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What Is a Social Worker’s Role in Social Welfare Policy?

Social workers are deeply involved in both the creation and implementation of policy.

In an average month, 21.3% of American citizens receive some form of public assistance.* These services include everything from Medicaid to food stamps to housing assistance. Simply put, the social welfare system is as immense as it is important—making the social workers who help create and administer these programs a vital part of our social safety net. What role do social workers play in our social welfare policy and how can you join them?

What is required to become a social worker?

The National Association of Social Workers defines a professional social worker as someone who has earned a collegiate or graduate-level degree in social work—such as a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) or Master of Social Work (MSW) degree—and has completed a minimum number of hours of supervised fieldwork.† These rigorous requirements stem from the fact that social work often requires an in-depth knowledge of social welfare programs and human behavior. In addition, due to the large scale and complexity of issues in this field, many social workers specialize in one area of the profession, devoting their careers to specific societal problems and/or populations. As a result, some accredited social work degree programs allow you to focus on specific areas of expertise including addiction, children and families, crisis and trauma, forensic populations and settings, medical social work, and military families and culture.

What Is a Social Worker’s Role in Social Welfare Policy?

What do social workers do?

From a social welfare policy standpoint, social workers do everything from helping craft federal, state, and local policies to overseeing the administration of social programs to working directly with the recipients of assistance, ensuring that they meet qualifications and that they receive the help they need and are entitled to. There are even two U.S. senators—Sen. Barbara Mikulski (Maryland) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Michigan)—who hold MSW degrees and are at the forefront of U.S. policy-making.

Without social workers’ in-depth knowledge of the needs of individuals and communities, our social welfare system might cease functioning. It takes the efforts of social workers in policy-making and program administration, plus social workers in the field, to adequately provide the assistance our nation promises to those who are in need. No other professionals are as qualified to design and implement social welfare policy as those who have dedicated their careers to helping those the policies support.

How do I become a social worker?

While some entry-level social work jobs require Bachelor of Social Work, many of the profession’s advanced positions require you to have earned your Master of Social Work, complete other training, and/or obtain licensure. If you wish to be a case worker, mental health assistant, group home worker, or similar position, a BSW degree is a great place to start. If you wish to work in a supervisory role, on a policy-making committee, or in a similar position of responsibility, an MSW degree can significantly increase your opportunities.

If you’re interested in becoming a social worker but are balancing work or family commitments, consider enrolling in a CSWE-accredited online BSW or MSW program. CSWE accreditation helps ensure that your coursework, assessments, and criteria for graduation are of the highest standards. It’s also important to note—for yourself and for your current or prospective employers—that CSWE accreditation standards are the same for online BSW and MSW programs as they are for similar MSW programs at campus-based universities.

The social welfare system helps tens of millions of people every month. By earning a BSW or MSW degree, you can put yourself in position to become a vital part of the design and implementation of social welfare policy.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a CSWE accredited online BSW program and MSW program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

*United States Census Bureau, 21.3 Percent of U.S. Population Participates in Government Assistance Programs Each Month, on the Internet at

†National Association of Social Workers, Social Work Professions, on the Internet at

Walden University’s Master of Social Work (MSW) program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CSWE's Commission on Accreditation is responsible for developing accreditation standards that define competent preparation for professional social workers and ensuring that social work programs meet these standards.

Walden University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission,