Social Worker Training and Degrees

Social Work Universities

Students interested in pursuing a career in clinical social work, organization, community practice or civil service may be good candidates for attending social work schools or completing a social work degree program. Social work schools and colleges prepare students for professions that will influence their community and help individuals, groups and organizations deal with problems. Those who complete a degree learn about human development and behavior, social systems, diversity and cultural change.

Attending Social Work Schools

Students who attend a social worker school can take specialized courses in their field of study and also apply for a masters in social work or MSW programs. Getting a masters typically leads to more attractive career opportunities and positions in the field. Students are trained to help people and organizations in need. Students who complete a masters or other advanced degree program typically pursue counseling or advising positions, and may specialize in the field of marriage counseling, school and educator counseling, or psychology.

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Since the field of social work requires so much one-on-one interaction, students are typically required to complete a certain number of practicum hours and clinical training. When completing a master of social work or MSW program, students may work as an assistant to a social worker in their community or participate in an community programs to help society at large.

Students typically acquire advanced skills in the following areas:

  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Behavior Modification
  • Social Welfare
  • Social Problems
  • Multicultural Issues
  • Child and Adult Problems
  • Principles of Sociology

Types of Courses Offered at a Social Worker School

Since social workers can work in a variety of settings and with people from all backgrounds, they must take general education courses in the field of psychology, human behavior and sociology, as well as advanced courses in the field of social work and communications. Some of the most common types of courses offered include:

  • Psychology and Human Development
  • Business Communications
  • Computer Applications
  • Principles of Sociology
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Health and Wellness
  • Social Problems
  • Social Welfare
  • Interpersonal Communication
  • Introduction to Addiction
  • Multicultural Issues
  • Behavior Modification

MSW Colleges and Universities

Individuals interested in completing an advanced social worker degree or getting an MA in social work can attend MSW colleges or universities. These programs are graduate-level programs that typically run two academic years, but can be completed in three years in some cases. Students completing MSW programs typically participate in community projects and gain on-the-job experience by working under the supervision of a social worker.

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is a nonprofit association that represents more than 3,000 individual members. It also represents a number of undergraduate and MSW programs around the country. It is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, the sole accrediting agency for social work education.

Career Options with a Social Worker Degree

Schools prepare students for a rewarding career as a social worker, as well as several related fields. An MSW is typically required for most careers. Students who complete an advance degree program can work in a variety of fields, including education and family social services, medical and public health social services, or in the field of mental health and substance abuse. All 50 States and the District of Columbia have licensing and registration requirements for social workers who seek professional titles. In addition to working for a school, hospital or other organization, social workers can open their own private practice.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, median annual wages of social workers in the following fields in May 2008 were:

  • Child, family and school: $39,530
  • Medical and public health: $46,650
  • Mental health and substance abuse: $37,210
  • General medical and surgical hospitals, or the local government: $46,220

Approximately 24 percent of social workers are members of a union or are covered by some type of union contract. Related occupations include probation officers, psychologists, human service assistants, counselors, clergy members and health educators.