How To Become a Social Worker

by Jordan Fabel | Last Updated: December 1, 2021

If you want to help people, one of the best careers you can go into is social work. As a social worker, you will help people in many different ways. This type of professional will assist individuals and families going through difficult situations.

Becoming a social worker does require the right level of education and experience. It’s not a career to enter into lightly. Let’s look at the job duties and the steps to becoming a social worker below.

Job Duties of a Social Worker

Social workers have many different job duties. You will likely work with people recovering from trauma, disabilities, substance addiction, or injuries. Some of the common job duties for social workers include:

These are just some of the many job duties of a social worker.

How to Become a Social Worker in 5 Steps

Step #1 – Complete High School

You will need to finish high school and go on to college to become a social worker. Doing well in high school can help you get into a better bachelor’s degree program. If you score high on the SAT or ACT, it can help, as well.

Step #2 – Get Your Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree is necessary to become a social worker. You can get a bachelor of social work degree or you can get a degree in sociology or psychology.

While you’re studying in college, you will likely take courses in human behavior, social welfare policy, social work case management, ethics of social work, human rights, and diversity and oppression.

Step #3 – Get some Experience

Experience will play a role when you try to get a job as a social worker. While there are some entry-level positions, you will likely need to complete an internship to gain experience first.

An internship will allow you to learn from a mentor and receive feedback. You will also figure out the area of social work you want to go into. As you practice in the field, you can complete observation hours in different areas to figure out what fits best.

Step #4 – Get Your Master’s Degree

While a master’s degree isn’t required, it can help. Social workers with a master’s degree earn more money and qualify for different types of work. A Master of Social Work Degree will include both classroom work and clinical work.

You will study human behavior, couples and family therapy, substance abuse therapy, and social work for older adults during your master’s program. If you want to become a clinical social worker, you will need to get a master’s degree.

Step #5 – Become Licensed

After getting your degree, you want to become licensed in your state. Some states will require licensing, while others may not. Even if it’s not required, a licensed social worker may be considered more desirable for employers than a traditional social worker.

The requirements will vary from one state to another. Most states require you to pass an exam on the practice, ethics, theory, and regulations of social work. Once you pass the exam, you will need to complete continuing education hours to renew your license every few years.

Common Skills Needed to Become a Social Worker

Along with the right education, you will need the right skills for this career. Some of the common skills you will need include:

These skills will need to be developed as you’re going through the education requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Social Worker

How much can I make as a social worker?

According to Indeed.com, the average yearly salary for a social worker is about $57K. With more experience, you can likely make more than $65K. Some top employers will pay quite a bit more for social workers including the United States Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force.

Washington D.C. is the highest paying location for social workers. Boston, Houston, and New York all pay above-average salaries, as well.

The right specialty and certification can help you earn even more money. If you have a specialty in pathology or physical & rehabilitation medicine, you can earn a much higher salary. Those with a specialty in dialysis, psychiatry, or home health may also see a bump in salary.

If you hold an EMDR certification, a certificate of clinical competence in speech-language pathology or you’re a certified school psychologist, you will likely earn even more.

What type of benefits do social workers get?

As a social worker, you will earn access to many types of insurance including health, dental, vision, disability, and AD&D. You will also get paid time off, a credit union membership, and a 403(b), in most cases. Some employers will also offer tuition reimbursement, mileage reimbursement, and loan forgiveness.

Which social workers get paid the most?

There are different types of social workers and some get paid more than others. The highest paying jobs as a social worker include clinical social workers and healthcare social workers.

Do I need a degree to become a social worker?

Yes, this is not a career you can enter into without a degree. You will need at least a bachelor’s degree in psychology or sociology to become a social worker.

How long will it take me to become a social worker?

You will need to get a bachelor’s degree or higher to work as a social worker. This will take you around four years to complete. Once you have a degree, you can start working as a social worker.

What type of hours will I work as a social worker?

Most social workers will work a full-time 40-hour week. Some will work part-time, however. It’s common for social workers to work evening and weekend hours to meet the needs of their clients.

Will I need a license to work as a social worker?

The licensing requirements will depend on your state. Most states will require one of the following:

You will likely need to renew your license by fulfilling continuing education hours and paying a renewal fee.

Which fields do social workers enter into?

It’s common for social workers to go into mental health wellness, elderly care, drug rehabilitation, or criminal rehabilitation. Many also work in children and family care. There are some positions available in military and veteran services, as well.

Where do social workers work?

Most social workers will work in a government office or a healthcare facility. It’s also common to work in an assisted living facility or a school. Some may also work in a private practice office or for the judicial system.

It’s common to work in an office setting. However, you may also need to travel to see clients.

What type of entry-level position do social workers fill?

Social workers with a bachelor’s degree will qualify for many entry-level positions including:

After gaining experience and getting a master’s degree, it’s possible to advance your career.

What type of advanced positions can a social worker fill?

With a master’s degree and some experience, you can advance to one of the following positions:

These positions pay a higher salary and require more training and education.

Social work isn’t for everybody. It’s a type of job meant for those that truly want to help others. If you have a heart for helping those in need, this might be the right career for you.

The steps above will help you learn how to become a social worker. While a bachelor’s degree is required, getting a master’s degree will open more doors. Use the steps above and you can be on your way to a new career as a social worker.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path. I, personally, am the high school dropout son of two teacher parents. So how did I get here? That story is coming soon!