What is Social Work?

Social work is a helping profession offering services to all people who need assistance in their lives because of social, emotional, financial, or other life problems. Social workers work with a broad spectrum of populations, including:

  • veterans
  • troubled youth
  • older persons
  • families experiencing emotional and economic crisis
  • people with medical needs requiring supportive services
  • children who have been physically or emotionally abused or neglected
  • persons living with HIV/AIDS
  • people who are under served by the laws and policies
  • people who have been targeted for acts of violence or hate
  • people or groups who have experienced significant tragedy
  • persons who are homeless.

Social Workers can be found in a variety of settings, such as:

  • community centers
  • schools
  • hospitals
  • businesses
  • substance abuse programs
  • domestic violence shelters
  • state agencies
  • foster care and adoption services
  • advocacy agencies
  • policy centers
  • elected office

Statement of Generalist Practice

Undergraduate social work education focuses on training for generalist social work practice. The Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors defines generalist practice as follows:​​

Generalist social work practitioners work with individuals, families, groups, communities and organizations in a variety of social work and host settings. Generalist practitioners view clients and client systems from a st​rengths perspective in order to recognize, support, and build upon the innate capabilities of all human beings. They use a professional problem solving process to engage, assess, broker services, advocate, counsel, educate, and organize with​ and on behalf of client and client syste​ms. In addition, generalist practitioners engage in community and organizational development. Finally, generalist practitioners evaluate service outcomes in order to continually improve the provision and quality of services most appropriate to client needs.
Generalist social work practice is guided by the NASW Code of Ethics and is committed to improving the well being of individuals, families, groups, communities and organizations and furthering the goals of social justice.

Frequently Asked Questions

​​Will I be able to get a job in social work with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)?
Yes, there jobs for bachelor level social workers. A BSW degree is often a plus in securing employment with an undergraduate degree. 

In Michigan, Community Mental Health and agencies receiving funding from Medicare require state certification for employment. State certification standards can be met by either (1) graduating from an accredited social work program, or (2) completing a social work program that includes 15 semester hours of social work courses and an internship of no less than 350 contact hours. CMU's Social Work Program exceeds both requirements. The internship at CMU offers 400 hours of supervised generalist practice.

People keep telling me I won’t make any money.  Is that true?
Social workers do get paid! Salaries depend on the work setting, with government employed social workers often making somewh​at more than those in smaller agencies. All the social workers we know do have homes and cars and are able to pay their bills. People who help people often don’t make as much money as people in business, but there are other rewards for making a difference in the life of another person.

Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2020​
Occupation Lowest 10% 25% Median 75% Highest 10%
Child, family and school social workers $32,300 $38,350 $48,430 $62,080 $80,290
Healthcare social workers $36,110 $45,280 $57,630 $72,120 $87,150
Mental health and substance abuse $30,770 $37,220 $48,720 $65,210 $87,420
All others​ $36,070 $45,130 $64,210 $83,200 $96,140
US Dept of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

​​Does having a BSW help me get into graduate school?
Master of Social Work (MSW) programs do not require an undergraduate degree in social work. However, many MSW programs offer an abbreviated or accelerated MSW program to students with a BSW from accredited programs (advanced standing programs). A number of recent graduates of our program have received advanced standing in MSW programs.

Isn’t it important to make sure a BSW program is accredited?
Yes, it is! And CMU’s Social Work is accredited through the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE). CSWE is the nation-wide nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and maintaining social work education. Initial accreditation of the program was granted in 2004, and was reaffirmed in 2008 and 2016.

Does CMU have a Master of Social Work (​MSW) program?
At this time, there is not an MSW program at CMU. There are a number of excellent                   MSW progr​ams​ at other Michigan universities.

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