A bunch of social workers gather together for a group picture

How to Become a Social Worker

A social worker is an individual who works with people to help them solve simple to complex familial and societal problems by providing them with the necessary coping mechanisms during times of great stress. These individuals help to solve a myriad of societal issues, ranging from family and domestic issues, behavioral issues, mental illness, and helping those who are experiencing financial difficulties.

Social workers are employed in a variety of professional fields. Some are employed by state, local, and federal government and human services agencies, private companies, non-profits, hospitals, clinics, universities, schools, and other educational institutions. In order to become a social worker, you would need to first find an accredited social work program at a college or university. Depending on your state's licensing requirements, once you obtain your bachelor's in social work you can begin your career in social work, bearing that your bachelor's degree program provides you with your social work license. If you already have your undergraduate degree in a field outside of social work and would like to become a social worker, you would need to pursue your master's degree in social work.

The benefits of receiving your master's degree in social work is advantageous for multiple reasons. Although most states' baccalaureate programs furnish licenses in social work to their students, a master's degree allows students to practice in every state. Additionally, a graduate degree allows students to pursue a more specialized course of study relevant to their perspective career path. For students seeking to work in a clinical setting, a master's degree is a mandatory pre-requisite. In addition to the educational requirement for social workers, after completing your degree, you would need to gain experience in the field.

Depending on your state's requirements, as well as your school's program requirements, most students will need to work two to three years under a supervised work environment. If you are seeking a position in a clinical setting, you can be sure that this will be a pre-requisite to your employment, along with your master's degree. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the requirements necessary to enter this field, there may be some alternative routes to work in this field.

Groups like AmeriCorps and the United Way sometimes allow people to volunteer in fields closely related to social work, in order to get an idea of what this field entails. Additionally, you can always take in a job in a human services field. However, without the proper education and credentials, your duties in that role will be limited.

If you decide that this rewarding field is something you wish to pursue, in addition to getting the proper education, you must be sure that you have the right personality. All in all, social work is about helping people, so you must have the heart to serve individuals in times of need. 

Last Updated: April 15, 2015