Social Work Schools
Are social work schools accredited?In the United States, schools of social work are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. In June 2009, the CSWE had accredited 468 bachelor's programs in social work offered by colleges and universities throughout the country. In addition, the CSWE had accredited 196 schools of social work offering the master of social work (MSW) degree. Because the doctorate in social work (DSW) or PhD in social work is not considered a necessary professional credential or required for certification or licensure, there is no formal accreditation process for schools that offer these advanced degrees. However, according to the Group for Advancement of Doctoral Education, 74 institutes of higher learning throughout the nation offer a doctorate level degree in social work.
What are the requirements for admission to a social work school?Schools of social work offer advanced degrees in social work. All social work schools offer the MSW or master's degree in social work. A school of social work may also offer doctorate-level social work degrees.
It is not necessary to major in social work or any other specific discipline as an undergraduate in order to gain admission to a master's degree program offered by a school of social work. However, those applicants who have pursued coursework that gives them a firm foundation in the behavioral and social sciences will be better prepared for the academic demands of an MSW program. Undergraduates who are thinking of applying to master's degree programs in social science would be well advised to take courses in such disciplines as psychology, sociology, political science, anthropology, philosophy, and economics. Because some social work jobs involve research and analysis of numerical data, courses in statistics may also be helpful. Some social work programs also require or recommend that prospective students take courses in biology or human development at the undergraduate level before submitting their applications for admission.
What are some specialties or sub-fields within the social work profession?
Most social workers have a particular specialty or focus. Specialties and sub-fields within the social work profession include the following:
- Child and family social workers focus mainly on providing services and counseling to children and their families. They may work with abused children or with families dealing with a number of internal conflicts and social issues, including domestic violence and homelessness. This category of social worker includes child welfare caseworkers, as well as other social workers that work for child protective service agencies and family services organizations. Many of these social workers are employed by state or local governmental agencies.
- School social workers work with students in elementary and secondary schools in order to help them reach their full academic and personal potential. In providing services to students, school social workers coordinate with parents, teachers and school administrators. School social workers may have to deal with children who have behavioral problems and developmental disciplines, as well as young people coping with serious issues such as alcoholism, unwanted pregnancy, and abuse at the hands of family members or intimate partner. Part of the school social worker's job may include educating teachers on how to deal with emotionally disturbed students in the classroom.
- Medical and public health social workers counsel and provide services to individuals with illnesses and disabilities, as well as their families and caregivers. Some medical and public health social workers specialize in working with particular patient populations such as individuals with cancer or AIDS. The staff of most hospitals includes medical and public health social workers that counsel patients, help devise discharge plans, and arranged for services in the home during patient convalescence, including visiting nurse service.
- Gerontological social workers specialize in providing services to senior citizens, as well as their families and caregivers. Through counseling, they may work to help older individuals deal with the psychological impact of aging and the related physical infirmities. They may also help coordinate services within the home that will help an elderly person maintain an independent lifestyle, including transportation, meal services, heating assistance, and long-term nursing care.
- Mental health and substance abuse social workers provide psychotherapy and other services to individuals suffering from mental illness or addiction. In addition to individual and group therapy, mental health and substance abuse social workers engage in public outreach to vulnerable populations. Social work jobs in the mental health field my involve working as staff at residential facilities for the mentally ill, and at rehabilitation facilities for those recovering from substance abuse and other addictions.