Child Welfare Degree

The health and well-being of children is extremely important. To that end, there are professionals, more specifically social workers and child care specialists, who focus on providing the proper assistance to children and their families that is needed.

If you are interested in learning more about child welfare as a profession, read on to learn more and find out what qualifications you need to have to enter this profession.

What does a career in child welfare entail?

Children should grow up surrounded by a loving family, warmth, and joy. Sadly, this isn’t every child’s reality and a number of children grow up in unhappy and unstable homes. There are children who have to deal with everything from abuse, poverty, depression, neglect, etc. These circumstances can in turn cause longstanding negative effects in children.

Child welfare is a specialization within social work which focuses on ensuring that children are protected and that their needs are met. In order to achieve this end, these professionals need to identify children who may be at risk and provide their services accordingly.

Some of the job duties of a child welfare specialist include:

  • Identifying children who are suffering from abuse or neglect and assess their situation to provide the help that is needed
  • Help families to meet the needs of vulnerable children
  • Find ways to improve the emotional, physical, social, and psychological well-being of children in need
  • Maintain case files and complete extensive documentation on individual cases
  • Make home visits to assess the living conditions of children

How to pursue a career in child welfare  

In order to enter the field of child welfare, the minimum educational requirements you will need to satisfy is having a bachelor’s degree in social work with a concentration in child welfare. If you intend to work in a clinical capacity, you will need to further pursue a master’s degree in social work with a concentration in child welfare. This is followed by gaining in-field experience in a supervised clinical setting for a minimum of two years. For those looking to become clinical child welfare specialists, you will also need to be licensed in the state in which you want to work.

In general, here are some of the steps you can follow to pursue a career in child welfare:

Steps to pursuing a career in child welfare

1. Get a bachelor’s degree in social work with a concentration in child welfare

2. Get a master’s degree in social work with a concentration in child welfare

3.  Gain relevant in-field experiences in the field of social work, possibly in a supervised clinical setting

4. Get licensure and certification in the field, if necessary

Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work 

A Bachelor’s degree in social work is an essential first step in working in child welfare. This degree will give you all of the knowledge and tools you need to begin a career in social work and the human services profession.

By pursuing a concentration in child welfare, you will get the chance to take courses which will give you an in-depth look into the cognitive development of children, how trauma impacts children and their families, and the ethics and relevant laws involved in child welfare.

Degree Duration Some of the courses offered

Bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) with

a concentration in child welfare

4 years
  • Sociology of social problems
  • Law and ethics in human services
  • Case management
  • Social science research methods
  • Ethics and laws in child welfare
  • The impacts of trauma on families
  • Child growth and cognitive development
  • Human services organizational systems

Master's Degree in Social Work

If you want to take on advanced positions in the field or work in a clinical capacity, you will need to have a master’s degree in social work. This degree will help you build both your management and clinical assessment capabilities and skills. Some of these programs will require students to complete an internship.

Degree Duration Some of the courses offered
Master's degree in social work with a concentration in child welfare 2 years
  • Research skills essential for practice
  • Policy and organizational frameworks
  • Social welfare
  • Human behavior 
  • Clinical practice with children  


Licensure is an important aspect of becoming a child welfare professional. Most states have requirements in place for all nonclinical social workers to get licensure or certification in order to practice. If you’re working in a clinical capacity, licensure is essential in every state.

In order to become licensed, you will need to pass a clinical exam. Additional requirements for licensure vary by state; it is therefore recommended that you contact your state board in order to determine what requirements you need to satisfy.

Child Welfare Career Prospects and Salary

If you’re seriously considering pursuing a career in child welfare, it may be helpful to get a better idea of what an up to date career profile for this profession looks like. The best way to do that is to access the relevant data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While there is no separate page for child welfare, you can look at information on social workers and child, family, and school social workers on the website.

According to data from BLS, as of May 2016, social workers earned an annual median salary of $46,890, which translates to about $22.54 per hour. The projected job growth in this field from 2014 to 2024 is expected to be 12% which is faster than the average rate of growth for most professions which is 7%.

Data also indicates that the top places of employment for these professionals include community health centers, schools, government social work facilities, and child and youth service offices.

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