Social Work Degree and Career Guide

Social Work Degree and Career Guide

Social work is two words used to describe a degree level and an occupation, and both involve learning to help others in need. Are you looking for a career where you can help others and have a career where your services are in demand? Read on and learn about social work, social work degrees, and what the field entails.

What is Social Work?

Social work is a profession where educating professionals use their knowledge and resources to help those in need deal with life’s many challenges. While we most often think of social workers when we think of social work, there are many career options in the field of social work. There are also several degree levels in social work, and many programs offer online degrees.


In Demand

​Social workers are more in demand than ever before. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that these professionals can see a nine percent increase in social work jobs between 2021 and 2031.


Rewarding Career

Social work may be a challenging field but, it is also a very rewarding career because you may be in a position to help people who are struggling.


Competitive Wages

Social workers earned an average annual wage of $50,390 as of May 2021 with the potential to earn even higher wages.

Associate’s Degree

To become a social worker, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree. However, a two-year associate degree in social work provides students with an introduction to social work and prepares them for entry-level jobs in social work, human services, and psychology. It’s also good preparation for a bachelor’s degree.

Online Associate Degree Programs in Social Work

Since true social work education usually starts at the Bachelor’s level, here are some examples of associate’s degree programs in related fields that will allow you start on your way to a Bachelor’s in Social Work.

  • The University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh (UWO) offers an online associate of arts and sciences program. This two-year program features accelerated seven-week sessions. It also offers the classes necessary to advance to a bachelor’s degree program.
  • Northcentral Technical College has an online associate degree in human services program that is 100% online, although it does include an internship so the student can gain hands-on training.
  • An online Associate of Applied Science in Human Services program is offered through Purdue University. Credits earned in this two-year program can be transferred to a bachelor’s degree program. It also offers credits for any relevant work experience the student may have.

Bachelor’s Degree (BSW Programs)

Social workers must have at least a bachelor’s degree, which is typically a four-year program that’s offered both online and on campus. This degree is ideal for entry-level jobs as a social worker. This program teaches about social welfare policies, human behavior, social work ethics, and diverse populations. Because it’s such a common degree level, it’s offered online by many colleges.

Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Social Work (BSW)

Bachelor’s Degrees in Social Work are the first step to working in your chosen field. There are over 500 bachelor-level degrees accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, and still more degrees pending accreditation and others still available. Here are just a few of the options, and you can check out our page on BSW Degrees for even more.

  • Maryville University offers an online Bachelor of Social Work program that offers a curriculum that mixes theory and practice. This 128-credit program offers nine different areas of concentration.
  • Concordia University offers an online Bachelor of Social Work program that allows students to start at various times of the year. The flexible online accelerated courses make it possible to complete this program in two years if the student takes eight-week courses. They can also fast-track into a master’s degree program in three years.
  • Southwest Minnesota State University has an online bachelor’s in social work program that’s rich in both social work and liberal arts courses. This program, which includes online tutoring, can be completed in four years. It also includes an internship program.

Master’s Degree

Candidates who earn a master’s degree in social work generally work as licensed non-clinical social workers or clinical social workers. The online programs offer social workers with a bachelor’s degree the chance to earn a master’s and continue to work. A Master’s degree in social work can be earned in two to three years and generally require a thesis.

You can also earn an Advanced Standing MSW if you have already earned your bachelor’s in Social Work. If you are interested in becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, you’ll also want to check out the LCSW online programs.

Online Master’s Degree Programs in Social Work (MSW)

    • Regis College offers an online master’s in social work program that offers a traditional track for students without a bachelor’s degree or a fast track for those with a bachelor’s degree. This program can be completed in four to eight semesters.
    • The University of Denver has an online master’s degree program in social work. It does not require applicants have a bachelor’s degree to enroll. Students can choose from a few different areas of concentration and can earn the degree in 18 months.
    • Arizona State University offers a 60-credit online master’s in social work program that includes 20 classes and 960 hours of field training. This program also prepares the student for licensure and certification.

Advanced Degrees

Advanced degrees in social work are often chosen by individuals interested in research or teaching social work programs. The doctoral degree can be completed on campus or online in two to three years past the master’s degree level.

Online Doctoral Programs in Social Work (DSW)

  • Simmons University has an online doctoral degree program in social work that has three areas of focus and can be completed in two to three years. Graduates are prepared to work in research or academia.
  • University of Southern California has an online Doctor of Social Work program that can be completed in 28 months. Student study topics like homelessness, poverty, and similar social issues in the world today. Students can study full or part-time.
  • St. Thomas University has an online Doctor of Social Work program that, while it does not require a master’s degree, can be completed in three years. This program does require a two-week residency every year.

Aside from a DSW, there are also Ph.D. program in Social Work to consider for a more academic route.

Careers in Social Work

There are various careers available for individuals interested in working in the social work field. Their availability and salaries are based on the degree level earned.

  • Home Health Aides – These individuals will go to a patient’s home and provide medical care and assistance with their daily activities. This position can be attained with an associate degree in social work.
  • Social and Human Service Assistants – These professionals work alongside of licensed social workers and assist them in their duties. This is also a position possible with an associate degree in social work.
  • Social Worker – Social workers help individuals, families, and groups cope with life’s problems. They must have at least a bachelor’s degree. Licensure requirements vary by state.
  • School Social Workers – These professionals work in a school and help students with academic performance as well as deal with any issues they may have at home or in school.
  • Clinical Social Worker – A clinical social worker must have a master’s degree and be licensed. These professionals can diagnose and treat individuals with behavioral, mental, and emotional disorders.
  • Social Work Educator – With advanced social work degrees, graduates are qualified to teach social work in colleges and universities.

Next Steps

Social work is a rewarding career with 9 percent expected growth over the next decade, according to the BLS. Get started on the path to a new career today!