One of the first concerns an individual interested in the field of social work has is if a master’s degree is needed to become a social worker. Social work is a vast field that offers many career options. There are different types of social work, and each of them has its own education and training requirements. The requirements vary depending on the type of social work that interests the student and the state’s licensing requirements. Here is some information on degree levels needed for the field of social work.
Types of Social Workers
Determining the degree required depends mostly on the area of specialization. Here are a few of the different types of social workers.
- Child, Family and School Social Workers – These work with families and children who are struggling with psychological and social problems in the home, at school or in the community.
- Medical Social Workers – These social workers help families and individuals who are dealing with health-related issues like illnesses or injuries.
- Public Health Social Workers – These workers work with entire communities on issues stemming from illness, widespread sickness or community disasters.
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers – These social workers help families, couples or individuals who are receiving treatment for mental illness or substance abuse. This may be counseling or intense therapy.
- Military Social Workers – These workers help military personnel and their families deal with the many issues arising from being part of the military.
- Community Social Workers – These social workers deal with entire communities to provide them with resources and help improve conditions in the community.
Do Social Workers Need Bachelor’s or Master’s Degrees?
To become a social worker, an individual should have at least a bachelor’s degree in social work, psychology, or sociology. Graduates of bachelor’s degree programs may find work as mental health assistants or caseworkers. Students in a social work program complete coursework and lab classes as well as internships or supervised fieldwork. Many types of social work positions can be had with a bachelor’s degree. Individuals who wish to work as clinical social workers must complete a master’s degree, which takes two years beyond the bachelor’s degree.
Clinical social workers must also complete two years of supervised training after earning the master’s degree before they can apply for licensure. Clinical social workers are required to have a license before they can practice. There were more than 200 accredited master’s degree social work programs and more than 500 bachelor’s degree social work programs as of 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Career Outlook for Social Workers
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that social workers should see an employment growth of 16 percent from 2016-to 2026. Although the demand for more qualified healthcare and social service workers will put social workers in demand, the growth will also vary by specialization. Child, family, and school social workers should see a 14 percent growth, while healthcare social workers and mental health and substance abuse social workers should experience growths of 20 percent and 19 percent, respectively. As of May 2017, social workers overall earned an annual median salary of $47,980 nationwide. Earnings also vary by specialization.
Social work is a field that can be challenging as well as rewarding because almost all social work careers involve helping others. Prior to enrolling in an educational program, individuals are advised to check with their state licensing board so they know whether they need a bachelor’s or master’s degree to become a social worker.
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