Social work is the profession of helping people to improve their lives. It involves working with individuals, families, groups, and communities to assess and address their needs. Generally, social workers help people to solve problems and to improve their well-being.
But is a social work degree worth it?
The answer to this question fully depends on your specific situation and what you hope to achieve with your social work degree. So, let’s start with the benefits you gain with this degree.
The Benefits of a Social Work Degree
1. Job Security
There’s a growing demand for qualified social workers – especially after the Covid-19 pandemic. With a degree in social work, you are more likely to find stable employment and career advancement opportunities.
As a social work graduate, you can choose to work in hospitals, mental health clinics, schools, or private practices. Plus, many employers offer competitive wages and excellent benefits.
With the diversity of the social work degree and its numerous areas of specialization, you can stay secure in a rapidly changing job market.
2. Career Prospects
As mentioned earlier, with a social work degree, you can work in schools, hospitals, social service agencies, and private practices. And the social work specializations include:
- Community social worker
- Child and family social worker
- Mental health social worker
- Military social worker
- Gerontological social worker
- School social worker
You can also use your degree to pursue a career in teaching or research.
In addition, since the social work field is growing rapidly, there is a higher demand for social workers than ever before – so long as you’ve got the necessary qualifications & licensures.
Salaries for social workers vary depending on your position and experience, but typically offer good wages.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2021 median pay of social workers was $50,390 per year or $24.23 per hour. However, with a Masters in Social Work (MSW), you can expect to earn about $68,775 on average, according to Salary.com.
Social work pay, as you might have noticed, is quite close to the U.S. median household income of $67,521. Ultimately, you will lead a comfortable life, but it’s not a profession you mostly pursue to make money. You need to have a passion to help and be of service to other people.
If money is your sole motivation, you’re better off pursuing business degrees.
4. Work Environment
While most social workers work in hospitals, mental health centers, and child welfare agencies, others choose to work in government agencies, nonprofits, and other human service agencies.
You will often work with individuals, families, and groups facing difficult situations such as illness, poverty, homelessness, abuse, trauma, and discrimination. You might also encounter clients with mental health problems, substance abuse issues, and/or disabilities.
Therefore, the work of a social worker can be emotionally demanding and may involve working with difficult or distressing situations. And not to mention that you might work long or irregular hours, including evenings and weekends, and may be on call to respond to emergencies.
Overall, the work environment of a social worker can be challenging, but it can also be quite rewarding as you’ll be able to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
Pursuing a Social Work Degree: What to Consider
1. Financial Costs
The financial cost of pursuing a social work degree can vary depending on several factors, such as the type of program (e.g. bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral), the institution, and whether the student is attending full-time or part-time.
Generally, a social work degree can be a significant financial investment. Tuition for a social work program can range from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars per year, depending on the institution and program. In addition to tuition, you may also have to pay for books, supplies, and other fees.
If you’re unable to pay for your education out of pocket, you can finance your studies through loans, grants, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid.
Ensure to carefully research and compare the financial costs of different programs and institutions in order to make an informed decision about which one is the most affordable and suitable for your needs.
2. Time Commitment
A social work degree requires a significant time commitment, both in terms of coursework and field experience. In order to become a social worker, you must complete a bachelor’s degree in social work, followed by a minimum of two years of supervised work experience.
If you want to become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), you must complete a master’s degree in social work, followed by 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Then you will need to pass a clinical exam to obtain licensure.
Read more about social work degree levels here.
3. Employment after Graduation
Employment rates for social work graduates are high, with most finding work in the field within six months of graduation. However, the specific job market and salary expectations vary depending on your area of specialization.
For example, if you specialize in child and family social work, you can expect to find jobs in schools, child care centers, and social service agencies. If you specialize in mental health and substance abuse, you can find jobs in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and private practices.
Besides, you can pursue careers in management, teaching, and research. There are sufficient exciting and rewarding career paths to pursue.
So, Is a Social Work Degree worth it?
Yes, earning a social work degree can be a rewarding and fulfilling choice for you if you are passionate about helping others and making a positive impact in their communities.
While you need to consider your own goals and circumstances when deciding whether a social work degree is right for you, there are numerous benefits to earning this degree – including the opportunity to work with a diverse range of people, the ability to make a difference in their lives, and the potential to advance in the field.
Useful Social Work Resources:
Social Work Personal Statement Guide
Top 8 Cheapest Online MSW Programs
Best Online Master of Social Work (MSW) Programs