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2021 Social Work Degree Guide

Social Work is a major that allows you to work with and respond to people in need. This can be a very difficult but fulfilling job as you have the opportunity to help people with many issues and problems. Your clients will include those who suffer from substance abuse, racial inequalities, poverty, homelessness, or many other problems. You should be an open and understanding person when encountering diverse people and situations.

Students take a variety of classes focused on the subject of human behavior and social issues in families and groups as well as individuals. Examples of the classes you will take are alcohol and drug addiction, behavior and social environment, child welfare, gender issues, human diversity, and social welfare policy. Students sometimes have the opportunity to choose a concentration in Youth Services, which focuses more on helping children and adolescents.

Social Work Degrees On The Rise

#12 Most Popular Major
57.5k Degrees Awarded
2.7% Increase in Graduates

In 2018-2019, social work was the 12th most popular major nationwide with 57,499 degrees awarded. This represents a 2.7% increase in social work degrees awarded over the prior year's total of 55,945.

The United States has 691 different schools where you can get a degree in social work. This year's Best Colleges for Social Work ranking compares 274 of them to identify the best overall programs in the country. Continue reading to check out one of our many unbiased rankings of social work programs later in this article.

Social Work Degree Requirements

The most successful students in the field of social work are outgoing and confident. This field is very hands-on and involves constant people-interaction. Many of the people you work with are in stressful situations and need an empathetic person to help them. Sometimes the best way to help is simply to provide a listening and compassionate ear.

Organizational skills will help you manage classes in a variety of subjects. Practice time management in college in order to help you in a career managing multiple clients and completing paperwork. You will learn many theories and approaches to helping people and have the opportunity to apply those theories to come up with practical solutions to problems.

Many colleges have the opportunity for students to complete an internship or participate in field work. This will give you invaluable experience for your career as a social worker.

Social Work Degree Program Entry Requirements

social work degree applicants generally need have finished high school or their GED. Many schools may also have GPA and SAT/ACT score minimums that must be met. In addition to these basic social work program qualifications, to serve in some social work careers, special certification may be required outside of your degree.

Social Work Degree Types

There are many different social work degree levels. You can spend many years getting as high as a professional practice doctorate's in social work to something that takes less time like a associate's. How long it takes to complete some common social work degree levels is shown below.

Degree Credit Requirements Typical Program Length
Associate Degree 60-70 credits 2 years
Bachelor’s Degree 120 credits 4 years
Master’s Degree 50-70 credits 1-3 years
Doctorate Program required coursework including thesis or dissertation At least 4 years

A master's degree is the most common level of education achieved by those in careers related to social work, with approximately 41.1% of workers getting one. Find out other typical degree levels for social work workers below.

Level of Education Percentage of Workers
Master’s Degree 39.3%
Bachelor’s Degree 36.1%
Post-Master’s Certificate 8.4%
Doctoral Degree 7.2%
Associate’s Degree (or other 2-year degree) 2.4%

Most workers in social work have at least a master's degree. View the chart below to get an idea of what degree level most of those in social work careers have.


This of course varies depending on which social work career you choose.

Career Opportunities for A Degree In Social Work Graduate

Average Number of Jobs
$36.4k Average Starting Salary
16% Growth Job Outlook 2016-26

There are several different fields you can choose from. Those who work in family, school, and child social work often help place children in foster care and investigate child abuse cases. Healthcare social work is another quickly growing field which involves working with aging populations. You can also choose to work in mental health and substance abuse helping clients get treatment instead of going to jail.

High Growth Projected for Social Work Careers

Want a job when you graduate with your social work degree? Social Work careers are expected to grow 15.6% between 2016 and 2026.

The following options are some of the most in-demand careers related to social work.

Occupation Name Projected Jobs Expected Growth
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 362,600 14.2%
Healthcare Social Workers 212,000 20.1%
Social and Community Service Managers 173,800 18.0%
Substance Abuse Social Workers 147,900 19.4%
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists 96,500 5.7%

Social Work Degree Salary Potential

Social Work graduates between 2015-2017 reported earning an average of $36,434 in the 2017-2018 timeframe. Earnings can range from as low as $7,100 to as high as $69,900. As you might expect, salaries for social work graduates vary depending on the level of education that was acquired.


High Paying Careers for Social Work Majors

Salaries for social work graduates can vary widely by the occupation you choose as well. The following table shows the top 5 highest paying careers social work grads often go into.

Occupation Name Median Average Salary
Social Work Professors $77,520
Social and Community Service Managers $71,670
Social Workers $62,660
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists $58,790
Healthcare Social Workers $58,470

Getting Your Social Work Degree

With over 1,419 different social work degree programs to choose from, finding the best fit for you can be a challenge. Fortunately you have come to the right place. We have analyzed all of these schools to come up with hundreds of unbiased social work school rankings to help you with this.

Study Areas in Social Work

Social Work is one of 5 different types of Public Administration & Social Service programs to choose from.

Majors Similar to Social Work

Related Major Annual Graduates
Public Administration 17,444
Human Services 13,768
Public Policy 6,021
Community Organization & Advocacy 2,832
Other Public Administration 971

View All Social Work Related Majors >


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