How Do I Become a Social Worker Trainee?

Lainie Petersen

To become a social worker trainee, you will first need to research the laws in your area regarding the licensing of trainee social workers. If you find that your area requires trainees to hold a government license, you will need to complete that process, which may include completing educational requirements, passing a written exam, and submitting to a background check. Some areas don’t offer a trainee license. In such cases, you will still need to meet the requirements of an employer, which may be very similar to those established by licensing agencies, before you can become a social worker trainee.

A psychiatric social worker usually has an advanced degree in psychiatry.
A psychiatric social worker usually has an advanced degree in psychiatry.

In some areas, social work students who are fulfilling school and professional licensing work experience requirements must meet licensing requirements to become a social worker trainee before beginning their supervised practice. In other cases, departments of social services or private charities may hire entry-level workers as trainees before promoting them to more advanced positions. If you want to become social worker trainee as part of your academic training or preparations to become a licensed social worker, you should contact your academic adviser for information on licensing and finding a trainee position. You may need to have completed several years of a bachelor’s or master’s degree program in social work prior to being eligible to become a social worker trainee.

Becoming a social worker trainee may require an individual to possess various credentials.
Becoming a social worker trainee may require an individual to possess various credentials.

If your plan is to apply for a trainee position directly with an employer, keep in mind that each employer will have its own eligibility requirements. Some may require you to hold at least a bachelor’s degree, though there may be some flexibility with regards to your major. For example, you may not be required to hold a degree specifically in social work, but may only need to earn a degree in a human services or social sciences major, such as psychology, criminal justice, or sociology. Government employers, in particular, may require you to take an exam as a condition of being offered work. While you may eventually be able to receive a promotion within your agency or organization, you may need to complete additional education, often at the postgraduate level, if you want to eventually be licensed and employed as a full social worker.

Depending on your job placement, you may need to hold other credentials to become a social worker trainee. These credentials may include having a driver’s license or completing educational courses on pertinent topics, such as HIV prevention or reporting suspected cases of abuse to the authorities. In some cases, these requirements are established by your employer, while in other cases the licensing agency that issues your credentials may mandate their completion.

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Discussion Comments


@rundocuri- You really need to encourage your niece to go to college if she wants to pursue a job in the field of social work. Without a bachelor's or master's degree in the field, the social work positions that will be available to her will be very limited. She may be able to work as a case worker, at best, without a degree from an accredited college. She will also not have a lot of mobility in the job market, since few agencies and organizations hire people without degrees for social work positions.

Another important point that your niece should think about is pay. If she works in a human services job without a bachelor's or master's degree, she will not earn a lot of money. Her chances for advancement in the field will also be very limited.

With a college degree in social work, your niece will be able to make a good salary and have many job opportunities so she will not end up stuck in a limited position that she doesn't like. It is also very likely that she will enjoy social work training, and learn a great deal about the field while she pursues her degree.


Is it worth it to work in the field of social work without an advanced college degree? I have a niece who wants to work in the field, but doesn't want to go to college. She is thinking about applying for work at the human services office in her area, and work her way up to a job she likes. What advice should I give her?

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