Social Worker Schooling Options and Requirements

Sep 12, 2019

Social workers require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure requirements to see if social work is the right career for you.

Social work is an occupation driven by relationships, so social workers must be helpful, sensitive to emotion and able to individualize solutions. Social workers come in many types, and it's important to consider the type of client you work best with so that you follow the right educational path. To become a basic social worker you need a bachelor's degree, while clinical work necessitates a master's and additional licensing.

Essential Information

Social workers provide people with assistance and guidance during difficult situations. These professionals often specialize in different areas. Common types of social workers include mental health and substance abuse social workers, child and family social workers, healthcare social workers, and clinical social workers.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most social worker positions require each candidate to hold the minimum of a bachelor's degree. To become a clinical social worker, though, the BLS explains that individuals must earn master's degrees and complete two years of additional clinical training. Clinical social workers are required to obtain licensure in all states. Every state has different licensing requirements for other types of social workers, so individuals will need to check with their own states concerning those requirements.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in social work or related field;
Master's degree in social work (clinical social workers only)
Other Requirements Clinical social workers: two years post-graduate clinical training and state licensure;
Other social workers: certification or licensure, depending on state requirements
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 11% (for all types of social workers)
Median Salary (2018)* $44,840 (for mental health and substance abuse social workers);
$46,270 (for child, family and school social workers);
$56,200 (for healthcare social workers);
$63,140 for all other types of social workers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Requirements

Social workers should demonstrate a desire to help people improve their lives. They must be responsible, emotionally mature and sensitive to the problems and needs of others. Social workers are expected to work independently and be able to form good working relationships with their colleagues and clients. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, experience as a social work aide is a good way for aspiring social workers to test their aptitude for social work.


Every state has its own requirements regarding social work licensing and certification. These standards must be met by those who wish to acquire professional titles, such as licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). Licensing requirements in most states include at least two years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Transferability of credentials is also up to each prospect's local state or jurisdiction.


A social worker may advance to program manager, supervisor or executive director of a social service agency. An advanced degree and relevant work experience is usually necessary for advancement. Teaching, consulting, research and policy analysis are other career options for social workers.

Social work offers opportunity, with a high job growth rate of 11%. You'll need at least a bachelor's degree, maybe a master's, and continuous education is critical for maintaining updated knowledge, meeting changing requirements and career advancement. It's important to check licensing requirements and procedures, as they can vary greatly between states.

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