Social Work Advising Guide
Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Social Work
What is Social Work?
According to the National Association of Social Workers (n.d., available at www.socialworkers.org), social workers help individuals, families, and groups restore or enhance their capacity for social functioning, and work to create societal conditions that support communities in need.
The practice of social work requires knowledge of human development and behavior, of social, economic and cultural institutions, and of the interaction of all these factors.
Social workers help people of all backgrounds address their own needs through psychosocial services and advocacy.
Social workers help people overcome some of life’s most difficult challenges: poverty, discrimination, abuse, addiction, physical illness, divorce, loss, unemployment, educational problems, disability, and mental illness. They help prevent crises and counsel individuals, families, and communities to cope more effectively with the stresses of everyday life.
Career Opportunities in Social Work
Social workers are employed in a wide array of public, non-profit, and for-profit agencies and organizations, including hospitals, mental health clinics, schools, aging services, prisons/corrections, courts, substance abuse centers, military services, as well as private practice. Some social workers are very politically active and serve their communities as policy advisors, politicians, or activists. Opportunities for employment are numerous. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), social workers are the nation's largest group of mental health services providers, more than psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychiatric nurses combined.
Salary Trends in Social Work
Salaries have been increasing in social work positions, but there is a wide range of starting and/or average salaries, varying by state, by position/field of work, and by education levels. More information is available here: http://socialworklicensemap.com/social-worker-salary/
Unlike more vocationally-oriented majors, such as majors in business, engineering, or the health professions, A&S majors tend to study a greater range of topics outside of their immediate major area. This greater breadth provides an interdisciplinary perspective that complements the more linear education in the student’s major area.
As a result, A&S majors are compatible with a wide-range of career options. A large 2012 survey of employers found that 81% of employers will consider any degree, so most employers do not require a specific degree. So A&S majors typically find post-graduate employment at rates comparable to more vocationally-specific degrees, Furthermore, longitudinal studies which have followed college graduates over time have shown that Arts and Sciences graduates' rates of salary growth often exceed those of more vocationally-specific majors. For example, a 2010 longitudinal survey of college majors after graduation found that:
“Occupationally specific degrees are beneficial at the point of entry into the labor market but have the lowest growth in occupational status over time. Students earning credentials focusing on general skills, in contrast, begin in jobs with low occupational status but subsequently report the greatest growth.”
Another longitudinal study concluded that:
"Employment across educational fields is almost identical for individuals aged 35-44, and beyond age 45, humanities graduates actually have higher rates of employment than those in other fields. After age 45, humanities and social science majors’ salaries overtake those of counterparts in other fields."
Finally, A&S majors have on average the highest rates of increase from starting to mid-career salary, with Math, Philosophy, International Studies, Physics, Political Science, Chemistry, and Journalism all scoring in the top 10 among all majors in rate of salary growth to mid-career.
High School Preparation
Courses across the high school curriculum support the preparation for social work majors. As communication skills are highly important in social work, superior potential in English is an advantage for potential students. Students will also need to have had content in biology, history, and math (statistics preferred). Additionally, economics and introductory courses in psychology and sociology are recommended where available.
How to Major in Social Work
Social work is unique among academic disciplines in that students enroll as pre-professional majors, first completing courses required for full admission to the major and achieving the minimum GPA. See the curriculum guide/academic plan for further details.
Field Practicum and Service Learning Opportunities:
USA's program has over thirty available agencies in which students may complete their senior field practicum. Graduating seniors must complete 436 hours in their practica. Additionally, sophomore students complete service learning in SW 214, which serves as an introduction to social work and human services agencies. Students in SW 214 complete 40 volunteer hours over the course of the semester. See more information contained within USA's Field Manual, available here:
Study Abroad Opportunities
Studying abroad is an exciting and meaningful experience that will contribute to your academic and personal development. Participating on a study abroad program can be one of the most profound decisions of your college life, and can lead to many new and interesting opportunities. It can help develop your critical thinking skills, sense of independence, and confidence. When you depart on your study abroad program, you will go with excitement, trepidation, and uncertainty about the world and your place in it. When you return home, your deep connection and affection for your host culture will be overwhelming, and will only be matched by a newfound respect and appreciation for your home.
Study abroad is the opportunity for USA students to spend time in a different country while earning credit towards your degree through taking classes, interning, volunteering, and more. There are many different types of study abroad available to you at USA. They include faculty-led programs, international exchange programs, and direct-enroll and affiliate programs.
Students on faculty-led programs will travel as a group led by USA professors and take classes in various locations. All courses taken on these programs are USA courses and offer USA credits that will apply to your degree. International Exchange programs are partnerships with specific universities around the world with which USA has a special, reciprocal relationship. Students enroll directly at the host university, and students from the host university attend USA. USA affiliate programs allow students to enroll at a partner university or program through a third-party provider. GPA requirements vary by program.
You should think of the Study Abroad Office as a one-stop shop for information related to your study abroad experience. The Study Abroad (http://www.southalabama.edu/studyabroad/) team is excited to assist you as you navigate through the process of choosing a program, and will help you from the advising stage until you return from your program. You can get started by coming to meet with an advisor during Walk-In Advising hours. During an advising session, you can gain general information about the many programs available, how the application process works at USA and general guidance on where to begin.
Be sure to visit the OIE Study Abroad website at http://www.southalabama.edu/studyabroad/ to begin your research. The website contains information on how to get started, financing your program, and a comprehensive list of pre-approved study abroad programs and partners. While researching a passport or visa programs, consider the following: eligibility requirements, location, course offerings, and costs. You should also meet with your faculty advisor for assistance in selecting a program based on courses related to your degree.
Studying abroad can be one of the highlights of your university career, giving you wonderful and challenging experiences that will allow you to grow both academically and professionally. Where will you study abroad?
For more information on a four-year academic plan, please contact Ms. Daisy Grant (email@example.com) or Ms. Julia Kristman (firstname.lastname@example.org.) Degree plans provide only a suggested schedule; make sure to meet with your academic advisor to find the actual schedule that is right for you.
For additional degree information, visit the undergraduate bulletin.
For More Information
For more information on this program, visit the departmental website. Additionally, any social work faculty can provide more information about USA's social work program.
You can find us on campus at:
Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work
Humanities Building, Room 13
Mobile, AL 36688