If becoming a social worker is your lifelong dream, the first step will be to earn your social work degree from a program that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.
In order to practice as a licensed social worker, you must complete a long list of courses and then demonstrate your comprehension by taking a licensure examination. The requirement includes earning your Bachelor's degree and then your Master's degree majoring in the right subject area.
If you would like to determine how long it will take you to meet the requirements, read this step-by-step guide and you can discover how long it will take to be granted a license.
Step 1: Earning your Undergraduate Degree
If you are fresh out of high school or you have a diploma and would like to re-enter school, the first step to becoming a social worker is to earn your undergraduate degree. There is a common perception that you need to study for your Bachelor's in Social Work to gain entry into a Master's program in the field. While earning your B.A. in Social Work can help you complete school faster, it is not a deal breaker when you major in another subject area. As long as the baccalaureate program that you take is regionally or nationally accredited, the credits you take will transfer.
Step 2: Get Volunteer Experience in the Field
While you are studying for your Bachelor's degree or once you finish your undergraduate studies, the next step will be to get volunteer experience that is relevant to the field of social work. You might wonder why you need to volunteer if you plan on studying to become a trained professional. The main reason why you need to commit to dedicate at least 6 months to volunteering is because it makes you competitive for admissions to the most competitive CSWE-accredited Master's degree programs. You can find opportunities through agencies like: the National Military Family Association, the National Remember our Troop Campaign, The Department of Veteran Affairs, Fisher House Foundation, and more.
Step 3: Complete a Master's Degree Program
Now that you have a bachelor's degree and experience in the field, the next step is to apply for a program with a CSWE accreditation. There is a variety of programs that you choose depending upon where you envision working with your license. If you would like to work in clinical setting, you should take a program with a clinical concentration. You can also concentrate in Mental Health, Families, Community Planning, and Social Work in Business. Completing your Master's in Social Work will take up to 2 years to complete.
Step 4: Get Supervised Experience Following Graduation
Once you complete the program, you will need 2 to 3 years of clinical experience under a licensed professional. After you have completed the supervised clinical training requirement, you can officially sit for the professional generalist or clinical licensing exam. Check to see how much experience you need for the licensing requirements in your state.
You will spend a minimum of 5 years studying in college and graduate school for your Bachelor's and Master's. Once you complete school, you will spend another 2 to 3 years volunteering and getting hands-on supervised experience. This means that you can spend anywhere from 7 to 9 years to achieve your professional goals in becoming a social worker.