Education & Training
To work as a social worker, you typically need to:
- have a high school diploma or GED;
- have at least a bachelor's degree in social work; and
- have a license.
Education after high school
You must have at least a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) to work in this field. However, you need a master's degree in social work (MSW) for many jobs. Colleges and universities offer programs in social work. If you are going to get a master's degree, your bachelor's degree does not need to be in social work. Common majors are psychology, sociology, and social anthropology.
Master's degree programs take two years to complete. These programs prepare you to choose a field of practice, such as child welfare or school social work. You should take classes that develop your skills in clinical assessments, caseload management, and counseling.
You need a doctorate (Ph.D.) in social work or a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) to teach at the college level.
Part-time or volunteer work at a social service agency is good background for this occupation.
Employers often provide training to new social workers. You learn agency procedures, forms, and case management. You often work with an experienced social worker for a period of time before receiving your own caseload. Training generally lasts up to three months.
You should consider participating in an internship while you are in college. An internship is usually part of a four-year degree program. It offers you a chance to apply what you learned in the classroom to a work situation. It also allows you to build skills and make contacts with people in the field.
Some branches of the military train people to be social workers. You must have at least a bachelor's degree to enter this military occupation. A master's degree may be required. Training lasts 16 to 24 weeks, depending on your specialty. Additional training occurs on the job and through advanced courses.
Related Programs (Current training programs available)
- Juvenile Corrections
- Social Work
- Youth Services/Administration
- Social Work, Other
- Clinical/Medical Social Work
Fields of Study (What to study to prepare for this career)
Click on any of the Fields of Study listed below to find out more about preparing for this career.
- Addiction Counseling
- Community Services
- Family Resource Management
- Family Studies and Human Development
- Genetic Counseling
- Human Services
- Marriage and Family Counseling
- Mental Health Counseling
- Rehabilitation Counseling
- School Counseling
- Social Work
Level of Education
The table below lists the level of education attained by a subset of workers in this occupation. The workers surveyed were between age 25 and 44.
|Education level attained||Percentage of workers in this occupation*|
|Less than high school diploma||1|
|High school diploma or equivalent||6|
|Some college, no degree||10|
|Doctoral (Ph.D.) or professional degree||2|
* National data for social workers (SOC 21-1020).
Helpful High School Courses
In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.
You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.
Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this occupation include:
- Computer Applications
- Ethnic and Gender Studies
The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.
You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.
Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career.
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.