A bachelor's degree in social work or a related field, such as sociology, is the minimum qualification for most entry-level social worker occupations, including case workers. A master’s degree is necessary for jobs requiring specialized skillsets, such as clinical social work. Individual states set the standards for obtaining a license.
Undergraduate degree programs equip prospective social workers for service positions that require a broad understanding of social welfare and case management. Counselors and case workers interact directly with diverse populations in environments ranging from correctional facilities to child welfare agencies, so they need to develop strong problem-solving, interpersonal and communication skills and have compassion towards their clients. Along with academic coursework, students gain practical experience through supervised internships.
While an undergraduate background in social work is valuable, students can apply a bachelor’s degree in another discipline towards a master’s degree in social work. Generally, students earn a graduate degree in two years, and the Council on Social Work Education requires an additional 900 hours of practical fieldwork. Although each state has variations, standard licenses are awarded at four levels: Bachelor of Social Work, Master of Social Work, advanced generalist and clinical. At all levels, students must complete the knowledge-based exam created by the Association of Social Work Board.