How You Can Become a Social Worker

To become a social worker requires dedication, extensive qualifications and a strong work ethic. Social workers are the main providers of services to the socially disadvantaged or underprivileged population. All states require social workers to be licensed. Most states require 3000 hours (two years) clinical experience for those in clinical social work. Licensing requirements can vary depending on the state and the nature of the work. Background checks are mandatory in some social work roles.

Education and training

The normal minimum requirement for a social worker in the US is the Bachelors Degree in Social Work (BSW), although majors in social work related fields may qualify for some entry level positions. A Masters degree in Social Work (MSW) is required for health related and clinical work. The MSW is the basic graduate degree level for higher positions. Academic appointments require a doctorate level (DSW) degree, a PhD in the field.

The scale and diversity of social work education programs is huge: There are 458 Council on Social Work Education accredited BSW programs and 151 MSW programs. There are also 74 accredited doctoral programs. These numbers not only represent the scale of the job, but the large numbers of different forms of social work. The social worker's role covers many quite different types of work, and specialization in particular fields is a necessity.

The BSW is the basic social work, requiring 400 hours of supervised field work. Training involves:

  • Case management
  • Direct service provision
  • Principles of social justice
  • Social work values and ethics
  • Cultural diversity
  • At risk social groups
  • Social work practice
  • Social research
  • Social welfare policy and services
  • Field education

The MSW doesn't necessarily require the BSW as a prerequisite. Those with suitable qualifications in other fields like psychology and disciplines related to social work may also do this degree. It covers specializations in particular fields of social welfare, which is one of the reasons it's the primary qualification for higher positions in social work. The degree requires 900 hours of supervised field work, and is a 2 year full time program. Training includes supervisory roles, large casework load management, and advanced skills like clinical assessment.

The work environment

Charities do most of the social support work in society. Social workers work with the poor, the sick, the homeless, and all those in serious social and economic situations. This is perhaps the most demanding work environment of all, and it's why so many strongly motivated people are the most drawn to this work. Social workers must be good communicators, sensitive, and aware of the social and cultural issues involved in their work.

All social workers, thanks to their intensive practical training are well versed in the realities of their work. Social workers are both case workers with ongoing situations and field workers dealing with very human situations. A social worker may deal with many different situations in field work and more in case management. Each case has its own unique elements. All people are different, and so are their problems. Social workers are the sort of people who'll take on the toughest problems in a society and beat them.