The Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Social Work programs teach students approaches to helping people improve the quality of their lives. Other bachelor's degree programs, such as those in psychology or sociology, may prepare students for entry-level work in social services, but employers may prefer the Bachelor of Social Work for many social service occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some programs may allow students to select a program specialization such as public health or education.
Applicants to these programs are required to have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Completion of high school subjects including health, biology, English and algebra may also be required. Prerequisite college courses in psychology and sociology may also be needed, as may previous paid or voluntary social service field experience.
Social Services Bachelor's Degrees
Students in this program receive exposure to a variety of subjects to round out their education, along with courses specific to the many aspects of human interaction and social work. Courses intended to teach social work knowledge and skills may include:
- Social work with individuals and families
- Social work with groups
- School social work
- Understanding grief and loss
- Child psychology
- Working with older adults and their families
Job Outlook and Salary Information
There are many different specializations for social workers, including child and family, school, public health and mental health, and income levels vary from one specialty to another. For example, according to the BLS, the average annual salary for child, family and school social workers was $46,610 in May 2015, while healthcare social workers earned $54,020. Mental health and substance abuse social workers earned $47,190, while those in the category of 'all other social workers' earned an average of $57,970.
Outlook was supposed to be good for the 2014-2024 period - according to the BLS, social workers in general were expected to enjoy a 12% increase in job opportunities during that time. Employment of healthcare social workers was predicted to increase by 19%, and those working in mental health/substance abuse were expected to also see a 19% increase. This is much faster than the national average for all occupations.
A bachelor's degree prepares individuals to enter the field of social work, and a Master of Social Work will propel them forward. Many employers prefer the master's degree, particularly for health and medical social workers. Individuals interested in social services management, research, teaching or private practice need a master's degree as well.
All states require the licensing of social workers. Applicants for licensure are commonly required to have accumulated either two years or 3,000 hours of supervised experience in a clinical setting.
A bachelor's degree in social services prepares graduates for employment in the social work field, although many employers prefer to hire job candidates with a masters' degree. Social workers are also required to be licensed by the state in order to practice professionally.