The gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow in America. As poverty and unemployment continue to rise, so too do other chronic social ills like substance abuse, mental illness, and violence. Civilizations are often measured by how they tend to these problems. And social workers are on the front lines, working for solutions to society's ills and giving of their time and energy to provide resources and life improvements to these most vulnerable members of our communities.
If you feel a strong desire to make a difference in your community and in the life of someone in need, than perhaps a career in social work is the right fit for you. The following course will walk you through the steps to become a licensed social worker.
Social work is not easy work. You need to be willing to work odd hours, to work with people who are often deemed difficult, and to bear the burdens of the most vulnerable members of your community. Social work can take a toll, but it is deeply rewarding when you can see positive change in someone else’s life. The following sources will provide you with an overview to the profession of social work and what key components are needed if you are to become a successful social worker.
There are many different career paths in social work. While there are some administrative roles, most all social workers deal directly with clients. So regardless of the field you choose, you are most likely to interact with people. In order to begin to explore what fields of social work might be fit for you, we have provided the following sources that list various social work careers, offer statistics on some of those fields’ pay, and offer some profiles on a day in the life of a various social workers. There is also a helpful article on forecasting the increased need for social workers in light of recent healthcare reforms.
The first step toward becoming a social worker is obtaining a bachelors degree in social work. The BSW will open the door to both further education (like a Masters in Social Work or a Doctorate in Social Work) and to entry level job opportunities as a social worker. The following sources will provide an overview of the Bachelor of Social Work degree, how much you should expect to spend to obtain one, and which schools are ranked as the best for this field.
If after completing your BSW you are interested to pursue further education, the next step is to obtain a Masters of Social Work degree. The MSW opens up the possibility of moving into higher paying and more long-term social work careers. It also will allow you to move into entry level administrative and managerial roles. There are both good online and tradition MSW programs, so make sure to look for a program that best fits your goals and life needs. The following sources will provide a sense of what you can expect to earn with a MSW, what new career options are available with this degree, which schools are considered the best, and which are the best online options.
Though it is not necessary in order to have a successful career in social work, there are some social work jobs that require a doctorate. There are two paths the doctorate can take: the Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) and the PhD. The DSW is aimed at practitioners and will open up further career opportunities working in the field of social work. The PhD is a research degree and will prepare you to become train the next generation of social workers. The following sources outline these two degrees in more depth, outline the costs and time involved in these degrees, and should help you begin to determine if this level of education is right for you.
Before any student is ready to start a career in social work, he or she must first have experience applying what they learn in the classroom to a real-life environment. Most social work degree programs require students to undergo a period of field placement. These are opportunities to experience the real challenges, functions, and responsibilities of social workers. Internships are also important, and can greatly increase one’s ability to secure a desirable job. The sources below will walk your through the process of field placement, offer tips on how to make those successful, and provide tools for finding and securing a social work internship.
Obtaining an education in social work is like every other college degree: it’s expensive. To alleviate that, there are a wealth of scholarship and loan repayment programs aimed to help social workers. The following sources outline some of these sources of funding. Be sure to spend time with the National Association of Social Workers site, as they outline the loan forgiveness program for social workers, which if you qualify, will mean that you obtained your education for free.
The final step in becoming a social is to obtain your license. The license in social work demonstrates to employers that you have passed benchmarks for social work proficiency and ethical standards. Licensing requirements vary from state to state, so it is important to carefully consider the requirements for the state you wish to work in. The following sources explain how licensing works on instructions for each state’s set of criteria.
The final step in becoming a social worker is to find your first job. As with any job, it is important to know how to find listings, build professional networks, craft resumes and cover letters, and perform well in your interviews. The following sources outline these points specifically for social workers. Smith College has provided a robust document (PDF) that outlines several tips for social workers seeking their first job, and Inter Match posts routinely posts entry-level jobs for social workers.