How to Become a Social Worker

how to become a social workerAre you looking for a rewarding career that allows you to make a difference in people’s lives? With a career in social work, you can help people manage and solve their various day-to-day concerns. From working with children in a clinical setting to working with addiction patients, a social worker has the ability to improve the lives of many individuals. Wondering how to become a social worker? In this guide, we will go over the steps to becoming a social worker, types of social worker degree options (including a BSW degree), and the right social worker career path for you.

Steps to Becoming a Social Worker
Types of Social Work Degree Options
What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?
Salary Info for a Career in Social Work
Basic Requirements and Qualifications for Social Workers
Social Worker FAQs

Steps to Becoming a Social Worker

You may be asking yourself, “How do I become a social worker?”. Even though the process of becoming a social worker may seem overwhelming at first, getting started in social work careers can be accomplished with these four steps:

  1. Choose Your Social Work Specialty. Discover which social work discipline reflects your interests before you decide upon a degree program. There are numerous different specialties you can choose to focus your social worker education which can range from family social work to gerontology-based social work.
  2. Enroll in a Social Work Degree Program. Find the right school and social worker degree options to ready yourself for a career in social work. Each program will offer various social work courses to ensure that you are well prepared you for your future career path.
  3. Gain Internship Experience. Perform community service and internship experience to boost your resume and social work skills. These real-world experiences are an opportunity to apply your learned skills in real-life scenarios as well as help you stand out to future employers.
  4. Earn Certifications Needed. Depending on the state you wish to work in, you may be required to complete specific certifications related to the specialty of social work you have been trained in.

Types of Social Work Degree Options

  • Associate Degree. An Associate Degree in Social Work covers the basic principles of social work and will qualify you for an entry-level position as a case manager or a social services assistant.
  • Bachelor’s Degree. A Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work focuses on the specialties within social work. This degree will expand your career options and will allow you to work within your desired discipline, which can include mental health, addiction, family, or geriatrics. 
  • Master’s Degree. A Master’s Degree in Social Work expands upon your Bachelor’s degree by teaching more theory- based fundamentals. This degree will allow you to apply for clinical positions within the social work field.
  • Doctoral Degree. A Doctor of Social Work (DSW) degree will prepare you for an advanced role in your career. A PhD degree focuses on expanding research opportunities, while a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) degree specializes in furthering the practice of social work.

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

A social work or social services degree can open up many doors to different career paths within the social work field. Below you can find the list of potential social worker jobs:

  • Mental Health Social Worker. A mental health social worker focuses on the evaluation of mental illnesses and provides patients with an effective treatment plan. Another possible aspect of being a mental health social worker involves health policies and health care systems. Some careers within the mental health social worker field include clinical social worker, children’s mental health social worker, and a hospital social worker.
  • Addiction Social Worker. An addiction social worker specializes in helping patients deal with mental and physical addictions, including alcohol and drug abuse. This type of social work may deal with current addicts or recovering addicts in order to help them find alternative outlets to their addictions. Some careers within the addiction social worker field include prevention of social workers, clinical substance abuse counselors, and rehabilitation center addiction counselors.
  • Family Social Worker. A family social worker works deals specifically with children and their families during challenging times, such as poverty, domestic violence, and divorce situations. Some responsibilities of a family social worker comprise of the assessment of the mental and physical condition of the family, medical care, and counseling services. Possible careers within this field include family counselor, children’s social worker, and school guidance counselors.
  • Geriatric Social Worker. A social worker who specializes in gerontology social work focuses on assisting aging patients and the elderly. This type of social worker helps their patients deal with issues relating to the aging process and provides emotional support for mental illnesses associated with older age such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Geriatric social workers also help to advise their patients on financial issues and can provide government services to help them. Some careers in the geriatric social work field include dementia specialist, hospice social worker, and geriatric social worker.
  • Public Health Social Worker. A public health social worker helps to secure resources from outside sources, such as grants or organizations, to help the needs of a specific community. The primary concern for a public health social worker is the general well-being of a community and can assist individuals with a variety of issues ranging from homelessness, poor education and crime. Some positions within the public health social work field include disaster relief specialists, occupational therapist, and community health center social workers.

Salary Info for a Career in Social Work

The average salary of a social worker is $47,980 per year.

Social Worker Job Title Average Salary
Licensed Clinical Social Worker $67,831
Family Support Counselor $38,803
Addiction Social Worker $51,896
Geriatric Social Worker $44,509
School Guidance Counselor $48,911

Basic Requirements and Qualifications for Social Workers

Typical basic social worker requirements begin with receiving the proper education. A Bachelor’s in Social Work (BSW) is commonly needed to pursue a job within social work. Among other typical social worker degrees, basic requirements are the need for relevant, hands-on experience gaining experience through volunteer work or internships. Having both a degree and the necessary work experience will qualify you for many positions within the social work field.

Social Worker FAQs

What do you major in to become a social worker?

In order to become a social worker, many people will pursue a major in social work to obtain their Bachelor’s of Science in Social Work (BSW). Other undergraduate majors such as sociology and psychology will allow you to further your education in order to pursue a Master’s of Social Work (MSW).

How long does it take to become a social worker?

Typically, it takes two to four years to become a social worker. For an associate degree, you will spend two years studying while a bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete. If you are looking to achieve a Master’s Degree in Social Work, it will take you an additional two years of studying after obtaining your bachelor’s degree.

Can you become a social worker without any qualifications?

While many social work positions require a degree of some type, primarily a bachelor’s degree, it is possible to work within this field without having any social worker qualifications. Positions like case aides and or assistants are a career option if you are looking to get your foot in the door in this dynamic field. The job responsibilities of these careers are primarily office-based and include tasks such as keeping records, scheduling meetings, and clerical work.

Your GMercyU Path to a Social Work Degree

In 2020, Gwynedd Mercy University earned Accreditation from the Council on Social Work Educations’ (CSWE) Commission on Accreditation to offer our Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree. 

As a student in GMercyU’s Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree, you will have access to GMercyU’s experiential learning opportunities such as Best Buddies, and Alternative Spring Break. Students will also get hands-on experience throughout their social work education through service learning requirements and 400 hours of internship experience at sites that fit their interest.

Once you complete your BSW degree at GMercyU, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Pennsylvania Social Work Exam and apply for state licensure through the State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Licensed Professional Counselors. You may be eligible for advanced standing in CSWE master’s degree programs, which would allow you to complete your master’s degree in just one year.