A social work doctoral degree can represent the marriage of your education and your passion for helping your fellow humans. With a doctorate in social work (DSW), you will be eligible for a wide range of rewarding careers in research, academia, or clinical practice and more. Before you apply for a DSW degree program, you will need a MSW degree program, years of clinical training and you will need to have demonstrated a high level of academic accomplishment.
There are some online options for those looking to transition from a BSN to DNP here are some examples.
Ph.D. vs. DSW: Aren’t They the Same Degree?
While both Ph.D. and DSW programs will lead you to a doctoral degree, they are actually different types of doctorate degrees and apply to different professions. The key to understanding the difference is that a Ph.D. is usually considered as a “Doctor of Philosophy” type degree. That means the student will have learned the theoretical aspect of social work, will have done a large amount of research, and will have the skills needed to become a thought leader within academia. This degree is designed for social work teachers rather than future leaders in social work.
Featured Online Programs
A DSW degree program is more practical. Rather than focusing on philosophy, and theory, the DSW degree program is concerned with the development of advanced skills in the profession of social work. Meaning the degree is a more suited to the social work sector, rather than to a role in academic circles. The DSW program is generally pursued by current or aspiring executives, administrators, and department heads, who need advanced managerial concepts and practical social work skills to guide them into an advanced role.
- Clinician – A master’s degree is the nominal level of education needed for clinical social work, however, most clinicians also would benefit from earning their doctorates. The doctoral degree program will build and expand on the clinician’s clinical knowledge and will teach you all about the newest developments in areas such as research and new treatment modalities in the mental health field. Professionals with a DSW usually work in a private practice, but may also serve in other settings such as mental health settings, hospitals, and schools. Additionally, a doctoral-level social worker may qualify for positions that provide supervision to social workers at the masters level.
- Professor – Many people pursue a DSW as they wish to teach social work principles. The bulk of doctoral-level social workers take jobs in academia or research. Social work professors instruct undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students and provide advice regarding field placement, theses, and dissertations.
- Researcher – Many DSW holding professionals will also choose to pursue a career in research. Social work research involves the examination of factors that have an impact on social welfare, policy, work practice and those that can effect changes to these areas as directed by the evidence provided by empirical studies. This growing field may involve focusing on limited areas such as health policy, child welfare, gerontology and mental health. Doctoral-level researchers engage in many different kinds of research-oriented settings like government agencies, universities, and the Social Work Policy Institute.
- Medical Social Worker – Unlike healthcare oriented social workers, the Medical Social Worker is more oriented toward assessment of the social and psychological well-being of the patients they serve. These professionals are responsible for finding ways to connect people with the help they need- such as accessing agencies- governmental or non-governmental, to deliver the services needed for the case at hand.
- Family Therapist – Couples and families experiencing difficulty, pain or trauma, often turn to these professionals who’s job it is to deliver marriage or family therapy to help them work through difficult issues. As one of the highest paying jobs for DSW trained candidates, those who take this career path will benefit from ever increasing demand as many people across the country realize the benefits of the services that they provide.
- Community Program Administrator – Community program administrators deal with the supervision, organization, and management of programs, organizations, and institutions that are concerned with today’s welfare issues. This position will be available primarily to those who have a high degree of managerial experience, superior social skills, and a natural ability to thrive in a leadership capacity.
- Administrator – Because most doctoral social work programs offer a solid education in social work and services, some doctoral-level social workers will prefer positions in administration. They may become directors of agencies, executive directors of nonprofit groups or clinical directors in a mental health clinic. Doctoral-level social workers may decide to work in administration in higher education, under such titles as Vice President for Student Services or Dean of Students.
A DSW is a Terrific Option For Industry Leaders, but Not a Requisite One
The DSW degree is a wonderful choice for those who wish to take on leadership or administrative roles within the social work industry. It will definitely open interesting new doors and lead to faster and easier advancement up the ranks in an organization that is interested in promoting the public good. One should understand, that a DSW degree is rarely needed in order for a social worker to be fully licensed and certified. Most states only require a Master’s, or MSW, while only a few states demand that their licensed social workers have earned their Bachelor of Social Work degree.
A DSW program may be considered optional, but it is worth considering as a major advancement in the graduate-level education that grants students the opportunity to advance in their social work careers and to gain greater control over the policy and administrative duties at the organizations for which they currently or will eventually work. Those who mean to practice and lead in social work spheres, rather than to focus only on the practice aspect of social work, a DSW transmits in-demand skills and salient ethical guidelines which will become indispensable as new opportunities arise over the course of your career in the social work industry. Is a doctorate in social work in your future? For future leaders, and anyone who wants to have the best chance at a lifelong experience of learning and career advancement, taking a DSW degree is extremely worthwhile.