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All About the Doctorate of Social Work DSW

Holding a doctorate of social work (DSW) degree does not increase the level of your social work license. Nevertheless, you may still want to consider getting it because it is an opportunity for you to advance your personal career and the profession of social work as a whole. Additionally, your salary is likely to increase and become around $32,000 per year more than that of someone with a bachelor's degree, or $17,000 per year more than that of someone with a master's degree.

Why You Should Obtain a DSW (Doctor of Social Work) or Ph.D. in Social Work

If you are looking at becoming involved in social work education, then the DSW is the right degree for you. The organization that accredits BSW (bachelor of social work) and MSW (master's of social work) programs is the Council on Social Work Education. What they look for when they accredit a BSW or MSW program is how many faculty members have a doctorate degree. This is classed as the minimum standard for an academic. Hence, if you hold a DSW, you will have a better opportunity to find employment in social work education, as you will be an asset to the university that hires you.

Additionally, you can use your DSW to gain a higher administrative position. Or, if you are interested in research, you could obtain a Ph.D. in social work. This will allow you to publish findings in academic journals, present information at conferences and become a principal researcher. It is also possible to use your research to find new solutions to problems you have encountered in the field.

There is also the fact that a doctoral degree will earn you the respect of other practitioners. The MSW is often seen as the terminal social work degree and it can also be used in mental health social work. With an MSW, you can become a licensed clinical social worker once you have completed a number of clinical hours, and this will allow you to diagnose and treat people with mental problems. However, with a doctorate degree, you will move much higher up the ladder. A psychologist, physical therapist or psychiatrist will generally hold a doctorate degree, for instance. If you also hold a doctorate degree, you will be in a position to shape policies and be on an equal footing with other professionals. Of course, it is far more than degree creep and elitism. Healthcare in general is an increasingly complex field that requires extensive research completed by people who have high degrees of knowledge. With your doctorate degree in social work, you will truly be able to make a positive difference to the quality of life of individuals.

Different Types of Doctoral Programs

As stated, the two options you have at doctoral level are the DSW and the Ph.D. Generally speaking, the DSW is a practice doctorate, which means you will continue to work directly with people. The Ph.D., on the other hand, is a research degree. The DSW in social work is the newest of the two degrees, although it was actually developed in the 1940s.

Very often, it is difficult to truly see the difference between the DSW and the Ph.D. In many cases, the real differences are found in acceptance requirements and the history of the program itself. The time during which the individual program was developed will also be of great influence, as certain periods preferred the Ph.D. designation, while others preferred the DSW. Nevertheless, either way, you can expect that a Ph.D. will focus more strongly on research. Additionally, you will find that most schools offer either the Ph.D. or the DSW but not both.

You do need to consider what the program focuses on. This is far more important than whether it is called a Ph.D. or a DSW. Programs that have an emphasis on practice could still have a focus that is very different. There could be an emphasis on clinical work, or on administrative work, for instance. Additionally, some will require a dissertation before you can complete your degree, whereas others have a completely different project.

To be accepted to a DSW or Ph.D. program, you will generally have to hold an MSW at the very least. However, if you hold a BSW but are a truly exceptional candidate, it is possible that certain universities will accept you. However, these types of places are incredibly competitive and it is difficult to get in.

In 2011, a task force chaired by Rutger's University's Richard Edwards determined that DSW programs should ensure all their students hold at least an MSW. Additionally, they should have a number of years' work experience. This is because there are still a number of states where someone who wants to complete a doctorate degree does not have to be licensed. Since doctoral programs are not subjected to any kind of programmatic accreditation, this could bring the quality of applicants down.

There is a lot of variety in terms of the options that are out there, which can seem daunting. However, if you are a licensed social worker and you have an idea of the areas that you enjoy, you may find it reasonably easy to find a concentration. Admission is competitive, so make sure you have good references, excellent GRE scores and a compelling personal statement in order to make yourself stand out from the crowd.

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