The benefits of having a master's degree in social work are numerous, including obtaining a higher level of expertise and training in specific fields of social work, including research and counseling. A master's degree is essential if you choose to specialize in psychotherapy or psychoanalysis. If you want to open your own private practice and be eligible for insurance reimbursement, a master's degree is usually required.
A master's degree in social work requires two years of full-time study at the graduate level. The course of study varies from school to school, as different programs have different areas of specialization. The master's degree generally provides advanced training in statistics and research, counseling psychotherapy, and social welfare and policies. One major benefit of obtaining a master's degree is that you develop and obtain a greater level of knowledge regarding social welfare issues, psychotherapy and psychoanalytic theories and social policy development.
In order to obtain certification as a licensed social worker, many states require that you have, at minimum, a master's degree. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) also offers several advanced certifications, including the Academy of Social Workers (ACSW), Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW) and the Qualified Clinical Social Work (QCSW) credentials. Several additional specialty certifications are also available for those with a master's degree, including certification in the area of gerontology, children, youth and families and school social work.
It is possible to obtain a job as a social worker with a bachelor's degree, but your options are much more limited than with a master's. Competition among social workers for desirable jobs is high. Having a master's degree puts you on a level playing field with other candidates.
With a master's degree, you also have the option of pursuing a doctorate in social work, which will eventually allow you to teach at the university level or become a researcher on social policy and practice. You can also further your career by continuing your studies at a psychoanalytic institute. A psychoanalytic institute is generally a five-year, post-master's degree certification program in which participants can choose to specialize in either adult psychoanalysis or psychoanalysis with children and adolescents.