Are you passionate about helping people in need and emphasizing interpersonal relationships? Are you thinking of becoming a therapist and considering psychology as your major? Social Work is an often overlooked major that is less popular than psychology. Social workers have the potential to drive change by working directly with individuals, at the policy level, or within an organization. The degree prepares students for entry level positions and advanced studies in graduate school.
While social workers can offer direct services or therapy, social work goes beyond individual assistance. It is a distinctive field wherein social workers support clients in functioning within their immediate environment, helping them holistically navigate both emotions and actions in specific situations. In addition, social workers help to raise awareness and dedicate time to advocacy to help their clients at the local, state, and sometimes national levels. Therefore, students who are not only passionate about helping others, but who are also dedicated to addressing a broad range of social skills and being an advocate for vulnerable populations should consider a major in social work. Successful social workers possess a combination of skills and qualities such as empathy, active listening, cultural competence, resilience, communication skills, and collaboration.
A Bachelor’s in Social Work (BSW) program will provide a strong foundation to prepare a student to enter a field with various work opportunities and positions. Programs will train students to understand and contextualize problems, assess the needs of individuals and communities, and develop intervention strategies. Furthermore, programs develop students’ skills in communication, critical thinking, and interpersonal relationships. Most BSW programs will have a variety of courses for students to take, including foundational major courses, and other topics including human rights, the welfare state, research, human behavior, psychology, and ethics.
Another defining characteristic of a BSW is the requirement of field education or practicum. In a BSW program, students will not be confined to the traditional classroom structure. Instead, students can apply their knowledge through field work in an area in which they might find themselves working in the future. Field placements may include schools, hospice centers, or child welfare agencies, and students will develop their skills under experienced professionals. While the specifics of field work vary based on program, placements normally occur within the last two years, and students may work in various offices throughout their degree program.
Under the Title IV-E Child Welfare Stipend program, many states offer students committed to careers in public child welfare stipends or educational reimbursements following graduation. This can be applied to different BSW and Master’s programs at universities in participating states. Additionally, California, New York, Texas, Michigan, and Illinois offer loan forgiveness programs for those committed to working in specific areas of need, post graduation.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree, graduates can find entry-level positions in a range of occupational opportunities that extend beyond casework. With a Bachelor’s in Social Work, graduates can work in hospitals, schools, government agencies, social services, and even correctional facilities. Many positions in social work require a license to practice; however, licensure differs greatly across the country. While in some states it is possible to obtain a license with a BSW, others require a Master’s Degree to perform clinical roles.
Career Paths in Social Work
- Child Welfare Officer
- Community Organizer
- Social Science Researcher
- Case Manager
- Program Evaluator
- Community Outreach Director
- Program Specialist
- Medical Discharge Planner
- Habilitation Specialist
- Grief Counselor
- Employee Program Counselor
- Housing & Community Development Director
- Non-Profit Director
- Grant Writer/Administrator