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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign University of Illinois Sesquicentennial College of ACES
Department of Human Development and Family Studies
Give to Human Development and Family Studies

Social Work

Social workers are found in a broad range of specialties, but one thing they all have in common is a desire to help people and families connect with the resources they need to help solve or cope with problems. With a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, you’ll have an understanding of diverse individuals, couples, and families to strengthen your social work practice no matter what the setting.

In general, social workers help people cope with challenges in their lives. Child and family social workers protect vulnerable children and help families in need of assistance. Clinical social workers provide individual, group, family, and couples therapy. School social workers help teachers, parents, and school administrators develop plans to improve students’ academic performance. Medical social workers refer patients to community agencies, facilitate support groups, and link patients with hospital and community resources.

Education and Certification Requirements

A bachelor’s degree in HDFS can prepare students for direct-service positions such as caseworker or mental health assistant. But many positions, including those in schools and in health care, frequently require a master’s degree in social work (MSW). For example, clinical social workers must have a master’s degree in social work and two years of post-master experience in a supervised clinical setting.

A master’s degree in social work generally takes 2 years to complete. Master’s degree programs in social work prepare students for work in their chosen specialty by developing the skills to do clinical assessments, and take on supervisory duties. All programs require students to complete supervised practicum or an internship.

A bachelor’s degree in social work is not required to enter a master’s degree program in social work. A degree in almost any major is acceptable. However, courses in psychology, sociology, economics, and political science are recommended.

All states have some type of licensure or certification requirement, and all states require clinical social workers to be licensed.

Pay

The median annual wage for social workers was $45,500 in May 2014. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,240, and the top 10 percent earned more than $75,850.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of social workers is projected to grow 12 percent by 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will be driven by increased demand for health care and social services, but will vary by specialty. Employment of child, family, and school social workers is projected to grow 6 percent, but growth may be limited by budget constraints at all levels of government. Employment of healthcare social workers is projected to grow 19 percent, while jobs for mental health and substance abuse social workers are projected to grow 19 percent.

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