How to Become a Social Worker in 4 Simple Steps

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What is a Social Worker?

Before we start talking about the education needed and answer the question “How to become a social worker?” let’s first examine the nature of this profession.

A broad definition for social workers is that it is a profession with different kinds of professionals who serve people in need.

In reality social workers work with people that are passing through difficulties and make sure to help and support them.

They also have to ensure that vulnerable groups like children are safe.

The daily duties of a social worker include:

  • Working along with other professionals and evaluate patient’s physical and medical condition.
  • Referring patients to community resources like hospitals, legal aid, housing, financial aid, education and job placement.
  • Investigating cases of child abuse and take measures like authorized protection if required.
  • Discharging patients from care facility to another one or their home
  • Evaluating a patient’s progress during his treatment.
  • Consulting patients in group or individual sessions and help them recover from illnesses, overcome addictions and recover to a “normal” life
  • Organizing patients’ family members to support groups and help them understand and deal with the patients’ problems.

If you want to follow this profession you will need to have excellent communication skills. You have to make people feel comfortable talking to you about their problems and actively listen to them.

You will also need good observation and problem solving skills because sometimes patients won’t talk about their problems so you will have to understand them by observation.

Social workers work mostly full time and their work-space is community establishments like: hospital, schools, voluntary organizations, non-profit organizations, patients’ homes and correctional institutes.

The average salary of a social worker is $59,100
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Social worker Specializations

According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) there are 10 specialty sections on the field.

Administration or Supervision Social Workers

Administration Social Workers don’t focus on particular clients but they are responsible for the well-being of the system on the organization they work at.

Their work is to evaluate existing programs, work on budgets, identify problematic areas of a program, come with a solution and try to design a program that will fit the needs of the community.

Aging Social Workers

With the huge growth of the number of adults over 65 years old the demand for healthcare and social working systems have grown over the last years.

Aging social workers who are approximately 5% of the social working population, help seniors and their families to overcome problems and maintain well-being.

Social workers work as supporters for older people providing a link between them and the services they need.

The goal of aging social workers is to provide seniors with autonomy, dignity and independence.

Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Social Workers

Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Social workers work is to help patients overcome their addiction problems.

They refer patients to rehab centers, monitor their progress, and support them and their family during this difficult process.

After the patients exit rehab social workers help fitting them in the society and make sure they won’t relapse by providing them support.

Children, Adolescents and Young Adults Social Workers

Children, Adolescents and Young Adults Social worker’s work mostly with children and adolescents that either have family problems or problematic behaviors.

They work with the children and their family too. Their work is to prevent behaviors that can cause problems to children they also help teenagers that already have problems to overcome them.

Child Welfare Social Workers

Child Welfare Social Workers work with problematic families with the goal of protecting children that might be suffering from abuse, environment, medical needs or abandonment.

They follow federal and state laws and their overall goal is to prevent children being removed permanently from their family.

Child Welfare Social Workers are mostly employed by government agencies, profit or nonprofit organizations and schools.

Health Social Workers

Health and medical social workers work mostly at hospitals and their work is to help patients and their families to overcome the emotional, physical and financial problems that a serious illness can cause them.

They connect the patients to the resources needed and help them take important medical decisions.

Mental Health Social Workers

Mental Health social workers help patients with mental health problems.

They provide short and long term solutions to patients and their families.

They mostly work at hospitals, mental health institutes and rehabilitation centers.

They provide patients with resources and assets like medical options to discharge plans.

School Social Workers

As their name disclose they work at school helping students with all kinds of problems.

They help children that have experienced abuse and trauma, counsel students that are experiencing grief for the death of a family member or friend and provide parents with the resources needed when their child is suffering from a chronic mental illness.

Social Justice Workers

Social justice means that all the members of a society deserve equal political, social, and economical rights.

Their work is to create opportunities for everyone especially those in greatest need.

For example, if they are working with homeless people they make sure to give to their clients’ access to healthcare shelters and food stamps.

Social Work and the Courts

The work of Courts’ social workers is to represent for free clients that cannot afford an attorney.
What is a Social Worker

Becoming a Social Worker

Step 1: High School Preparation

High School Courses for Social Workers

Communication Classes

As we mentioned before social workers need to have excellent communication skills as they will be talking with patients daily.

They have to make them feel comfortable and talk about their problems.

They also have to report in detail about what they learned to the agencies and organizations they work for.

So we strongly recommend to take as much as communication classes possible like rhetoric, debate and speech.

Math and Science Classes

Take science classes and especially social science classes.

Social workers monitor data and convey scientific information so science classes will help you for sure.

Also take math classes like statistics and probability if possible.

Psychology

Psychology is a component of social workers’ routine and education, but having a basic knowledge of psychology will also help you with your studies.

So take every course available in psychology and human behavior.

Language

With the growing Hispanic population in the USA speaking Spanish this will help you to be able to communicate effectively with Spanish speaking persons.

Volunteering

A really smart thing to do when in high school is to work voluntarily. Universities give a lot of credit at volunteering as it proves to them that you are committed to this profession.

Volunteering will also let you know if you really want to follow this career as you will see how it is to be a social worker in real life.

So find a local community or non-profit organization and ask them to help.

Before you choose which courses you will attend at high school you better contact the university you would like to attend and ask their high school admission requirements.

Step 2: Get a Social Worker’s Undergraduate Degree

Associate of Social Work Degree program 2 years

These are 60 to 90 semester credit hours programs that can be completed mostly on campus.

It is easy to get accepted at program like that as you will only need a high school diploma or a GED.

Associate of Social Work Degree program is a great option for those who want to enter a Bachelor of Social Work Degree program and didn’t fulfill the admission requirements as high school graduates as a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for social workers when job-hunting.

Curriculum

General Education Requirements (20 – 30 Credits)

  • English Composition I
  • English Composition II
  • College Algebra
  • Pre-Calculus
  • Calculus I
  • American Literature I
  • American Literature II
  • Introduction to Ethics
  • Philosophy of Art
  • World Religions
  • Theater Appreciation
  • Elementary Spanish
  • Intermediate Spanish I
  • Principles of Chemistry I
  • Principles of Chemistry II
  • Introductory Physics
  • American Government
  • United States History I
  • United States History II
  • Introduction to Criminal Justice

Core Courses (19 – 28 Credits)

  • Introduction to Statistics
  • Introduction to Sociology
  • Introduction to Social Work
  • Introduction to Anthropology
  • Principles of Macroeconomics
  • Introduction to General Psychology
  • Criminology
  • Introduction to Psychology of Adjustment
  • Introduction to Human Development
  • Psychology of Women
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Introduction to Social Problems
  • Introduction to Marriage and Family

Social Work Elective

  • Addicted Family Intervention
  • Pharmacology of Addiction
  • Family Intervention Strategies
  • Multicultural Counseling
  • Special Topics in Gerontology
  • Social Work and the Aging
  • Drug Use and Abuse
  • Special Problems of Youth

The cost of an Associate of Social Work Degree program is between $6,000 and $33,500.

When deciding which college or university to attend, we strongly recommend contacting them for further information and details.

Click the button below to get free info about accredited Associate’s Degree programs near you.
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Bachelor of Social Work Degree program (BSW) 4 years

These are 120 semester credit hour degrees that can be completed mostly on campus.

The admission requirements vary from college to college with some of the most commons being: have completed certain high school courses like: psychology, math and physics, have completed certain hours of volunteer work, a GPA over 2,5 and demonstrate good communication skills during the admission interview.

Curriculum

General Education Requirements (45 Credits)

  • Public Speaking
  • Writing and Research
  • Oral & Written Communication I
  • Oral & Written Communication II
  • Advanced Composition
  • Spanish
  • Literature and the Arts
  • Historical and Philosophical Perspective
  • Social and Behavioral Science
  • Principles of Chemistry I
  • Principles of Chemistry II
  • Introductory Physics
  • Cultural Studies
  • Western cultures
  • Non-Western/ U.S. minority
  • Life Science
  • Physical Science
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Statistics
  • Elements of Statistics
  • Intro to Social Statistics
  • Intro to Statistics

Core Courses (24 Credits)

  • Introduction to Social Work
  • Diversity: Identities & Issues
  • Practice I
  • Practice II
  • Practice III
  • Social Welfare Policies and Services
  • Social Work Research Methods
  • Human Development
  • Prof Practice Seminar I
  • Field Practicum
  • Professional Practice Seminar II

Elective Courses (21 – 32 Credits)

  • Undergraduate Research Assistance
  • Social Entree & Social Change
  • International Perspectives
  • Social Work and the Military
  • Current Topics in Social Work (may be repeated)
  • Social Services for the Aged
  • Child Welfare Issues & Trends
  • Independent Study
  • Substance Use in Social Context
  • Undergraduate Research Abroad
  • Undergraduate Research Project

The cost of Bachelor of Social Work Degree program ranges between $22,500 and $139,800.

When deciding which college or university to attend, we strongly recommend contacting them for further information and details.

Click the button below to get free info about accredited Bachelor of Social Work Degree programs near you.
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Step 3: Get a Social Worker Graduate Degree

Master of Social Work program 2 years

These are 60 to 90 semester credit hours graduate programs that can be completed either on campus or online.

In order to get accepted at a master of social work program you will need a Bachelor of Social Work Degree or another liberal arts concentration bachelor’s degree with specific courses completed.

A lot of master’s programs on the second year offer different concentrations depending on the specialization you want to choose, if they don’t offer this you can choose the specialty you like from the elective courses.

It is almost required to get a master’s degree to follow a successful career at this profession.

Curriculum

Core Courses

  • Social Policy I: Policy and the Profession
  • Social Policy II: Analysis, Advocacy and Practice
  • Human Rights and Social Justice
  • Human Behavior and the Social Environment I
  • Human Behavior and the Social Environment II
  • Generalist Practice I with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations and Communities
  • Social Work Practice in Research I
  • Social Work Practice in Research II
  • Field Work I (Yearlong)
  • Field Practicum Laboratory Course for Students in the Experienced and Employed Social Service Practitioners

Clinical Practice Concentration

  • Clinical Social Work Practice I
  • Seminar in Clinical Social Work Practice.
  • Clinical Social Work Practice II with Children, Youth and Families
  • Clinical Social Work Practice II with Adults and Families
  • Advanced Clinical Assessment and Diagnosis I
  • Advanced Clinical Assessment and Diagnosis II
  • Field Work II (Yearlong)
  • Combined Field Work (Yearlong)

Elective Courses

  • Child Abuse and Family Violence
  • Death and Dying
  • Spirituality and Social Work Practice
  • Meeting the Challenges of Poverty: Capacity Building with Faith Communities
  • Family-Oriented Treatment
  • Crisis Intervention and Trauma Treatment
  • Social Work with Children
  • Practice with Older People and Their Families
  • Practice with Abusers of Alcohol and Other Substances
  • Social Work Practice in Schools
  • Individual-Oriented Treatment
  • Women’s Issues in Social Work Practice
  • Brief Treatment: Current Models
  • Social Work Practice with Adolescents
  • Methods of Group Intervention
  • Relational Practice with Children, Adolescents and Adults
  • Evidence Based Mental Health Practice
  • Spirituality and Clinical Practice
  • Trauma Treatment for Children and Adolescents
  • Social Work Practice with Hispanic/Latino(a)s
  • Social Work Practice with LGBT Individuals
  • Evidence Based Mental Health Practice with Children and Families

Leadership and Macro Practice Concentration

  • Social Policy Analysis for Macro Practitioners
  • Philanthropy and Resource Development
  • Clinical Practice II with Adults and Families
  • Clinical Practice II with Children, Youth and Families
  • Leadership and Macro Practice I
  • Leadership and Macro Practice II
  • Clinical Social Work Practice I
  • Field Work II (Yearlong)

Elective Courses

  • Practice in the Workplace
  • Community Organization and Community Capacity Building
  • Supervision and Staff Development
  • Program and Proposal Development
  • Students learn, step-by-step, to develop and prepare proposals, design programs, seek
  • International Social Development and Capacity Building in a Global Context
  • Comparative International Social Welfare

Electives if there is no Concentration offered

  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Forensic Social Work
  • Evidence Based Mental Health Practice
  • Trauma Theory and Treatment
  • Solution Focused Practice
  • Gender Issues
  • Psychopathology
  • Multicultural Issues in Social Work
  • People with Developmental Disabilities and Their Families
  • Personality Disorders
  • Responding to Refugees/Immigrants
  • Addiction and the Family
  • Practice with Lesbian/Gay/Bi/Trans Populations
  • Working with Adult Survivors of Sexual Abuse
  • Spirituality in Social Work
  • Childhood Stress, Risk and Resilience
  • EMDR
  • Agency Grant Writing
  • Community Development and Change
  • Play Therapy
  • Behavior Disorders of Childhood
  • Public School Social Work
  • Responding to Disasters with SW Interventions
  • Loss and Grief across the Life Course
  • International Social Work
  • Advanced Seminar in Trauma
  • Professional Writing and Documentation for Social Work Practice
  • Human Sexuality for Social Workers
  • Core Concepts in Child and Adolescent Trauma
  • Special Topics, Introduction to Veteran and Family Care
  • Special Topics, Raising Our Technology IQ to Enhance Clinical Social Work Practice
  • Trauma Informed Child Welfare Practice
  • Social Work Practice with Veterans and Families
  • Disability and Human Rights through the Lens of Social Work and Law
  • Special Topics, Community Social Work in Action

The cost of a Master of Social Work program is between $33,500 and $83,500.

When deciding which college or university to attend, we strongly recommend contacting them for further information and details.

Click the button below to get free info about accredited Master’s Degree programs near you.
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Step 4: Get Social worker licensing

Some states require social workers being licensed. There are several types of licensure depending on the degree level.

Bachelor’s Degree licensing

Requirements

Bachelor of Social Work Degree from a program accredited by Council on Social Work Education

Examination

A written 170 multiple choice questions with four options to choose from test that should be completed in four hours.

Cost: $230

Master’s Degree licensing

Requirements

Masters of Social Work Degree from a program accredited by Council on Social Work Education. No post-degree working experience

Examination

A written 170 multiple choice questions with four options to choose from test that should be completed in four hours.

Cost: $230

Advanced Generalist licensing

Requirements

Master’s of Social Work Degree from a program accredited by Council on Social Work Education. 2 years of post-degree supervised working experience.

Examination

A written 170 multiple choice questions with four options to choose from test that should be completed in four hours.

Cost: $260

Clinical licensing

Requirements

Masters of Social Work Degree accredited by Council on Social Work Education. 2 years of post-degree supervised clinical social working experience.

Examination

A written 170 multiple choice questions with four options to choose from test that should be completed in four hours.

Cost: $260

How Long Does it Take to Become a Social Worker and How Much  Does it Cost?

Option 1: Associate’s Degree

Degree Time Cost
Associates Degree2 years$6,000 - $33,500
Certification 1 month$230 - $260
Total 2 years & 1 month $6,230 - $33,760

Option 2: Bachelor’s Degree

Degree Time Cost
Bachelor’s 4 years$22,500 - $139,800
Certification 1 month $230 - $260
Total 4 years & 1 month$22,730 - $140,060

Option 3: Master’s Degree

DegreeTime Cost
Bachelor’s 4 years$22,500 - $139,800
Master's2 years$33,500 - $83,500
Certification1 month $230 - $260
Total6 years $56, 230 - $223, 560
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