FORT WAYNE, Indiana -- Indiana University Fort Wayne is offering a new Bachelor of Social Work degree that will put graduates in an enviable position: They will very likely find a job waiting for them when they finish the program.
The degree will also provide a leg up for those who want to pursue a master's degree in social work, shaving off nearly one-third of the academic credit hours and more than 300 hours of field experience needed to achieve the graduate social work degree.
IU Fort Wayne is already accepting applications for the Bachelor of Social Work degree, with classes beginning in August.
The degree offers an additional health sciences option for community residents, reflecting IU Fort Wayne's mission of becoming a leader in health science education, research and innovation, said Jan Nes, coordinator of the Master of Social Work program at IU Fort Wayne.
"There is a high need in northeast Indiana for social workers at both the bachelor's and master's levels," Nes said.
Demand for social workers is driven by several factors, including an aging population and the opioid epidemic. The federal Bureau of Labor estimates that employment of social workers in health care, mental health and addiction settings will grow as much as 21 percent through 2026, three times the average employment growth rate for all occupations.
In Indiana, an individual must possess either a bachelor's or master's degree in social work and be licensed to be a social worker. Graduates of the Bachelor of Social Work degree take the Licensed Bachelor Social Worker exam from the Association of Social Work Boards to become licensed. Graduates of the Master of Social Work program are eligible to take the Licensed Social Worker exam and, after two years of supervised practice at that level, are eligible to pursue the Licensed Clinical Social Worker license.
Employment prospects for students will be heightened by a two-semester competency-based learning experience at an agency in the Fort Wayne area under the supervision of a social worker.
"Social service and health care organizations in northeast Indiana have been powerful supporters of our social work students, providing optimal supervised learning experiences that help students develop their competencies as emerging social work professionals. We could not be more grateful to our health systems, social service agencies and our regional VA system," Nes said.
Graduates of the BSW program may apply for advanced standing in a Master of Social Work program at accredited social work programs in the U.S. At the IU School of Social Work, advanced standing MSW students complete 41 academic credit hours, compared to 60 credit hours for students without a BSW degree.
Advanced standing MSW students are required to complete one 640-hour practicum at the focus-area level, while those without a BSW degree complete one practicum at the generalist level for 320 hours and one at the focus-area level for 640 hours.