Social workers help people who are affected by social problems. What constitutes a social problem is difficult to define, because the term includes any issue that affects society at large. Dramatic examples of social problems include homicide, drug abuse, and domestic violence. Other social problems are poverty and mental illness. Social workers help individuals experiencing social problems to function in their communities despite dealing with these types of social problems.
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An Associate Degree in Social Work is best for students who are not yet sure they are interested in social work.
A Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work is a good choice for students who are interested in practical social work.
A Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW) is ideal for students who have some social work experience and would like to become clinical social workers. You can expect to choose from four primary concentration categories: Child and Family Services, Healthcare Services, Mental Health Services and Management, Planning and Administrative Services.Dual-degree programs are plentiful for clinical social workers, and can be a valuable investment depending on how certain the student is about their choice of career. For example, a Master’s of Social Work (MSW)/Child Development could be an excellent investment for a student who already knows they want to dedicate a career to understanding the diverse and complex needs of children.
A Doctoral Degree (PhD) in Social Work is a good choice for students who have decided they want to perform advanced social work research, rather than practice clinical social work.
Check the Guide to Accreditation in Higher Education to learn more about accreditation and how to determine if the program you select meets the necessary standards. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredits bachelor’s and master’s programs in the United States. Doctoral degree programs, however, are not accredited by the CSWE, as they focus more on research and policy than the practice of social work. Accreditation is particularly important for those who want to become licensed social workers or clinical social workers, as students applying for these licenses must have degrees from accredited schools.
Each state has it’s own licensing and certification process. Be sure to check into the requirements in the state where you intend to work before you commit to a degree program.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that employment opportunities are expected to grow at least 25 percent for social workers over the next decade, which is significantly faster than the expected average growth rate for all occupations in the United States. The BLS also reports that social workers earn an average annual salary of $42,480 which is higher than the average individual salary for all occupations.