Student Questions

Student Questions

question icon How do I become a social worker?

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If you do not have a baccalaureate degree yet, the first step is to earn this degree in social work. If you already have a baccalaureate degree in another field, you could set your sights on a master’s degree in social work. A social work degree is desirable when looking for any job in the human services. A master’s degree is advisable for advanced practice, supervisory, management, or program development positions.

question icon Is an MSW the same as an MSSW? (And other alphabet soup issues)?

answer iconThe letters BSW and MSW refer specifically to the degrees Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Social Work but tend to be used generically, at either level, to designate a social work degree. Although BSW and MSW are the most common, some accredited social work education programs use other designations, e.g., MSSW (Master of Science in Social Work), MSS (Master of Social Service), and even MA (Master of Arts). The title of the academic degree does not matter as long as it is granted by a program accredited by CSWE.



question icon What is a "5-year" master's program or advanced standing?

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The typical master’s degree program consists of the equivalent of 2 years’ full-time study. Some programs will grant advanced standing to applicants who hold a baccalaureate degree from a program accredited by CSWE. The extent of advanced standing varies from program to program. You should contact individual master's programs for information about advanced standing. Some advanced-standing programs allow for completion of the master’s degree in a single calendar year (usually three concurrent semesters). A "5-year" master’s program would really be a normal 4-year baccalaureate program with an advanced-standing master’s degree year.

question icon What is the value of studying social work instead of a related field such as sociology, psychology, counseling, or human services?

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Social work is a profession that distinguishes itself through its own body of knowledge, values, and ethics. Although graduates of the other fields listed may, in various states, be employed by social service agencies and perform many functions that social workers do, their education and background knowledge are not distinctly that of a social worker. Please contact the accrediting bodies of the fields mentioned above to learn more specific information. Social work education not only focuses on the acquisition of knowledge and theory but also requires that students have field experiences in the last year of a baccalaureate program and in the 2 years of a master's program. This field experience provides students with an opportunity to practice skills learned and to apply knowledge and theory in actual practice settings.


question icon Where are the social work programs near me?

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Please view CSWE's online Directory of Accredited Programs and search for a program by name, city, or state.


question icon Where can I find information on licensing?

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The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) is the association of boards that regulate social work. ASWB develops and maintains the social work licensing examination used across the country and is a central resource for information on the legal regulation of social work. Through the association, social work boards can share information and work together. ASWB also is available to help individual social workers and social work students with questions they may have about licensing and the social work examinations.


question icon Where can I learn about financial aid for social work degree programs?

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First, you should check with your institution’s school, college, or department of social work to see what financial aid programs that apply to social work may be available at your institution and within your state. Other resources include the following:

CSWE Scholarships and Fellowships
American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work (MSW students interested in clinical work)
Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund (undergraduate and graduate students interested in peace and justice issues)
Elmer Ediger Scholarship, MHS Alliance (graduate students interested in mental health or developmental disabilities)
Financial Aid Resources for Social Work Education, NASW-California Chapter
Foundation for Rural Education and Development Scholarships (students from rural areas who intend to work in a rural area after graduation)
Foundation for Rural Service Scholarship Program (students from rural areas who intend to work in a rural area after graduation)
NASW Foundation Fellowship, Scholarship, and Research Awards
National Association of Black Social Workers (students of African descent interested in research in and service to the Black community)
Pre-dissertation Initiative, Association for Gerontology Education in Social Work (AGESW; for doctoral students interested in gerontological research, teaching, and practice)
Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation (college juniors planning graduate study and a career in public service)
Udall Scholarship (Native American and Alaska native sophomores and juniors who plan a career pertaining to Native American health care)
See also NASW’s information on loan forgiveness programs.


question icon Why should I attend a program accredited by CSWE?

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CSWE is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the sole accrediting body for social work education in the United States. Social work education programs that are accredited by CSWE have met a series of rigorous standards designed by leading social work educators and practitioners to ensure that students are adequately prepared for professional practice. Membership in the National Association of Social Workers and the social work licensing laws in most states require graduation from a CSWE-accredited program. The profession of social work in the United States looks to CSWE-accredited programs to produce individuals who have the knowledge and skills to be professional social workers. Your chances of being licensed or hired as a social worker are greatly enhanced by an accredited social work degree.


question icon Will I be paid for Field Placements?

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Field placements are courses that afford students the opportunity to engage with clients and communities as a component of their educational program and without a social work license, similarly to educational, medical, or other health professional accredited programs. These educational experiences are structured as learning and not labor and comply with the U.S. Department of Labor regulations and are not required to offer stipends or compensation for students. Learn more with this statement from CSWE.