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How do I Become a Social Worker?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 13 July 2018
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There is dispute over what constitutes a social worker. Sometimes a job comes with this title no matter what the person’s experience entering it. People who work for different community agencies could be termed social workers without having to study for it. Increasingly, those people who want to become a social worker may need to have more knowledge and experience. Most will need to possess a master’s degree in social work (MSW) and correspondingly a license to be a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).

Those on the path to become a social worker can start early in high school getting good grades, especially in behavioral science classes, English, and math, since statistical knowledge is important. Pre-college, there’s strong motivation to begin community service by working with agencies or organizations that help people. These experiences can help confirm interest in this field and they also make college applications more competitive.

Many people who plan to become a social worker will look for getting a degree in sociology or a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW). Many different degrees are possible, including those in psychology or anthropology. Most MSW programs don’t require a BSW, though there could be some competitive edge in possessing this degree. At the college level, it continues to be important to perform community service and volunteer work. Schools that offer the MSW will be looking for people who have this experience.

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Once accepted to an MSW program to become a social worker, and there are many from which to choose, students spend two to three more years in school. They may be asked to determine a focus on either families and children, or families and older adults. Part of the work will be studying the MSW curriculum, but another part is fieldwork. Many programs are designed to give students several hundred hours of work in the field before they graduate. Additionally, students will probably have to write a thesis and should begin scouting for topics in their first year.

Graduation is not the last step to become a social worker. Most regions mandate that social workers work at least 3000 supervised hours before they can get their licenses. It’s usually up to the graduate to find this work, though sometimes jobs can be found with a region’s board of behavioral sciences or other licensing agencies. Work should be designed so that it plays to areas of interest.

MSWs desirous of becoming psychotherapists might look for work with mental hospitals or family agencies that offer counseling services. People interested in continued community outreach could find a number of agencies in which to work. There are jobs for training social workers in the health industry, in hospitals and in a variety of other places. When a person is lucky enough to get full-time work, which isn’t always possible, they will still expect to work at least two more years before licensing, and at end of that work, they may also need to pass board examinations before they officially are licensed.

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