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Department of Social Work

College of Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Sciences

 What is Social Work?

Social work is a dynamic and unique helping profession rich with meaning, action, and the power to make a difference for individuals, families, groups and communities.The primary goal of social work is to improve a society’s overall well-being, especially for the most vulnerable populations. Many social workers provide direct services to clients helping them cope, manage, and overcome problems such as poverty, abuse, addiction, and mental illness by providing counseling, connecting clients with needed resources, and empowering clients to create change in their own lives.

"The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty." - NASW Mission Statement

What makes Social Work different from any other helping profession?

Social work’s distinguishing characteristics are its emphasis on the person-in-environment model and social justice. Social workers not only consider individuals’ internal struggles, as other counselors might, they also work with people to examine their relationships, family history, work environment, community environment, and the structures and policies that impact them in order to identify ways to help address a problem or challenge. Social workers also do not limit their work to individuals; they work with individuals, couples, families, groups, neighborhoods, communities, and organizations. Additionally, social work practice is strengths-based which means that social workers help clients identify their problems, determine their skills and capacities, what they are doing well, and how that was accomplished, and then analyze ways that those strengths might be applied to overcome the identified problems.

Social workers are found in many places, including public agencies, non-profits, private businesses, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, police departments, courts, prisons, and in private practice. This breadth of the social work field offers multiple options for entry into the work force and the flexibility to work with multiple populations and issues over the course of a career. For more information on types of jobs within the social work field see our FAQ page or contact your faculty advisor.

How do I become a Social Worker?

Title protection laws state that in order to call yourself a social worker, you must graduate from an accredited university with either a Bachelor's of Social Work (BSW) or a Master's of social work (MSW) degree. The ETSU Department of Social Work offers fully accredited programs at both the BSW and MSW level.

Our BSW program focuses on generalist practice which equips and empowers students to work with individuals, families, groups and communities.

Our MSW program is clinically focused, training individuals to provide mental health services to individuals, families, and groups. If you complete the BSW program and meet criteria, you are eligible for the advanced standing MSW program in which you could complete your degree in as little as 1 year.

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