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Colleges with a Major in Social Services: How to Choose

Social work schools and colleges offer associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs. The Bachelor of Science in Social Work is the minimum requirement for a social worker. The Master of Social Work allows for more specialization in the field, including opportunities to study social systems, health or families. Read on for tips on choosing a school or college for social work.

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Social workers may hold administrative positions in human service agencies, or they may practice psychotherapy independently or in mental health agencies. Programs for social workers are available at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels.

10 Schools with Social Work Programs

These schools have social work programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition and Fees 2015-2016*
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI 4-year, Public Master's, Doctoral $20,966 in-state
$42,016 out-of-state
Washington University in St. Louis Saint Louis, MO 4-year, Private Master's, Doctoral $47,620
University of Chicago Chicago, IL 4-year, Private Master's, Doctoral $52,713
University of Washington Seattle, WA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $11,839 in-state, $34,143 out-of-state (undergraduate)
$16,278 in-state, $28,326 out-of-state (graduate)
Columbia University New York, NY 4-year, Private Master's $44,176
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC 4-year, Public Master's, Doctoral $11,074 in-state
$28,285 out-of-state
University of California--Berkeley Berkeley, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $13,431 in-state, $38,139 out-of-state(undergraduate)
$13,431 in-state, $28,533 out-of-state(graduate)
University of Texas-Austin Austin, TX 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $9,806 in-state, $34,676 out-of-state(undergraduate)
$10,934 in-state, $20,762 out-of-state (graduate)
Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH 4-year, Private Master's $41,169
Boston College Chestnut Hill, MA 4-year, Private Master's, Doctoral $26,262

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics

College Selection Criteria

Students should keep these considerations in mind when choosing a school:

  • If you are considering an undergraduate program and intend to pursue an advanced degree after graduation, you can inquire about the acceptance rate of their social work students applying to graduate schools.
  • When considering a graduate program, find out how many graduate students get their necessary supervised practice hours and their licenses.
  • Look at the social work program's curriculum to determine if courses match the training needs of your career choice.
  • Students may want to consider master's degree programs that offer specializations that are of interest to them, such as policy and management.

Associate Degree in Social Work

The 2-year associate degree in social work program prepares graduates for entry-level caseworker positions in various human service agencies. The curriculum includes courses covering social welfare programs, U.S. government and statistics. Foreign language fluency is also very useful in social work, and many schools require some study.

Bachelor's Degree in Social Work

Students earning a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) often intend to earn a master's degree, and many enroll in dual-degree programs which award both in five years. Graduates with a BSW are qualified to work as case managers in community mental health and human service programs. The curriculum includes courses on psychology and psychopathology, race and culture, oppression and social welfare systems. Foreign language courses may also be required. Field placements provide professional experience.

Master's Degree in Social Work

The Master of Social Work (MSW) is a terminal degree in that most graduates do not need a doctorate for advanced practice. Students study human behavior in the social environment through extensive psychotherapy training and clinical field placements 2-3 days per week. Some schools offer a management track with courses in community organizing and supervision. Field placements with a management or organizing emphasis may also be required. Graduates of these programs sometimes choose to get a Ph.D. and teach social work at the collegiate level.

Students who are interested in a social work program should look for schools that prepare students for professional work, including through field placements. Students should also consider what specializations a program offers.

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