Bachelor's Vs Master's in Social Work

This article provides insight into the similarities and differences between bachelor's and master's degree programs in social work. You can also explore potential career options for both degrees. Schools offering Addictions & Social Work degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Comparing Social Work Degrees

Bachelor of Social Work

A bachelor's degree in social work can prepare graduates for entry-level social welfare positions in a variety of settings, from schools to child welfare and human service agencies. After completing two years' worth of baccalaureate core course requirements, students take classes in social work practice and complete fieldwork and a culminating practicum experience.

Some students may have to go through a departmental admission process prior to completing the last half of a social work bachelor's degree program. Admissions requirements could include a minimum GPA in the first two years of coursework and the completion of prerequisites in subjects like psychology, economics, and sociology.

Master of Social Work

Master of Social Work programs typically follow a two-year, full-time format, although advanced standing and/or part-time options are also available at some colleges and universities. Aside from generalist practice master's degrees, some programs offer special concentrations, such as clinical social work and social leadership concentrations. Master's degree programs provide students with the skills, knowledge, and fieldwork necessary to advance their professional capabilities. A professional with a master's degree in social work and proper licensure is able pursue a career in clinical social work, family therapy, or school social work, among other careers.

Degree Program Program Length Program Requirements Related Careers
Bachelor of Social Work 4 years High school diploma or GED *Caseworker
*Mental health assistant
Master of Social Work 1-4 years Bachelor's degree *Clinical social worker
*Child and family therapist

Courses Common to Bachelor of Social Work Programs

In addition to baccalaureate core courses, and between 400 and 600 clock hours of fieldwork, students will need to complete two years of social work-centered study that could include the courses listed below.

Introduction to Social Work

This course offers an introduction to social welfare and social work as a profession while also providing students with the historical and philosophical contexts of social work. Students might explore the objectives, methods, and values of social work. Various group perspectives for social work practice, such as rural and/or African American perspectives, may be discussed.

Human Behavior and Social Environment

These classes examine how human behavior is affected by social environments through an examination of theories and evidence-based knowledge of human development. Coursework may consider the biological, social, psychological, and cultural elements of an individual's environment. Socio-political and economic factors, like poverty and discrimination, and the impact of these circumstances on one's potential for overall health and well-being are also common topics.


Descriptive and inferential statistics as well as the interpretation of statistics in research and evaluation are generally covered in this course. Students build skills needed to conduct their own statistical analyses and evaluate social policies and programs. Topics of study could include hypothesis testing, analysis of variance, regression, and correlation.

Coursework Common to a Master of Social Work Degree

Master's degree programs in social work give students the opportunity to enhance their research and analytical skills while acquiring advanced knowledge in various areas of social welfare, psychopathology, and social policy.

Social Welfare and Policy

Master's level policy courses explore the historical, socioeconomic, political, and legal underpinnings of social welfare policies and services provided in the US. The systematic oppression of women, African Americans, Native Americans, and other vulnerable groups are often examined in these policy courses. The planning, implementation, and analysis of policies, as well as the issues and limitations of such policies, are also focused on.

Social Work Practice

Social work practice courses help prepare students to work directly with individuals and families. In generalist social work practice courses, students learn the flow of practice from initial engagement with clients to the close of their cases, including the processes involved in assessment, implementation, evaluation, and follow-up. These types of classes may also stress working with clients through all stages of life from infancy to old age as well as groups and families.

Social Work and Gerontology

This class tackles various aspects of promoting dignity and self-determination among older persons. The role policy plays in the wellbeing and independence of older people is examined. The physical, cognitive, and social nature of the aging process and how caregivers can help navigate clients through these changes may be covered. Systems of oppression, like ageism or homophobia, and how they suppress the dignity, social, and economic justice of older persons as well as the value of social workers in breaking through such barriers are common topics.

Social Work with Children and Adolescents

In this class, students learn how to make differential assessments and develop research-based treatment and intervention plans designed to ensure the safety and well-being of children and adolescents. Coursework can cover developmental, cultural, and community-based influences on how children and youths respond to and recover from trauma as well as the ways familial and community networks can be involved in the intervention process.

A bachelor's degree in social work can qualify graduates for entry to this career field, while a master's degree provides advanced knowledge that can broaden the scope of career options. Both programs provide interdisciplinary curricula that explore the value system and ethics of social work.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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  • Southern New Hampshire University

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  • University of Georgia

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