Social Work Degrees in Georgia

From protecting vulnerable children to assisting the elderly, social workers take on a variety of roles in Georgia and throughout the nation. Social workers with an associate or bachelor's degree generally assist licensed social workers; they perform work similar to their licensed colleagues but without as many avenues for career and salary advancement. Social workers with a master's or doctoral degree can become licensed social workers, working independently within Georgia or practicing in another state that recognizes their license.

Georgia boasts itself as one of the few states in the South with a growing need for social workers who specialize in healthcare.

Due to their relatively low cost of education for in-state students, Georgia's public universities represent attractive options for prospective students considering a degree in social work. Both public and private universities offer online degree paths, which may appeal to students with family or career obligations. The bachelor's curriculum provides a broad overview of social work alongside general education requirements while the master's curriculum stresses research and the application of academic knowledge in a practicum or internship setting.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the social work field should grow 16% between 2016 and 2026, much higher than the national average for all careers. Also, Georgia boasts itself as one of the few states in the South with a growing need for social workers who specialize in healthcare. This development makes Georgia an attractive market for recent graduates. Also, wages for licensed social workers in Georgia outrank the majority of other states in the South, with the highest found in major urban centers such as Atlanta.

Becoming a social worker in Georgia begins with earning an associate or bachelor's degree in social work. Again, depending on their place of employment, these two degrees qualify graduates to become assistant social workers or entry-level social workers. Although social workers with these degrees do not qualify for state licensure, they may still work as social workers under the supervision of licensed colleagues.

Georgia requires licensed social workers to hold a master's or doctoral degree.

Georgia requires licensed social workers to hold a master's or doctoral degree. Earning either of these degrees qualifies graduates to sit for the state licensing exam developed and administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). Before taking the exam, licensure candidates apply to the state board of licensure, which involves submitting a resume, professional references, and other documentation such as a criminal background check.

Georgia offers two forms of licensure, one that requires significant work experience and one that does not. The former applies to applicants working to become clinical social workers who treat individuals suffering from mental or physical disabilities. As a result, the exam for clinical social workers assesses a different skill set than the standard ASWB exam. If the applicant passes the exam and the board approves the application, the license remains valid for one year. After that, a licensed social worker must renew the license on an annual basis by paying a fee. Licensed social workers in Georgia can work independently, such as opening a social work office.

As with other academic disciplines, students can earn their social work degree at the associate, bachelor's, master's, or doctoral levels. Graduates with an associate or bachelor's degree choose a specialization that prepares them to work with a particular population, such as young children. An associate degree requires one to two years to earn, while a bachelor's degree requires an additional two years.

Social workers with a bachelor's degree can further their education by earning a master's or doctoral degree. These degrees prepare students for licensure and managerial roles within the social work field, such as supervising a group of social workers at a governmental or private agency. Clinical social workers (i.e., those who treat patients with mental illness) must hold a master's degree. Also, social work careers that require applicants to hold these two degrees pay significantly more than those that require only an associate or bachelor's degree.

For students who already hold a bachelor's degree, earning a master's in social work requires one to two years of study, while a doctoral degree may require three or more years. At most universities, graduate degrees cost more per credit hour than undergraduate degrees. However, students may find cost savings by attending a public or accredited online social work program in Georgia.

Associate Degree
An associate degree in social work provides students the academic foundation for a career as an entry-level social worker such as a social work assistant or community outreach worker. The broad curriculum stresses social work fundamentals such as public health, sociology, and crisis intervention. Many programs include a capstone or internship component.
Bachelor's Degree
In most states, working as a licensed social worker requires a bachelor's degree. Students take courses in social welfare, research methodology, and cultural diversity. The best bachelor's programs ask students to complete one or more practicum experiences within their local communities.
Master's Degree
Some states, including Georgia, require licensed social workers to hold a master's degree. Graduates go on to work in management-level positions such as supervisors or directors of other social workers. The master's curriculum stresses independent research and advanced coursework in diagnosis, therapy, and human behavior.
Doctoral Degree
Social workers with doctoral degrees perform research at the university level and instruct the next generation of social workers. The curriculum stresses not only social work topics, but also those related to public health. Many students choose a dual-degree program to expand their post-graduation career opportunities.

Depending on her level of education, a social worker can specialize in working with children, older adults, or individuals afflicted with mental illness. After gaining experience in that speciality, some social workers choose to work as policy advisers or college professors. The four careers listed below represent only a fraction of the career possibilities from which highly trained and experienced social workers may choose.

Child and Family Social Worker

Child and family social workers help vulnerable children, such as those living in poverty. Each day, these social workers travel to multiple homes to assess children's living condition and perform interviews with the child and other family members.

School Social Worker

School social workers work with children in a school setting. They regularly meet with teachers and administrators to develop appropriate academic interventions. School social workers work alongside child social workers to ensure that improvements to a child's home life can influence the child's academic success at school.

Healthcare Social Worker

Healthcare social workers assist people of all ages to adapt to sudden health changes such as disability due to disease or injury. They meet with patients in the hospital or after discharge to help the individual adapt to their new life. A significant component of the job includes connecting patients with appropriate social services.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker

These social workers, also known as clinical social workers, work one-on-one with people struggling with mental illness or substance abuse. Responsibilities include helping people find housing or enter a residential drug treatment program. A clinical social worker's typical day involves visiting people at their homes to gauge their recovery.

Licensed social workers who work independently or for a social work agency must hold a valid license issued by the state board of licensure. To qualify for one of the two licenses Georgia recognizes, applicants must hold a master's or doctoral degree from an accredited university. The standard social worker license, the licensed master social worker (LMSW), does not require work experience. However, the licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), requires 3,000 hours of work experience and takes one-and-a-half to two years to complete. Clinical social workers in training may first earn the standard social work license or work under the supervision of licensed clinical social worker as an assistant to fulfill the LCSW work requirement.

Besides state licensure, many social workers hold credentials in the form of certifications. Awarded by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and other social work organizations, credentials signify that the holder has gone above and beyond the requirements for licensure and holds specialized knowledge in a particular social work field. Also, credentials represent a valuable tool for social workers who move to a new state. Each state sets unique requirements for licensure. NASW sets the same requirements for its credentials in every state. Agencies looking to hire social workers value applicants with credentials since they do not have to second-guess if an applicant's education and out-of-state license adequately prepared them for the open position.

The benefit of obtaining one or more credentials extends further than helping social workers who relocate. For social workers who aspire to work for themselves, credentials boost their reputations within a community and attract potential clients.

The two paragraphs below represent the requirements to earn the two social work licenses valid in Georgia.

Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials

The path to becoming a licensed social worker in Georgia requires many steps, the first of which involves choosing a social work program. To select the best program, you must consider many questions concerning your life situation and career aspirations. The first question involves cost: What can you afford? Earning a master's degree at a public university costs much less than at a private university. Also, which universities adequately prepare students for licensure? To answer this question, perform research on the number of graduates who succeed in becoming licensed social workers.

Once you narrow the list of potential programs based on cost and reputation, examine which specialties they offer students. As you read through each school's offerings, eliminate schools lacking specialties that align with your career aspirations. If you have not yet chosen your career path, only consider schools that offer two or more specialties that interest you.

Finally, decide whether you want to attend school online. Georgia colleges and universities offer online social work degrees from the associate to the master's level. In the section below, learn more about how online education can make your dream of becoming a social worker a reality.

Can You Earn a Social Work Degree Online in Georgia?

Online education represents a valuable tool for students raising families or working full time. Social worker assistants with an associate or bachelor's degree often further their education through online programs, earning a master's degree so they may become licensed social workers. Online education allows them to work full or part time and gain valuable experience that counts towards a clinical license or a credential in a social work speciality. For master's programs that involve internships or practicum experience, the university helps students set up and complete these requirements in their local communities.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools grants regional accreditation to Georgia colleges and universities.

Prospective students should only consider regionally accredited online social work degree programs. Accreditation represents a seal of approval that a school's academic programs adequately prepare graduates for their chosen careers. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools grants regional accreditation to Georgia colleges and universities. In addition to regional accreditation, national accreditation, such as that awarded by the Distance Education and Training Council, signifies that an online education program provides the same education as the on-campus experience. Finally, specialized accreditation agencies such as the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and NASW solely evaluate the quality of social work degree programs. The best social work degree programs in Georgia hold regional, national, and specialized accreditation.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Social Worker in Georgia?

All licensed social workers in Georgia must hold a bachelor's and master's degree in social work. Earning a bachelor's degree requires four years, longer if a student studies part time or through an accredited online program. Universities that offer individual-pace learning may take longer, as well. In a cohort learning model, where a group of students take classes together throughout the program, all students who finish the program graduate at the same time. A master's program requires one to two years to complete depending on the program requirements, such as internships or practicums. Doctoral programs require between four and six years due to the coursework and dissertation requirements.

Most bachelor's programs require approximately 120-semester credits to graduate, roughly one-third of which involve social work courses. Students may complete general education requirements through an associate degree program at a local community college. The primary benefit of this route involves cost savings. Master's programs require 40-45 semester credits. A doctorate may require fewer than 20-semester credits, as students spend the majority of the program performing research that acts as the foundation for their dissertations.

How Much Does a Social Work Program Cost in Georgia?

Becoming a licensed social worker in Georgia requires both a bachelor's and master's degree in the subject. The most cost-effective method to reach this goal begins with earning an associate in social work at a Georgia community college before transferring applicable credit to a bachelor's program at a state college or university. Online bachelor's and master's programs present significant cost savings as well, as students do not have to pay for room and board. Also, colleges often exempt online students from paying certain fees. The University of Georgia offers a highly regarded master's in social work program. In-state students save approximately 65% on tuition compared to that paid by out-of-state students.

After earning a master's degree, graduates applying for a social work license pay approximately $300. This fee covers both the application and the cost to take the certification exam. License holders pay $100 each year to renew their licenses. Besides licensure fees, many licensed social workers pay for continuing education opportunities that make them eligible for a credential in a specialized field. In addition to course fees, many of these courses take place around the country, requiring social workers to pay travel expenses. In recent years, however, NASW has approved a large number of courses that social workers can complete entirely online.

Directory of Social Work Programs in Georgia

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Georgia's social work programs lay the academic foundation for graduates to explore multiple career paths. From working with patients to drafting legislation, social workers apply their expertise in many areas not traditionally associated with the profession. This flexibility provides social workers the ability to specialize and personalize their careers. The careers below reflect only a handful of the opportunities that experienced social workers perform in the private and public sectors.

Health Educator and Community Health Worker

From hospitals to nonprofit organizations, these professionals work with individuals and agencies to promote health and wellness initiatives. Social workers with a specialty in public health often choose this career path.

Marriage and Family Therapist

Much of the social work profession involves solving issues within the family. These therapists work with couples and families with children to resolve disputes and create a stronger, loving family environment.

Rehabilitation Counselor

Many licensed social workers with a master's degree become rehabilitation counselors. These counselors work one-on-one with mentally or physically disabled individuals, helping them improve their quality of life and live independently.

School and Career Counselor

These counselors work with students in the school setting, helping them build essential academic and social skills that continue long after graduation. Many social workers choose this career based on their desire to help children succeed.

Social and Community Service Manager

Social workers with many years of experience can use their expertise as social and community service managers. These managers supervise or lead a local community service organization and coordinate the work of social workers and volunteers.

Median Salaries and Employment For Social Work Specialties in Georgia

  Employment Annual Mean Wage
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 7,080 $39,000
Healthcare Social Workers 3,730 $52,070
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 1,100 $40,450
Social Workers, All Other 1,140 $60,250
Source: BLS

Students completing a social work program in Georgia can apply for multiple scholarships aimed at helping the next generation of social workers lower the costs associated with furthering their educations. The scholarship opportunities below contain a mix of those exclusive to Georgia students and those open to applicants no matter their state of residence.

Social Work Scholarships

Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial MSW Scholarship $4,000

Who Can Apply: Each year, NASW awards this scholarship to four master's degree candidates who plan to work with minority populations. To apply, students must become a member of NASW, write a biographical essay, and submit two letters of recommendation along with an up-to-date academic transcript. View Scholarship

Verne LaMarr Lyons Memorial MSW Scholarship $4,000

Who Can Apply: NASW provides its student members a second scholarship opportunity that includes an additional benefit: funds to attend a professional conference on leadership development. For master's degree candidates interested in applying, the requirements are identical to the Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial MSW Scholarship. View Scholarship

Steve Dearduff Scholarship Fund $2,500

Who Can Apply: Open only to Georgia residents, the Steve Dearduff Scholarship Fund helps undergraduates earning their degrees in social work or medicine. Applicants must have a 2.0 undergraduate GPA and demonstrate financial need. Scholarship recipients may apply for the scholarship more than once. View Scholarship

Carl A. Scott Memorial Scholarship Fund $500

Who Can Apply: Students living in any state may apply for this scholarship, awarded by the CSWE. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA, and at the time of application, they should be beginning their final year of undergraduate study. The scholarship does not renew, and recipients cannot reapply. View Scholarship
  • Georgia Board of Professional Counselors, Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists This state government board regulates Georgia's social work profession. For students earning their social work degree in Georgia, the Board contains valuable information concerning the licensure process and links to other informational resources aimed at students and licensed social workers.
  • National Association of Social Workers -- Georgia NASW's Georgia chapter advocates for social workers on the state level while educating its members on the latest social work best practices through professional development opportunities. Students training to become social workers should consider joining NASW, as the association provides educational seminars regarding the path to licensure for its student members.
  • The Georgia Society for Clinical Social Work As specialists working with patients who have a mental illness or drug addiction, clinical social workers require a specialized organization to network and take advantage of professional development opportunities. The Georgia Society for Clinical Social Work advocates for its members at the state level, provides mentorship opportunities for new members, and offers multiple continuing education benefits in the form of seminars.
  • Association of VA Social Workers The Association of VA Social Workers connects the thousands of social workers working with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Membership benefits include networking opportunities, scholarships exclusive to members, and cost savings for members traveling to professional conferences. Student members receive assistance finding internship opportunities within the VA system.
  • Professional Association of Social Workers in HIV and AIDS Throughout the country, thousands of social workers work exclusively with HIV patients. PASWHA membership provides these social workers with networking opportunities, educational conferences, and an online forum where members can share their experience and best practices. The association offers a lower membership fee for students interested in working with HIV patients.