Social work students are people who want to deal with issues most of us
would rather avoid -- child abuse, criminal behavior, unemployment and other
things we hope will never touch our lives.
A bachelor's degree in social work is almost always needed for an entry-level
position, but many students go on to get their master's and sometimes their
PhD, both of which help in finding work after graduation.
"We are interested in students who have a 'commitment to the profession,'
not just the grades," says Linda Williams, director of field education for
the social work program at North Carolina State University.
"We want students who have been involved in working with people in some
kind of helping role -- volunteer or paid."
You'll also need a lot of maturity and emotional strength.
One way to be sure this is the field for you is to get some volunteer
experience while you're still in high school.
"We recommend that students involve themselves in volunteer work with disadvantaged
individuals or groups," says Grant Larson, dean of a social work and human
services school at a community college. "This often takes the form of crisis-line
volunteering, youth programs, seniors programs, hospital volunteering, peer
A broad-based liberal arts curriculum in high school is good.
"Students should come into the social work program with a broad liberal
arts exposure including psychology, political science, sociology and philosophy,"
says Patricia Carl-Stannard, a professor of social work at Connecticut's Sacred
"A must is a solid command of the English language and good writing
skills. Professional social work practice requires the ability to communicate
effectively in writing," she adds. "In fact, a student who comes to the program
with poor writing skills and cannot make improvements over time will not make
it through the program."
The main costs are tuition and books.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Social
A publication about homelessness
The New Social Worker Online
Online magazine for social workers