Choosing to work as a social worker means contributing to major and noble causes within your community and the international communities. Social work deals with the most troublesome aspects of a society that typically go ignored. It is what makes this profession so important and much in demand.
It allows you to stand for those who cannot stand for themselves and support the weak and vulnerable of society who have no one to turn to. It helps you realize that there is more satisfaction in giving than receiving and humbles you by exposing you to multifaceted societies.
Whether you want to work with kids, elders, homeless people, or those facing mental health issues or addiction and abuse, you would require a professional degree in social work. If you step into the field without a degree, you may need to earn one from an accredited institute to further your job prospects.
There has been an increasing demand for social workers in the US due to the increasing societal problems. Many NGOs, governmental organizations, charities, and clinics lack the necessary supply of social workers to work on extensive cases.
Due to the demand and supply gap, those entering the social work field can expect a higher payout ratio. Let us look into how you can focus your efforts in the right direction.
1. Complete Your Master’s Degree In Social Work
Whatever Bachelor’s degree you hold, you are eligible to secure admission in CSWE-accredited online MSW programs to expand your career horizon. Acquiring a master’s degree accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is also important to obtain social work licensure in the state you want to work in.
Your online Master’s program will equip you with the practical skills you would require in the field. It can offer you a mentored internship program to gain relevant experience and apply what you have learned throughout the program. It is because social work requires simultaneously dealing with unique situations and different people.
Although you may learn these skills from experience, a study program will prepare you for what to expect during your experience so that you know what you are dealing with.
2. Complete Your Fieldwork Hour Requirements
After obtaining your Master’s degree in social work, you must complete a certain number of hours of training to get the license for independent practice. The number of hours required may differ for different States. However, MSW programs typically require 900 hours or more to complete field training. Make sure to check the fieldwork required hours by the licensure board of your desired state.
It is your training program where you get to observe and learn from experts in the field. Ensure you thoroughly understand field placements during your training and schedule, and finalize your interview with a potential field mentor.
Also, make sure that your placement site is a good match and works for you. During your training, do not hesitate to step outside your comfort zone. You may realize that you enjoy working with people you have not associated with before. It encourages your professional growth.
3. Complete ASWB Examination
The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) is a social work licensing examination that you must pass to obtain a social work license in your state, including any additional required jurisprudence examination.
To register for the exam, students may require prior approval from the social work board. If there are any specific examination requirements, it is best to check with the board beforehand.
There are different levels of examinations issued by the ASWB according to the type of license you want to pursue. There is a Bachelor’s level exam, a Master’s level, and a Clinical and Advanced Generalist. Each has a minimum educational requirement and includes 170 multiple-choice questions, which may vary according to the difficulty, subject matter, and scope of practice.
4. Apply For The State Social Work Licensure
While not all social workers require licensure,those who work directly with individuals typically do. It is also another way to advance your training, maximize your abilities and strengthen your credibility in the field.
Find a place of work that offers support for your licensure application process. It can include several supervised working hours that will count towards your practical experience to gain licensure. You have to work under the supervision of another licensed social worker to qualify for obtaining licensure and pass the licensure examination.
Individual State requirements, level of education, and experience required may vary and are subject to change by the licensure board regarding the eligibility and pathways of different student backgrounds. To determine your best fit, you must conduct due diligence to assess your appropriate path to obtaining the licensure.
5. Select Your Social Work Career Pathway
You can choose to go for clinical work, macro social work, school social work, or medical social work.
Clinical work within the capacity of social work requires the ability to deal with mental illnesses and help patients cope with their conditions. You can even start your private practice under this wing.
Macro social work entails creating and implementing policies to uplift and improve the social work field. They ensure that the required resources are accessible to the social worker community as and when required.
School social work does not just involve collaborating with school students, their families, and school staff members. They address various social problems prevalent in schools and work to eliminate them. They may work on a single project for the long-term and then assess its implementation and introduce improvements along the way.
Medical social workers typically work in medical centers, hospitals, clinics, and outpatient and in-patient or community health centers. They coordinate with people of all ages and backgrounds in their work settings. They even help patients navigate the complexity of the medical bureaucracy and make the process simpler for them.
If you plan to enter the social work field, you must be aware of the process and areas of expertise in which you can expand your practice.
The first step requires obtaining a master’s degree in social work. Then you must complete your supervised field training of typically 900 hours or more. Complete your ASWB examination and other jurisdiction requirements to be eligible to apply for the State social worker licensure.
Lastly, it would help if you chose your social worker career path to begin your practice. Once you have built your career, there are numerous ways and opportunities to grow in the field.