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Degree Overview: Bachelor’s Degrees in Social Services

Majors Overview August 13, 2014

Receive information about bachelor’s degree programs in social services and their education requirements, coursework, job and wage outlook, and continuing education choices.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Social Services

Schools offer the Bachelor of Social Work (B.S.W.) program in both Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) formats. Students enrolled in the program are prepared to work to improve the quality of the lives of both individuals and groups who have chemical dependency issues, criminal backgrounds, mental illnesses, or disabilities.

Schools also offer other bachelor’s degree programs, such as sociology or psychology, whereby students can seek entry-level careers in social services, but employers for many social service occupations prefer candidates holding a Bachelor of Social Work (B.S.W.) (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to have completed high school level core general education courses, such as health, biology, algebra and English. Students seeking admission to some schools may also be required to complete some prerequisite classes, such as psychology as well as an introduction to social work before they are allowed to begin core coursework. Additionally, students may be expected to demonstrate prior work in social service fields, such as paid or volunteer experience with social service agencies.


Schools give students exposure to different subject areas aimed at rounding out their education, in addition to particular classes pertinent to the various aspects of social work and human interaction. Core coursework may include topic areas such as:

•Understanding grief and loss
•School social work
•Social work with groups
•Social work with individuals and families
•Working with older adults and their families
•Child psychology

Job and Wage Outlook

Employers offer diverse specializations for social workers, such as mental health, public health, school, and child and family; income levels vary by type. For instance, in May 2012, child, family and school social workers brought home an average annual salary of $45,300 while healthcare social workers banked $51,460 on average per year, during the same period. While mental health and substance abuse social workers brought home an average annual wage of $43,340, individuals categorized as ‘all other social workers’ netted $54,870 on average per year.
An optimistic 19% job growth rate has been predicted for social workers in general, during the 2012 – 2022 decade (BLS), while healthcare social workers are expected to see 34% growth, and individuals employed in mental health and substance abuse are projected to witness a 31% increase in job opportunities.

Continuing Education Choices

Those who complete a bachelor’s degree program — particularly health and medical social workers — are prepared to seek entry-level careers in the field and may opt for continued education by earning a Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) to enhance their career prospects. A master’s degree is also a requirement for those seeking careers in private practice, teaching, research, or social services management.
Licensure is mandatory in all states for social workers. Licensure norms usually mandate 3,000 hours or two years of supervised experience in a clinical environment.

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