Social Work Degrees

In 2014, two international organizations, the International Federation of Social Workers and International Association of Schools of Social Work, agreed on a definition for ‘social work’. The definition denotes social work as both a profession and academic discipline “that promotes social change and development, social cohesion and the empowerment and liberation of people.” It deals with the “principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities.” Social work is also defined to “engage people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing.”

In society, social workers are often seen as individuals who support people through difficulties. Social workers can work with anyone from troubled children and families to victims of crime and those dealing with addiction.

Highlighted courses and degrees in social work


Aside from the major classes in social work, a significant number of institutions require all their students to also take general education courses as a rule set by their administration and sometimes even the government. General education usually includes mathematics, sciences and languages.

Curriculums for degree programs in social work generally include various courses in anthropology, psychology, social environment and sociology. Most programs will also require practical experience through internships, field assignments and other activities.


Specializations are available in a number of institutions. This may be a required part of the degree program for social work or it may be optional, depending on the institution. Below is a short list of common specializations offered by universities for their social work degree programs, either through electives or practicum:

  • Mental Health
  • Substance Abuse
  • Family Support
  • School Social Work
  • Clinical Social Work
  • Child Welfare
  • Elderly Welfare
These specializations are also offered at the graduate level and certification courses.

Accreditation and Certification

The accreditation of a degree usually depends on the country where the degree is awarded. In most cases, countries have their own accrediting systems for universities, students and graduates.

After graduating from an accredited degree program in social work, you may need a license or certification to directly practice in the field. Rules vary for each state or country, so you are highly advised to learn more about social worker licensing and/or certification where you want to practice.

Timeframe and Further Studies

A degree in social work can take anywhere from three to four years. The exact period of time would depend on the university of your choice and the country wherein it is located. It may also depend on what type of degree is being awarded. Typically, associate degrees take shorter than bachelor’s degree.

Master’s degree programs and doctorate programs are also available for those who want to take further their knowledge and specialization in the field.

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Entry Requirements for Degrees in Social Work

Entrance into a social work degree program varies from institution to institution. Some universities require you to take an entrance exam, while some will take into consideration national or standard exams. A number of universities take into consideration advanced placement exams, while some consider transfer credits for post-secondary students and/or applicants.

For international applicants, proof of education and language proficiency is often required. For a complete list of requirements, you are advised to check out or contact the institution you are interested in applying to.

If you do not meet the entry requirements you may want to consider a pathway course.

Fund Your Studies

Visit our scholarships and funding section to read more about funding your studies.

Career Options

A significant portion of graduates of a social work degree program are involved directly in legal, social and welfare sectors. In the UK, this accounts for almost 60% of where social work graduates end up, while caring and education work has the second biggest percentage at 15%.

There are many different kinds of social workers. There are community development workers, adoption and child welfare workers, adult guidance workers and teenage youth workers and many more. Most of these positions are available in local agencies, in sectors such as government and health.

Graduates of social work that choose to not go directly into the field also have good chances of finding other careers. This is because of the transferrable skills that can be gained through the program. Social work degree graduates often have a good understanding of human interaction and psychology, while also being adept in communication, situation analysis and conflict management.

Suggested countries to study in

Find social work programs available in the following countries.

Guides to related subjects

Learn about subjects similar to social work with these related StudyLink guides

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