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Frequently Asked Questions about Social Work Programs

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Do I need a Bachelor's degree in social work to earn a Master's degree in social work?

While requirements vary from school to school, you generally do not need a Bachelor's degree in social work to earn a Master's of Social Work. This is because an MSW program covers much of the same information that you learn as a Bachelor's-level student. Most schools either require a Bachelor's degree in any field or a Bachelor's degree in a social services field.

However, a Bachelor's degree in social work does have an advantage if you are pursuing an MSW. A Bachelor's degree can give you Advanced Standing, which may allow you to complete your degree in one year instead of two.

What traits do I need to become a social worker?

Social work is a fairly selfless and demanding field, and it's important to find out if it's right for you to avoid burnout. You should be willing to work long hours, great at listening, and able to assess situations fairly and accurately. It's almost essential that you be willing to adhere to law and social policy.

As a social worker, you may have to face some tough situations like child abuse, drug abuse, and family disputes. You need to be able to handle these situations professionally.

What jobs can I apply for as a Master's-level social worker?

A Master's degree in social work gives you a bit more flexibility than a Bachelor's degree in social work. You can, of course, work as a social worker. You may work in mental health, child welfare, drug or alcohol addiction, or domestic abuse.

However, you can also become a clinical social worker with a Master's degree. You may be able to apply for licensure as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker or Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker. With that title, you can work as a personal counselor, family therapist, marriage therapist, or other specialty therapist. The job titles you can take on depend on what classes you take and what clinical experience you gain as a student.

How can I get the most out of my education?

When you decide to earn a Master's degree, it's important to get as much from your education as you possibly can. You only have two short years in which to gain the skills, knowledge, and connections you need to work in this field. Set aside time early in your education to think about career goals. What type of clients do you want to work with? What role do you want to take on—social worker, therapist, or public policy administrator? When you know the answers to these questions, you can choose courses and clinical sites that give you the skills you need to succeed.

You may also want to begin networking in the community. Make an impression during your clinical hours by preparing in advance, working hard, and asking lots of questions. Consider taking on a part-time job in the field—for instance, you could work as an assistant in your city's social services office or work as a mental health aide at a nearby clinic.

What should I look for in an MSW program?

You know how important education is, so you know how important it is to choose a program that is right for you and your career goals.
First, it's important to look at whether you want to work on the clinical side of social work or the policy side of social work. Many schools offer a concentration in one or both fields, but some schools are stronger in one area.

Second, make sure your school has CSWE Accreditation. The Council of Social Work Education sets accreditation standards, and you may have difficulty finding a job with your degree if it is from a school that is not CSWE-accredited.