Social workers help people find solutions to their problems. Clinical social workers diagnose and counsel patients with mental health, substance abuse, emotional or behavioral issues. Direct-service social workers assist clients in finding resources to help with their problems, respond to emergencies that require immediate intervention and assess their clients' situations to develop plans for improving the clients' circumstances. Although most social workers earn a degree in social work, some employers will also accept degrees in psychology or sociology.
Minimum Degrees Required
For many entry-level positions, a bachelor's degree is sufficient. However, clinical social workers must earn at least a master's degree. Many schools and healthcare facilities require a master's degree or higher as well.
Degrees in Social Work
To earn a bachelor's degree in social work, students complete their core subjects, such as English composition, math, foreign language, humanities and science, as well as degree-specific courses. Although exact degree requirements vary, they typically include classes in psychology, biology and sociology. Degree-specific courses may include human behavior, social work research, interviewing skills and family, group or individual practice.
Degrees in Psychology
Psychology majors seeking a bachelor's degree typically complete the same core subjects as candidates for a degree in social work. However, the other courses needed for a psychology major vary significantly. Degree plans have a heavy concentration of psychology courses, such as cognitive, developmental, abnormal, industrial and social psychology, but they also include psychology and law, animal behavior, research statistics and computer science.
Degrees in Sociology
Sociology majors take basic courses, such as English composition, humanities, math and foreign language. Degree plans typically require courses in sociological theory, social statistics, criminology, social research, religion and society, gender sociology, criminal justice and sociology courses focusing on race, ethnicity, economic status, age or medicine.
Social Worker Salaries
How much a social worker earns depends in large part on the area of social work practiced. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare social workers earned more than those providing their services to schools, children and families; they in turn earned more than substance abuse and mental health social workers. As of 2012, the BLS reported that healthcare social workers averaged $51,460 per year, with 10 percent earning no more than $31,410 and 10 percent earning at least $74,030. Taken as a group, child, school, family, substance abuse and mental health social workers averaged $44,240, with 10 percent earning $71,460 or more, but 10 percent earning $23,310 or less. The District of Columbia was the best-paying state for both categories, with healthcare social workers averaging $66,130 annually and those in the second group averaging $52,900 per year.
The BLS predicts a growth rate of 25 percent for all social workers during the decade ending in 2020. Growth for healthcare social workers is projected at 34 percent, with a 20 percent growth rate for child, school and family social workers and a 31 percent rate for substance abuse and mental health social workers. The projected growth rate for all U.S. occupations during the same decade was projected at 14 percent.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: What Social Workers Do
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Social Worker
- The University of Oklahoma: Requirements for the Bachelor of Arts -- Social Work
- The University of Oklahoma: Requirements for the Bachelor of Arts -- Psychology
- The University of Oklahoma: Requirements for the Bachelor of Arts -- Sociology
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012 -- Healthcare Social Workers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012 -- Community and Social Service Occupations (Major Group)
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Social Workers -- Pay
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Social Workers -- Job Outlook
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