Education Requirements for Aspiring School Social Workers

Jun 09, 2021

A school social worker provides guidance to students, parents and teachers. A graduate degree is often required. Licensure is mandatory, but requirements vary by state.

Essential Information

School social workers provide counseling to students, parents and teachers. They focus on tracking and improving the emotional and academic welfare of the student by providing guidance to all persons involved. A college degree and state licensure are the minimum requirements for this position.

Required Education Many positions require a Master of Social Work; bachelor's degree sometimes acceptable
Other Requirements State license
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)* 12% (child, family and school social workers)
Median Salary (2020)* $48,430 (child, family and school social workers)

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

School Social Worker Education Requirements

A state license and a bachelor's degree are the minimum requisites for a school social worker position. However, many positions require a master's degree and additional certification.

Bachelor's Degree

The ideal degree for this career path is a bachelor's degree in social work. However, degrees in sociology and psychology are also valuable to an aspiring social worker. A BSW prepares students for entry-level social work positions and advanced courses. This degree program usually takes four years to complete.

A bachelor's degree program in social work typically includes courses in social policy, social work methods, human behavior and field work. A graduate of this program is able to practice the knowledge, skills and values of a generalist social worker.

Master's Degree

Positions in school settings often require a master's degree in social work (MSW), which prepare students for advanced positions. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) should approve the MSW program. These programs commonly last 18 months to two years.

A master's degree in social work typically covers practices and policies, research and evaluation as well as human behavior and the social environment. After completion of the MSW program, a graduate should be able to apply critical thinking skills and make sounds judgments. In addition, he or she should be prepared in engage in research-informed practice and short and long-term interventions.


Licensing, certification or registration requirements vary by state. In most cases, an individual must hold a MSW prior to applying for school social work state licensure. An individual can find out specific requirements through the state's Department of Education.


The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) offers various certifications that are recognized nationwide. For an aspiring school social worker, the NASW offers the Certified School Social Work Specialist certification (C-SSWS).

This certification incorporates social work ethics, program development, social work procedures, theory, methods and federal and state laws. Applicants for the C-SSWS should be members of NASW, hold a MSW and have two years of pertinent experience. An individual should also be able to provide required references and present mandatory credentials and licensure.

Salary Info and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipated jobs for school, family and child social workers to grow by 12% from 2019-2029. As the number of students enrolling in school rises, the demand for school social workers will rise as well. As of May 2020, the median annual salary of child, family and school social workers was $48,430, according to the BLS.

A bachelor's degree may be able to secure you an entry-level position as a generalist social worker. In order to become certified as a clinical social worker, you must hold a MSW, ideally through a CSWE-approved program and have at least two years of appropriate work experience. Employment opportunities for school social workers are projected to increase at a faster rate than the national average for all occupations through 2029.

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