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Social Work

Program Description

Just the Facts

Social Work. A program that prepares individuals for the professional practice of social welfare administration and counseling, and that focus on the study of organized means of providing basic support services for vulnerable individuals and groups. Includes instruction in social welfare policy; case work planning; social counseling and intervention strategies; administrative procedures and regulations; and specific applications in areas such as child welfare and family services, probation, employment services, and disability counseling.

This program is available in these options:

  • Certificate / Diploma
  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Graduate Certificate
  • Master's degree
  • Doctoral degree

High School Courses

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this career cluster:

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this pathway:

Additional Information

Social work students are people who want to deal with issues most of us would rather avoid -- child abuse, criminal behavior, unemployment and other things we hope will never touch our lives.

A bachelor's degree in social work is almost always needed for an entry-level position, but many students go on to get their master's and sometimes their PhD, both of which help in finding work after graduation.

"We are interested in students who have a 'commitment to the profession,' not just the grades," says Linda Williams, director of field education for the social work program at North Carolina State University.

"We want students who have been involved in working with people in some kind of helping role -- volunteer or paid."

You'll also need a lot of maturity and emotional strength.

One way to be sure this is the field for you is to get some volunteer experience while you're still in high school.

"We recommend that students involve themselves in volunteer work with disadvantaged individuals or groups," says Grant Larson, dean of a social work and human services school at a community college. "This often takes the form of crisis-line volunteering, youth programs, seniors programs, hospital volunteering, peer counseling, etc."

A broad-based liberal arts curriculum in high school is good.

"Students should come into the social work program with a broad liberal arts exposure including psychology, political science, sociology and philosophy," says Patricia Carl-Stannard, a professor of social work at Connecticut's Sacred Heart University.

"A must is a solid command of the English language and good writing skills. Professional social work practice requires the ability to communicate effectively in writing," she adds. "In fact, a student who comes to the program with poor writing skills and cannot make improvements over time will not make it through the program."

The main costs are tuition and books.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Social Workers

Real Change
A publication about homelessness

The New Social Worker Online
Online magazine for social workers


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OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.