A Complete Guide on How to Become a Social Worker
Table of Contents Hide
- What Does a Social Worker Do?
- Social Worker Salary
- Common Types of Social Workers
- Factors to Compare Before Becoming a Social Worker
- Steps to Become a Social Worker
It’s never been a better time to become a social worker than now. Using a mix of generalist and specialized strategies and abilities in social work, social workers assist individuals in resolving and coping with a wide range of everyday difficulties and societal concerns.
Between 2018 and 2028, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that social workers will see an 11% increase in employment, which is substantially more than the 5% growth rate for the whole economy. The demand for social workers specializing in working with children and families is a significant factor in this predicted development. As healthcare facilities increase across the country, demand for social workers to aid elderly patients, those who have a mental illness, and those struggling with substance misuse have skyrocketed.
What Does a Social Worker Do?
It’s a good idea to consider all of the duties that social workers are responsible for. Each patient receives personalized attention from a social worker who specializes in helping them overcome a specific issue or obstacle. Social workers can also implement large-scale organizational change at the macro level.
Identifying, evaluating, and responding to the needs of individuals, groups, and the community is all part of a typical day in the life of a social worker. Many social workers collaborate with mental health professionals, such as counselors and psychologists, to work with clients.
Teachers, parents, and administrators work together with school social workers to help students succeed academically and socially. Social workers in the healthcare and mental health fields might find work in various settings, including facilities such as clinics and hospitals, and clients’ homes. Social workers typically work in this field to help clients transition back to their regular life.
Social Worker Salary
There are numerous career paths in social work that can lead to substantial financial rewards and room for advancement. In 2019, the BLS reported that the median annual compensation for social workers was above $50,000. There is a high demand for social workers, and the field is growing at a rate well above average. Between 2018 and 2028, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects 81,000 new social work positions to be created.
Salary for social workers varies based on education and experience. Masters-educated social workers typically make more money than those with only a bachelor’s degree. Salary ranges for social workers are affected by various factors, including the location of their employer. The median annual pay for healthcare social workers is over $57,000, while the median yearly salary for child, family, and school social workers is around $47,000.
Earning a graduate degree, pursuing a highly sought-after specialty, or obtaining additional certifications can help social workers earn more money.
Common Types of Social Workers
Non-profit organizations’ program directors are responsible for securing financial support. They need to be savvy budgeters and planners. Program directors are responsible for ensuring that clients’ needs are met, coordinating with other businesses, and supervising the organization’s managers, coordinators, and staff members. The salary at its Entry-Level Position is $56,029.
School Social Worker
The typical clientele of a school social worker is students in grades K-12. These researchers examine social, psychological, and environmental aspects that impact children’s academic and social development. They make sure that pupils get the help they need, sometimes from organizations outside of the school. They may also work with parents and provide counseling with a starting pay of $48,908. A bachelor’s degree and certification as a licensed social worker are recommended.
Social Worker in the Healthcare System
Social workers assist patients and their families in coping with short-term and long-term health issues. They frequently work with patients to smooth the transition from a healthcare institution to their daily routines. Their presence may ease the transition to new dietary habits, prescription medicines, and treatments for patients. Some social workers in their areas set up educational and support groups. The starting salary is $50,470.
Case manager clients include sick or elderly patients, persons battling substance misuse, and former prisoners moving back to employment. These social workers enhance the lives of their clients. They can help patients develop treatment programs, find support groups, and find career opportunities. Case managers often have outstanding interpersonal and verbal communication skills and excellent time management and planning abilities. The starting salary for a new employee is $40,503. A high school diploma or associate’s degree is required but not required.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
These healthcare providers offer counseling and therapy services. They can be employed in public or private facilities. Clinical social workers benefit from having a vast network of healthcare contacts when it comes to providing their patients who are on the road to recovery with well-informed and individualized care. The starting salary is $50,470.
Social Services Director
Directors of social services are responsible for overseeing staff, projects, and the admission and transfer of clients. In addition, they plan and implement treatment programs for residents and keep track of facility operations. Many of these people have a background in management and are highly skilled financial planners. The starting salary is $54,902.
Child and Family Social Worker
These social workers help clients cope with problems in their daily lives. They work with children and their families and in school districts. Those who want to work at a medical facility or clinic may pursue a healthcare-related job path. Mental, emotional, and behavioral problems are some of the specialties of clinically licensed social workers. The starting salary is $50,470.
Mental Health Therapist
There are a variety of healthcare professions where these people work. They include psychologists, social workers who work with families or schools, and family therapists. Patients with mental health issues can rely on psychoanalysis and cognitive behavioral therapy to help them overcome their difficulties. They can work for a company or run their own business. The starting salary is $42,840.
Factors to Compare Before Becoming a Social Worker
As previously said, pursuing a career in social work can be a significant time and financial commitment. The rewards are also rewarding moderately. There are several things to consider before deciding on your professional future. Let’s talk about these factors;
Levels of Social Work
Micro, Meso, and macro are the three primary levels of social work. Each focuses on a specific area of study. Observe the contrasts between each level of your career as you plan your future. The first type of social work is known as macro social work. Through these methods, social workers who operate at the macro level focus on large-scale social change, such as policy, administration, and advocacy. Government agencies and other organizations with a structural emphasis are good places to look for employment at this level.
Groups rather than individuals are the focus of social workers at the mezzo level. Schools, non-profits, hospitals, and small towns are examples of where this type of approach is appropriate.
On top of all of that, we have micro social work. Individuals and their families receive individualized attention from social workers specializing in micro-level practice.
As long as the CSWE accredits your program, it doesn’t matter what kind of degree or program you’re looking to pursue. To be adequately prepared for a profession in social work, enrolling in an authorized school is recommended. CSWE-accredited programs are often required for licensing examinations in most states.
Once you’ve decided to go on to graduate school to become a social worker, you can look at different social work programs to see which one best suits your needs. There are various MSW programs to select from, and each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages depending on the student’s lifestyle and needs.
Courses in theory, practice, and ethics are standard in an MSW program. Most students can count on taking general education classes and electives and hands-on experiences in the area. Students at CSWE-accredited MSW programs are likely to learn about professional conduct, ethical conduct, human rights, and how to assess and engage with individuals, families, groups, and organizations.
Students that study these areas in school will be more equipped to apply what they’ve learned in the workplace once they start working. Before that, there’s fieldwork to be done.
The MSW program also includes fieldwork, which allows students to practice their skills in various settings under the guidance of an experienced social worker. At least 900 hours of field experience are required by most MSW programs, while some may demand extra hours. It is critical to verify that these fieldwork hours match the licensing standards of your state board.
There are several options to select from for those who want to specialize in social work. Specialization allows you to focus on a specific field and enhance your abilities in social work. A social worker’s future employment choices may be affected by the specialty they choose to pursue in their studies.
Specializations in the social work field include:
- Clinical social work.
- Military social work.
- Medical social work.
- Psychiatric social work.
- School Social work.
- Mental health social work.
Steps to Become a Social Worker
After you’ve decided whether a career in social work is suitable for you, you’ll need to finish your schooling. The Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), while not a terminal degree, may be sufficient for various entry-level employment. After completing your BSW program or earning a bachelor’s degree in any subject, you can look into graduate school alternatives and enroll in an accredited Master of Social Work (MSW) program. If you want to work as a social worker, you must complete this phase. The next step is to apply for licensing in your state, including passing exams and completing other state-specific requirements before you may begin practicing. Once you’ve obtained your social worker license, you’ll need to meet continuing education requirements to keep your license current.
- Research if a Career in Social Work is Right For You
Consider the necessary obligations, including schooling, to evaluate whether becoming a social worker is good for you. Undergraduate and graduate social work programs are available. Which path you take is determined by your professional goals and the number of years you want to spend in school.
It would be best to think about the various specialties you can pursue within the profession and the different career options accessible to you. Certain social work schools provide concentrations that might equip you to work with a specific population, such as children or military personnel.
There’s no need to be concerned if you’re unsure who you want to collaborate with. While you’re thinking about your possibilities, look into career growth in the industry to see if social work offers you the long-term changes you want.
Finally, knowing the employment outlook, wage expectations, and prospective work settings associated with being a social worker can help you decide if it is the correct career route. To get a sense of how much social workers make in your area, speak with them or consult the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ national median salary for social workers (BLS).
- Complete Undergraduate Education Requirements
Although you can work in social work with just a bachelor’s degree, you won’t be allowed to practice in a clinical role unless you have a master’s degree. Your employment options may be limited if you don’t have a master’s degree in social work. That is why some people choose a Master of Social Work degree. Graduate programs will have different prerequisites for undergraduate study. Although not all of them require a BSW, some do, such as advanced standing MSW programs.
You can still study social work as a graduate degree if you decide to become a social worker after completing your undergraduate degree. Your bachelor’s degree is not in social work. Students who do not have a BSW but want to get an MSW can enroll in a graduate program, which takes about two years to finish for full-time students. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredits both BSW and MSW schools, and most states require applicants to graduate from a CSWE-accredited program to be licensed and practice as social workers.
- Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work
A bachelor’s degree in social work will help you prepare for the next step in your schooling and your future employment. You can enroll in advanced standing programs if you have a BSW. Because students have mastered the basics and essential principles of social work in their undergraduate classes, these programs take less time to finish than typical MSW programs.
A BSW might still help you work in a social career if you don’t want to pursue an MSW. With a BSW, you might apply for entry-level jobs in schools, government organizations, and non-profits.
Bachelor of Social Work programs is usually four years long. In addition, BSW programs accredited by the CSWE require students to complete 400 hours of supervised fieldwork to graduate.
- Research Graduate Education Options
After you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree in social work or another discipline, you can start looking into master’s programs in social work. Given the variety of programs offered, think about which one best meets your career ambitions and personal circumstances. No.
Begin by asking yourself, “Should I be a full-time or part-time student?” Consider your financial circumstances, whether you expect to work full- or part-time while pursuing your social work school, and how quickly you want to complete your program while making this decision.
It’s also vital to consider whether you want to complete your degree online or in-person as you consider your enrollment alternatives. Your choice may be influenced by your location, job schedule, personal obligations, and learning style. Perhaps your desired curriculum is offered by an institution in another state, but you cannot relocate due to your employment obligations. It may be possible to find an online option from the same university.
If you choose to earn your degree online, keep in mind that specific programs will need you to attend weekly live classes. To follow these scheduled sessions, make sure you have the necessary technology (laptop, webcam, etc.). Other programs blend the material of synchronous and asynchronous courses.
Before deciding, consider the advantages and disadvantages of each option, and keep in mind that many online programs require the same level of self-discipline, involvement, and planning as traditional in-person programs.
- Pursue Accredited MSW Graduate Education
It’s critical to check for accredited program options when you’ve researched and selected how you want to pursue your MSW. CSWE-accredited programs follow industry-accepted standards and best practices, equipping you with skills and competencies that will prepare you for a successful post-graduate career. Most states require applicants to graduate from a CSWE-accredited program to complete the academic criteria for licensure.
A master’s degree in social work can lead to various professional prospects that would not have been available otherwise. Obtaining an MSW can open doors to careers in multiple contexts, from healthcare to organizations. Specific social work licenses, which are commonly required for many professions in the industry, also require an MSW.
- Completing the ASWB Exam
Most states need applicants to pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Social Work Licensing exam and any required jurisprudence exams to become licensed as a social worker. To register for the ASWB exam, students may need authorization from their state’s social work board. You should check specific examination requirements with your state board.
The ASWB offers four different levels of social work exams: bachelor’s, master’s, advanced generalist, and clinical. There is a minimum educational requirement for each, and each exam consists of 170 multiple choice questions that vary in difficulty and topic content. Your scope of practice is determined mainly by the sort of license you obtain.
- Apply for Licensure as a Social Worker in Your State
To start working as a licensed social worker, you’ll need to receive social work licensing in your state once you’ve finished the school and examination requirements. Licensing requirements are in place to ensure that social workers meet specific needs and are qualified based on essential standards. Because each state and the District of Columbia have their certification and licensing systems, you should look into the exact criteria for the state where you intend to work.
See our state-by-state list below if you’re seeking information about social work license requirements in your state. You can find more details about licensure alternatives, supervisory requirements, ongoing education, and other topics here. Individual state regulations, such as licensure standards, exam eligibility, and eligible pathways, will vary and are subject to change and may fluctuate depending on personal student histories. Students should conduct their research and decide the best path and license type.
- Begin Career as a Social Worker
You’ll be allowed to start working after obtaining the proper licensure from your state. Social workers can operate in various locations and roles, and they have a wide range of career options. Your hobbies, interests, and talents should guide the job path you take.
- Complete Continuing Education Requirements
To renew and maintain your social worker license, you must complete continuing education units in accordance with your jurisdiction’s standards. State requirements differ. Some mandate that social workers complete a set number of hours of continuing education, while others demand that they finish specific courses. It’s critical to look into the continuing education requirements for your license. The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) has more comprehensive information on license renewal requirements.
A Ph.D. degree in social work is an option for social workers who want to continue their studies. Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees in social work are available to students. A DSW is for people who want to continue their profession as social workers after completing their MSW. A Ph.D. is often for those who want to work in academia or research.
For those who want to continue their study, credentials such as those issued by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) are a realistic choice. These programs may enable social workers to broaden their knowledge and abilities in specialized fields.
Social work is a fulfilling career choice for many people. Working as a social worker may be a good fit for you if you appreciate assisting others in reaching their goals in life despite the difficulties they face. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social work will add 89,200 jobs between 2020 and 2030. Specialty areas will have different job prospects. Healthcare social workers’ employment is predicted to expand at 12 percent over the next decade, much outpacing the overall social work job growth rate.