5 Steps to Become a Social Worker

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If you are interested in helping people to get through some of life’s greatest difficulties, social work may be the career path for you. As a social worker, you will provide clinical counseling or other types of direct services to people who are in unhealthy, harmful and potentially dangerous situations, helping them improve their well-being. You will be able to work in various settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, schools, private practices, government organizations and more. You can expect heavy caseloads and a great deal of stress, but also a lot of job satisfaction.

Requirements for the Job

In the majority of cases you will need at least a bachelor’s degree in order to be a social worker. A handful of states have registrations for associate’s degrees as well. Most of the states, however, will require you to have a master’s degree. If you want to be a clinical social worker, you will always need a master’s.

Most entry-level positions require a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW); a Master of Social Work (MSW) is necessary for other positions, including that for clinical social workers. All states have associated licensure or certification requirements. This article describes some of the typical qualifications necessary for this career and the steps to follow.

Steps to Becoming a Social Worker

First of all, you will need to earn a degree (either BSW – bachelor, or MSW – master). The field must be in social work if you wish to practice. Licensure requirements vary from state to state and there are various types of social workers as well. Nevertheless, all states require their social workers to be licensed, which is done through exams offered by the ASWB. You will usually have to obtain a number of years of work experience before you can become licensed. To become a social worker, you must be compassionate, have strong people skills, have time management and organizational skills, have knowledge of social works, be a good listener and problem solver, and understand psychosocial practices.

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Step 1 – Earn Your BSW Degree

With a BSW, you will be ready to take on direct service jobs. These include the roles of caseworker and mental health assistant. In earning this degree, you learn about social work methods, social welfare policy, child welfare, applied research and social work for the aged. To complete a BSW, you will need to do an internship or take part in supervised fieldwork. This will give you the chance to understand the practicalities of being a social worker. A good tip is to start by working on your communication skills. You must be able to earn your client’s trust and develop a healthy relationship. Additionally, you must be able to communicate properly with co-workers.

Step 2 – Consider Studying Towards a Master’s Degree

Although not a requirement in all states, obtaining your master’s is always a good idea. The curriculum will be more focused on certain areas of social work, including sociology and psychology. If you want to become a clinical social worker, a master’s degree is essential. Usually, master’s degree programs are very flexible and many are offered online.

It is also here that you can choose a specialization. Some of the choices include families and children, mental health, gerontology, global practice, physical health and more. You can also look at specialties such as caseload management, clinical assessment and leadership. You will need to complete an internship to finish your master’s degree.

A great tip for success is to choose a specialty that is in high demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that mental health; healthcare; children, families and schools; and substance abuse are popular areas of specialization. This is true even if you only hold a BSW degree.

Step 3 – Get Your License

Every state has certain requirements before you get hired as social worker and often, a license is not required for those who are not considering clinical social work. To get licensed, you will need to take part in at least 3,000 hours of supervised work.

Step 4 – Think About Getting Credentials

You can obtain voluntary credentialing through the National Association of Social Workers. For master’s degree educated social workers, three levels exist. Each has some eligibility requirements such as supervised work, clinical experience and evaluation from co-workers. The requirements also vary depending on whether you hold a BSW or an MSW.

Step 5 – Keep Your License and Credentials Valid

Finally, make sure that your license and credentials remain valid. This is done through continuous professional education. Each state has different requirements when it comes to the types of courses that are eligible and how many hours of study are needed.

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About the Author: Ann Steele

This website is co-authored by Ann Steele, a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego with extensive experience with children and adolescents. Ann Steele attended American School Of Psychology & Argosy University Online. She especially enjoys using music therapy for mental and emotional well-being.

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