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What Degree Do You Need To Be A Social Worker?

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Students who want to become social workers are typically selfless, compassionate and patient people. They enjoy helping people work through problems with the goal of making them stronger. Although the nature of social work is challenging, it is rewarding for those who truly enjoy helping others.

Which Master’s Degrees Are Best for Social Work?

When it comes to choosing a degree path, there are two ideal choices that are both master’s degrees. However, people who have master’s degrees in psychology, sociology or related fields may qualify for some types of social work positions. The two ideal choices are a master’s degree in social work or a degree program for a licensed clinical social worker. These are often abbreviated as MSW or LCSW.

Those who are serious about attaining high-level positions in the field of social work should seek one of these two social work degree options. States such as Maryland, Kansas and many others require a master’s degree in one of these two areas for the highest certification. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual wage for a social worker is just under $50,000. Most people who have salaries that are higher than this amount have the MSW or the LCSW degree. To be accepted into a master’s degree program, a student may need to take the GRE, which is a test that measures a person’s ability to successfully complete a graduate degree program. While some colleges require this, not every college will. Most colleges require a minimum GPA and may require an application essay or professional references. If a student graduates from a college that also offers a master’s program in social work, the student may not have to complete the entrance requirements.

Which Bachelor’s Degrees Are Best for Social Work?

Some people who want to enter the field of social work choose not to seek a master’s degree. Not all agencies will accept any degree major. As a rule, degrees that are in related fields are often acceptable to some agencies. However, some students may want to seek a master’s degree later. These are the top choices for students in either situation.

Social Work

While most graduate schools accept a variety of undergraduate degree majors for a master’s degree program in social work, the optimal choice is a bachelor’s in social work. This degree means that a student will gain credit for some classes and can finish the master’s program quicker. It is also the optimal choice for students who want to become social workers without finishing a master’s degree. The applied program is designed to prepare students for a variety of jobs in the field of social work. During the program, students take several levels of social welfare policy classes. They learn about specific research applications in social work, and they learn about human behavior and development. Students also take a variety of supporting classes that will help them in any social work role whether they work with adults or children. Many colleges offer most of the coursework online.

Human Services

The human services degree is similar to a social work degree. However, social work graduates often seek administrative positions while human services graduates usually have roles that include more face-to-face interactions with people. Students learn how to communicate with diverse groups, how to collect and report information and how to analyze it. They also learn how to develop case plans and implement them. Some people choose specializations for desired sub-fields. For example, someone may choose a specialty such as criminal justice if that individual wants to work with juvenile criminals or victims of abuse.


Psychology programs typically include plenty of writing and research, which are important skills to have in the field of social work. Also, psychology students gain an in-depth knowledge of human behavior and development across all age groups. Additionally, they learn effective ways to communicate with various groups of people and in many situations. Graduates who have a bachelor’s degree in psychology may find jobs as caseworkers or researchers for state agencies. However, those who prefer to do counseling in the field of social work should seek a master’s or a doctorate degree in psychology or clinical counseling.


This major is not the same as a social work major. While social work focuses on methods of influencing human interactions and behavior, sociology focuses more on understanding group dynamics and interactions between people. Sociology exposes students to important issues such as diversity and justice, which are useful areas of knowledge for a social worker. Like psychology, sociology courses are intensive in communication, writing and research. Since students gain a good understanding of human interactions, they are often ideal candidates for facilitating group meetings and doing research or casework that involves diverse groups.

Are Associate Degrees Acceptable for Social Work?

Some entry level, support and caseworker jobs in the field of social work only require an associate degree. However, the salaries are typically much lower in these positions. Students who prefer not to complete a bachelor’s degree program may find work if they earn an associate degree in either social work or in human services.

Degree holders who want to enhance a semi-related degree to boost their chances of getting a job in the field of social work can also take individual human services or social work classes at a local college. Some employers may accept this from people who have already earned a degree in a related field. However, students who are sure about their future in social work and are not yet in college should choose a bachelor’s in social work followed by either the LCSW or the MSW degree to maximize their career opportunities and salary potential.

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