Social Work

Social Work

If you are interested in pursuing a degree or finding a job in the field of social work, everything you need is here. Find the best schools, career information, history of the discipline, influential people in the field, great books, and more.

What Is Social Work?

The aim of social work is to improve the well-being of vulnerable or oppressed people. A career in social work could lead to a position as a case worker, probation officer, or human services assistant. As a social work student, you may study topics such as behavioral psychology, social welfare policies, ethics, addictions, and more.

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The Best Social Work Colleges and Universities

We rank universities and colleges from around the world based on the scholarly work of their faculty and alumni. These colleges and universities are making the biggest impact on the social work discipline today.

  1. Columbia University
  2. Harvard University
  3. University of Southern California
  4. Yale University
  5. New York University
  6. University of Pennsylvania
  7. University of California, Berkeley
  8. University of Michigan
  9. University of Washington
  10. University of California, Los Angeles

For a dynamic, real-time listing of the most influential Social Work schools in the world, use our Custom College Ranking.

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The Best Online Social Work Degrees

Social work is among the most popular disciplines at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. A growing number of reputable colleges and universities are satisfying demand for this degree by providing an array of high-quality online social work degree options. Using our InfluenceRanking engine, we’ve identified the best among them. Check out our growing set of rankings for online social work degree programs at every level of education.

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Social Work Degrees

What Will I Study as a Social Work Major?

As a social work major, you’ll study topics like behavioral psychology, social welfare policies, ethics, and addictions, and more.

What Can I Do With a Degree in Social Work

Graduates with a bachelor’s in social work may qualify for careers as case workers, probation officers, and human services assistants. This versatility makes the bachelor’s in social work an extremely popular degree. However, many people choose to advance their career by also acquiring a master’s in social work.

If you’re ready to earn your degree at one of the most prestigious schools in the world, get started with a look at the Most Influential Schools in Social Work

If you’d like to learn more, check out our extensive list of resources for Social Work students, graduates, and professionals...

How To Get a Degree in Social Work

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Who are the Most Influential Social Workers of All Time?

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  1. Jane Addams was an American settlement activist, reformer, social worker, sociologist, public administrator and author. She was an important leader in the history of social work and women’s suffrage in the United States and advocated for world peace. She co-founded Chicago’s Hull House, one of America’s most famous settlement houses..
  2. Steve de Shazer was a psychotherapist, author, and developer and pioneer of solution focused brief therapy. Shazer is also listed below as one of the most influential social workers today.
  3. Mary Richmond was an American social work pioneer. She is regarded as the mother of professional social work along with Jane Addams. She founded social case work, the first method of social work and was herself a Caseworker.
  4. Bertha Reynolds was an American social worker who was influential in the creation of strength-based practice, radical social work and critical social work, among others.
  5. Virginia Satir was an influential American author and psychotherapist, recognized for her approach to family therapy. Her pioneering work in the field of family reconstruction therapy honored her with the title “Mother of Family Therapy”.
  6. Grace Coyle was a highly influential American thinker in the area of social work with groups. She wrote important books on the subject, and had great influence on the development of teaching group work concepts.
  7. Dorothy Height was an African American civil rights and women’s rights activist. She focused on the issues of African American women, including unemployment, illiteracy, and voter awareness. Height is also listed below as one of the most influential social workers today.
  8. Janet B. W. Williams is an American social worker who focuses on the diagnosis and assessment of mental disorders. She was a major force in writing the PHQ-9, a 9-question instrument given to patients in a primary care setting to screen for the presence and severity of depression.
  9. Belleruth Naparstek is an American social worker, author, teacher and the producer of a guided imagery library of self-administered audio programs.
  10. Herbert Laming, Baron Laming is a British social worker and member of the House of Lords. He served as Convenor of the Crossbench Peers from 2011 to 2015 and as Chairman of Committees from 2015 to 2016. Laming is also listed below as one of the most influential social workers today.

Now that you have a bird’s eye view of some of the most influential social workers of all time, explore these pioneers and others in more depth

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Who Are the Current Top Social Workers

The following are the top social workers in the field today according to our machine-powered Influence Rankings, which are drawn from a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia/data, Crossref, and an ever-growing body of data.

  • Steve de Shazer was a psychotherapist, author, and developer and pioneer of solution focused brief therapy.
  • Anu Aga is an Indian billionaire businesswoman and social worker who led Thermax, an energy and environment engineering business, as its chairperson from 1996 to 2004.
  • Herbert Laming, Baron Laming is a British social worker and member of the House of Lords. He served as Convenor of the Crossbench Peers from 2011 to 2015 and as Chairman of Committees from 2015 to 2016.
  • Alexis Jay OBE is a British social worker and academic. She is a visiting professor at the University of Strathclyde and the independent chair of the Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection .
  • Pushpa Basnet Pushpa Basnet is a social worker and the founder/president of Early Childhood Development Center and Butterfly Home, non-profit organizations, in Kathmandu, Nepal. Her organization works to strengthen the rights of children living behind bars with their incarcerated parents.
  • Loretta Fuddy was an American health official and social worker from the U.S. state of Hawaii. Fuddy served simultaneously as the Director of the Hawaii Department of Health and the Mayor of Kalawao County from 2011 until her death.
  • Dorothy Height was an African American civil rights and women’s rights activist. She focused on the issues of African American women, including unemployment, illiteracy, and voter awareness.
  • James Birren was one of the founders of the organized field of gerontology. He was a past president of The Gerontological Society of America, and author of over 250 publications.
  • Brian Gallagher is the former President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way Worldwide.
  • Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart is a Native American social worker, associate professor and mental health expert. She is best known for developing a model of historical trauma for the Lakota people, which would eventually be expanded to encompass indigenous populations the world over.

Learn about more influential social workers.

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Great Books About Social Work

The following are the most influential books in the field of social work today according to our backstage Ranking Analytics tool, which calculates the influence of various sources in both academics and popular culture using a numerical scoring of citations across Wikipedia/data, Crossref, and an ever-growing body of data.

  1. 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia by Molefi Kete Asante is an encyclopedia cataloguing African Americans according to specific criteria of accomplishment outlined by Asante.
  2. “Citizenship in a Republic” by Theodore Roosevelt “Citizenship in a Republic” is the title of a speech that Roosevelt delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1910.
  3. Upara: An Outsider by Laxman Mane is a remarkable account of what it is like to belong to an Indian nomadic tribe. It recounts the author’s struggles to overcome the obstacles placed in the path of such tribals—and of untouchables more generally—in Indian society.
  4. The Nether World by George Gissing is a novel that portrays the lives of aspiring actors and artists as well as poor people attempting to earn a hardscrabble living by any means at hand.
  5. To Sir, with Love by E. R. Braithwaite is an autobiographical novel about his teaching job at a school in the poor East End of London
  6. The Salt Eaters by Toni Cade Bambara follows a cast of vivid characters many of whom are veterans of the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, including an assortment of community and civil rights activists, feminists, and former anti-war protestors.
  7. The New Negro: An Interpretation by Alain LeRoy Locke . The principal themes of this anthology are the Black Renaissance, renewal, and self-expression. Among its contributors were W. E. B. Du Bois , James Weldon Johnson , Walter Francis White , E. Franklin Frazier , and Melvin J. Herskovits.
  8. How the Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class by John Hope Bryant is an exposition of the philosophy and methodology of Operation HOPE, an organization which provides financial literacy empowerment and economic education to underserved individuals in 4,000 inner city schools and 500 poor communities throughout the US.
  9. The Emperor Wears No Clothes by Jack Herer is part personal memoir, part objective history, and part textbook on Cannabis sativa–related science (medicine, chemistry, and botany), this book was intended as an all-purpose encyclopedia to which advocates of marijuana legalization could turn for reliable information.
  10. Project Lives edited by George Carrano, Chelsea Davis, and Jonathan Fisher is a book of photographs of New York City housing projects and their inhabitants, all of which were taken by the residents themselves.

Learn about more great social work books.

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Social Work Controversial Topics

Social workers are dedicated to helping improve the everyday lives of vulnerable people and groups. Throughout history, the struggles faced by these groups have often led to unpredictable behavior and even disagreement, and social workers have often led the charge towards a solution. We cover a number of objective and fact-based presentations of the controversial topics pertinent to the social work discipline, including: