The cost of becoming a social worker varies by what college or university a student chooses. The total cost can also vary depending on how high the student would like to rise within the ranks of the profession. The more responsibility a student wants, the more educational experience and clinical knowledge he will need.
Minimum Education Requirements
A bachelor's degree from an accredited four-year college or university is necessary to pursue a career in social work. According to Savingforcollege.com, as of 2010 the average cost to attend a public college or university for an in-state student was $33,300 for all four years. The average cost to complete the same degree at a private university or college was $119,400. These tuition numbers do not include other costs a student may incur while in school for social work including housing costs, books and transportation. As of 2009, the Council on Social Work Education accredited 468 bachelor's degree programs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Concentrations in Social Work
A master's degree is necessary for a social worker to specialize within the industry and to perform clinical assessments of clients, handle large caseloads and operate in a supervisory capacity. A graduate program can take anywhere from two to six years to complete depending on the college or university's degree requirements. According to the website FinAid, the cost of a master's degree can range anywhere from $30,000 to $120,000 depending on the institution the social worker is attending. As of June 2011, the median debt for a master's degree is $25,000. The Council on Social Work Education accredited 196 master's programs in social work as of June 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
All states across the country have licensing, certification or registration standards for social workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of states require two years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience as a condition of licensure for social workers. These professionals usually receive the necessary clinical experience through internship programs through state-run social programs or private practices. Many of these internship opportunities are unpaid or carry a very small stipend. This can make paying the bills very difficult for social workers seeking proper certification.
Exams and Continuing Education
A social worker may have to successfully complete a certification exam administered by the state or the Council on Social Work Education once she fulfills her supervised clinical experience requirements. The social worker must pay the cost for this exam, which varies by state. A state may also require a social worker to complete a certain number of credit hours each year in continuing education courses to stay informed on the latest findings in the social work field. The social worker must pay for these classes out-of-pocket unless her employer offers a tuition reimbursement program.