How To Become A Social Worker
Social workers do invaluable work that impacts people of all backgrounds. As such, it’s a career option that best suits those who value social welfare and social justice and enjoy variety in their day-to-day life. However, it is also a job that requires training and specific qualifications. To start on a social work career path, you will need to be passionate and dedicated.
The good news is that prospective social workers have plenty of scopes to rise the ranks. For those who love their job, there may, for example, be an opportunity to qualify as a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). Also known as social workers), they specifically assist people struggling with mental illness. Or, if you don’t have the relevant education behind you, you might instead choose to be a social service assistant.
Regardless of which path you wish to take, an online social work course is the best place to start. Then, using the career resources below, you’ll find all the steps to becoming a social worker you need to take.
What is social work?
According to the National Association of Social Workers, social work practice boils down to the following four things:
Helping people to access the services they need.
Providing individuals, families, and groups with counseling and psychotherapy.
Improving social and health services within communities.
Assisting with legislative processes.
There are also several social work fields in which you can specialize. These include health social work, family social work, child welfare social work, geriatric social work, and education welfare.
To work in any one of these roles, you will need at least a bachelor's degree in social work. However, the requirements are far less stringent if you want to assist a social worker in these specialties.
What is a clinical social worker?
Of course, as mentioned earlier, you could also choose to become a clinical social worker. As this is an advanced social work field, aspirants must complete master's degrees in social work. After obtaining their social work MSW, they have to earn the appropriate license to practice from their state.
As a master social worker operating in the clinical sector, a person must assess, diagnose, and treat mental health issues. Licensed clinical social workers will also know how to prevent mental illness and emotional or behavioral problems.
What does a social worker do?
There is no one stock career in social work. As such, the exact responsibilities will depend on the type of social work involved.
For example, a family social worker might deal with child abuse or work with families to improve stability. Meanwhile, a mental health social worker may focus on helping the emotionally unwell become more independent.
But, no matter what area of social work you enter into, you will have to carry out the following tasks:
Interviewing individuals, families, and groups.
Providing counseling and psychotherapy.
Signposting to relevant resources and support.
Making decisions to improve prospects for an individual, family, or group.
Creating packages to support people once released from care.
Giving evidence in court.
Social work degrees cover generalist social work practice, including the different roles and responsibilities. As well as a general overview of the field, students will typically choose a specialty towards the end of their degrees in social work. They tend to graduate from their social work majors knowing where their career will take them.
Key social worker skills
Understanding critical knowledge and skills is an essential part of learning how to become a social worker. You don’t just need to have a good grasp on human behavior and the range of social services available to people. You also have to be empathetic and an efficient communicator.
Where do social workers work?
The beauty of the social work profession is that it can take you to so many different establishments.
You could find yourself working for local authorities, health practices, and charities or voluntary organizations in the future. Or, you may end up working a social work job at a school, child welfare agency, or settlement house.
You could also choose to work independently, as long as you have the necessary experience behind you. However, please note that licensed clinical social workers generally have more opportunities to practice independently.
How much does a social worker make a year?
Social workers can make good money doing what they do. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the median annual pay at $51,760 in May 2020. Those in the highest-earning positions can earn just under $86,000 per year. Even social workers whose earnings were in the lowest 10% got around $33,000, more than double the American minimum wage.
How much a social worker makes depends on the social work education they receive. Remember that some social work careers are only accessible to those with higher education. Consider taking a social work assistant course if you would like to work in social care without the required degrees.
Is social work a promising career?
Social work is an excellent career for people with the right attitude and skill set. According to the National Association of Social Workers, that’s why it’s one of the fastest-growing careers in the United States. And, as the Social Work Association points out, it is an ideal choice for those with an innate desire to help people.
Unfortunately, though, it isn’t the most accessible career path. Completing a social work program requires time and money that many do not have. Before you make any final decisions on whether it’s right for you, sign up for online social work courses. They will provide you with insights that help you decide if it’s a good fit.
How do I know if social work is right for me?
In addition to doing a course online, you could go to talks and presentations to find out more about the field. Or, you could read books about social work to get a sense of the roles and requirements of the job. Then, if you feel confident it’s what you want to do, try reaching out to a licensed social worker, and they may allow you to shadow them for a day.
A course is, however, the next best option for those without supervised experience opportunities. There are plenty of online certificate programs that can teach budding social workers all they need to know. The skills taught in these programs could range from putting together treatment plans to more information on professional certifications.
The best part is that a course requires nothing more than an interest in the field and a commitment to social and economic justice. College course requirements, on the other hand, are far stricter. Instead of diving straight into years of undergraduate programs, master’s programs, and even doctoral programs, take some time to understand the field.
How long does it take to become a social worker?
Another reason not to rush into things is that it takes several years to become a social worker. First, you have to earn your bachelor of social work degree at an accredited school, and bachelor's programs may include a combination of required courses and elective courses. Either way, social work BSW degrees typically take four years of full-time study.
Then, those that want to become a licensed clinical social worker must apply for MSW degrees. Generally speaking, a social work MSW degree tends to take around two years. During this time, social work students gain more experience in both theory and practice and field education. You can find a list of degree programs on the Council on Social Work Education website, including online bachelor and online MSW programs.
It's worth pointing out that some employers will hire social workers who have a degree in a related field. Psychology, sociology, and behavioral sciences are prime examples. But, for the most part, you will be expected to have a degree from an accredited school of social work. In some specialties, you may even need to earn a doctorate in social work.
Your education will teach you all there is to know about the social work curriculum. If you want to practice, you may still need to acquire the appropriate social work licenses.
How to become a licensed social worker?
Once you are a certified social worker, you then need to become a licensed social worker. Licensing requirements vary from state to state. In many states, social workers may only practice if they have completed accredited bachelors and master of social work degrees.
Social work licensure exists to protect the people social workers serve. In other words, it helps to ensure all social workers practice using ethical standards, and that's something that a master's degree in social work is unable to screen.
Other social worker career paths
There are a wealth of career opportunities available to those who train as social workers. People who gain their masters in social work are exceptionally well-prepared for a variety of careers.
They could, for example, choose to specialize as mental health social workers. Or, they may end up becoming the field director of an organization. Advocating for social workers with the National Association of Social Workers is also a possibility.
Of course, there’s always the option to train in a related field, too. Many accredited social workers go on to work in child welfare education or substance abuse. Regardless of the end goal, the best start to these career paths is an introduction to a social work course.
All you need to know about becoming a social worker
Anyone wondering how to become a social worker would benefit from finding out more about the field. The path to becoming a social worker is relatively long and requires complete commitment. It includes in-person or online social work degrees, social work majors, and even MSW programs.
So, before embarking on a social work education, it’s worth taking a course. The Courses for Success Social Service Assistant certificate course will allow you to practice skills, conduct social work research, and learn more about generalist practice. As a student learning the theory and skills, you’ll indeed feel more confident stepping into a career in the field.
It is the ideal course for a wide range of people, including those hoping to embark on a social work BSW. It even suits people who want a social work career but don’t have the required education to qualify fully. And, the best part is that the program outcomes include a certificate of completion to prove you know your stuff.
Why Courses for Success?
Courses for Success offers over 10,000 online courses, all of which aim to help you in your personal development and career progression. Not only that, but you can also study them anywhere and at any time, and take them at your own pace, too.
You don’t need career diplomas or specific experience to get started. From our coding courses and trading courses to design courses and developer courses, every course we offer will help boost your prospects, no matter who you are.
Beyond just the education itself, students will be issued a certificate online after completing each of the learning courses they do. Our social service assistant courses are no exception. Industry leaders recognize our online social service assistant certificates, and you could make a name for yourself by signing up for a Courses for Success short course today.