For those who have a calling and passion to help people cope with problems in their everyday lives, choosing to become a social worker — with its many range of services — offers a satisfying lifelong career, a profession fraught with meaning, action, and the power to make a difference in the lives of clients. Social workers are found in many places, including public agencies, nonprofits, private businesses, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, police departments, courts, and in private practice. All of these fields within the social work profession offer ample employment opportunities, some more than others, based on the work location. For example, you might find more work at nursing homes and hospitals in Florida and Arizona, two retirement meccas.
Social work is a vibrant and growing occupation and according to the latest data projections provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth in the field will increase 12 percent by 2024, something they term “above average.” The pay is good too. Median salaries, as of May 2016, are $46,890, and the per-hour rate is $22.54.
Requirements will vary greatly depending upon the position you choose, so go to the National Association of Social Workers for more specific information. Additionally, the Council on Social Work Education has identified more than 600 accredited social work programs in the United States, and its territories. A wide variety of programs offered by these schools will provide the required training and skills to employees entering today’s workforce. Although standards vary, you’ll find that most states require practicing social workers to be licensed, certified, or registered. Go to the state regulatory board directly or the American Association of State Social Work Boards for a list of regulatory agencies or for a comparison of state regulations.
Meanwhile, selecting the ‘right educational program’ is essential to students, who are better able to meet the needs of his or her clients and/or patients. Finding the best social work degree program or social work school can be difficult, especially when searching online. Almost all social work degree programs usually entail classroom study and practical field work. The bachelor’s degree prepares graduates for generalist entry-level work. A Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) is preferred for many social worker positions, and is necessary if your goal is to be a clinical social worker. But in some cases a certification course combined with supervised field experience is considered equivalent. If you intend to teach at a university level a DSW or PhD is useful to have.
Although standards vary, you’ll find that most states require practicing social workers to be licensed, certified, or registered. Go to the state regulatory board directly or the American Association of State Social Work Boards for a list of regulatory agencies or for a comparison of state regulations.
The following rankings are intended to be used as tools that can help you navigate your career specialty choices within the social work field as well as choose the best social work degree program for your individual needs. Our methodology is explained within each list but our mission remains true: to help you gain the skills, experience, and education necessary to help others.
Here are our selections for the most prominent online and on-campus social work degree programs and schools: