Five Differences Between BSW and MSW Programs

A career in social work can involve many facets. The field is not only a diverse one, offering employment opportunities in a number of different societal sectors, but can also be quite rewarding.

Social work often involves helping people overcome significant obstacles, regain control of their lives and, once again, become productive members of their communities. While a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work (BSW) is typically the minimum pre-requisite needed to gain employment in the profession, those with specific career goals might also choose to pursue a Master's Degree in Social Work (MSW).

It is important to examine the differences that exist between the respective degree programs.


Those pursuing BSW degrees will study courses in subjects including, but not limited to sociology, psychology, introductory level social work, biology and political science. Completion of MSW Programs will necessitate the degree candidate declare an area of specialization. Areas of specialization can be chosen among subjects like child welfare, mental health, social work education and substance abuse. The majority of the MSW degree candidate's course load will typically be in subjects related to their particular specialization.

Related resource: Top 20 Best Online MSW in Children/Youth/Families 2016-2017

Pre-Requisites Necessary To Enter Specific Degree Programs

Usually, the only requirement needed to enter a BSW program is admittance into an accredited four-year college or university and for the candidate to declare social work as his or her intended major. While a BSW is usually expected of a prospective MSW candidate, one can be accepted into an MSW program with another Bachelor's degree assuming the candidate displays they have earned a significant amount of undergraduate credits in subjects especially relating to psychology and sociology. In addition, some schools will require MSW candidates show proficiency in a second language.

Other Requirements Needed For Degree Completion

Both BSW and MSW Programs candidates will likely be required to complete a practical fieldwork experience project encompassing many hours of employment in a setting like a hospital, mental health facility, school, government agency or substance abuse clinic. Those pursuing the MSW might also be expected to author a Master's Thesis.

Types Of Positions Degree Holders Will Be Qualified For

Holders of the BSW are often prepared to be employed in entry level jobs like caseworkers. Those in possession of an MSW are often considered for employment in more clinical settings like hospitals and healthcare facilities. In addition, a Master's degree will likely be needed for a social worker to establish a private practice or seek an administrative position. Today, many positions considered under the umbrella of social work, especially those in the educational and medical realms, do require prospective candidates hold a Master's degree.

Earning Potential

MSW degree holders typically earn a significant amount more money than those who have only completed BSW degree study. Someone with a BSW typically earns, on average, roughly $30,000 per year Those with MSW. degrees will often take home $40,000 per year and could earn quite a bit more if they parlayed their education into private practice or administrative positions.

In addition to these educational requirements, both BSW and MSW degree holders must apply for and be granted license to practice in the state where they hope to seek employment. Above all, a social worker needs to be patient, affable and willing to work with people who are often either experiencing are attempting to overcome life crises.