Suggestions For An Aspiring Social Worker

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I need a second opinion. I’m a junior majoring in sociology, and I’m thinking about how I can plan my last two semesters of college. I was originally thinking about a career in academia. My dad is a professor, and he’s been encouraging me to consider graduate school for that reason alone.


I’m not against the idea, but I’m also unsure if a career as a social worker, which is my new direction, really requires graduate school. There are programs at both the masters and doctorate levels. I have a relative who only has a master’s degree, so it seems like getting a Ph.D would be necessary.


Are there advantages to having a doctorate degree, other than a larger base salary? If so, what are they?


You’d be surprised how many undergraduates fail to realize that you can pursue social work studies beyond the master’s level. You already have a leg up in that respect. One of the first things you should understand is that a Ph.D. (i.e., “Doctor of Philosophy”) in social work is technically equivalent to a DSW (i.e., “Doctorate in Social Work”). However, they are, in fact, different degrees, enabling very different career paths. Editors at Social Work Degree Guide break down the distinction, while explaining if a DSW is really worth it. Ultimately, the former Ph.D. in social work would position you to become a recognized instructor and researcher in academia. The latter DSW would instead prepare you to become a field expert, leader, and administrator. You effectively lead two entirely unique lives, while serving some of the very same populations.


You shouldn’t forget to corroborate your findings across multiple sources to ensure clarity and consistency. Writers at Social Work Licensure published a similar article describing the difference between social work doctorate programs available to prospective students. While they add some history to the mix, the authors essentially echo what was already described. Something that both programs have in common is the expected time commitment. Anticipate 3-5 years of rigorous academic pursuits.


Don’t underestimate the value of searching for relevant outside perspectives, either. Bloggers at Capella University wrote a piece highlighting some of the benefits you might receive with a DSW. What is most important is the fact that the piece uses excerpts from an interview with someone who holds a DSW. It’s one thing to consider and evaluate what an academic program declares about itself, and another entirely to do the same thing with program insiders. That is the only sure way to uncover meaningful discrepancies and determine, for a fact, that a program is everything it purports to be.


One final consideration is how you might obtain the degree, once you decide which one best suits you. However fortunate it might be from your point of view, the relentless advance of technology impacts nearly everything around us. Higher education is certainly no exception. It used to be that earning a doctorate level degree was only possible through conventional methods. That simply isn’t the case anymore. Modern circumstances and limitations have given rise to several well-recognized and well-established virtual graduate programs. These options can often blend the best of both worlds: a rigorous higher education from the convenience of almost anywhere. Just some food for thought as you continue your quest for more knowledge.


“One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy