Careers in Social Work: Bachelor’s Degree vs. Master’s Degree

Many people, when looking into job ideas, want to find employment that can reach and help people in need. For some of these people, a profession as a social worker can be a valid professional choice.

A social worker is usually trained to help regular people who are having a hard time coping with events or issues in their lives. For a great deal of people considering a career in social work, the question can arise as to just how much schooling is needed before a reliable position can be secured.

While it’s true that many administrative social worker positions are available today with only a bachelor’s degree, there are a number of employers who require or expect an applicant to hold a master’s degree before they will even be considered for higher paying positions of one-on-one social work.

Types of Roles

While bachelor’s degrees are becoming more and more commonplace in a competitive job market, a master’s degree in social work is generally designed to create a good understanding of human behavior, supervision, leadership and cultural respect of diversity. A bachelor’s degree in social work is likely to offer you the opportunity to land an entry level position, but is not likely to open any doors to an independent practicing license. Every state has different licensing requirements, but in most cases, you need a master’s degree for professional certification. If you don’t have a master’s degree, you might be stuck in lower level positions.

Social work is a pretty vast field, and depending on your interests, you can find employment in a number of different industries. If don’t want to work as a social worker, but want to work in social services, you can also look into such positions as:

  • Health Educator
  • Probation Officer
  • Psychologist
  • School or Career Counselor

If being a social worker is your long-term goal, below is a helpful list provided by of the three main types of social work, The Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Child, family, and school social workers: Some of these workers find foster homes for abused or neglected children. They also help parents learn how to care for children better. Other social workers help with adoptions. Social workers in schools give students and teachers advice about learning problems, behavior problems, and social problems, like bullying or shyness. Other social workers help elderly people and their families.
  • Medical and public health social workers: These workers help people who are sick or who have health problems for a long time. They give advice to people and their families about how to deal with being sick. They also find services to help, such as nutrition classes or nursing care.
  • Mental health and substance abuse social workers: These workers are sometimes called clinical social workers. They help people with mental illness, upset feelings, or drug or alcohol abuse. They might provide talk therapy to people in order to identify their problems and find ways they can get better. They might also reach out to the community, finding people who have problems and offering help. Some of these workers teach classes about how to make a budget, deal with anger, or get other life skills.


Because a master’s degree generally takes one to two years longer to achieve than a bachelor’s degree does, it typically comes with a great deal more practical knowledge as well. The unfortunate part of enrolling in school for a longer period of time is that it often means higher student debts to pay back later.


Not only will a master’s degree offer you more professional options as you enter the work force, it’s also likely to allow you the opportunity to make a higher income than someone who has less education. In general, someone with a master’s degree can expect to earn at least $10,000 more annually than someone with just a bachelor’s degree.

Popular Online MSW Programs

You can click on the college logo to request more information about any particular degree program.

University of Southern California — The University of Southern California offers a Master's of Social Work. The program is in the top 10 in the nation. To get into the program you need to complete an online application and include your resume, statement of purpose, recommendation letters, supplemental form and official transcripts.

Our Lady of the Lake University — The Master of Social Work program from Our Lady of the Lake University is designed for working professionals and students interested in social services leadership and advance direct practice. The program also emphasizes service to Hispanic families and communities. OLLU is a private, Catholic college located near San Antonio and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Walden University — If you are interested in an online MS in Social Psychology, Walden University has a program that can be completed in as few as 18 months. In this program you will explore the way individuals socially construct thoughts, attitudes, and feelings, and gain an understanding of how this affects behaviors.

Kaplan University — If you are looking for an MPA program, check out Kaplan University. This program will provide you with the opportunity to gain knowledge and understanding of policy development and implementation through direct government action. The courses focus on: goals of public policy, and tools and methods used to implement policy.

Click here to learn about more Social Work colleges

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