How do I Become a Professional Social Worker?

Carol Francois
Carol Francois
A professional social worker working with a teen.
A professional social worker working with a teen.

In order to become a professional social worker, formal post-secondary education in social work is mandatory. A social worker is someone who works to improve the quality of life and to help individuals and communities to reach their full potential. Related work experience, maintaining a professional designation or license as well as interpersonal and conflict resolution skills are all required to become a professional social worker.

Anyone who wants to become a professional social worker must be diligent, dedicated and passionate about the work. Social workers interact with a large amount of people, and someone who is outgoing and enjoys personal interaction will find more satisfaction in this career than someone who is introverted. The burnout rate for front-line social workers is very high. For this reason, many agencies rotate assignments, in order to prevent social workers from spending too much time in a specific area of social work.

A minimum of a bachelor's degree in social work is required for almost all professional social worker positions, and an increasing number of organizations expect candidates to have obtained a master's degree in social work. Most large universities have faculty members that are dedicated specifically to this field and have the resources to support dedicated research and interdisciplinary studies. The average length of time required for the education requirements is seven to eight years of full-time study.

Any work experience that is centered around helping people to overcome challenges is ideal for someone who wants to become a professional social worker. Excellent options include positions as a camp counselor, recreation leader, community activist or social worker's assistant. Positions in customer service, working in a high pressure environment and dealing with the public are also great experiences that relate directly to the skills required as a professional social worker.

Many areas require all social workers to obtain and maintain either a professional certification or a license to practice social work. The primary purpose of this requirement is to protect the community. A social worker interacts with people who are in need of support services. Through a license or professional association program, there is a method of tracking activity and ensuring that professional standards are upheld.

Interpersonal and conflict resolution skills are very important for anyone who wants to become a social worker. He or she must be able to connect and communicate with people who initially are resistant to assistance or are facing mental health issues. Dealing with conflict is part of working closely with other people, and these skills will be used daily as a social worker.

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    • A professional social worker working with a teen.
      A professional social worker working with a teen.