Becoming a Social Worker: How to Do it

If you have a strong desire to help people who are dealing with difficult circumstances or situations, you may have considered a career as a social worker. Social workers work in both clinical and non-clinical settings to help clients solve problems and move ahead with their lives. You may be wondering how to become a social worker, and what type of education and training you need to enter this field. Most social workers have at least a bachelor's degree or higher, and will choose a specialty such as: child, family, and school; medial or public health; mental health and substance abuse; or social work planning and policymaking. Take some time to learn about these different specialties, and pursue the advanced training and education you need to succeed in this field.

Here's what you need to know about how to become a social worker:

  1. Complete the required education. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) is the most common requirement to qualify for an entry-level job. You can earn your bachelors of social work degree online if you are employed full time or are located too far from a university that offers the program. However, you could also hold a bachelor's degree in psychology, sociology, and other related fields - especially if you are applying for a position in a small community agency. If you are interested in clinical work or want to work for a private agency, you will most likely need a master's degree in social work (MSW). Almost all supervisor, administrative, and staff training positions require some type of advanced degree and some work experience.
  2. Complete an internship. Some educational programs offer internships that are built in to the degree program; others require the candidate to seek out an internship so that they can gain some work experience and earn the required training hours for their state license. Look for an internship that is in or related to the specialty you are most interested in so that you can gain valuable skills you need for your future career.
  3. Get certified, licensed, and registered. All States and the District of Columbia require social work professionals to have a license, certification, and be registered in the state they are providing services in. Licensure requirements typically require at least two years or 3,000 hours or supervised clinical experience. You will need to check with your state to find out what the specific licensing and certification requirements are for positions in your area.
  4. Consider a temporary volunteer or paid position. If you weren't able to acquire much work experience or in-person experience during your school years, consider taking on a volunteer position or a low-paying position in the field in your local area. Having some work experience listed on your resume can help you secure attractive positions in the future. Fulfill the positions' requirements for just six or 12 months and you'll have a reference and valuable work experience for your resume.
  5. Review social worker job descriptions in your area. Take a look at the general job requirements and duties of child, family and school social workers; medical and public health social workers; mental health and substance abuse social workers; and other types of social worker jobs available in your local area, and prepare your job application and resume. Remember to include any relevant work experience, your career objective, and references as requested.