Education Paths for Social Workers

To be a social worker, you must hold a degree in social work from a college or university program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The undergraduate degree is the bachelor of social work (BSW). Graduate degrees include the master of social work (MSW) and the doctorate in social work (DSW) or PhD. An MSW is required to provide therapy.

Degree programs involve classroom study as well as practical field experience. The BSW prepares graduates for generalist entry-level work; the MSW is for more advanced clinical practice. A DSW or PhD is useful for doing research or teaching at the university level.

Financing Your Post-secondary Education


There are many options available to you when financing your education. It is important to educate yourself. Start with the U.S. Department of Education and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid

Look for scholarships and grants and obtain information from multiple private lending institutions. Also, you can apply for loan forgiveness at both the federal and state levels.

Student Loan Forgiveness for Social Workers


NASW is promoting loan forgiveness for social workers as part of its on-going work to improve working conditions, salaries, and other benefits for members of the profession and to ensure that consumers have access to qualified professionals.

Learn more about loan forgiveness

Baccalaureate Social Workers


BSW social workers have the knowledge, skills, and value base to work effectively with individuals, families, and communities. This brochure describes what distinguishes the BSW degree from other undergraduate degrees, BSW curriculum, field practicum, and legal regulations for BSWs.

Purchase from NASW Press

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