FAQs for the Department of Social Work

FAQs about Social Work

A social work degree enables you to work with various populations. Our program incorporates the use of a generalist approach to social work. This approach allows students to: benefit from a liberal arts orientation, learn to incorporate systems, strengths and person-in-environment perspectives, gain knowledge that is applicable to the multiple fields of practice and practice settings, and have skills that are relevant to all client systems (individual, family, group, organization, community).


In addition, a generalist social worker utilizes a multidimensional framework that incorporates a problem solving approach, involves self-awareness, respect for diversity and a commitment to social/economic justice, draws from various theoretical frameworks and intervention models, views human behavior in the context of the social environment, and recognizes the potential for change.

Salaries depend upon your level of education (BSW,MSW, PH.D.) and the type of social work  you decide to do, such as working for the state versus the federal government. Social workers can choose to work with various populations and agencies in fields such as: health care, family services, substance abuse treatment, caseworker etc. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers earned a minimum of $31,000 and a maximum of $55,000. Visit their website to see more charts regarding social work salaries.

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Schools
  • Hospice
  • Children and youth
  • Foster care and adoption
  • Pregnancy services
  • Mental health services
  • Feed the hungry
  • Shelter the homeless
  • Protect the children
  • Defend the vulnerable
  • Counsel the distressed
  • Empower the victim
  • Inform the government
  • Challenge discrimination
  • Advance social justice
  • Defy convention
  • Make a difference
  • Change the world


1. the science of the mind or of mental states and processes.
2. the science of human and animal behavior.

Social Work:

organized work directed toward the betterment of social conditions in the community, as by seeking to improve the condition of the poor, to promote the welfare of children, etc.

Psychology focuses on studying the human mind. Questions are asked such as how does the mind work and why do people do what they do. Focus is usually on diagnosis and treatment. Social work on the other hand looks at a problem from a systems perspective using a bio-psycho-social approach. Whereas psychology sees the problem as coming from mainly a mental health issue, social work takes into account the various systems that are involved in ones life including their family, community, socioeconomic status as well as mental state. Social workers also place a greater emphasis on social justice. In addition, social work also places a big emphasis on empowerment of the client, as well as advocacy. This involves connecting clients to appropriate resources to help them in their situation.
In terms of majoring in either at Messiah, psychology is facts/research/textbook oriented, whereas Social work integrates field experience, applying what is learned in the textbook to providing services in the "real-world" starting sophomore year. This service-learning is required as a social work major (see service learning section).

Another major difference between psychology and social work is that the two-year master's degree in social work is a terminal professional degree. The MSW allows you to enter the professional job market right after graduation and enables you to apply for licensure. A master's degree in psychology doesn't qualify you to be licensed in most states or for most positions as a psychologist. Normally you are required to earn a PhD or PsyD in psychology to be a psychologist.

Sociology is understanding how human beings relate to one another, through the use of research, data collection, and analyzing human behavior. Sociologists strive to explain how society influences individuals as well as how individuals influence society. Their aim is to witness societal and cultural change; whereas Social Work, emphasizes the importance of improving the life's of others. The purpose of social work is to work along side our clients so that they may reach their fullest potential.

Social Work goes beyond the idea of society and knowing how people can relate to one another. As social workers, we wish to not only understand particular relationships but to build upon the already established relationship. Empowerment is essential, whether it's for an individual, a family, or an entire community. Often, the strengths perspective is applied because it utilizes the strengths that anyone or anything has to offer.

Most all states, including Pennsylvania, license social workers at the Bachelor, Master and Clinical levels. One thing to consider is that some jobs and careers may require a social work license so licensing is an important issue.  Most states may require  social workers to take and pass a licensing exam at either the bachelors or masters level to obtain the license. Additionally, to obtain a specific clinical social work license may require post graduation supervised practice hours in addition to the M.S.W. degree. Some states accept licenses from other states through reciprocal agreements with those states. However, a social work license is not automatically transferable from state to state so it is important to make sure you are licensed in the state where you practice. What is important to know is that your social work degree is transferable from state to state as long as you graduated from a CSWE accredited program like Messiah. Each state that licenses social workers provides guidelines on what is required to obtain that license. The guidelines can generally be found on specific state licensing board websites.

For social workers who work in child protective services, taking children out of their homes is not the ideal situation. The profession focuses on choosing interventions that cause the least possible amount of harm in providing services, so this controversial measure is only taken when it has been decided that other interventions would be more harmful to the child.

As for other jobs, social workers hold may work in the following fields: Psychiatric Social Work, Substance Abuse Counseling, Faith-based Social Work, Program Administration, Research, Medical Social Work, School Social Work, Community Organizing, Gerontology Social Work, among others.

Being burnt out means a social worker has neglected to care for his or herself and is therefore no good to anyone he or she is serving. This can happen because of an emotional and/or physical response to some crisis that disrupts normal day to day functioning or it can be caused by an accumulation of normal daily stressors in the absence of effective coping strategies and self care.

Burnout can be prevented through effective self care. Self care looks different for everyone but here are some tips:
• Be involved in your own "therapy"
• Use supervision and consultation to process things
• Continue your education
• Let your family know where you are emotionally
• Have a life outside of the field
• Create balance: Learn how to play
• Think about the kind of things that you have always enjoyed doing and that seem to recharge you
• Consider the activities and places that you day dream about
• Try something new and spontaneous
• Diversify

FAQs for the Messiah University Social Work Program

- Messiah University has an accredited social work program. This means you will go into graduate school advanced standing, and therefore complete your master's degree within a year.

-  Messiah's Social Work program also incorporates faith into the students education. You will be challenged to explore different ways that you can use your faith in practice.

Yes, there is a Social Work Club as well as Phi Alpha Honor Society. Social Work club is open for all majors, however social work majors are encouraged to attend. Phi Alpha Honor Society is a club that social work majors can participate in after their sophomore year if they meet the academic requirements to apply. For more information about both clubs please see their links.

One of the most unique aspects of this major is that you will become close with the other students. Through doing group projects, papers, and just general assignments, as well as in-class role plays, you will build long lasting friendships with those in your social work classes. If you would like to learn more about the life of a social work student contact a current one either through our facebook site or email Dr. Charlene Lane.

Messiah's social work program leaves seniors feeling confident in their abilities. During a student's senior field placement the student will be able to put their knowledge to the test, and somewhere in this process the student learns that they are a social worker. Messiah University will equip you with not only the skills and knowledge that you need, but also the experience.

FAQs for Social Work graduation

A student can get their master's degree within a year. Typically it is a 30 credit program, 15 credits in the fall and 15 credits in the spring. Some grad programs however, require a few summer classes prior to the fall semester. The advanced standing program is only good for the first five years upon graduation. After five years it will take longer to receive your masters.

LSW: licensed social worker
LCSW: licensed clinical social worker
-3,000 hours or 2-6 years of clinical supervision