Becoming a social worker does not just happen overnight. You cannot wake up one morning, put on suitable working clothes, and decide to apply for a job as a social worker. As much as anyone would love to be able to magically become one, an aspiring social worker has to follow certain steps and gain certain qualifications in order to be competent enough to be involved in social work. Here are the steps to prepare and equip you to become a qualified social worker:
1. Volunteer as a social worker’s aide.
While you are still in high school and weighing your career options, you might want to volunteer as a social worker’s aide. This will give you an opportunity to get a feel of what it will be like to become a social worker and decide whether it is right for you. The firsthand experience will not only be enlightening; it might also be rewarding. This is a completely optional step as many social workers do not volunteer in social services in high school.
2. Maintain good study habits and great grades.
It is never too early to form good study habits, so why not start while you are still in high school? By establishing good study habits and maintaining a good grade point average early on, you not only assure yourself of a high chance of getting into a topnotch school; you also get an edge in the studying department while the drifters flail in college.
3. Learn a second language.
Choose a foreign language to learn in high school and continue to study it in college. Social work involves dealing with people from all walks of life, and knowing how to communicate in a second language will surely help you to reach out to your clients.
4. Do some advance research on colleges.
Prepare a list of the colleges in your preferred locations that offer social work programs. You can ask your guidance counselor for the information or by going on the internet. Ensure that these colleges are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. There are currently 430 accredited programs, and each requires the student to receive at least 400 hours of supervised field experience.
5. Scout for admissions information and applications.
You should do this well before your senior year in high school. Everyone likes to put things off for the very last minute, but for something as major as getting into the college that will help you achieve your life’s career, you should think ahead.
6. Get your bachelor’s degree in social work (B.S.W.).
A bachelor’s degree in social work is required for entry-level positions in the social work field. In college, those who are studying social work learn different ways to help people. They learn about how and why people act and feel the way they do in Psychology, study how people act when they are in a group and what problems groups have in Sociology, absorb how people get and use resources in Economics, and discover how people decide what is right and wrong in Ethics. Students also get to learn by watching experienced social workers. Many of those who are in social services decide to get their
7. Look for paid internships during your college years.
Internships can provide you not only with much-needed experience but also future references that could open doors to your career in the future.
8. Enroll in post-graduate studies.
If you plan on getting a position of any responsibility, including case management, work towards getting a master’s degree in social work (M.S.W.). Currently, there are 130 M.S.W. accredited programs, and each one requires the student to get 900 hours of supervised field experience to complete the MSW program. Most social workers opt for a Masters because the salary for a social worker with a Masters degree is quite a bit higher than just having a BSW.
9. Take the licensure exam.
Obtain information on the licensing exam for the state where you live. Again, most states will allow you to practice with just a BSW but there are a couple of states that require you to have an MSW before becoming a social worker (like California). The licensing exam is a national exam administered by the Association of Social Work Boards and the cost is either $230 or $260, depending on which exam you take. On top of that you will have to pay for licensing fees. For some types of social work licenses, you will also need supervised work experience before becoming a full-fledged social worker.
TK is a blogger who has extensive experience in social services. Check out http://socialworkerdata.com to find out more information about careers in social services.