A common perception of the social work profession is that Social Workers only provide services to people living in poverty. This may have been true during the early years of the profession. However, the field of social work has expanded to include services in various settings such as schools, private practices, clinics and hospitals.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Social Worker occupation is expected to show a 25 percent growth by 2020. In fact, these statistics suggest that the field of Social Work is one of the fastest growing professions in the United States. This is promising news for recent college graduates and career changers who want to seek employment in this stable field.

Undergraduate and Graduate Education

An undergraduate degree in Social Work is required in order to gain employment in the field of Social Work. In some instances, a graduate degree is required in order to meet the requirements necessary to become licensed. It should be noted that each state has different requirements for licensure eligibility.

Although the coursework for an undergraduate degree in Social Work varies by university, many prospective Social Workers take courses that include:

Cultural Diversity
Ethical Analysis
Welfare Programs
Community Outreach
Substance Abuse Education

There are good reasons that Social Workers pursue graduate level training in their field. A graduate degree provides more advanced licensing and career options. Social Work pay increases significantly with a graduate degree. In addition, a graduate degree enables students to become more knowledgeable in their field. This advanced knowledge and training enables Social Workers to provide a higher level of service to their clients. Graduate level coursework in Social Work includes:

Criminal Theory
Advanced Mediation Training
Policy Development

Social Work Specialization and Careers

Prospective students are often concerned about the types of positions that are available within the field of Social Work. There are many areas of specialization and career opportunities for people who possess Social Work credentials.

Areas of specialization include counseling, education, public health, substance abuse, mental health and medical health. Social Work job titles include Probation Officers, Human Service Workers, Forensic Case Monitors, Job Coaches and Nursing Home Administrators. There are dozens of career paths for Social Workers to follow.

Social Work Licensure

Social Workers are mandated to possess current licenses in each state in which they perform Social Work services. It is important to determine licensure requirements prior to pursuing employment in Social Work.

Although the requirements of each state vary, there are different levels of Social Work licensure. All licenses are subject to renewal requirements and fees.

Initial Licenses are given to Social Workers who earned an undergraduate degree in Social Work. This license is a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW).

Master Licenses are given to Social Workers who possess an initial license and a graduate degree in Social Work. This is a Licensed Masters in Social Work (LMSW) license. Many states require candidates to pass a state examination in order to be awarded a LMSW.

Clinical Licenses are given to Social Workers who have a graduate degree in Social Work and years of service. This is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)license.

Although many Social Workers view their work as challenging, they also view Social Work as one of the most rewarding careers. With the appropriate credentials and mindset, obtaining a career in Social Work is achievable.