Social Work Degrees

Social work is a popular major among students who want to help others. Countless people today depend on aid and advice from social workers, and the field's best practitioners are skilled professionals who connect clients with vital resources and support.

Despite the field's warm overtones, social work is not a career for the faint of heart. Social workers must be strong enough to manage clients who are difficult or combative and to advocate for clients who face extremely challenging circumstances. However, the emotional rewards that come with helping clients overcome these hurdles can also be significant, and this is what keeps social workers engaged in their field.

Read on to learn more about what it takes to pursue social work as a major and as a career.

What is Social Work?

Social work is a profession dedicated to helping people in need. Social Workers serve clients who need help managing various aspects of their lives. Social workers help these clients find resources to meet basic needs and assist them in forging better, more secure lives.

Social work appeared as a field in the late 19th century and grew throughout the 20th as governments and private organizations came to understand the value of the profession. Today, social workers are found in numerous professional environments, in settings ranging from social service agencies to hospitals to public schools.

Social Workers may tackle tasks such as:

  • Helping clients find and apply for public assistance programs
  • Assisting families in which a member is too aged or otherwise incapacitated to care for himself
  • Helping a child or teen find refuge from an abusive home

While social workers never know for certain what a given day's work will bring, they always stand prepared to empower clients with the best resources and guidance they can provide.

What can I do with a social work degree?

Undergraduate social work degree programs are designed to produce graduates who are prepared to sit for a social work licensing exam. Most states require social work graduates to secure licensure before they can apply for positions as a Social Worker.

Once licensed, social workers may choose from a variety of professional environments and roles. Below are pay and projected growth details on some of the settings social workers may choose, according to 2014-2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data:

Child, Family and School Social Workers

  • $42,350 median annual salary
  • 305,200 jobs in the U.S.
  • 6 percent projected growth in positions, 2014 to 2024

Health Care Social Workers 

  • $52,380 median annual salary
  • 160,100 jobs in the U.S.
  • 19 percent projected growth in positions, 2014 to 2024

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 

  • $42,170 median annual salary
  • 117,800 jobs in the U.S.
  • 19 percent projected growth in positions, 2014 to 2024

Social Workers, All Other 

  • $58,560 median annual salary
  • 66,400 jobs in the U.S.
  • 4 percent projected growth in positions, 2014 to 2024

Social workers don't have to stop at an undergraduate degree. They may also seek a Master of Social Work degree, which can open new doors within the field. Students who complete their Master of Social Work and gain the requisite number of clinical hours required in their state (see the State of Nevada Board of Examiners for Social Work for details on Nevada's requirements) can pursue becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Licensed Clinical Social Workers can practice in ways regular social workers cannot, such as hosting individual or group therapy sessions within a private practice.

To learn more about the professional prospects within Social Work, see the University's Social Work Careers page.

How do I get started?

The School of Social Work at the University of Nevada, Reno offers degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level:

The field of social work is a very adaptable profession and it changes as our societal and cultural needs adjust and change.” - Jennifer Pierce

Browse the pages above to learn more about these programs. You may also visit the University's School of Social Work site for more information on the faculty and its work.