Social work is definitely a growing profession. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects double digit increases for social work jobs in 2008-2018, so the demand will be attractively high for some period of time. However, these will not be unskilled or semi-skilled positions. Social work is a profession that ordinarily requires advanced education beyond a high school diploma. As of October, 2010 the Council on Social Work Education has accredited four hundred and seventy baccalaureate social work programs and two hundred and three master’s social work programs and there is an explicit curriculum, found in the 2008 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards, which governs social worker courses deemed acceptable for education.
As mentioned in the Standards, the core values of social work: service, social justice, the dignity and worth of the person, the importance of human relationships, integrity, competence, human rights and scientific inquiry need to be implicit and explicit in social work curriculum. The educational policy outlined in the Standards indicates the ten core competencies that are essential for the curriculum design of any accredited program, and what is expected in the design of the field education program.
The Standards influence on social worker courses is apparent in the offerings of the various schools of Social Work. An example can be found in the course descriptions of various social worker schools, such as the University Of Arkansas School Of Social Work. Courses offered cover topics such as human diversity, social welfare policy, and social work practice. Elective courses include classes on death and dying and juvenile delinquency. Electives as a rule allow the student to investigate topics more deeply than the general course, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison offers electives such as homelessness, child abuse and neglect, family violence and international aspects of social work for students to consider. Electives available to students by the University at Buffalo School of Social Work online include psychopathology, behavior disorders of childhood, and evidenced based mental health practice.
Graduate programs permit more focused inspection of the nature of social work and problems inherent in the provision of service. The School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago has the top ranked graduate social work program in the country according to the Gourman Report of Graduate Programs. Its course offerings include a selection of classes in human diversity and the core curriculum requires study in social intervention, programs and policies, and direct practice. A graduate program in social work does not necessarily ask for an undergraduate degree as a prerequisite for admission. Prior course work in disciplines such as sociology, political science or psychology will orient a student to the study of social work and, consequently, enrolling in such courses is not a bad idea at all.
There are hundreds of schools with accredited programs in social work. Anyone who is interested in the content of social work courses can review any of the programs offered by accredited schools and get a fairly good idea of what subjects will be read, discussed and debated in the classroom. Close attention should be paid to the course content of the electives, as it is these classes which will best shape the decision a person makes as to which types of social work he or she will seek employment.