Can I Get a Master of Social Work Degree if I Don’t Have a Bachelor of Social Work Degree?

Aspiring social workers who don’t have a Bachelor of Social Work degree may be accepted into a Master of Social Work degree program if it is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The CSWE is the country’s leading organization that accredits over 800 bachelor’s and master’s degree social work degree programs. They also accredit social work teachers, practitioners and agencies.

Mission & Accreditation

The mission of CSWE is to improve the quality and oversee the consistency of social work education programs. Ideally, these programs will promote professional excellence, social justice and the well-being of families and communities. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) accredits about 3,000 degree programs and organizations in the U.S., which includes the CSWE’s Commission on Accreditation (COA). The CSWE provides meetings, research, statistics, advocacy, publications and education resources. This includes a searchable directory of accredited degree programs on their website.

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker?

Anyone who wants to become a licensed social worker has two educational options. First, a Bachelor of Social work (BSW) degree to qualify for entry-level positions in government, human services, mental heath and residential treatment. Second, a Master of Social work (MSW) degree to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) through their state. This master’s degree allows the holder to perform management, Child Welfare, clinical services and one-on-one therapy duties. Many Masters of Social work (MSW) degree programs accept students who have four-year degrees in related fields, such as psychology, health care, human services.

Complimentary Majors

Most social work degree programs are open to students with similar majors to social work. These include counseling, government, gerontology, health care, family studies, public administration and human development. For example, a student with a degree in psychology will be familiar with learning and personality, so this may help them better work with child-clients, while a criminal justice major may be familiar with deviance theory and juvenile delinquency, so they may be a better fit to work with struggling teen clients. Other potentially acceptable majors include law, sociology, education, management, criminal justice and gender and ethnic studies. Students with a less similar major to social work will need applicable employment history.

Enhanced Credentials

An MSW degree is the minimum requirement for licensed social work positions. These degree holders should consider additional credentials through globally recognized organizations, such as the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). They are the largest organization of social workers in the world. They strive to improve career growth, government policy, professional development and quality standards for social workers in all countries. They offer a variety of Advanced Practice Specialty credentials. These include clinical (Clinical Social Worker in Gerontology), case management (Certified Social Work Case Manager), education (Certified School Social Work Specialist) and hospice (Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Social Worker).

Related Resource: 50 Best Online MSW Programs

A graduate of a regionally or nationally accredited bachelor’s degree program may be accepted into a Master of Social Work degree program. Regardless of the degree program, it should be accredited by the CSWE and approved by the NASW.