept of right versus wrong and the fundamental standards of society. It follows, therefore, that they cultivate a strong ethical sense and respect for the law.