How to Major in Social Work

Majoring in social work is an excellent way to get started on a career spent helping others. As a social work major, you’ll learn about the administration of social services, distribution of resources for social welfare, and public outreach to vulnerable groups.

How to Major in Social Work

You’ll develop skills in areas such as counseling, case work, intervention, and more. Your degree in social work will qualify you for jobs such as addiction counselor, public health expert, community organizer, and much more.

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.

Or read on to find out what you can expect as a Social Work Major.

5 Reasons to Major in Social Work

1.Social Work majors get to help others.

Earning a degree in social work provides you with a direct path to helping others. Your primary function in social work will be to help individuals and groups who are vulnerable, disenfranchised, or in crisis. Whether you work as a family counselor, organize operations for a food pantry, or disburse important public health messaging, you’ll be in a position to make a direct and positive impact on others.

2.Social Work majors have a wide range of career paths.

Social work covers a lot of ground. Your degree in social work could lead down any number of professional paths. Whether you see yourself in addiction counseling, community organization, health policy analysis, children’s protective services or beyond, there are countless different ways to channel your education into a career.

3.Social Work majors learn problem-solving skills.

The social work profession can be immensely rewarding, but also quite challenging. You’ll be working closely with communities, populations, families and individuals who are facing challenge, disadvantage and crisis. You’ll need both compassion and a practical understanding of the challenges facing your communities and clients in order to help them act on short-term solutions and navigate long-term life plans.

4.Social Work majors are in high-demand.

With so many vulnerable Americans facing unprecedented challenges today, the need for qualified social workers has never been greater. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of social work jobs is expected to grow at a remarkable rate of 13% by 2029. With 90,700 new jobs expected during that time, opportunities abound for professional social workers.

5.Social Work majors are influential.

Social workers have a profound impact on the lives they touch. Through methods like outreach, activism, and policy development, social work majors have the opportunity to change the lives of many for the better. Today, top influencers in Social Work are making strides in children’s care, disability rights, Substance Use Disorders, and much more.

Find out who the Most Influential People are in Social Work today!

What Kinds of Social Work Degrees Are There?

  • Associate in Social Work: This two-year degree, which can be earned at most community colleges, will provide you with a grounding in leading social work models, case management, and public health statistics. Your associate’s degree will qualify you to work as a human services assistance, caseworker, intake counselor and more. Your associate’s degree can also provide an affordable jumpstart on the way to a four-year degree.
  • Bachelor of Social Work: Your bachelor’s degree in social work is an excellent starting point that will include study in school counseling, public health administration, statistical analysis, and much more. This four-year degree can qualify you for most opportunities in the field, including health educator, family social worker, mental health counselor, and more.
  • Master of Social Work: This advanced degree, which typically requires two years for completion, will provide you with a strong skill set for leadership in the social services, and can qualify you to provide mental health or counseling support at the clinical level. Your master’s degree will give you the opportunity to choose an area of specialization on your way to a career as a school counselor, community service manager, healthcare administrator, and more.
  • PhD in Social Work: This terminal degree will require between three and five years for completion, and can qualify you to conduct or lead research for a government agency, think tank, or non-profit foundation. You would also be qualified to teach social services as a full professor at a postsecondary institution.

*Note: Many, but not all, degree programs offer the choice between Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. Likewise, many, but not all, advanced degree programs offer a choice between Master of Arts, and Master of Science degrees. In most cases, the primary difference is the diversity of course offerings. “Science” degree courses will focus almost entirely on the Major discipline, with a deep dive into a specific concentration, including laboratory, clinical or practicum experience. An “Arts” degree will provide a more well-rounded curriculum which includes both core/concentration courses and a selection of humanities and electives. The type of degree you choose will depend both on your school’s offerings and your career/educational goals. Moreover, there are sometimes numerous variations in the way that colleges name and categorize majors. The degree types identified here above are some of the common naming variations, but may not be all-encompassing.

What are some popular Social Work concentrations?

Your “concentration” refers to a specific area of focus within your major. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provides a complete listing of college degree programs and concentrations (Classification for Instructional Programs), as sourced from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). According to IPEDS, which lists social work concentrations under the umbrella of Public Administration and Social Service Professions, the following are among the most popular Social Work concentrations:

  • Human Services
  • Community Organization and Advocacy
  • Public Administration
  • Public Policy Analysis
  • Education Policy Analysis
  • Health Policy Analysis
  • International Policy Analysis
  • Public Policy Analysis
  • Youth Services/Administration

What Courses Will I Take as a Social Work Major?

Your concentration will determine many of the courses you’ll take as a Social Work major. Likewise, you will be required to take a number of requisite courses on foundational topics such as Social Welfare Policy and Case Management. However, you will also have the freedom to select an array of courses that most interest you. As a Social Work major, you’ll choose from an array of courses centered around improving public health and welfare.

Common Social Work courses include:

  • Race and Justice
  • Social Work Research Methods
  • Social Psychology
  • Community Organizing
  • Public Health Outreach
  • Social Services Administration
  • Addiction Counseling
  • Family and Youth Intervention

What can I do with a Major in Social Work?

The high-growth field of social work offers a wide range of professional opportunities. Depending on your skills, interests and desired workplace setting, you have plenty of options, including these top jobs:

Curious how far you could go with a Major in Social Work? Start with a look at the top influencers in the field today!

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Check out The Most Influential Schools in Social Work and get started on your path to a Social Work degree.

And if you’re shopping for the right college, be sure that you’ve reviewed our Resources on critical issues like Accreditation, Scholarships, Financial Aid, and more!