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Career Designations for Social Workers

Social workers are concerned with the well-being of their communities, dedicated to compassionate service to families and individuals with pressing financial, emotional, housing, and health problems. They step up to assist clients with disabilities, to offer employment training, substance abuse treatment, or counseling for child welfare, gerontology, spousal abuse, or homelessness.

The Labor Department reports that completion of a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) is often the key educational requirement for entry into this challenging, rewarding profession. In health and clinical settings, however, you may need to continue career training toward completion of a master's degree (MSW). If you already hold a bachelor's degree in another major, you still may qualify for entrance into a graduate program.

Licensing regulations for social workers vary from state to state. Here are some the key career titles in social work and degrees:

BSW An individual with a bachelor's degree in social work is considered to be a generalist in the field.

MSW A graduate of the master's degree program in social work is generally regarded as a specialist in a niche field of social work, or an advanced generalist

Ph.D. (or doctor of social work, D.S.W.) The PhD in Social Work holder is highly regarded as an administrator, researcher, director, educator, or policy specialist.

Professional social worker. The title applies to anyone who has earned an accredited degree in social work.

LSW The licensed social worker designation is a common designation for career generalists or those entering the profession that have completed an undergraduate degree and satisfied state and local licensing requirements.

LCSW The licensed clinical social worker has passed specific requirements to work in a clinical - as opposed to social - settings.

ACSW The Academy of Certified Social Workers offers professional credentials to social workers who meet their criteria.

NASW The National Association of Social Workers offers credentials to social workers who meet the combination of educational and work experience requirements, and who pass a certification exam.

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