How do I get a Social Work Diploma?

Ron Marr

Social work is a growth industry. As the American baby boomer generation transforms into the retirement generation, social workers who specialize in the field of gerontology will find a social work diploma to be a valuable asset. Also, there is always a huge client base of individuals who seek help with substance abuse or family issues. Social work is not for everyone, as it requires compassion, empathy, and patience. Those possessing these traits, however, will find social work to be a fulfilling profession.

A social work diploma.
A social work diploma.

Acquiring a social work diploma, although it does take a considerable amount of time, does not entail the rigors of some degree programs. Most colleges and universities offer social work degrees for full-time, part-time, and even online students. A bachelor’s degree is mandatory, and more and more often a master’s degree (MSW) is preferred by state agencies and private employers. Although government funded agencies in rural or isolated areas will sometimes hire an individual with a bachelor's, such is becoming more the exception than the rule. To engage in any kind of advanced clinical work, an individual needs an MSW.

A social worker working with a teen.
A social worker working with a teen.

As a general rule, the minimum criteria for receiving a social work diploma, and the designation of a Bachelor's of Social Work, consists of successfully completing 120 credit hours of coursework. Sixty of the credit hours must be obtained via mandatory core courses and fieldwork. The additional hours required will be in the form of electives. The most usual choices include education in family violence and child welfare, substance abuse, minority issues, statistics, criminology, and any number of psychology and public administration options.

Obtaining a social work diploma, and a Bachelor's of Social Work, requires a four-year program. Those who wish to pursue an MSW can anticipate a further two years of advanced study, consisting of an additional 60 credit hours. Those seeking an MSW will normally be required to spend a good deal of their time working under the auspices of an accredited government agency, hospital, or private institution specializing in social work. Working in a clinical setting is crucial, and often the student seeking as MSW must log between 500 and 1,000 hours of hands-on experience before graduation.

Every state in America requires social workers to be licensed, and as usual, standards vary by location. There are many different specialized forms of accreditation, set forth largely by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). The most basic, and one of the most sought after positions, is that of Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).

To receive a social work diploma and an LCSW, one must complete a master's program. Normally, an LCSW has also completed supervised, postgraduate field experience amounting to approximately 3,000 hours. This is usually completed in two years. It should be noted, however, that such postgraduate work is usually gained in a paid position

Although programs, coursework, and licensing requirements vary in countries outside the United State, the basic steps to acquiring a social work diploma are similar. Generally speaking, one must complete undergraduate work, post-graduate studies, and obtain supervised experience. Government boards, such as the General Social Care Council (GSSC) in the United Kingdom, administer examinations and grant licenses. However, virtually every country determines their own specifics and sets licensing fees for certification.

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Discussion Comments

@talentryto, she likes that she will be able to decide what group of people she wants to help as a social worker. There are always job openings in organizations that work with the elderly, students, children, and people in general who want to work through a variety of problems in their lives. She is concerned about the starting pay once she graduates, but she thinks the rewards of working in the field will be worth it.

I have heard pros and cons about getting into the field of social work Heavanet. What does your sister like most about it? Does she have any concerns about the social work program?


My sister has been taking social work courses to get her diploma in social work. She has always wanted to help people, so she decided to go back to school to pursue this field. She is in her second year of studies, and has found it very rewarding so far.

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