General Information

The Essence of the School of Social Work

What is Social Work?

A career in social work is both challenging and nourishing. From comforting an elderly person who is facing surgery, to finding a home for an abandoned child, to helping communities organize to fight for adequate police protection and street lighting - social workers are in the forefront of personal and social change. Wherever people are experiencing problems in living; wherever battles for social and personal justice are being waged - social workers are there.

Social work is a relatively new profession that has evolved during the past 100 years because of society's concern over the growing problems that accompanied the industrial revolution, as well as the persistent social injustices and inequities that characterize the modern world. Social workers value the individuality and integrity of people and are committed to helping people realize their full potential for growth and enrichment.

Because they work with people, social workers need not only a substantial body of knowledge and specialized skills, but also self-discipline and realistic attitudes to ensure meaningful solutions to individual, family, group, organizational and societal problems. To be an effective social worker, you must be able to confront objectively the harsh realities of life while retaining a basic sense of compassion for others. You must also be motivated to help reduce human suffering and strengthen social ties.

Social work requires an interest in helping people with a wide range of problems in a wide range of settings. Social workers practice in advocacy organizations, facilities for the aged, schools, churches, hospitals and other health facilities, group homes, mental health facilities, prisons, community centers, employee assistance programs, adoption agencies, family services, pre-school settings, public welfare settings, child and adult protective services, residential settings for children, or adults, legislatures, social change organizations, and many others. Within these settings, social workers engage in a range of activities and roles. Listed below are just some of the professional tasks social workers perform in a variety of employment settings:

  • Counseling individuals, couples, and families with marital, sexual, relationship, and other problems, and helping them to cope with adolescent and childhood difficulties.

  • Delivering social group work services to children and adolescents within educational settings.

  • Helping abused and neglected children and fostering their reintegration into the community.

  • Providing services to the elderly in the community.

  • Working in hospitals to assist medical personnel in gaining insights into the social, economic, and psychological situations of patients, and helping with their treatment and discharge process.

  • Administering faith-based social service agencies.

  • Advising governments, regional and international agencies on programs designed to foster social development and improve levels of living for communities.

  • Administering large social agencies in both the governmental and private sectors.

  • Counseling individuals, couples, and families with personal problems in private practice settings or in church-related settings.

  • Counseling people with psychiatric, emotional, and personality problems either independently or as members of mental health teams in clinical settings.

  • Facilitating the effectiveness of membership organizations and support groups.

  • Helping rehabilitate drug and alcohol abusers through counseling, group treatment, and social support.

  • Helping victims of rape, spouse abuse, and other forms of violence.

  • Leading congregations to provide social ministries in the community.

  • Serving in community agencies and preparing and implementing community-wide action plans to respond to various social problems.

  • Undertaking research into local social problems and evaluating policy strategies to respond to them.

  • Working with young offenders in juvenile courts, halfway homes and youth outreach programs.

  • Working with bereaved families and with those who face a terminal illness.

  • Working with international relief and mission organizations to design and implement community development programs.

  • Working with neighborhood organizations to promote environmental and social development.

With such diversity of practice, what binds social workers into a common profession? First, social workers view people and their environment as integrally intertwined and interactive. Therefore, social workers not only work with individuals toward change, but also share a commitment to institutional and societal change. As professionals, social workers are devoted to helping people function as well as they can within their environment. Second, social workers maintain a service commitment to the disadvantaged, vulnerable, and economically deprived segments of the population. Historically, social workers led the fight for child labor laws, voting rights for women, and other progressive milestones. Finally, social workers share a common set of professional values and ethics, and a common set of basic or generic skills that enable them to work with diverse populations and fill diverse roles in diverse settings.

All social work education is built on a strong liberal arts base in order to produce social workers who can think critically, analyze alternatives skillfully, communicate well verbally and in writing, appreciate their own culture and that of others, and dedicate themselves to life-long learning. It is on this foundation that the specialized knowledge of social work is built. Since 1919, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) has set national standards for this specialized education. It is the only accrediting agency for social work education and is so designated by the United States Office of Education and the Council on Post-Secondary Education. As a partnership of educational and professional institutions, national social welfare agencies and public citizens, the Council's primary objectives are: improving the quality of social work education; preparing competent social service professionals to fill existing and new roles; and developing new educational programs to meet the demands of changing social service systems.

Accreditation is extremely important in social work education. In Texas and most other states, graduation from a school accredited by CSWE is a requirement for licensure as a social worker. Additionally, to be eligible for advanced placement in graduate schools of social work, applicants must have baccalaureate degrees from programs accredited by CSWE. The Baylor University Social Work Program has been affiliated with the Council since 1965. Initial accreditation was granted to the baccalaureate program in 1976, and the program was reaffirmed in 1983, 1990 and 1997. The graduate program became fully accredited in August 2001.

The following qualities have been found to enhance a student's potential to obtain the necessary knowledge, values, and skills to complete the social work program and become a successful social work professional:

    Self-awareness. Aspiring social workers must know themselves reasonably well and, on the whole, should like themselves. The knowledge of personal strengths and weaknesses should allow the helping person to focus on working effectively with others.

    Professional Commitment. Social work welfare professionals should have a strong commitment to the goals of social welfare and to the ethical standards of the social work profession. They should work collaboratively with others to use professional knowledge, values, and skills to bring about the changes necessary for people to achieve their life goals more easily. They must be willing to abide by the professional and state codes of ethics.

    Intellectual Competence. Social workers must be grounded in the knowledge of the social, behavioral, and biological sciences. They must also be able to apply knowledge gained in the academic setting to the practice setting. They must be able to use this knowledge to understand people in their environment and to create desired change.

    Objectivity. The professional helper must be able to recognize the worth and dignity of every human being. Objectivity involves being able to systematically evaluate people and their situations in an unbiased, factual way. Professional helpers must, at the same time, be warm and caring toward those with whom they are working.

    Empathy. Empathy is the ability to comprehend another's subjective reality and feelings. Empathy and support are necessary to enable the client to use both personal and outside resources and to develop and implement a solution to her/his problem.

    Energy. Helping is an exhausting activity; not only does it require the careful use of knowledge and skill, but it is also a constant drain on feelings and emotions. The professional helper must work on avoiding burnout by developing cooperative and facilitating interactions with colleagues and users of services, and by practicing self care.

    Non-judgmental Attitude. The helping professional must be willing to serve in an appropriate manner all persons in need of assistance regardless of the person's race, religious affiliation (or lack of), gender, disability, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. Helpers must not impose their own personal, religious, sexual, political, and/or cultural values on their clients.

    Emotional Health. The helping professional should be free from emotional problems and addictive behaviors that could interfere with one's obtaining and using in practice the knowledge, ability, and skills necessary to successful social work practice.

    Commitment to Life-Long Learning. The knowledge base of social work and the world in general is constantly expanding. Competent practitioners must be avid readers of professional books and journals, frequently participate in continuing education activities, seek out supervision and consultation, and learn from their own practice. Beyond this, they must find means for growth outside of professional activities to avoid burnout and be well-rounded persons.

Snapshots of The Baylor School of Social Work


  • Study with the best.

    • Baylor students are among the best in the United States. They score significantly above the average on the licensure examination of the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners. The School of Social Work was ranked 60th among the top 100 graduate schools in the recent U.S. News and World Report, a leap of 27 from 87th on a previous ranking.

  • Develop an individualized program with a dedicated and engaged faculty.

    • Because the School is intentionally small, students know the faculty and faculty know the students. Students in the graduate program are able to craft their own specializations to fit their unique areas of interest and desire to learn deeply. You won't find a more dedicated faculty with such a contagious passion for social justice and working with persons in need than you will find in the Baylor School of Social Work. Every faculty member brings the involvement in community service and research projects to strengthen social work practice into their teaching. Every research project of the School involves students as collaborators with faculty. You will find the faculty to be experts in their specializations, known for their research and writing. Every faculty member has been engaged as a social worker in the fields of the profession; they know what they are teaching, because they have lived it. Every faculty member maintains generous hours for student consultation. You will always find the doors to professors' offices are open to you for scholarly discussion and individual mentoring. All are dedicated to preparing you for professional practice that will make a significant difference in the world. The work of our faculty and degree programs is supported by a caring, committed staff. They are here to make the programs run seamlessly and to help you find the answers you need to have the best educational experience possible.

  • Integrate your faith and your practice.

    • A central theme of the School of Social Work is the integration of religious faith with social work practice. It is the expertise for which we are known nationally. It is central in what we teach in our undergraduate and graduate programs. And our research agenda grows directly from our service mission and is addressing some of the most pressing questions in the profession of social work. The agenda comes from the faculty's involvement "on the ground" in service projects with agencies, congregations, and communities. Moreover, we are working collaboratively with other academic units on the campus and with universities nationwide.

  • Prepare for specialized church leadership.

    • The degree programs at George W. Truett Theological Seminary are open to our students. The rigorous dual Master of Divinity and Master of Social Work program (MDiv-MSW) allows students to complete both degrees in one year less than would be required to do both independently. The Master of Theological Studies and Master of Social Work program (MTS-MSW) is designed for students who want to augment their social work education with theological education but do not want to prepare to serve in congregational leadership. No other program nationally provides the opportunity for integration of social work and theology like Baylor, with both programs in the same institution and a faculty committed to students' preparation for church leadership.

  • Have the world as your classroom.

    • A wide range of field learning experiences are provided in diverse geographic and cultural settings-elective courses, international components of U.S. field courses, and international field experiences-in settings as diverse as Washington, DC, Africa, Hawaii, and Moldova.

  • Explore extracurricular opportunities for learning, research, and connection with national leaders.

    • The Center for Family and Community Ministries of the School is a national cross-denominational center for education and training for leaders in congregations and denominational agencies engaged in family and community ministries. An ongoing program of continuing education on the campus is open to our students to enrich their classroom learning. In addition, the Center hosts national conferences that connect our students with leaders from across the nation. The Center's research projects provide opportunity for students to engage in research that will make a difference in the lives of congregations, communities, and families.

  • An Outstanding and Diverse Student Body.

    • The Baylor School of Social Work is small by choice, with a student body of about 240. Many of our BSW students choose the five-year BSW/MSW program, staying an additional 10 months after completing the BSW to obtain their master's degree. We limit the size of our programs so that faculty can provide the individual engagement with students that sets Baylor apart from other schools of social work. You will discover a strong sense of caring and community in the School of Social Work. You will build lifelong friendships, not only with classmates but also with faculty members. And you will have plenty of opportunities to participate in service projects and research that will enable you to keep your calling kindled and put what you are learning into practice.