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How do I Become a Mental Health Social Worker?

Article Details
  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 26 August 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2019
    Conjecture Corporation
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The requirements you’ll have to meet to become a mental health social worker may depend on the jurisdiction in which you hope to work. In many places, however, bachelor’s or master’s degrees are required. You may also be required to complete many hours of field work before you can be licensed as a mental health social worker in your jurisdiction. Many places require aspiring social workers to pass licensing exams as well.

In most jurisdictions, you will need a bachelor’s degree, at minimum, to become a mental health social worker. You may pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work or a closely-related major to be qualified for a job as a mental health social worker. Some employers, however, prefer applicants who have earned master’s degrees in social work or a closely-related subject. Even if only a bachelor's degree is required for a particular position, however, continuing your education beyond the undergraduate level may help you to stand out among other job candidates.

Besides education, you will likely have to complete field work in order to qualify for a job as a mental health social worker. Many degree programs specify the credits you’ll have to earn as well as a specific number of hours of field work required to graduate. For example, some programs require degree candidates to complete 400 hours of social work before graduation. The field work is typically supervised.

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While you may secure an entry-level position as a mental health social worker with a bachelor’s degree, there are some positions for which you will typically need a master’s degree. For example, you may need a master’s degree to find clinical social work employment or to land a job in social work administration. Field work is usually required to earn a master’s degree in social work as well. In fact, some master's degree programs require students to spend more than twice the amount of time in field work as is required for a bachelor’s degree.

Many jurisdictions also have requirements a person must meet to become a mental health social worker that are entirely separate from those a degree program sets. For example, many jurisdictions require more supervised field work than is required for most degrees. On the other hand, some jurisdictions also offer different types of social work licenses. This means you may have the opportunity to be licensed for some types of social work right after completing college.

Licensing requirements may differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but many have exams social worker candidates must pass. If an exam is required in your jurisdiction, you will usually have to take it after earning your degree and meeting your jurisdiction’s field work requirement. If you pass, you will be licensed to become a mental health social worker.

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