Social workers are incredibly important. They care for those in need, whether they’re kids, the elderly, or even entire families. And while being a social worker is a rewarding career, it can be a challenging one too. However, social work does have advantages. Social workers are always in demand, and they can work in a wide variety of different fields and organizations. And in every role, they’re changing lives for the better.

If you’re interested in pursuing social work, you’ll need to earn your degree and choose a career path. Here’s how you can take the first steps towards starting your future in the field.

A Social Work Degree is the First Step for Future Social Workers

Before you can even begin looking at different social work careers, you’ll need to have a degree. All social workers need a degree in social work – and there are a few different ways you can earn your degree.

Starting a career in social work requires both a college education and professional training. You’ll need to learn a combination of technical skills and “soft skills”, or psychology-based skills, as you study the basics.

Here are the different types of degrees and licenses you may need to begin the process of entering the world of social work.

Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW)

All social workers start out with a bachelor’s degree. A BSW is the basic level of education required for any job in social work.

In a BSW degree program, you’ll spend approximately four years learning the basics of social work. You’ll learn how to support others who have social difficulties, behavioral issues, and addictions, and you’ll also study important assessment, solution, and treatment tools and methods. It’s common for BSW programs to include internships and practicums for hands-on experience.

It’s a good idea to choose a degree program that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. This accreditation means that your bachelor’s degree program includes the principles, courses, and knowledge that’s considered most important in social work. 

Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW)

Many social work jobs require a master’s degree, or an MSW. This graduate degree typically takes two years to complete, and it involves more in-depth studies than a bachelor’s degree program. 

A MSW program will teach you leadership skills, clinical skills you’ll use on the job, and more in-depth knowledge and understanding of mental health issues. You can also choose to study a specialization if you’re earning your MSW – you can focus on specific areas of social work, like clinical, administration, school, community, or hospital.

Licensing for Clinical Social Workers

In addition to a bachelor’s or master’s degree, you may need to earn your license as a social worker. Many social workers become licensed once they complete their education. Typically, all clinical social workers will need to be licensed. 

A license will allow you to pursue more career opportunities. While some assistant or entry-level jobs won’t require you to be a licensed social worker, more advanced positions will. And in some states, all social workers must be licensed if they work independently.

To get your license, you’ll have to meet education requirements and pass an exam. To maintain it, you’ll need to participate in 15 to 48 hours of continuing education within the social work field, including practical training.

Career Opportunities in Social Work

Once you have your bachelor or masters in social work, you can start applying for jobs. 

Social workers have the opportunity to work in multiple fields. You can choose a specialty or a section of social work that interests you, and you can find work in an area you enjoy. And, depending on the field you choose, your salary can begin to grow.

The following are the median annual salaries for social workers in different fields:

  • General Social Workers: $60,230
  • Healthcare Social Workers: $53,760
  • Child, Family, and School Social Workers: $43,250
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers: $42,700 

Wondering what kinds of roles social workers often hold? Here are a few examples:

  • Case Managers will help clients coordinate the care they need and work to pair them with the right agencies or groups to help.
  • Director of Social Services is a position that oversees the operations of health services, like an assisted living or independent living facility, and works with patients and residents daily.
  • Health Managers are responsible for planning, directing, and coordinating services for healthcare facilities. They manage departments, improving efficiency and providing quality care.
  • Residential Counselors are often called rehabilitation counselors, as they work to help people get better within a rehab or group facility.
  • Care Coordinators manage an individual patient’s care at a facility, helping them understand their care plan, book appointments, and manage their health overall.

And these are just a few examples of the types of jobs and positions social workers can start a career in. With a BSW or MSW degree, there are even more opportunities available to pursue.

Start Your Social Work Degree Today

If you’re interested in becoming a social work professional, the path is clear: your degree is your first step in starting your career. And, as you advance, other options like licensing and a masters degree can open up even more opportunities.

So, in order to get started on your degree, you’ll need to find a social work degree program that works for you. And fortunately, there are plenty of colleges and universities offering exactly that – some will even let you earn your degree online!

To find these programs, you just need to search online. Then, you can easily compare courses, the length of each program, and costs like tuition. And this will help you narrow down your options and find the right degree path for your future.

Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock