How Do I Become a School Social Worker?

Lainie Petersen

To become a school social worker, you will typically need to complete the requirements for licensure as a social worker in your jurisdiction. In some areas, you will also be expected to complete a separate licensing or certification process to be able to work as a social worker in primary or secondary schools. Depending on where you live, this process may require the completion of a bachelor's or a master's degree in social work, and you may also be expected to complete a period of supervised practice before receiving full credentialing as a school social worker.

A school social worker working with a teen.
A school social worker working with a teen.

In the United States and in many other countries, social work is a licensed profession. While there are unlicensed individuals who may perform various types of casework within institutions and social service organizations, the designation of social worker is typically reserved for those who have completed a credentialing process and have received a licensed to practice from a government agency. If you want to become a school social worker, you will usually need to meet the credentialing requirements for becoming a social worker in your area. In the United States, social workers may be credentialed if they hold a bachelor of social work (BSW) or a master of social work (MSW) degree. Although a doctorate in social work is available, it is not typically a requirement for licensure, but may afford you greater career advancement opportunities, particularly if you wish to work in administration.

After receiving your social work degree from a school that is recognized by the social worker licensing agency in your area, you will need to apply for your license to practice. You may be required to pass an exam as well as a background check in order to receive your license. Once you do this, you may be able to become a school social worker right away simply by applying to a school. In some areas, you may need to complete an additional licensing program. This program may require you to complete additional education or to work under the supervision of a credentialed school social worker in an educational setting.

Even if you are not required to get an additional license in order to become a school social worker, you may wish to pursue additional training so as to receive certification from a recognized social work professional organization. You will typically be asked to complete continuing education courses and to demonstrate significant experience in school social work. Once you receive this certification, you may be eligible for professional advancement within your field as well as jobs in school districts that require such certification.

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