After spending years in social work practice, licensed social workers develop valuable knowledge and expertise that can be of great value to aspiring social workers. One great way impart this knowledge is to teach at the collegiate level. Becoming a social work professor will require you to obtain a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in social work. During the final stages of your dissertation writing, you will scour the academic landscape to find job openings in college and university social work departments. Here is a more detailed account of what needs to happen between entering college and achieving your dream of becoming a social work professor:
Get into a Ph.D. Program
For starters, you will absolutely need a Ph.D. if you want to be a traditional tenure-track social work professor. A Ph.D. is a terminal, research-oriented doctoral degree. In addition to the degree’s research and writing components, most Ph.D. programs provide students with the opportunity to serve as teaching assistants to current faculty members and eventually teach their own introductory-level classes. If a student’s research focus is compelling enough, she may even be allowed to create and teach an upper-level course with a narrower focus than the typical entry-level survey course.
If you hope to be admitted to a Ph.D. program but are concerned that you do not have the requisite grades or other credentials, you should apply to a master’s in social work (MSW) program. This will allow you another chance to earn superlative grades and write scholarly papers of publishable quality. You will also develop more contacts, which means that there will be more people willing to give you recommendations for Ph.D. program applications and, down the road, job applications.
Get As Much of Your Work Published As You Can
Getting and keeping a job in academia is largely dependent on the quality of your published work and the amount of your work that has been published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals. Much time and effort goes into writing publishable scholarly pieces—which, by the way, you will often be required to do on top of class assignments, teaching, a mountain of reading and everything that is going on in your personal life—and you may want to invest your hours elsewhere, you must resist the temptation to do so. The more publications you have, the more impressed your potential employers will be.
As it turns out, the academic community can be a bit insular at times or at least come off that way to an outsider. Just remember that all your potential employers and colleagues were once in your shoes, though. They understand your plight. You will have their sympathy, and they will likely be happy to discuss their research, teaching and whatever else you want to know about their day-to-day functions as professors. Travel to professional conferences, attend department functions, stop by faculty members’ offices and socialize with the department’s other students. You never know when one of these connections may come in handy, so make as many of them as you can.