How to Choose the Best Social Work Degree

The following article discusses why you should earn your social work degree including types of degrees, choosing a program, joint degree options, accreditation as well as understanding requirements and career choices available:

What Is a Social Work Degree?

A social work degree is an academic degree that is awarded to students who have completed an academic degree in social work. The most common path to entering social work is to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work. Once you have your foot in the door and have gained social work experience in the field, you may eventually earn your master’s degree.

Why Earn a Social Work Degree?

The social work field is a very rewarding one to work in. Choosing the best path for your degree is a big decision and not one you should take lightly. Depending on the path you take, you will have different doors open up for you throughout your career. No matter what path you choose, however, there will be plenty of availability for you to find the right position because of the large job market associated with the career field.

To ensure you have a strong start in the field, you will want to determine not only the best degree option for yourself but also the right kind of program. The type of degree is just as important as choosing the right school so that your degree has a great name to back it.

Before you start looking at the degrees you are interested in, you need to determine how long of a time commitment you want to put into earning your degree. Some programs take longer than others to complete. While some can only take two years, others can take up to eight years. The longer you can commit to the program, the higher level of responsibility you can expect to have when you accept a position.

With a two year degree, you will have very little responsibility but at the same time, you will also only be at the lowest level of compensation in the field. A four year degree, typically a bachelor’s degree, is the ideal option for individuals who are looking to have more interaction with patients and clients in various social services programs.

If you opt to get your masters degree in the field, you can have even more interaction and responsibility. With two years of post master experience in a clinical setting on top of the masters degree, you can become a clinical social worker. Based on the state you plan to work in, you may be required to obtain your license to work in the field in that state.

Choosing Your Degree Path

After choosing how long you want to be in school, the next biggest thing to determine is what you are interested in doing with your career. This can also help you determine the correct path for you to take. When you know exactly what you want to do with your career, you are set up to have better success in the field. With some careful decision making, you will be on your path to a successful social work career.

These are some of the common social work degree paths that people take:

  • Diploma in Social Work: This is the easiest degree to obtain and it only takes two years to complete. There are many community colleges who have this option available. With the diploma, you will be prepared to work with clients and provide services to an extent. Some of the cases that people with this diploma have assisted with include suicide prevention, domestic violence cases, child abuse, and even crisis intervention. Some other option for work with this degree include becoming a senior support worker, home support coordinator, and more.
  • BA, BSc, BSSW, or BSW: All of these are Bachelor’s degrees and can take four years to complete. This type of bachelor’s degree will allow you to work in entry-level positions within the field. Some of these entry level positions include caseworkers and even mental health workers.  Most commonly, you will find people with these degrees working with children of abuse, bullying, divorce, illness assistance, stress management, community organizations, and individuals suffering from substance abuse.
  • MSW, MSS, MA, MSc, or MPhil: These are master’s degree programs and can range from one to two years to complete, depending on the degree path you choose. If you are interested in working directly with patients or opening your own practice, this is the path you want to take. This master’s in social work degree program is more advanced and typically more focused on the area you are interested in. Instead of a more broad path of different types of issues to assist with, you will need to narrow it down to a cause you really care about such as substance abuse or child abuse. With this degree, you also have doors opened for you to have an administrative role, policy maker, or even a planner for social work.
  • DSW or Research Based PhD: These doctoral degrees can be completed in approximately four years. It is the highest degree that you can obtain in the social work field. With these types of degrees, you can enter into leadership roles in the field and concentrate even more on your passion. Many people with their doctoral degrees in this field even have the option to teach in the college or university level. If you want to continue working in the field, you can also conduct research on some of the common topics in social work.
  • Post-masters and Post-Doctoral Education: After obtaining the degrees you want, there are options to obtain even more education with training in special topics.

Online Social Work Degree Options

If you want to earn your Master of Social Work online, you may want to consider Rutgers University. This is one of the largest schools of social work in the US, and you have the option of taking your social work internship anywhere in the US.

Also, there is no GRE requirement at this online university, and it ranks in the top 12% of grad schools for social work, according to US News and World Report. Curriculum highlights include:

  • You can graduate in four semesters with Rutgers’ advanced standing track that is available for the best incoming students.
  • Improve your social work body of knowledge with classes in psychopathology, social welfare policy and services and field education programs.
  • Help women and children victims with Rutgers’ online Violence Against Women and Children certificate.

Admission requirements:

  • No GRE needed
  • Three recommendation letters
  • Resume – social work experience preferred
  • Official transcripts with 3.0 minimum GPA
  • Personal statement

Joint Social Work Degree Options

If you are interested in social work as a career but have additional career interests, you may want to consider a joint social work degree. Some of the popular masters of social work joint degrees are: 

  • MSW/JD: Graduates of this dual degree program are well suited to assume leadership positions in social policy and law, and to attempt to provide a more just society.
  • MSW/Master of Public Administration (MPA): This two year, joint degree program will ready you for a career in government service leadership, as well as both private section and social service organizations.
  • MSW/Master of Public Health (MPH): This dual degree program prepares you to use your social work career to deal with differences in access to public health needs and to promote better human/social well being.
  • MSW/Master of Business Administration (MBA): This dual degree program will ready you for a career in HR, philanthropy, corporate social responsibility, information management and organizational development.


Before you apply for any social work program, one thing you need to be sure of is that it university or college is accredited. When a university or college is accredited, then the education obtained from said school is highly respected in the field. It also means that the program meets the standards set for the social work education. The last thing you want it to obtain a social work degree and find out that it is considered a joke in the field.

Currently, the best accreditation for the social work field is offered by the Council on Social Work Accreditation (CSWE). Their Commission on Accreditation (COA) is responsible for determining if a program meets the requirements. They work with the requirements set forth by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the CSWE Office of Social Work Accreditation (OSWA) to determine their accreditation. This is the accreditation that you will want to find to make sure your degree meets the best standards in the industry..


Choosing the right social work degree may seem like a daunting task but if you look at these factors, you should be able to find the ideal option for your career path with no difficulty at all.