How do I get a Social Worker Degree?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 March 2018
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When people discuss getting a social worker degree, what they usually mean is they want to obtain a degree that will allow them to become a social worker. Though there are some jobs that might hire to people to perform some level of social work without a college education, most occupations do require obtaining at minimum a four-year degree. Many jobs have greater requirements and a person might need to get a master’s level degree or even a PhD.

The best start, then, toward obtaining a social worker degree is to do well in high school, or if high school is a more than a few years past, to begin looking at colleges with social work programs. In places like the US, a common designation for the four-year degree people will first earn is the BSW or bachelor’s degree in social work. There are many schools that offer these programs, including a few online.

After a selecting a few likely programs, students will need to apply, usually in the early fall prior to the year they plan to attend. They should make sure they meet all prerequisites for admission and applications should be completed neatly and well. Once accepted to a program, a student will spend the next four to five years studying at school.


A social worker degree of this type may be useful for those interested in many sectors of employment, but it isn’t enough for some people. If by social worker degree people mean a degree that allows them to become a therapist, more study will be needed. There are also many upper level positions in social work that do not hire people who don’t possess a master’s degree. The next goal would be to apply to master’s programs to obtain an MSW or master’s degree in social work.

Those students planning to study at the graduate level will need to do well at the undergraduate level. They should have good grades in all core courses and will probably need strong letters of recommendations from teachers. Programs can be competitive, so students should understand they will need to prove they are worthy of being in a program.

Master’s programs take two to three years, but those wanting a license to be a therapist will have to do about 3000 hours of practical work afterwards before getting that license. People who merely wanted a masters social worker degree might need to fulfill some requirements too, prior to being registered or licensed to act as a social worker. This will depend on region and field the person enters.

Though fewer in number, there are doctorate level social worker degree opportunities. People interested in these degrees may want to teach, run departments, make policy or do any other number of things related to this field. As with master’s programs, most times people apply for degrees of this type after completing a bachelor’s degree. Some schools may have PhD/Master’s programs, where people can opt out at the Master’s level if they wish, or where students can choose which degree program to enter.



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