Public Health Social Worker: Educational Requirements

A public health social worker requires a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Essential Information

Public health social workers work with populations and individuals suffering from ailments or injuries related to community sickness or disaster. They act as counselors and planners for people who need long term care. Social workers can find entry-level employment with a bachelor's degree, but many jobs require master's degree. Licensure is required in all states.

Required Education Bachelor's or master's degree in social work, psychology or sociology; degree level depends on the position
Licensure Required
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 19% (for social workers)
Median Annual Salary (May 2013)* $50,820 (for healthcare social workers)

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is a Public Health Social Worker?

Public health social workers are social work professionals who provide support to individuals and populations dealing with and vulnerable to chronic, acute or terminal illnesses. In many cases, they take advisory roles, not only for patients, but also for families and caregivers, helping them to arrange health services in the home and community, from meals-on-wheels delivery to oxygen equipment. Some public health social workers work in interdisciplinary teams, including those who work for hospitals, nursing care facilities, social services agencies and government agencies.

Education for Public Health Social Workers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), public health social work requires a bachelor's degree in social work, psychology or sociology (www.bls.gov). Individuals seeking graduate-level education might pursue a dual degree program that awards both a Master of Social Work (MSW) and a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree. The degree programs may be consecutive or concurrent, and some are offered full- or part-time to accommodate working professionals pursuing continuing education. Courses might include alcoholism and drug abuse interventions, policy analysis, epidemiology, biostatistics, social work ethics, program development and health economics. Students in an MSW/MPH program might choose from concentrations including:

  • Children's services
  • Child and maternal health.
  • Gerontology
  • Policy
  • Social behavior
  • Mental health
  • Social systems

Every state requires some form of licensing or certification for social work practice. Requirements for licensing vary by states. Although not required for a license, many positions encourage mastery of a second language.

Outlook for Public Health Social Workers

According to the BLS, the job outlook for social workers in healthcare-related fields was predicted to be faster than the average for all occupations from 2012-2022, with a job growth rate of 19%. The BLS predicted increased opportunities for those social workers with a background in geriatric care in particular. As of May 2013, healthcare social workers' median salary was $50,820.

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    • Pennsylvania (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Pennsylvania include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
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      • Veterinary Medicine and Clinical Sciences
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    • Michigan (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Michigan State University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Clinical Laboratory Science Professions
      • Communication Disorders Sciences
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      • Medical and Health Preparatory Sciences
      • Medical Assisting
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        • Medical Social Work
      • Nursing Professions
      • Nutrition Services
      • Osteopathic Medicine - DO
      • Therapeutic and Rehabilitation Professions
      • Veterinary Medicine and Clinical Sciences
  • School locations:
    • Indiana (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Southern Indiana include:
      • Graduate: Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Dental
      • Health and Fitness
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Assisting
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
      • Mental Health Services
        • Medical Social Work
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      • Nutrition Services
      • Therapeutic and Rehabilitation Professions
  • School locations:
    • California (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Stanford University include:
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      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Informatics and Illustration
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    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Harvard University include:
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      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
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    • Rhode Island (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Brown University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
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      • Medical Residency Programs
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    • North Carolina (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Duke University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
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  • School locations:
    • Indiana (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Notre Dame include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
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    • Columbia (D.C.) (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Georgetown University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
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      • Medical Residency Programs
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    • Tennessee (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Vanderbilt University include:
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      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics