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5 Undergraduate Degrees That Will Complement Your MSW

Written by Baylor School of Social Work Team on 03.1.23

Not every student who is looking to become a licensed social worker and earn their master's in social work starts out with a bachelor’s degree in social work. Often, students don’t major in social work because they don’t decide what they want to do until the end of their undergraduate years or shortly after they graduate.

So if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree related to social work, don’t panic. You can still enter the field by earning a Master of Social Work (MSW).  Most MSW programs will accept any bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, so long as you meet their general admissions requirements. Also, if you have already completed your bachelor’s and are missing a requirement, you can always go back and fulfill it before applying to grad school!

With that in mind, here are five best majors for social work that will complement your MSW and set you up for success as a social worker!


Standard vs. Advanced Standing Track

Most Master of Social Work programs have two tracks to complete the degree: a standard track and an advanced standing track. Whether or not you graduate with an undergraduate degree in social work or another field determines which track you’re eligible for.

The standard track is open to any student with an undergraduate degree who meets the minimum GPA and course requirements. Students who have completed their undergraduate degree at an accredited CSWE institution and meet the minimum GPA requirements are typically eligible for the advanced standing track. 

Because graduates with a bachelor of social work have taken focused undergraduate coursework and have prior field experience, the advanced standing track enables full-time graduate students to complete their MSW in less time than the standard track. The requirements for application to the advanced standing track vary by school, so make sure to do some research prior to applying.

1. Sociology

Sociology is the study of the lives and behaviors of people, groups, and societies. This discipline looks at the commonalities between all studies of humankind, including history, psychology, and economics.

Many social workers begin their study with a bachelor's degree in sociology, and it offers a great transition tan a MSW program. Sociology and social work cover many overlapping subject areas including: principles of sociology, sociology of business, urban sociology, social deviance, race and ethnicity, statistical analysis and more.

2. Psychology

Another popular undergraduate degree for students looking to earn a master’s in social work is a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Social workers frequently work with clients who have struggles with mental health and therefore, need a solid understanding of the human mind and of human behavior in order to assist them.

Many psychology graduates begin work in the field of social work, in entry level positions such as case managers or direct care workers in residential treatment facilities. This work experience is extremely valuable when applying to graduate programs and helps to set your application apart from others. 

3. Anthropology

Anthropology is the study of the human race from a historical and biological perspective and can be broken out into three subfields: archaeology, physical anthropology, and cultural anthropology. Students who concentrate in cultural anthropology will have a broad understanding of individuals and groups, and how their beliefs, practices, and experiences have shaped them and their communities.

Certain concentrations within an anthropology degree are closely related to social work and will provide an essential understanding of the human person and of human behavior needed to begin a master of social work degree.

4. Biology

A standard track MSW degree doesn’t require one particular undergraduate degree, so students with a bachelor’s in biology often make great candidates for a master’s in social work. Biology is a functional undergraduate degree for individuals who want to concentrate in the areas of clinical, medical, or health care social work.

Biology undergraduates with an MSW can expect to thrive in professional settings such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, rehabilitative care centers, or related home-care services. These social workers collaborate and work closely with doctors, nurses, discharge coordinators, administrative staff, and physical therapists, so an understanding of biology is helpful. In order to meet the requirements for application, students will need to ensure that they have completed the liberal arts requirements for the program.  

5. Political Science

Political science is the study of governments and political units, how they function, and how they interact with individuals and groups. Political science majors also have an in depth understanding of how laws and policies are created, and how they impact the populations they serve from a social and economic perspective.

Students pursuing an MSW, who come from a political science background, have a unique advantage because of their knowledge of how vulnerable populations can be affected by governing bodies. This discipline also helps students to understand how resources are allocated at every level of government, which is vitally important for every social work professional to understand. Government agencies also employ large numbers of social workers, so understanding how these institutions operate and the procedures they follow, will help social work professionals succeed in mutual interactions.

Is Baylor’s MSW the program for you?

The Master of Social Work degree at the Baylor University Diana R. Garland School of Social Work offers a comprehensive education, meets all standards for state licensure and professional social work credentials, and includes extensive hands-on field experience. The program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, and our graduates are prepared to serve in a variety of different roles, across several professional environments. Our graduates also have a unique understanding of what it means to ethically integrate faith and social work practice, helping them to best meet the needs of those they serve.

Our world needs well-rounded, intelligent, and passionate social workers of all different backgrounds and bachelor’s degrees to meet the needs of individuals and communities. If you are interested in taking that next step toward serving those around you, we invite you to learn more about our master’s in social work degree.

Explore our digital resource, Social Work & Careers in Helping People, for an in-depth look at the education and career opportunities for future social workers!

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Posted by Baylor School of Social Work Team

We are the admissions team at the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, at Baylor University. We believe social work is about service and justice; it is about the dignity of individuals and the power of relationships; it is about integrity and competence, and our mission here is preparing social workers to do these things well. We hope you find our resources helpful and informative as you explore and pursue a degree in social work!