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I’m changing careers—what do I need to do?

Would you like to switch from your current field and pursue a career in social work? Most people are attracted to the social work profession because of their desire to help others, pursue justice, and change society, but there is also much more to the field. There is room in social work for all kinds of skill sets, experiences, and passions, including careers that incorporate leadership and management, advocacy, counseling, and direct service work.

What should I consider first?

When you’ve made the decision to move from your current field to social work, you'll need some additional training and education. Think about your career goals: If your dream job is more generalist in nature, a bachelor of social work (BSW) may be a great fit. If you want to specialize in a particular area or provide therapy, you may want to consider a master’s of social work (MSW) degree. Some career changers pursue a social work degree while continuing in their current field via distance education or online classes, whereas others take a break from work and go to school full-time. Check out program options via the Council on Social Work Education’s Directory of Accredited Programs

I want an MSW degree, but don’t have a BSW degree. Do I need to start over? 

Great news! You don’t need a BSW to get an MSW degree. Any bachelor’s degree will allow you to continue your education and work toward an MSW. In fact, coming from another field will allow you to share your diverse experiences with colleagues and clients. Here are a few more items to consider:
  • Your educational plan should complement the social work practice area that appeals to you most. In each area, students will gain relevant knowledge, values, and skills:
    • Micro-level practice: Work directly with individuals and help them cope with their situations

    • Mezzo-level practice: Work with groups instead of individual clients

    • ​Macro-level practice: Lead and establish social change on a large scale through organizing, policy change, and administration

  • Even if you are mainly interested in one area, the three social work practice areas are closely linked. You’ll gain an understanding of how these areas intersect and affect individuals, families, and communities.​
  • When considering a new career in social work, think about using some of the same techniques that helped you find success in your current career path. Set up informational interviews or shadow another professional to get a feel for the job. The field (internship) experience you’ll get while earning your degree will also help you decide what kind of social work career you want to pursue.

It’s never too late to put your passion for helping people to work. The social work community welcomes you!