Earning a degree in Social Work can set you up for a rewarding career helping underprivileged, disadvantaged and often young members of communities. The prerequisite work is demanding and often emotionally draining, but by taking the correct courses, you'll be able to secure a post in a social agency after academia.
Enroll in basic human needs courses. If you have no background or prerequisite courses, you'll need a base of introductory human needs assessment courses. It's important to remember that courses, curricula and strategies vary from school to school--as well as from state to state--so always meet with an academic adviser to discuss courses, internships and lectures required for graduation. Often these basic needs courses are called Human Needs, Human Diversity and Human Interaction. It also may be as simple as taking a course titled Intro to Social Work.
Research your specific interests. There are several types of social workers--some work for state agencies, some are in private practice, some work exclusively with children and others work with specific ethnic groups. Take time to think about your interests as this will begin to frame your upper-level courses. Enroll in Human Experience courses. These courses will begin to flesh out concepts about how humans communicate, connect and relate to surroundings. Enroll in courses that deal with human behavior, human behavior in social settings and interviewing subjects.
Develop and decide on your major course of study. This will determine your upper level courses, but it will include a practical internship usually in a clinical setting and advanced seminars on human behavior. Enroll in courses that fulfill your major. Begin applying to master's programs in Social Work. This is generally a degree required for social work. Graduate with a bachelor's in Social Work.
Enroll in a master's program. You'll need to have decided on a major area of study. Major fields of study include school-setting social work, mental health care, child welfare and general health care. The courses you select will deal primarily with methodology and practical application of the theory you studied in undergraduate, but there will be options. Generally, your path will be highly structured, but be prepared to partake in at least 8 to 10 hours of intense practical study of each of the previous methods of social work. You'll want to take a larger percentage of hours in your field of choice.
The last step of the Social Work track is a field internship where you'll get training in your specific area, usually under the guidance of a practicing social worker. This will count as credit hours toward your master's degree. This is a critical step as it both tests your knowledge and gives you real-world experience in your field.
- Remember that a master's degree is usually required to work in a state agency, and therefore many undergraduate majors are accepted into Social Work master's programs.
- Always defer to your adviser for school-specific course information.
Based in Eugene, Ore., Duncan Jenkins has been writing finance-related articles since 2008. His specialties include personal finance advice, mortgage/equity loans and credit management. Jenkins obtained his bachelor's degree in English from Clark University.