Social Work Licensing Requirements
All About The Social Work License
If you want to become a social worker, your very first step is to take part in a degree program that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). However, it should be noted that it goes above and beyond finding a particular school. Admissions are highly competitive and you will need to market yourself so that they will be motivated to accept you as a student in the field of social work. Generally speaking, you will need a number of references that demonstrate you have the required aptitude to become a social worker. Since you need to start with a bachelor's degree (BSW), these references will generally be personal rather than professional. But the person writing the references must have known you for at least six months.
You will also need to provide a current resume. This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate that you have done some volunteer work. This will show the school that you are committed and that you have the necessary aptitude. There are some online resources that you can use in order to find volunteering opportunities if you need help with that. If you are lucky, the volunteering organization may even be willing to fund part of your degree as well.
If you are already a student, make sure to look up For The Common Good: Internships with Social and Community Service Agencies, which is a dependable resource created by CEI Internships. There are also opportunities for volunteers listed on a state by state basis. You may even gain a permanent and paid opportunity, but you have to be careful that you are able to balance the tasks involved in your education and job, even if you were to study online.
Getting Into the Field of Social Work
There are associate's, bachelor's and master's level degrees for social work. Generally speaking, you will need the BSW (bachelor level) degree at the very least to start work as a social worker. All states are willing license master's graduates and they also have a large scope of practice.
In order to get into a master's degree program, you do not have to have a BSW degree. Any bachelor's degree in liberal arts is sufficient. But with a BSW and a high GPA, you may be accepted to an Advanced Practice Degree. Take note, however, that acceptance to this is incredibly competitive, with many schools only accepting around five students every other year. If you do not hold a bachelor's degree at all, completing a master's degree will take a lot of time. Take the time to read through Options for Students Without CSWE Accredited Bachelor's Degrees to see what your available options are.
The Importance of Accreditation
By far, the most important task is to ensure your degree is accredited by the CSWE. This will be required in order for you to gain licensure. The CSWE accredits different levels of programs and runs alongside institutional accreditation. If a program is CSWE-accredited, it means that you will be able to meet the industry standards set for the profession.
Choosing Your Master's Degree
When you enter a master's degree MSW program, you will have numerous choices to make. You need to have a good idea of where you want your career to go. You can go into program administration, shaping policies, treating people with mental illnesses, running your own practice, and more. If you want to become a clinical social worker, for which you will need additional licensure and specific supervised work experience, you will have to choose a program that includes clinical fieldwork and coursework. Some schools will allow you to switch tracks completing your degree, but not all permit this and this may also mean it will take you longer to complete your degree.
Extra Licensing Requirements
In most cases, becoming licensed will mean you have worked under supervision for around three years after you have graduated. In order to become an independent clinical social worker, you will need a number of years of post-master's practice, regardless of which state you live in. Additionally, if you want to obtain a higher level of nonclinical license, you will also need this experience. Even if your chosen field is administration or some other macro level, this will be a requirement.
Depending on where you live, you will have to pass one or two exams. The first one will always be the ASWB master's exam. Some states will also have a clinical examination and/or an advanced generalist exam.
Clearly, you need to become familiar with the licensing requirements in your state before you start studying and before you start work. Your state board is the most important point of contact. They will be able to tell you exactly what the requirements are in your state and what you would be able to do with the degree that you already hold.