Social work is a rewarding field that allows individuals to help others and positively impact their communities. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in social work, the first step is obtaining a degree. With various degree options available, including associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees, choosing the right program and navigating the application process can be overwhelming. In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to get a degree in social work. From choosing the right program to studying tips, we’ll cover all the essential steps you need to take to pursue a fulfilling career in social work.
The Different Types of Social Work Degrees
An associate degree in social work is a two-year program that provides foundational knowledge and skills in social work and related disciplines. This degree program is designed to prepare students for entry-level positions in the field of social work and also provide a foundation for further education.
Earning an associate degree in social work varies depending on the institution, but it is generally less expensive than a four-year degree. The average cost of an associate degree in social work can range from $4,000 to $10,000 per year.
Possible jobs with an associate degree in social work include social work assistant, case management aide, community outreach worker, mental health technician, and youth worker. These roles may be found in various settings, including hospitals, mental health clinics, community centers, and government agencies.
A Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) is a four-year degree program that provides a comprehensive education in social work theory, research, practice, and ethics. This degree program prepares students for entry-level professional social work positions and further education in social work at the graduate level.
The cost of earning a BSW varies depending on the institution, but it is generally more expensive than an associate degree in social work. The average cost of a BSW ranges from $7,000 to $25,000 per year.
Earning a bachelor’s degree in social work allows students to pursue various career options, including social worker, case manager, program coordinator, community organizer, and research assistant. Social workers in these fields typically work in government agencies, nonprofit organizations, schools, hospitals, and private practice.
A Master of Social Work (MSW) is a graduate degree program that provides specialized education and training in social work theory, research, and practice. MSW programs typically take two years to complete, although some programs may offer part-time or accelerated options that can be completed in less time.
Earning an MSW is typically more expensive than a bachelor’s degree and ranges from $10,000 to $16,000 annually.
Obtaining an MSW can lead to higher-paying positions in the field of social work, as well as advanced roles in program development, policy advocacy, and leadership. Possible jobs for social workers with this degree include licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), social work supervisor, policy analyst, program evaluator, and community mental health worker. These roles are often available in hospitals, mental health clinics, government agencies, schools, and private practice.
A Doctor of Social Work (DSW) is a terminal degree program that provides specialized training in advanced social work practice, research methodologies, and leadership skills. This degree offers opportunities to advance knowledge in the field and contribute to social work policy and training at the highest levels.
DSW programs typically take three to four years to complete, although program length may vary depending on the institution and whether the student is enrolled part- or full-time. The average cost of a DSW program is $6,000 to $12,000 per year.
Earning a doctorate often guarantees higher pay and lower unemployment rates over time. Career opportunities include becoming a university professor, social work researcher, program evaluator, or policy analyst. Graduates in these roles typically work in academia, government agencies, research institutions, and private consulting firms.
Finding a Program
Applying to colleges is an exciting time, but it’s essential to consider some influential factors before sending out your first round of applications. Some of these factors include:
- Accreditation: It is crucial to ensure that the social work program you’re applying for is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). This means that the program meets the national standards for social work education and can influence the student’s ability to receive federal financial aid.
- Program Reputation: Research the program’s reputation by reviewing program rankings, reviews, and alum experiences. Guides like our Best Social Work Degree Programs can help you determine the quality of the program and its potential impact on your career prospects.
- Curriculum: Consider the curriculum and course offerings of the program to ensure that it aligns with your career goals and interests. Some programs may offer more specialized tracks or concentrations that may interest you.
- Location: Consider the program’s location and whether it is feasible for you to attend. Factors to consider include proximity to potential field placement sites, cost of living, and access to resources such as academic and career support services.
- Cost: Consider the program’s cost and look into financial aid options such as scholarships, grants, and loans to help cover the cost of tuition and other expenses.
Once you’ve researched and compiled a list of schools and social work programs, it’s time to begin the application process. Starting this process early is essential, as some parts of the application may take longer than others.
This process can vary from school to school, but the following steps will provide some general guidelines to help you get started.
- Gather your transcripts: Request transcripts from all high schools and colleges you have attended. Transcripts can typically be requested from the school’s registrar or guidance office.
- Prepare for standardized tests: Register for any tests required by the colleges you plan to apply to, such as the SAT or ACT. You may also need additional tests, like subject-specific or English proficiency tests.
- Complete the FAFSA: Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for financial aid. This is an important step for many students needing financial assistance to pay for college.
- Complete the application: Create an account on the college or university’s website where you plan to apply and complete the application form by providing information about yourself, including academic history, test scores, and extracurricular activities. You will also submit any supporting materials, such as transcripts, test scores, or letters of recommendation.
- Write college essays: Some colleges require essays as part of the application process. Spend time brainstorming, writing, and revising your essays to highlight your strengths, accomplishments, and goals.
- Apply: Submit the completed application and supporting materials by the application deadline.
Earning Your Degree
Starting a degree program can be a thrilling yet daunting experience for many students. It’s a time of new beginnings, challenges, and opportunities. With so much to learn and so many new adventures to navigate, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. The following list provides a few tips for new college students to help them ensure academic success.
- Attend all classes: Attending classes is crucial as it helps you to learn new concepts, ask questions, and engage with your professors and peers.
- Create a study schedule: Developing a study schedule is a great way to ensure you manage your time effectively. Set aside specific times each day for studying, attending classes, completing assignments, and other important tasks, such as writing an essay or working on a project.
- Take detailed notes: Writing well-organized and detailed notes will help you retain information and prepare for exams. Write down essential concepts and key points, and review your notes regularly to improve memory retention.
- Use active learning strategies: Actively engage with the material by asking questions, participating in class discussions, and doing practice problems. This will help you understand and retain the material for longer periods.
- Seek help when needed: Don’t hesitate to ask your professors or peers for help when struggling with a concept or assignment. You can also seek out tutoring or other academic resource support services on campus.
Interested in a degree instead?
Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.