Social Work Degree

Social Work Degree

Social workers have very stressful – but incredibly rewarding – jobs. They are the people who help others, in every stage of their lives, to cope with and solve problems which are affecting their quality of life. A degree in social work, including an online social work degree, helps those in the line of work prepare for these challenges.

Currently, there are two types of social workers:

  • Direct-Service Social Workers – This type of social worker helps his clients to solve and cope with problems affecting their everyday living. Direct-care social workers are responsible for identifying those who need services, and then helping them to receive those services.
  • Clinical Social Workers – This type of social worker is responsible for diagnosing and treating mental, behavioral and emotional issues of clients, which affect their everyday living. Most clinical social workers identify themselves as working in private practice, while others work in group practices or with larger agencies.

Education Requirements

Social work degrees are often described as the education that helps others. There are several ways to earn a degree in social work. First and foremost, students should decide how they wish to use their degree. Some jobs in the field require only a bachelor degree, while others may require a master degree.

Most colleges and universities – including online social work degree programs – combine liberal arts classes with those geared specifically toward social work. Those who complete four-year programs will earn a Bachelor of Social Work degree and can expect to earn an average annual salary of roughly $30,000 per year, according to the National Association of Social Workers.

Quality programs will be accredited through the only accrediting agency for social work in the United States, the Council on Social Work Education. The council is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1952, and is responsible for the accreditation of graduate and undergraduate degree programs of professional social work education. It also can accredit professional institutions, social welfare agencies and private practices as part of its mission. The council has a listing of its accredited colleges and universities on its website, which can be found here.

Those who earn a bachelor degree in social work are eligible to work in all facets of the social work industry – from hospitals and child welfare agencies, to senior citizen programs and for private agencies. However, before being permitted to practice as a social worker, graduates must first pass an examination administered through the Association of Social Work Boards. While each state has different requirements for the test, graduates in all states must pass their state’s version of the test in order to be certified in social work.

Social work positions within the healthcare industry and education – as well as all clinical social workers – must hold master’s degrees to be eligible for the job. A master’s degree in social work can take an additional two years of schooling to complete. Those who possess a master’s degree can earn upwards of $60,000 annually.

All students enrolled in a master degree program must complete an internship and supervised field work in order to be considered candidates for a master’s degree.

The U.S. News and World Report recently ranked the University of Michigan’s master of social work degree program number one in the United States. Its School of Social Work offers students dual-degree programs, which combine social work with business administration, information, public health, law, urban planning or public policy. Rounding up the top 10 on the U.S. News and World Report list is the University of Chicago; Washington University of St. Louis; Columbia University; University of Washington in Seattle; University of California, Berkeley; University of Texas; Case Western Reserve University; University of North Carolina; and University of Pittsburgh.

Future Growth and Jobs Outlook

Demand for trained professionals in social work is anticipated to increase by 25 percent by the year 2020, according to statistics released from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau predicts this will be the fastest-growing occupation in the United States over the next seven years. The growth trend is being attributed to the increased demand for healthcare and social services industries.

The average median pay for a social worker, based on 2010 figures, is $42,480 annually. A median wage determination means that half of all social workers in the industry are earning at that salary level. The highest-reported earnings for social workers in 2010 were $70,390, of which 10 percent of all social workers reported as their annual salary.

Article by Shari Berg,

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