Obtaining a bachelor's degree in social work is a great accomplishment if you're looking to enter the field, but you may be wondering if it's necessary if you ultimately wish to earn a master's in social work. Many students who major in the sciences, liberal arts or visual arts may wonder if they'll still be able to apply to a graduate program in social work with these degrees. In short, as long as a student meets the other requirements for an MSW program, a bachelor's in social work might not be required.
Differences Between a BSW and an MSW
Besides the obvious difference that one is a graduate degree and one is an undergraduate degree, both degrees allow students to enter the field in direct-service positions such as case workers or mental health assistants. However, most positions in the education and healthcare fields require a master's degree. They differ in the fact that a master's degree in social work allows students to apply for higher-paying, more complicated positions, and graduate degrees are typically harder to enter than bachelor's programs, which only require that the student is accepted to the school rather than the specific degree program.
Featured MSW Programs
A BSW is Not Required for an MSW Degree
Students pursuing a master's degree in social work come from a number of academic fields, from the visual arts to anthropology to enthnomusicology. Even though the academic fields of sociology and psychology most closely align with the field of social work, most admissions officers in MSW programs do not require their students to earn a bachelor's degree in these majors. In fact, most schools appreciate the scholastic diversity that every student brings to the academic environment of the MSW program. Although a BSW is not necessary to earn an MSW, students will still need to take a number of courses in several core subjects, including statistics, social issues, political science, healthcare issues, ethnic studies, economics and anthropology.
Requirements to Apply to an MSW Degree Program
The requirements for admittance into a master's in social work degree program will vary depending on the school, but students will need to submit transcripts from all previously attended colleges, a personal essay and their Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. If a student is looking to switch careers or he or she has a bachelor's degree in an unrelated field, this personal essay is an excellent opportunity to describe why he or she wants to pursue an MSW. If a student does not have a BSW but wishes to earn an MSW, it may be in his or her best interest to show evidence of volunteer work or experience in the field of social work. For instance, suitable experience for future mental health social workers could be holding employment in a psychiatric facility. If a student can't gain paid employment, even volunteering at a human services or social services agency can help to increase the likelihood that he or she will be accepted into an MSW degree program without an undergraduate social work degree.
GRE scores, transcripts, essays and work experience hold more weight than a student's undergraduate major. If you have a high grade point average, strong GRE scores, a well-written essay and documentation of work experience in a closely related field, it should be relatively easy to apply for a master's in social work without a bachelor's degree in the major.