Is a BSW Worth it – (Pros VS. Cons)


Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN


Have you ever thought about working with the public and helping others in need? Maybe you've thought about being a school or career counselor, probation officer, or marriage and family therapist. If so, earning a social worker degree could be an excellent choice for you. Perhaps you’ve considered earning a degree as a social worker but wonder, is a BSW worth it? You may have questions about what earning a BSW degree will mean for your future, the jobs you can get, or the income you'll make. If so, you've found the right article! As you continue reading, you will find 25 reasons why a BSW is worth it, 7 reasons why it may not be the right degree for you, and other important information to help you decide whether to pursue this option.



WHAT IS A BSW DEGREE?


A Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) is a four-year undergraduate degree in the human services field. The human services field is vast, but the basic principles are to provide services to people with various psychosocial needs and help to distribute resources to individuals, families, and communities.

RECOMMENDED ONLINE BSW PROGRAMS

HOW LONG DOES A BSW DEGREE TAKE?


One thing to consider before you decide if a BSW degree is worth it is how long it takes to earn the degree. In general, most BSW programs take four years to complete. However, the time it takes you to obtain a BSW degree can vary based on several factors. Some of those include whether you choose an online or campus-based program, whether you enroll as a full-time or part-time student, or if you have any previous college credits to transfer.

For example, Rutgers University in New Jersey offers a BSW program that takes four years to complete. You can complete the BSW program at the University of Georgia in four years full-time or five years part-time.



HOW MUCH DOES A BSW DEGREE COST?


The price of obtaining a BSW degree varies, depending on which type of college you attend, where it is located, and the number of credits you need to graduate with a BSW. If you choose to attend a private four-year university, the annual cost averages $30,000, making the four-year degree cost approximately $120,000. The annual cost of a public four-year BSW program is about $20,000, making the total average $80,000. Factors, including whether you commute to school, relocate to an area closer to campus, or pay out-of-state vs. in-state tuition, can also impact the total cost.

A few examples of the cost of BSW degree programs are as follows. At the University of California at Berkeley, tuition costs $13,485 annually for in-state students and $40,167 for out-of-state students. Tuition for the University of New Hampshire's BSW program costs resident students $17,624 per year and out-of-state students $31,424 yearly.



WHAT ARE THE ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS FOR A BSW DEGREE?


The admission requirements for BSW programs vary, depending on the criteria established by the school and state guidelines for social worker licensure. New student admissions, which are guidelines for applicants with no previous college history, typically include needing a high school diploma or equivalent, having a minimum high school GPA of 2.5, and ACT scores of 18 or higher. Transfer students must submit official transcripts from any college or university attended and may need an undergraduate GPA of at least 2.5 on all college coursework.



WHY IS A BSW WORTH IT? – THE PROS


When deciding whether to pursue a degree or career path, it is essential that you consider the advantages and disadvantages. Weighing the pros and cons will help you make a decision based on what is important to you. Let's look at some of the positive aspects associated with this degree and discuss the 25 top reasons why a BSW is worth it in 2023.


REASON #1: Long-Term Job Security


The need for social workers continues to increase for several reasons, which we will discuss later in this article. Earning a BSW will make you a good candidate for many jobs. Most social worker jobs are in facilities or organizations with excellent long-term employment prospects. If you're looking for stability in the job market, you may find earning a BSW is worth it.


REASON #2: When You Earn a Social Work Degree, It Leads to Self-Improvement


Social work is a profession that requires constant learning, adapting to change, and evolving for the betterment of your future self. As you study and learn to educate others on their well-being, growth, and development, you will also learn measures to improve yourself.


REASON #3: Diversity of Job Opportunities


One of the biggest reasons a BSW is worth it is the many different career paths you can choose from. You can have a job as a healthcare technician, social services worker, probation officer, or mental health assistant. Other job opportunities include director for non-profits that work for community change, case manager, community outreach worker, youth worker, program coordinator, or group home worker.


REASON #4: You Can Influence Change in Your Community


Social workers advocate for change in their communities by ensuring individuals' rights are upheld and all people have access to services related to their needs. You can use your knowledge and skills to promote changes in your community that positively impact those you serve.


REASON #5: Long-Term Job Security


According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, social worker jobs are expected to increase by nine percent from 2021 to 2031, which is faster than the average for all other occupations. This is a strong indication of long-term job security and just one more reason why getting a BSW is worth it.


REASON #6: You Can Choose the Environment Where You Wish to Work


With so many specialization options and jobs that require a BSW, you can choose just about any environment to work in. Some BSW degree holders work in schools, prisons, adoption agencies, and large corporations, to name a few.


REASON #7: Being a Helper Will Give You a Sense of Personal Satisfaction


The core of social work is about helping others. As a social worker, when you address the needs of individuals and communities, you will feel a sense of satisfaction because you know what you’re doing means something.


REASON #8: You Will Impact Others


Being a social worker allows you to impact your community and enhance the well-being of the individuals in the community by bringing hope and giving voice to unseen injustices, such as advocating for child abuse or neglect.


REASON #9: You Can Earn a Steady, Good Income


The average annual income for BSW degree holders is nearly $55,000. Depending on where you work and whether you transition to new roles, your income can increase significantly, making it possible for you to earn a great stream of steady income.


REASON #10: You Can Be a Valuable Mentor for Others


Social work offers lots of opportunities to encourage and mentor others. Whether you work in human resources and mentor employees, in a school and mentor children, or in a field position caring for individuals and families, you can touch so many lives when you earn a BSW.


REASON #11: You Will Develop Skills that You Can Use in Every Aspect of Your Life


One of the biggest reasons why a BSW is worth it is that you will learn skills relevant to every area of your life. In BSW programs, you will learn to implement critical thinking and decision-making skills and effectively communicate with others.


REASON #12: Your Job Will Never Be Boring or Mundane


Social workers engage in a wide range of job responsibilities daily. This is especially true if you work in a field position. For example, one day, you may go to a client’s home to investigate a complaint or follow up on a safety plan. The next day you could be in court as a witness about a case you handled. Social workers in management positions or office roles meet a diverse population of people, and with those diversities come various personalities and needs, all of which you will address.


REASON #13: You Can Be Part of the Solution for Others


As a social worker, you will not only address issues of individuals, families, and communities, but you will also develop and implement solutions to those problems. Your ability to make crucial decisions and use professional judgment means your solutions can impact others on multiple levels.


REASON #14: You Will Develop Relationships with People from Diverse Backgrounds


Social workers meet people from many different backgrounds. In some cases, you will develop close relationships with clients and co-workers, many lasting a lifetime.


REASON #15: You Will Acquire Transferable Skills


Another reason a BSW is worth it is the skills you develop in social work school and as a licensed social worker are highly transferable. Skills such as leadership, research, planning, communication, and self-motivation are things employers look for in job candidates across every career path, making you a desirable candidate for many positions.


REASON #16: Job Placement is Typically Easy


Due to the high demand for social worker services, the likelihood of finding employment quickly is high. In fact, many BSW students receive employment offers while completing the field experience component of their BSW programs.


REASON #17: Potential for Career Advancement


Another reason a BSW is worth it is that this degree creates a foundation for pursuing a graduate degree. With a graduate degree in social work, you can take on administrative or leadership roles, teach, or work in a clinical role.


REASON #18: Your Will Work with a Large Network of People Who Have Similar Goals


One of the most important things people say they look for in a job is the opportunity to develop a strong peer network. When you earn your BSW, you will find that your classmates and co-workers become excellent sources of support and knowledge. Having a network of people who share your goals and values makes it easier to face difficult days.


REASON #19: You’ll Leave a Legacy for Future BSWs


When you earn a BSW and begin working, you can influence others and leave your mark on the world, so to speak. Your good work ethic and dedication to others will teach other social workers and social work students. You can leave a legacy of hard work, good values, and positive approaches to social work that can leave lifelong impressions on others.


REASON #20: You Can Leverage Your Degree to Create Multiple Streams of Income


As a social worker, you can create a diverse career with multiple income streams, such as writing books, teaching college classes, or developing community programs. If you put your mind to it, there really is no limit to what you can do, which is another reason a BSW is worth it.


REASON #21: You’ll Witness Lives Transformed Through Your Work


As a social worker, you may work with individuals, families, or communities in crisis. During this time of transformation, you will get to witness their healing journey. Seeing lives transformed through your work can leave you feeling very fulfilled.


REASON #22: You’ll Have a Different Outlook About Your Own Life


Social work does more than make a difference for the people you serve. In many ways, it can impact your life, as well. The people you meet, cases you work, and relationships you build as a social worker will give you a new insight to things in your personal life. Many social workers express deep feelings of gratitude for the things they have, things they may have overlooked before being involved in this type of work.


REASON #23: Your Work is Rewarding


There is something to be said for the satisfaction that comes from helping others. As difficult as the job may be at times, social work is a very rewarding career.


REASON #24: You’ll Experience Personal Growth


In addition to the skills you learn and knowledge you acquire that help you succeed in your career, you’ll also experience personal growth as a social worker. As you serve others in need, you may be surprised at the ways you relate to them and how you feel about situations and people. When you view others through the lens of social work, it is only natural to assume that you will push yourself to grow and become a better person for yourself, your family, and your community.


REASON #25: Social Workers Have A Lot of Autonomy


Although you will be part of a team on some level, the work you do as a social worker requires a lot of independent decision-making, communication, and planning. If you like the idea of having a strong support system while also having a sense of autonomy, you may feel a BSW degree is worth it.



WHY A BSW MAY NOT BE WORTH IT FOR YOU? – THE CONS


Now that we have discussed some of the top reasons a BSW is worth it, it is also a good idea to consider any cons or disadvantages. Once you weigh the pros and cons of a career, you can make a more informed decision about whether it is the right


REASON #1: Your Workload May Be Very Heavy


It is not uncommon for social workers to have a heavy workload. In addition to working on several cases, social workers must keep meticulous records, which means spending time completing appropriate documentation on each case. Going from one client's home to another, to court or other necessary appointments, or dealing with several clients and families can make you feel weary. For some people, this is one of the main reasons they feel a BSW degree is not worth it.


REASON #2: There Is No Reciprocity of Social Worker Licensure


Nurses in most states enjoy the benefit of the Nurse Licensure Compact which allows nurses licensed and working in any of those states to hold one multi-state license. Unfortunately, as a social worker, if you decide to move from one state to another, you must apply for a social worker license in your new state of residence.


REASON #3: You May Be Exposed to Dangerous or Hostile Environments


You may be exposed to hostile work environments as a social worker. Some social workers work in prisons, group homes, or alternative schools where tensions often run high, resulting in fighting or hostility. You may be required to conduct home visits to check on children or elderly clients and depending on the circumstances, their family or caregivers could act out in anger, making the situation dangerous for you. In these cases, it's understandable if you feel getting a BSW is not worth it.


REASON #4: Social Work Can Be Emotionally Draining


The core of social work is helping others, which can make you feel emotionally taxed. Social workers must find a healthy balance between work and their personal lives to prevent burnout. If you don't have balance, it can cause a strain on your mental and physical health and impact your relationships.


REASON #5: Social Worker Schedules Can Be Chaotic


Some social work jobs require you to work odd hours, holidays, or weekends. Depending on your role, you may have to rotate on-call schedules and could be called out for emergency visits during the night.


REASON #6: You Will Rarely See Immediate Results


As a BSW degree holder, you are an advocate for change. You will offer support to individuals, families, and communities in need. One of the most frustrating things about social work is that it usually takes time to see the fruits of your labor.


REASON #7: Your Daily Role and Responsibilities May Be Inconsistent


While some people like doing different things, others prefer a steady routine. A social worker's activities and schedule may change daily, especially if you work in a field position. If you are among the people who would rather have a more set schedule, you may find a BSW is not worth it for you.



WHAT ARE THE 3 MAIN REASONS BEHIND THE DEMAND FOR BSW DEGREE HOLDERS?


As you research professions and possible degree opportunities, an important question is whether there is a need or demand for the services you wish to offer. Social work is a promising career for several reasons. The following are three of the main reasons why there is a demand for BSW degree holders.

1. The Far-Reaching Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic:

Before the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world, there was already a need for social work services. As the pandemic spread, the demand for those services increased, leading to social workers taking on larger workloads to support those in need. The long-term mental and physical effects of COVID mean more people who were not previously ill need healthcare, mental health, and other services. Social workers fill the gap and play an essential role in ensuring those needs are met.

2. Field Social Workers Transitioning to Other Roles or Careers:

Many social workers earn a BSW to lay a foundation for future graduate studies. When they earn higher degrees and transition to other roles, that creates a demand for other workers to fill those vacant jobs.

3. Increased Awareness of Substance Abuse & Mental Health Needs:

Today, society has a greater understanding of the problems associated with substance abuse and mental health disorders. With that understanding comes the knowledge that we need qualified people to mitigate risk, and there is where the social worker comes in. Social workers may provide resources for drug and alcohol treatment and prevention, create treatment plans for individuals who need intervention, or refer people in need to appropriate treatment centers.



WHAT IS THE AVERAGE SALARY FOR BSW DEGREE HOLDERS?


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average salary for BSW degree holders is around $54,88.00.

Hourly$26.38
Weekly$1,055
Monthly$4,570
Annual$54,880
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)



IS THE COST OF A BSW WORTH THE RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI)?


The average cost of obtaining a BSW degree is around $25,000 a year, and the average annual salary for BSW degree holders is $54,880. These numbers indicate in less than five years, you can double in income what you spend on the degree. This means the Return on Investment is worth the cost of getting a BSW degree.



WHAT ARE THE 3 BEST JOBS YOU CAN GET WITH A BSW DEGREE?


One of the great things about a degree in social work is the diversity in the type of jobs and roles you can find. Whether one job is better than the other is a matter of opinion and based upon your preference of specialties. However, there are some BSW jobs that are more popular or pay more than others. The following are the three best jobs you can get with a Bachelor of Social Work degree.

1. Human Resources Coordinator:

When you think of social work, human resources may not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, human resources managers and coordinators perform many of the same services in the workplace that social workers perform in other settings. You will work together with employees and staff to implement a healthy, safe work environment and foster an atmosphere of productivity and success

2. Children and Family Counselor:

One of the most popular jobs for BSW degree holders is child and family counselor. In this role, you will work with children and families, finding solutions for families struggling with unhealthy dynamics or those dealing with mental health or behavioral issues.

3. School Social Worker:

In a school social work position, you will work with students, their families, teachers, and staff to address behavioral, mental health, and academic concerns. Your role will include providing positive guidance to address academic, behavioral and classroom situations to help improve the child’s chances for success.



BONUS! 3 TIPS TO MAKE MORE MONEY WITH A BSW DEGREE?


There are several avenues you can use to increase your earning potential as a social worker. Here are a few bonus tips on how to make more money with a Bachelor of Social Work degree.

1. Find a Specialty and Get Certified:

Whether you see yourself working in a school setting, hospital, nursing home, or corporate office, there are certification options you can pursue. Although some jobs may not require a certification, the decision to obtain one shows employers or prospective employers your dedication to the role and makes you a desirable candidate for jobs. Because employers understand the value of a certified social worker, they are usually inclined to offer higher pay.

2. Become a Freelance Writer:

I must confess, because I know firsthand how writing can boost or replace your earnings, this is one of my all-time favorite things to suggest to anyone looking for a way to boost their income. It is an especially great option for people with degrees like a BSW. With your knowledge and skills as a social worker, you can give a personal insight into the world of social work. Whether you write a blog about social issues, mental health and wellness, or ways to develop healthy relationships, the possibilities for income as a freelance social work writer are literally endless.

3. Consider Earning a Master of Social Work Degree:

While you can earn a good income with a Bachelor of Social Work degree, when you decide to move up to a Master’s level in the field, you can increase your income by $15,000 or more each year. An MSW also opens the door for some opportunities a bachelor’s degree may not afford, and some of these opportunities come with significant pay increases.



IS A BSW WORTH IT FOR YOU – MY FINAL THOUGHTS


Throughout this article, we discussed 25 reasons why a BSW is worth it and also 7 reasons why it may not be the right degree for you. If you have a desire to advocate for others, lobby for social justice and change, or have a job that impacts others on a personal level, earning a BSW could be a great option. If you weigh the reasons why a BSW is worth it against the reason it may not be and decide it is a career you wish to pursue, I encourage you to research programs and get started today! The world needs dedicated people like you who want to make a difference, and you can do this!!



FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ANSWERED


1. What Is The Best Age To Do A BSW Degree?

While there is no “defined” age that it is best to pursue a BSW degree, there are a few things to consider. Being a social worker requires you to be diligent and exhibit a willingness to help others, which requires a level of maturity. Some people choose to begin their studies to earn a BSW immediately following high school. On the other hand, others choose to take some prerequisite courses and get a feel for college-level studies before committing.


2. How Hard Is It To Get Into A BSW Degree Program?

Admission to BSW programs can be quite competitive. However, you can increase your chances of admission a few ways, including making sure your high school or any college coursework GPA is good, taking prerequisite courses, and taking standardized tests like the ACT or SAT.


3. Is The ACT OR SAT Required For Those Wishing To Pursue A BSW Degree?

Some BSW programs require applicants to take standardized tests like the ACT or SAT. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools have removed that requirement. Be sure to check with any school that interests you and verify their admission criteria before applying.


4. Do I Need Work Experience To Get Into A BSW Degree Program?

Prior work experience is usually not a stipulation for admission to a BSW degree program.


5. What Is The Minimum GPA To Get Into A BSW Degree Program?

Colleges and universities determine the admission criteria for their BSW programs; so, the minimum GPA may vary. Most colleges require a high school GPA of 2.5 or a cumulative 2.5 GPA for any college coursework.


6. Can I Get Into A BSW Degree Program With A Low GPA?

Although there may be some situations when a low GPA does not keep you from getting into a BSW program, if your GPA is less than the minimum set by a school for its admission standards, it is unlikely you will be accepted. Remember, admission to these programs is competitive, which means the school looks for applicants who exceed the minimum admission criteria, not those who fail to reach it.


7. Are Online BSW Degree Programs Worth It?

Accredited online BSW programs offer a curriculum that mirrors that of in-person campus-based programs. Be sure you look for programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).


8. Are Scholarships And Grants Available For BSW Degree Programs?

Yes, there are a number of scholarships and grants available for students considering a BSW degree program. Speak with your financial advisor about scholarship and grant opportunities offered to students.


9. Can BSW Students Have A Life?

It is possible for a BSW student to have a life. However, it does take careful planning. Once you determine how many classes you'll take and the amount of time you need to devote to each, it's a great idea to create a schedule to keep yourself on track. Include time for not only school, but for family and self-care.


10. Can I Work Part-Time And Successfully Complete The BSW Degree Program?

Yes, many people work part-time and successfully complete their BSW degree program.


11. Can I Work Full-Time And Successfully Complete The BSW Degree Program?

It is possible to work full-time and successfully complete a BSW degree program. It takes planning to create a healthy work/school/life balance that is conducive to learning. Be honest with yourself about what you can or cannot handle. Talk to your academic advisor and your employer to discuss options for scheduling school and work that will work for you and help promote success.


12. Do Students Fail In BSW Degree Programs?

Unfortunately, some students do fail in BSW degree programs and for various reasons. Sickness, family issues, or being over-extended are a few of the most common reasons students are unsuccessful. If you find yourself in this situation but know you want to earn your BSW, talk to your academic advisor and instructors. Remember, they want you to succeed and will help you find an option to start again and stay on track.


13. Will I Ever Regret Getting A BSW Degree?

Most studies and surveys of social worker job satisfaction indicate social workers are satisfied with their jobs. One of the great things about the social work field is if you find yourself unhappy in a particular role, there are lots of options where you can use your degree and find a different job.


14. How Much Does A BSW Graduate Make Per Hour?

Graduates of BSW programs earn an hourly pay of $26.38.

$26.38


15. How Much Does A BSW Graduate Make Per Year?

The average yearly income of a BSW graduate is $54,880.00

$54,880


16. Will BSW Graduates Be Paid Less In The Future?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 9 percent increase in social worker jobs through 2031. Considering the rule of supply and demand, the current demand and projected job growth for social workers suggest BSW graduates will see an increase in pay instead of a decrease.


17. Are All BSW Graduates Successful In Their Careers?

As with any career, some BSW graduates may not experience as much success as others in this career. I supposed not all are successful. There are several reasons why you as a BSW graduate can be successful in your career. However, whether you choose to benefit from the advantages discussed in the list of 25 top reasons a BSW is worth it, is up to you.


18. Are BSW Graduates Happy With Their Jobs?

Most surveys indicate overall job satisfaction among BSW graduates.


19. Can BSW Degree Holders Become Rich?

When you consider the average annual salary of a BSW degree holder is $54,880, you may feel like it is impossible to become rich in this role. While that income alone is not likely to make you rich, there are things you can do to leverage your degree to create an extra stream of income or jobs with better pay. A good financial advisor can show you how to make your money work for you and create a plan to help you achieve your financial goals.


20. What Are Some BSW Degree Alternatives?

If you want to impact others, promote change, or become an advocate but feel social work is not the right path for you, there are some alternatives to consider. A few BSW degree alternatives include teaching, probation officer, and community center director or manager.


Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).