Bachelors in Social Work (BSW) Guide - 2022

Last Reviewed: August 29th, 2022

You may find the undergraduate bachelor level degree for social work listed as a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), Bachelor of Science in Social Work (BSSW), or Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (BASW)

As for educational requirements, you should check with the institution for specifics. Generally speaking, you will need to complete all prerequisite classes, which is typically done once you achieve an ASW degree. However, many students complete prerequisite classes during the first two years of the 4 year bachelor degree program. Many schools require a GPA of at least 2.5 and for you to have received a grade of C or higher in introductory English classes.

Common Social Work Prerequisite Competencies

Upon entering the BSW program, you will be expected to hold competencies before engaging with the public. Here are some basic principles that are covered in ASW programs that will help you transition into a BSW program with ease:

Individualization

Each individual is unique, and the approach chosen to assist them should be as unique as they are. Individualization is the ability to see each client As their own distinct personality so that you can respond to their particular needs effectively. Each person, from the moment they are born, is given a unique set of features that distinguishes them from everyone else. As they progress through life, they will encounter situations and events that will shape their thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. Therefore, obstacles and assistance will differ from case to case. There is no one size fits all answer for a given situation.

Clients need to feel understood when seeking help, as their success and navigating the problem directly depends on the social worker’s ability to individualize the solution. It’s important that social workers keep an open mind and exhibit an unbiased disposition. To correctly assess the client’s problem, the social worker cannot allow their own preconceived notions to interfere with treatment.

Non-judgmental Attitude

When clients go to see a social worker, they are usually at one of their lowest points in life. Admitting they need help and asking for it may not be easy. You want the individual to open up and be honest about what is happening to them so that you can provide the best resolution possible. If the client feels they’re being judged, that will only make your job harder. Any prejudices you have should be left behind when interacting with clients, so you’re able to establish a professional relationship and build trust. When a client is able to freely express themselves, you will both come to a mutual understanding of how to 

Acceptance

To achieve a positive outcome for an intervention strategy, acceptance from both parties is needed. Clients must accept social workers and vice versa. As stated before, the client must believe the social worker has their best interest in mind, and that means keeping their personal judgments out of the interaction. If a client becomes skeptical of the social worker’s competence, the pair will encounter a large roadblock when trying to implement a planned intervention.

The client’s history or looks should not be a factor when choosing a resolution method, nor should the social worker’s own personal history. The client should be accepted as they are and as an individual with a problem who is seeking you out for help.

Communication

Communication is a key component of social work. Whether it’s verbal or nonverbal, the client and social worker need to establish a relationship so that they understand each other regardless of the environment they’re in. For example, if a social worker is handling a case where there is suspected child abuse, the child may be too fearful of speaking in front of their parents. However, if the social worker is able to establish a solid relationship with the child, nonverbal cues can be used for the child to signal that they are in danger. 

Miscommunication can lead to ineffective treatment plans. Any misunderstandings can cause confusion and exacerbate the problem you are trying to solve. The social worker should always make sure their message isn’t obstructed by noise in the environment, past experiences, or other impediments that can interfere with the message they are attempting to convey. 

Confidentiality

Discretion should be exercised during every client interaction. Once again, making the client comfortable enough to speak freely about their situation means they must trust you. There may be specific facts about the matter that they find embarrassing or too salacious to reveal to anyone else. If the person they’re sharing with proves to be untrustworthy, there will be a complete breakdown in trust of not only the social worker but the system as a whole.

The client should never be concerned that any information they give the social worker will be used against them by the said worker to ridicule or harm their reputation. Details matter when you’re trying to solve an issue, and if the social worker doesn’t get them, they won’t be able to devise a successful strategy.

There are instances in which it is appropriate to share a client’s information, and collaborating is one of them. When working with colleagues in other organizations to provide your client with necessary resources, you may have to reveal sensitive information so that they qualify for the resource. You may also need to consult with another social worker about the best course of action to take in a particular matter that you’ve never encountered. It’s okay to trust your fellow professional social workers with the information as they are bound by the same code of social work ethics. 

Self-determination

One of the responsibilities social workers have is to empower their clients to make informed decisions that determine the course their lives will take. Although the client contacted you for assistance, you cannot force a solution on them if they have declined to take that route. The client and social worker are forming a mutual partnership in which the client is involved in their own treatment plan. As a social worker, you can support the clients by guiding them as they develop insights into their situation and environment. The goal is for them to develop their personalities, a sense of social responsibility, and emotional adjustment so they feel independent and worthy of dignity from themselves and others. 

Purposeful Expression of Feelings

Emotions are a part of our everyday life, and they are what drive us to take action. Besides uncovering facts when assessing a case, social workers also half to uncover the underlying feelings about the matter. While clients are not encouraged to get caught up in their negative feelings, they are urged to express them with purpose. Allowing the client to express their feelings can alleviate the pressure that prevented them from acting constructively. It can also put the client in touch with a deeper issue that they did not previously recognize was affecting them. Purposefully expressing feelings brings them to the forefront so they can be managed in a way that is helpful to the intervention process.

Controlled Emotional Involvement

Social workers are expected to regulate their own emotions and not become too emotionally involved with their clients. Doing so can threaten the professional relationship and cloud your judgment when working on the client’s case. If the social worker over-identifies with the client and empathy turns into sympathy, they may take on tasks that the client should perform to establish their self-determination.  

Bachelor’s in Social Work Common Upper-level Courses

Many of the courses required to be taken early in the BSW program are the same as the ASW program. Here are some of the courses taken within the last two years of the BSW program:

Human Behavior and the Lifespan

Social work students are required to understand how demography, physiology, and sociology play a part in childhood, adulthood, and aging. It will give students skills for prevention, relieving symptoms, and enhancing the potential for positive outcomes over the client’s lifespan. Once a student can define theories related to learning, development, and life transitions and use the theories to assess an individual’s history, they have achieved the class objective. 

Social Work Case Management Practice

This course is on that is extremely critical to the social work practice. It’s where students are taught how to conduct interviews, empathetic responses, how to use referrals, and legal and ethical issues that arise when working in agency settings. Students must show they have a thorough understanding of generalist social work and its principles when dealing with individuals and families.  

Social Work Research Methods

Social workers are taught the basic research methods used in generalist practice. Once the course is over, students will be able to generate and implement research methods related to generalist social work.

Social Work Practicum and Seminar II

Thiscourse is where students get field experience in their specific specialty. They’ll interact with the public and practice with communities, families, and individuals. The engagements with the public are supervised by qualified faculty or a social worker assigned to oversee work experiences. 

The supervisor will know the student has learned the necessary skills when they observe them applying and identifying social work principles at each level. The supervisor should witness the student evaluating micro, mezzo, and macro-level practice and using a theoretical framework to understand how people interact with one another. 

What Makes a “Good” Bachelor’s Program in Social Work?

BSW programs vary from school to school, and each has something special to offer its candidates. However, there are specific criteria you should look for to determine whether or not this school offers a high-quality program. For one, faculty members should possess the experience needed to guide new entrants into the field. There are nuances and intangibles in social work that you only begin to understand with significant field experience. Faculty members can also offer career advice to students and share knowledge only social workers know about specialty areas. Even after you’ve graduated, you’ll still have a network of social workers to help you as you start out in your career.

When you’re ready to choose a specialty area, you’ll want to have the option to pick electives related to that area. For instance, if you plan to move into an administrative role, you’ll want to take leadership or management courses. Some programs don’t allow you to choose electives that don’t align with your degree. Be sure the program is flexible and offers a wide variety of electives.

Field practicum is essential to the potential social worker’s education. It’s where you’ll gain and sharpen the skills needed to handle real-world situations. A good BSW program will not just assign you an internship or provide a list without proper direction. Instead, they’ll guide you through the process and help you find opportunities specific to the specialty you’ve chosen.

After BSW Graduation

Once you graduate, you should hit the ground running, and that means you’ll need a program focused on career preparation. Technology is being used more and more in different professions, and social work is one of them. New graduates who have been trained to integrate technology with their practice have an advantage that will help them stand out to potential employers. The courses offered by the program should keep students up to date with the newest advancements made in the field.

After graduating from the BSW program, most students go on to attain their master’s degree in social work. Only 12% of social workers hold a BSW, while 45% have a master’s degree. The other 43% have a bachelor’s degree in another subject. As you can see, BSW programs are typically a stepping stone on the way to an MSW. MSWs earn an average of $13,000 more per year than BSWs. 

Bachelor’s degrees are still a great way to start your social work career, and many go on to be promoted to management positions as their experience is tantamount to a master’s degree. Some of the jobs you can secure with a BSW are a case management aide, juvenile court liaison, Human Services specialist, community outreach worker, behavioral management aide, or rehabilitation case worker. No matter what you may decide to do later in your career, a bachelor’s degree is the best place to start.