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Social Work Career Information and Education Requirements

Social workers often require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education and job duty requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Social workers assist a variety of groups and populations, including people with disabilities, older adults, children and families. While the minimum educational requirement for a social worker is a bachelor's degree, many careers involving clinical work often require a master's degree.

Required EducationBachelor's degree for entry-level positions
Other RequirementsMaster's degree and licensure for clinical social workers
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)*19%
Average Annual Salary (2013)*$48,370

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Social Work Career Information

Social work is about helping people improve their lives through therapy, government assistance and social policy. Social workers help individuals, families and communities by assisting them in addressing a multitude of issues, including substance abuse, spousal or child abuse, unemployment, inadequate housing, life-threatening diseases, disabilities and mental illness. Social workers are also involved in public policy, social work advocacy and social work research.

Licensed social workers often focus on serving a specific area of the population. Common specialization areas include medical, public health, gerontological and children and family social work. Social workers can find employment opportunities with government agencies, elementary and secondary schools, hospitals, mental health facilities, employee-assistance programs, home health care services, family service agencies, substance abuse centers and more. Common duties of social workers may include providing emotional support to families dealing with diseases such as cancer and AIDS, running support groups, helping families find government assistance programs and writing grant proposals for social programs.

Educational Requirements

Social workers require extensive educational training. Entry-level social work positions, which at times are mostly clerical, require at minimum a bachelor's degree in social work or a related area. Many social work positions, especially clinical work in school and health settings, now also require a master's degree. Typical topics covered as part of a social work degree program include human growth and development, abnormal psychology, social welfare services and social work ethics.

Bachelor's degree programs prepare students for employment as a caseworker, residential counselor, group home worker and more. Master's degree programs better prepare graduates to pursue a specific specialty area, as well as pursue supervisory and clinical roles. Although less common then bachelor's and master's degree programs, doctorate degree programs prepare graduates for careers in clinical supervision, research and education.

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