Is a Social Work Degree Right for You?

A bachelor’s degree in social work is a good option for students who want use their education to help others cope with or overcome problems in their lives. Social work programs provide a foundation of education in the discipline that is meant to prepare students for entry-level careers or for graduate study. By the time they graduate, students should have an understanding of the social welfare system, human behavior, general and abnormal psychology, and social work research. Some programs include practicums or internships that give students hand-on experience providing counseling services or helping clients find and sign up for social welfare programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Job prospects are expected to be favorable in this profession due to a growing demand for social services from an aging population and people seeking help with their addictions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Advice for Earning Your Social Work Degree Online

If you’re considering earning an online social work degree, you should make sure the school you thinking about enrolling in is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The CSWE is a non-profit national association that accredits more than 480 social work programs across the country. Its accreditation is important because it demonstrates that a program prepares students to be competent social work professionals. Other types of accreditation, particularly those offered by regional organizations, are helpful since they make transferring credits easier. The CSWE provides a list of accredited bachelor’s and master’s degree programs as well as information about what schools offer their degrees through distance education on its website.

Required Courses

Graduates of a bachelor’s degree in social work program must have strong critical thinking and research skills and an understanding of social service and social justice to practice social work successfully. Most programs feature courses such as social welfare policy, human behavior and the social environment, social work ethics, and social work practice. These courses are taken in addition to a college’s general education requirements, which typically include classes in English composition, history, political science, business, and mathematics. Once they graduate students should be prepared to qualify for entry-level positions of employment or for graduate study.

Common Career Paths

Your social work bachelor’s degree can qualify you for entry-level employment as a social worker for a healthcare organization, in social service and child welfare, corrections, and education. A graduate degree or professional experience can lead to positions in management. Read on for a closer look at a few career opportunities an undergraduate degree in social work can provide.

  • Social Worker

    Social workers help people cope with problems in their lives. There are two types of social workers: direct-service and clinical. Direct-service social workers determine their client’s needs, develop a plan to help them cope with their problems, refer clients to community resources such as food stamps or health care, and maintain contact to make sure their client’s situation has improved. They may help a couple who is adopting a child or someone who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Direct-service social workers need a bachelor’s degree in social work to qualify for an entry-level position.

    Meanwhile, clinical social workers diagnose and treat behavioral, emotional, and mental disorders, work with their client’s doctors to come up with a treatment plan, conduct individual and group therapy sessions, and determine their client’s progress. A master’s degree in social work is typically required for employment as a clinical social worker, and it’s needed to be eligible for state licensure. Social workers earned an average annual salary of $54,220 in May 2011, according to the BLS. Employment of social workers is anticipated to increase 25% from 2010 to 2020, which is faster than average for all occupations. The BLS expects employment growth due to an expected increase in demand for health care and social services.

  • Social and Community Service Manager

    A bachelor’s degree in social work can prepare you for a career as a social and community service manager. Social and community service managers oversee the budgets, program requirements, and benefits of social service programs or community organizations. They also work with members of the community to see what services are needed, supervise staff, and use statistics to determine the effectiveness of programs. A bachelor’s degree in social work or a related discipline and one to five years of experience are needed to qualify for employment in this occupation, according to the BLS.

    Social and community service managers earned a mean annual salary of $63,290 in May 2011, the BLS reports. Employment in this field is expected to grow 27% from 2010 to 2020 due to the demand for social services from an aging population. Growth may also be caused by an increase in the number of people seeking treatment for their addictions, according to the BLS. However, these statistics are no guarantee of salary of opportunity of employment, which is determined by a candidate’s credentials, location, employer, and state of the economy.

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