To become a hospital social worker takes time and effort. In the past, this field didn’t always have unified standards or requirements, but increasingly, requirements for most social worker jobs in hospitals are the same. Those wishing to become a hospital social worker need a master’s degree in social work (MSW), and they will either be working on their training hours to become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), or already possess this license. Higher pay and greater job opportunities are available to the LCSW, but many people complete requirements for this license, while getting licensure hours.
The person who wants to become a hospital social worker might give some thought to an appropriate undergraduate degree. Many MSW programs don’t require a bachelor’s degree in social work, though it is not a bad choice, so one possibility is to get degree in a field related to medicine. Some people become registered nurses or major in public health or a life science.
Others take widely disparate degrees in the liberal arts, mathematics, or business. Whatever the degree, students are more competitive for MSW programs if they have performed considerable community service. Paid or volunteer work that serves the community could be of great use when applying for MSW programs. All students, no matter what their major, should take a statistics class that includes instruction in analysis of variance (ANOVA).
The next step to become a hospital social worker is to apply to various MSW programs. Some programs have specific concentration on hospital social work, while others are more general. It may be worthwhile to find those programs where, at the very least, there are electives that could help prepare the social worker for this field. Students should probably avoid those programs that specifically veer away from instruction in being a hospital social worker by concentrating elsewhere. Colleges may have different concentrations, and one good concentration to look for is a focus on geriatrics, since many older adults have increasing need for hospital care.
An MSW usually involves work placement, and students might have some choices in the type of placements they get. Wherever choice is given, the person who wants to become a hospital social worker should look for those placements that will be most similar to eventual work. This isn’t always possible, and another way to focus is to concentrate any papers or theses written on social work within the hospital setting.
After graduating, students seek paid work that helps them obtain the more than 3000 hours of experience they need for licensing. It’s advisable to find this work in a hospital setting. There are supervised jobs that prepare people to claim experience after they get their licenses. If those jobs aren’t immediately available, starting work elsewhere and keeping an eye out for hospital jobs is a good plan. Ultimately, hospitals prefer LCSWs with hospital experience, so it’s important that people keep looking for appropriate work, before or after getting a license.