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Social workers are men and women who provide direct counseling services and find resources to help people overcome difficult life situations. They work in schools, private counseling practices, government agencies, substance abuse treatment centers, and other institutions that provide help to people in need. The job requires extensive knowledge about sociological, psychological, legal, and economic principles, which can be gained by earning a college degree and obtaining social worker certification. In most states and countries, individuals must complete about two years of supervised clinical work and pass extensive exams in order to receive social worker certification.
The first step in earning social worker certification is graduating from an accredited university or college. A prospective social worker might major in psychology, sociology, or human services, and some schools even offer programs explicitly in social work. A four-year bachelor's degree is sufficient to find entry-level employment in many social work agencies, though most prospective workers choose to pursue master's or doctoral degrees to better prepare for their eventual careers.
While enrolled in an advanced degree program in social work, a student usually has the opportunity to supplement his or her classroom studies with a clinical internship at a government agency, school office, or other social work setting. He or she gets to learn firsthand the fundamentals of social work, the laws and restrictions involved, and the different types of clients that require services. Upon successful completion of an internship, a student can receive his or her degree and begin pursuing social worker certification.
Graduates usually work under the supervision of established social workers for about two years or 3000 clinical hours. They often work with smaller or easier cases at first, and move on to more complex work as they gain experience in the field. Depending on the state or country of employment, success over the supervisory period may be enough to gain social worker certification. Many settings, however, require experienced social workers to pass licensing or certification tests which measure their understanding of the job, ethics, and legal procedures.
In addition to licensing requirements, many people choose to gain additional, voluntary social worker certification from other organizations, such as the National Association of Social workers in the United States. Individuals can obtain memberships in such organizations and pass certification exams in order to further improve their credentials and chances of finding good jobs. With experience and certification, social workers often enjoy rewarding, meaningful careers in which they can change and save lives on a regular basis.