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College Requirements for a Child Welfare Social Worker

by Kimberly Yates, studioD

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of employment opportunities for social workers is growing at a rapid pace. Child welfare social workers are part of this growing trend, working in places as varied as schools, adoption centers and hospitals. Most states and agencies require social workers to earn a bachelor’s degree in a related field; however, those who are considering more specialized areas will also need a master’s degree.

Bachelor's Degree

The vast majority of social workers are required to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. While requirements vary slightly from school to school, most programs focus on the same basic coursework to introduce students to the challenges of a career in social work. Courses in psychology and sociology give social work students insight into a child’s behavior and choices. In addition, coursework in social method and social welfare policies help students understand what resources are used to help children in crisis as well as the laws governing child welfare agencies.

Master's Degree

Advocating for children and working with families can be a daunting task requiring diverse skills. Therefore, many agencies require child welfare social workers to earn a master’s degree. These programs generally require students to have earned at least a B average in their undergraduate coursework and have bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as social work or child psychology. Graduate-level classes then take an in-depth look at developing programs for children and working with communities as well as the practical application of social policies. These classes help child welfare social workers understand the best way to help families in need.


In addition to formal education, students earning a degree in child welfare social work will be expected to acquire real-life experience through a practicum or internship. This experience can be completed at a juvenile court system, a foster care or adoption service, or other accredited agency that advocates for children and teens. While licensed social workers and instructors carefully supervise them, students will use these real-life experiences to interact with families and clients, learning the best techniques to help children.

Continuing Education

The laws governing child welfare and advocacy are constantly changing. Therefore, most state licensing boards require social workers to continue their education throughout their careers, earning anywhere from 20 to 50 credit hours every two years. These hours can be earned through additional college courses or accredited workshops and seminars. Both the Association of Social Work Boards and the National Association of Social Workers offer accredited courses for their members in order to keep them abreast of the latest developments in the field.

About the Author

Kimberly Yates has been both writing and teaching since 1997. She has been published in a variety of magazines, including "The Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine" and "Woman's World." She has a Bachelor's degree in English and a Masters in English education.

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