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How to Become a Licensed Social Worker – A Complete Guide

Do you want to learn what it takes to become a licensed social worker? If YES, here is a complete guide plus requirements needed to become a social worker online.

The primary mission of every profession is to enhance human well-being and help the practitioner to meet the basic needs to live a sustainable life and be relevant in his society. The profession of a social worker is one of the few professions that help in promoting the lives of many people. This is a profession that is majorly geared towards making life easier and better for people in the society, with the varieties of assistance the practitioner always render to people that are in need.

Social workers always actualize their profession by fighting for the social and economic justice, preventing any form of conditions that hinders and limits human right, striving to reduce and eliminate poverty and supporting people to live a quality and sustainable life. The profession of a social worker is a good career for people to specialize in but one needs to know the criterion and all what the profession really entails.

What is a Social Worker?

A social worker is a professional practitioner that specializes in working tirelessly to help and support people that are in one need or the other. A social worker always support people to ensure that vulnerable people, including children, youths and adults are safeguard from any form of harm.

Duties of a Social Worker and their Job Description

For the fact that a qualified social worker, who is a certified and a professional one in his field can render his service to different type of people makes his role to be plentiful. Many social workers prefer to work with young people or families but they can as well work with the elderly ones, homeless people, and people with learning and physical disabilities, drug and alcohol abusers etc.

Even though the duties of a social worker are many with the various people he works with, but his core duties includes the following.

  • Interviewing: The first major role a social worker performs for his client after they’ve signed an agreement on working and monetary terms is to conduct an interview for the patient. A social worker is expected to conduct interview for his customer to enable him get to know the exact problem and issues surrounding the client’s problem.
  • Assessing: After conducting interview, a social worker will go ahead in assessing the client. It is from the results he got from the interview that he would work on, in order to conduct his assessment. A social worker will assess his patients based on the variables, information and results he has earlier deduced. He needs to assess his patient to enable him know how critical and serious the condition of the client’s his, as it would help him to subscribe to the actual method that would curb the client’s problem.
  • Solving problems: After a social worker has conducted an interview and has accessed his client to validate his problem, it is now left for him to use any useful way in solving the client’s problem.

Tools of the Trade for a Social Worker

  • Writing materials: The first major equipment a social worker uses in his place of work is his writing materials, which are pen and paper. A social worker needs the writing materials to collect the client’s data and to jot down the client’s interview and assessment report.
  • Resource materials: These are materials a social worker uses to facilitate his work, especially when dealing with his clients. A social worker can show or prescribe some resource materials for his client, in order to solve the client’s problem effectively and he can as well prescribe resource materials of related issues and problems of a country to the country that is facing any similar challenge.
  • Laptop or Projector: Another vital equipment a social worker uses for his work is a laptop or projector. A social worker can use a laptop to effect changes in the life of his clients by showing them with it videos or documentations that correlates with the problems they are having and in situations whereby the social worker is dealing with large amount of people at a time, he can use a projector for showing the videos to the target audience.

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker – A Complete Guide

Facts, Figures and Labor Market Situation for Social Workers

  • The work of a social worker might tend to be cumbersome, especially because the profession requires the practitioner to deal with several kinds of people but the profession is one of the fastest growing professions with an excellent labor market that is fascinating to both the practitioners and other people outside the profession because the practitioner can work in various places, departments and organizations to propagate their work
  • For the fact that the profession requires the practitioner to be rendering selfless services to humanities and people that are in needs have made the profession one of the professions one can indulge in and live a fulfilling life to have impact in other people’s life. That is why people are many in that profession even before considering the labor market and the wages that is favorable for social workers.
  • With the number of people suffering from one challenge or another and with the number of disabled people and those that are in needs in many countries of the world, especially in countries like United State of America, Australia, United Kingdom and Canada and even with the number of countries facing one challenges or another have forced people to be employing the service of professionally qualified social workers.
  • According to the National Bureau of Labor statistics, the demand of social worker practitioner is expected to spur at a very high rate as the U.S bureau of labor statistic have projected the profession to grow by 19 percent from 2012-2022. The profession is thereby projected to grow faster than the average occupation could grow. Employment opportunity is expected to open for social workers from healthcare and social services in the nearest years.

Impact of the Internet and Technology on the Profession of a Social Worker

There is exponential growth in the number internet access all over the world and people have adopted the usage of internet and technology in carrying out there day to day activities in many countries of the world.

  • Nonetheless, the profession of a social worker, as one of the fastest growing profession has adopted the full usage of internet and technology in carrying out the profession.
  • Internet and technology has continued to make the work of a social worker to be very effective, especially in healthcare and social services, where internet and technological equipment are being used.
  • The major positive impact of internet and technology is that social workers now have access to technological equipment like laptop, camera, projector and some other technological equipment that is making their work easier. Social workers can as well use the internet to derive answers to the problems of their clients.
  • On the other hand, the internet and technology is hindering the fast growing of the profession of social workers because people now have full access to the internet and they can easily subscribe and download articles, pictures, videos and documentaries that would help them in solving their problems by themselves without consulting or employing the service of a social worker.

Professional Bodies and Associations You Must Join to be Recognized as a Social Worker

  • British Association of Social Workers (BASW)
  • Australian Association of Social Worker (AASW)
  • National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
  • The International Federation of Social Workers
  • The General Social Care Council
  • Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)

Career ideas/Sub-sectors a Social Worker Profession Can Work In

  • Career advisers
  • Social workers
  • Social care workers
  • Counselors
  • Health counselors
  • Guidance work sector
  • Public social worker
  • Family social worker
  • Private social worker

Benefits of Becoming a Social Worker

  • Building Family Relationship: social workers help in healing and bringing family closer together. Their work can improve lives of people and strengthen communications in a family. The role a social worker plays in building people’s family relationship do helps them to be able to solve their own family problem as well, just as they help others.
  • Making a difference: the profession of a social worker is one of the few professions that one can practice and make a difference in the sense that the job involves the practitioner to be dealing with many people, thus making a difference in their lives.
  • Variety of employers: the profession of a social worker is a profession that is open to different type of employers. A social worker is opened to be employed by different people because his service is indispensable in the society.

Factors Discouraging People from Becoming Social Workers

While social workers are selfless and helping, one of the most humane professions you may call it, with its practitioners working tirelessly for the sake of humanity and nothing more. People are still discouraged from venturing into the profession due to some factors. These factors/challenges that discourage people from this noble and humane profession are as follows:

  • Gender stigmatization: The social work profession is one which is mostly populated by females. It is not strange to say that, the profession is a feminine one. This is due to the absence of the male folks from the profession. In a recent survey, it was found out that 82% of social workers are female. This gender stigmatization will definitely discourage some people especially male from venturing into the profession.
  • Job acceptability: While social work jobs might be acceptable in some parts of the world as a worthy career path. Many countries all over the world are still yet to grasp with this reality. This job acceptability especially in countries that have not truly accepted this profession as a worthy one, is a factor that discourages people from venturing into the profession.
  • Inadequate reward system: Social workers are one of the most humane workers you can find anywhere, yet they are one of the most underpaid compared to some other professions. Even with a degree in social work and a professional certification, the earnings of social workers are less compared to their counterparts. This inadequate reward system is also a factor that discourages people from venturing into the profession.
  • The difficult nature of the job: since the primary mission of the social work is to enhance human wellbeing and help meet the basic needs of all people. Meeting up to this expected responsibility is indeed a difficult task for many people coupled with the fact, that the profession is one with a lot of ethics, and code of conducts that must be followed strictly to ensure the actualization of these goals. This seemingly difficult nature of the job surely discourages people from wanting to go into the profession.

How Much Do Social Workers Earn Monthly/Annually?

  • In the United States

According to the bureau of labour statistics. The salary earning of social workers in the United States is around $48,302 per annum. While the salary earned yearly by the upper 10% social workers is around more than $70,390 per year while the lower 10% earn less than $26,710 yearly.

Further breakdown shows that the average hourly rate and the annual salary for social workers is as follows:

  • Federal executive branch – $34.21 per hour and $71,160 per annum
  • Medical and surgical hospitals – $29.86 per hour and $61,490 per annum
  • Insurance carriers- $32.21 per hour and $67,200 per annum
  • Emergency/housing services- $18.05 per hour and $37,530 per annum respectively.

In the United Kingdom

  • The average and median expected salary for a social worker in the UK is around £29,093 and £28,000 per annum and a yearly bonus of about £2,950 is included as well. While the hourly rate ranges £6.93 to £30 on the average.
  • This salary also varies based on the age, while those in the 20s earns up to £21,820, those in the 30s earn up to £28,512, and those in 40s and 50s earn about £33,748 per annum.

In Canada

  • Social workers in Canada earn an average hourly wage of around C$10.59- C$25.43, which increases to C$25.42- C$41.62 after 20 years. On the average, the total yearly salary for a social worker ranges from between C$32,490 – C$72,152. They also receive a bonus of C$1,026 per annum

In Australia

  • On an average, social workers based in Australia receive a median hourly ranging from between AU$14.85- AU$31.09 which increases to around AU$27.11- AU$33.37 after 20 years. The pay ranges from AU$35,328 to AU$71,978 with an additional bonus of about AU$4,797 per annual.

Can You Become a Social worker by Taking Online Courses?

There are many free, online classes for students who want to learn about social work. These classes do not typically award students credit and are meant to provide students access to higher education. The social work classes below are much like the standard classes offered at universities and allow students access to real course materials, such as assignments, essays, readings, videos and lectures.

A typical example of this is The Open University which offers some of the following courses:

  • Introducing social work practice
  • Interview with a social worker
  • Social work learning practice
  • Remaking the relations of work and welfare
  • The social in social sciences etc.

Educational Requirements to Become a Social Worker

  • Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work: BSW programs prepare graduates for direct-service positions, such as mental health assistant or caseworker. Coursework includes social welfare policy, social work methods, applied research, child welfare, and social work for the aged. All BSW programs contain an internship or supervised fieldwork component, providing students the opportunity to develop practical skills in areas important to the profession, such as understanding group dynamics, interviewing, decision-making, and problem-solving.
  • Consider a Master’s Degree: An MSW can be undertaken with any undergraduate degree, though some programs may require certain prerequisite coursework in related areas, such as psychology and sociology, for applicants not holding a BSW. The MSW is required to become a clinical social worker or to work in schools or the healthcare system. These degree programs typically take two years to complete (though some programs offer more flexible 3 and 4-year degree plans) and prepare students for advanced practice in their specialties. Students in these programs have a variety of concentrations and specialties to choose from, including mental health, families and children, global practice, older adults and families, and behavioral and physical health.

Are Certifications Required to Become a Social Worker?

It is a known fact that certifications are one of the major things needed in order to practice in any field as a professional. Likewise social workers are also not short of certifications. The certification process varies with countries, states, regions etc. Therefore, the certifications required in order to become a social worker especially in the United States are as follows:

  • Clinical social workers are always licensed. In most states, master’s level social workers are licensed whether or not they are in clinical practice. Many states also license baccalaureate social workers. If a state doesn’t, it doesn’t mean that bachelor’s in social work program graduates can’t get jobs using skills they were taught in their classes. However, each state has the responsibility of determining the titles professionals can use and the scope of practice they are allowed.
  • After graduation, a would-be clinical social worker must practice under board-approved supervision. Requirements vary, but a candidate can expect to do at least two years of full-time work (paid) before receiving the higher credential. In many states, the same holds true for nonclinical master’s social workers. A few states require baccalaureate social workers to complete board approved supervision; workers may be given a lesser title until they finish their training.
  • The National Association of Social Workers’ ACSW certification is not the same as licensing. It is an entirely optional certification and it does not grant the legal authority to practice. In most cases, it is just an added badge of accomplishment. However, there could be instances where it would make it easier for a social worker to receive the independent license in a new jurisdiction.

Career Opportunities Open for a Social Worker

  1. Medical/Public Health: Social workers who work in the medical field are always in high demand. It is projected that the number of jobs in medical/public health social work will grow by 22 percent through 2018, the highest rate in the social work field. Medical/public health social workers can work in any facility that provides care to patients, including hospitals, emergency rooms, hospices, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, assisted living facilities and home health agencies.
  2. Substance Abuse: These social workers are employed in a variety of venues, including rehabilitation facilities, prisons, private practices, for- and non-profit organizations, and juvenile detention facilities. It is known as one of the more emotionally demanding areas of social work since addiction is hard to treat.
  3. Mental Health: While a master’s is not always required for a career in social work, it always makes you a more marketable candidate; still, one area where a master’s is required is mental health in the realm of clinical practice. Many mental health social workers provide therapy, and this requires advanced education, as well as licensure, as a clinical social worker (LCSW). As a mental health social worker – or clinical social worker – there is a diverse range of mental health services you can provide. You can work in community mental health centers, mental hospitals, private practices, hospitals and even schools.
  4. Child Welfare: This is an area of social work that requires sensitivity, compassion and a love of children. Child welfare social workers provide services to children who are abused and neglected by their parents or to children from lower-income families who cannot afford to properly care for them. Many child welfare workers work with child protective services to investigate reports of child abuse and neglect, and intervene when a child’s home environment is deemed unsafe.
  5. School Social Work: School social work is one of the more common areas in the field, and there are different capacities in which a school social worker can work. As a school social worker, you are a liaison between school and students’ families, essentially bridging children’s personal lives and education to make sure their needs are being met. You can function as a guidance counselor and also work with special needs children to facilitate their integration into mainstream classes.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Licensed Social Worker?

A Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW) is a 4-year social work degree that is commonly the base requirement for a job in social work. Accredited BSW programs also require at least 400 hours of supervised field experience. For this reason, the BSW is also the minimum qualification for most state social work licensing and certification programs. While requirements may vary, all states have a licensing/certification system in place.

Once you’ve earned a bachelor’s social work degree, you have the option of continuing your education at any time through a two-year master’s degree program in social work (MSW). Part-time programs take about four years to complete. An advanced social work degree has become a standard requirement for most specialized positions in the field, such as clinical, policy and administration work. Conclusively, it takes 2-6 years to become a social worker depending on the degree to be earned.

Skills and Traits Needed to Become a Successful Social worker

  1. Training and Knowledge: Firstly, obtaining the right education is an essential part of a career development. Degree programs in social work are available at all education levels from an associate degree to a Ph.D. These programs provide the necessary training and skills required to work in social systems, large and small.
  2. Courage: Being a social worker takes courage, no doubt about it. Social work often takes place in high-stress, complex environments so guts and will-power are must-have characteristics.
  3. Empathy: Empathy is what social work is all about. Compassion for others is without a doubt, an essential attribute of a successful social worker.
  4. Organization: Social workers handle some serious paperwork. From case files to medical records, you’ll need to keep your ducks in a row by staying on top of your work in a neat and organized fashion.
  5. Respect for Diversity: Given the breadth of their profession, social workers often work with clients from all walks of life so it’s imperative to keep an open mind and an open heart.
  6. Flexibility: In addition to odd hours, even on-call duty, social workers MUST be flexible, in all situations. Being able to adapt to new demands is essential, if not mandatory. Keep this in mind if other commitments will prevent you from working a not-so traditional schedule.
  7. Ethical and Responsible: Social workers often handle ethical and sometimes legal issues that require careful thought and research. You’ll need to practice due diligence when it comes to handling client-service provider relationships.
  8. Continuing Education: Employers look for candidates who are active in their field through professional associations, volunteering, or internship work. Do whatever you can to get as much experience and exposure in your field as possible.

Tips and Advice to Help Advance your Career as a Social Worker

  • Earn the necessary certifications: To become a successful social worker, you must ensure that you acquire all the certifications that are required of you. This is because it is only through this, that your journey towards even making it as a social worker can be fulfilled
  • Seek relevant information: Seeking of information from the right sources is critical to ensuring that you succeed as a social worker
  • Follow relevant blogs: The internet today brings information to you even from the comfort of your homes. This must be utilized if indeed you want to succeed
  • be compassionate
  • Understand people’s psychology and mentality earlier
  • Be patient with people
  • Develop strong communication skills. Social workers must develop productive and healthy relationships with their clients and co-workers in order to work effectively
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