How To Become A Social Worker? What Qualifications Do You Need?

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A social worker is a qualified professional who works with a variety of weak individuals, communities, and organizations to teach them how to live better lives. Social workers frequently assist groups of people who are harmed by social injustices such as poverty and prejudice.

Professional social workers aim to create change and encourage the resilience of individuals, families, and communities. This career can be fulfilling for those who enjoy giving back to the community and making a difference in society.

Let’s take a closer look at how to become a social worker and the qualifications needed to kickstart a career in social work.

Who Is A Social Worker?

A social worker is a professional trained to work with individuals, families, groups, and communities to help them address a wide range of social and emotional issues. Social workers aim to improve people’s well-being and quality of life by providing support, resources, and advocacy.

Social workers typically work in various settings, including schools, hospitals, mental health clinics, child welfare agencies, correctional facilities, and nonprofit organizations.

The guiding principles of social work are respect for the inherent worth and dignity of human beings, doing no harm, respect for diversity, and upholding human rights and social justice. The social work profession recognizes that human rights need to coexist alongside collective responsibility

As a social worker, you can implement important changes to your community’s social services and well-being.

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What Are The Duties of A Social Worker?

The duties and responsibilities of a social worker can vary based on their specialization and the specific field of practice. Some common roles and tasks of social workers include:

  1. Assessment: Social workers assess individuals and families to understand their needs, strengths, and challenges. They use this information to develop personalized plans for intervention and support.
  2. Counseling and therapy: Social workers often provide counseling and therapeutic services to help individuals and families cope with issues such as mental health problems, addiction, grief, trauma, or relationship difficulties.
  3. Case management: Social workers may coordinate and monitor services for clients, ensuring they receive the necessary support from various agencies and organizations.
  4. Advocacy: Social workers advocate on behalf of their clients, helping them access essential services, benefits, and resources. They may also advocate for social and policy changes to address systemic issues affecting their clients and communities.
  5. Crisis intervention: Social workers are trained to respond to crises such as domestic violence, child abuse, or community disasters. They provide immediate support and help individuals and families navigate difficult situations.
  6. Education and prevention: Social workers often engage in educational and preventive efforts, such as teaching life skills, providing parenting classes, and raising awareness about social issues.
  7. Policy analysis and development: Some social workers work at the macro level, researching and analyzing social policies and advocating for changes that can improve the lives of vulnerable populations.

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What Are The Qualifications Needed To Become A Social Worker?

Social workers must have a degree in social work (BA), or master’s degree in social work. A master’s degree is a two-year-long postgraduate course for those with a degree in a different subject. Some universities offer part-time studying.

If your first degree was in an unrelated subject, your next option is to consider a Master’s in social work (MSW). 

Experience plays a big role in social work credentials. The academic learning in social work courses is divided into halves and focuses on law, ethics, and theory. When applying to a program of study, you must have some experience in social work or social care. This might be employment—paid, voluntary or on-the-job training, or even life experience.

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How Can I Become A Social Worker? Step-by-step guide

Becoming a social worker typically involves completing a specific educational path and gaining practical experience. Here are the general steps to becoming a social worker:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree.
  2. Gain practical experience.
  3. Consider getting a master’s degree.
  4. Receive your state license.

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree

Start by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) or a related field like psychology, sociology, or human services. A BSW program typically takes four years to complete and provides a foundation in social work theory and practice.

While obtaining your bachelor’s degree, you will be introduced to social work, the concepts behind it, and how to conduct research. Some examples of coursework during your bachelor’s degree include:

  • Human behavior
  • Cultural diversity
  • Social work case management
  • Social welfare policy
  • Ethics of social work
  • Diversity and oppression
  • Research methods
  • Human rights

2. Gain practical experience

During your undergraduate program, you’ll likely participate in internships or fieldwork placements that give you hands-on experience in social work settings. These experiences are essential for learning about the field and building practical skills.

You can get experience as a social worker, learn from a mentor, and get advice from your superiors by participating in internships. Discovering your preferred field of social work at this time is also a terrific idea. You can conduct internships in a variety of fields to get a more diverse perspective on the profession.

You can select a particular area of social work while you observe and train there. To determine which industry best fits your talents, interests, and career objectives, think about performing some observation hours or a few internships in several industries.

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3. Obtain a master’s degree

While a bachelor’s degree can qualify you for some entry-level social work positions, obtaining a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree can significantly expand your career options and earning potential. MSW programs typically take two years to complete and include both classroom learning and fieldwork.

Courses in this study include:

  • Human behavior and the environment
  • Assessment and diagnosis
  • Couples and family therapy
  • Substance abuse therapy
  • Social work for older adults

For people who desire to work as clinical social workers, a master’s degree in social work is necessary. For more senior roles, many companies in a range of social work sectors look for workers with master’s degrees.

If you plan to obtain your state license afterward, make sure you choose an MSW program approved by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). By continuing your education in the field of social work, you can show your dedication to the knowledge and practice of your career.

4. Receive your state license

Check the licensing requirements in your state or country, as they vary. In many places, you’ll need to be licensed to practice as a social worker. This typically involves passing a licensing exam and fulfilling supervised work experience requirements. Some specializations may have their own certification requirements.

Check your state’s requirements for education, training, and examinations before applying for a license because they differ from state to state. Candidates for licensure must successfully complete a knowledge test on social work ethics, practice, theory, and federal and state regulations in almost all states.

Depending on the state in which you are licensed, you can either become a Licenced Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) or a Licenced Master Social Worker (LMSW) after completing the test.

To maintain your license, many states require a certain number of continuing education or professional development hours.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Social Worker?

A Bachelor of Social Work typically takes four years to complete. Once you’re done, you can apply for jobs open to BSW graduates.

It can take about two years to complete a traditional MSW program, but some students qualify for faster options. Full-time students may earn their graduate degrees faster than part-time students.

Generally, it can take anywhere from 6 to 8 years, including undergraduate and graduate education, fieldwork, and the process of obtaining licensure to become a social worker.

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How Much Does A Social Worker Make?

Based on the 23.1k salaries reported on Indeed, the average salary for a social worker is $61,818 per year in the United States.

Social worker salaries vary significantly based on your level of education, position, industry, and location. If you desire a career in social work, you should research salary prospects in your area or in locations you are willing to move to. Also, consider your earning potential if you earn a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree.

What Skills Do I Need To Succeed In Social Work?

Succeeding in social work requires a diverse set of skills and qualities to effectively support individuals and communities facing various challenges. Here are some of the key skills and attributes you need to excel in this field:

  1. Empathy and Compassion: Social workers must be able to understand and empathize with the struggles and emotions of their clients. Compassion is essential for building trust and rapport.
  2. Active Listening: Effective communication is a cornerstone of social work. Active listening involves not only hearing what clients say but also understanding their feelings, concerns, and needs.
  3. Communication Skills: Social workers need strong verbal and written communication skills to convey information, provide counseling, and document client interactions accurately.
  4. Problem-Solving: Social workers often encounter complex situations that require creative problem-solving. You need to assess situations, identify solutions, and work with clients to implement them.
  5. Cultural Competence: The ability to work with individuals from diverse backgrounds is crucial. Understanding cultural differences, respecting cultural norms, and adapting your approach accordingly is essential.
  6. Interpersonal skills – Social work is all about building relationships and an element of trust with clients, so being able to work with people from all backgrounds is crucial.
  7. Organizational skills – Social workers have to juggle a heavy caseload and liaise with other agencies on a daily basis, so organizational skills are vital. Organizational ability also enables social workers to cope under pressure and prioritize their cases accordingly.
  8. Time Management: Social work can be demanding, with multiple clients and tasks to manage. Effective time management skills help you prioritize and meet deadlines.
  9. Crisis Intervention: Social workers should be prepared to respond to crises, such as suicide threats or domestic violence situations, in a calm and effective manner.
  10. Resilience: The work of a social worker can be emotionally challenging. Developing emotional resilience and self-care strategies is essential to prevent burnout.
  11. Teamwork: Collaboration with colleagues, other professionals, and community organizations is common in social work. Being able to work effectively as part of a team is important.

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Certifications You Can Obtain In Social Work

Social worker certifications allow job seekers to demonstrate their competency as a social worker to employers. Obtaining a social worker certification will enhance your job prospects and also increase your potential salary.

Below you’ll find a list of the best social worker certifications.

  1. Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): This is one of the most common certifications for clinical social workers. It typically involves obtaining an MSW, completing a certain number of supervised clinical hours, and passing a licensing exam. LCSWs are qualified to provide therapy and clinical services.
  2. Certified Social Work Case Manager (C-SWCM): This certification is for social workers specializing in case management. It demonstrates expertise in coordinating and managing services for clients.
  3. Certified School Social Work Specialist (C-SSWS): School social workers can obtain this certification to demonstrate their competence in addressing the social and emotional needs of students in educational settings.
  4. Certified Advanced Children, Youth, and Family Social Worker (C-ACYFSW): Social workers who work with children, youth, and families may pursue this certification to showcase their expertise in this area.
  5. Certified Social Worker in Health Care (C-SWHC): Social workers in healthcare settings can seek this certification to demonstrate their competence in providing services related to healthcare and medical social work.
  6. Certified Social Worker in Gerontology (CSW-G): This certification is for social workers specializing in working with older adults and addressing the unique challenges faced by this population.
  7. Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC): Social workers interested in addiction counseling can pursue certification in this field, which may involve additional training and supervised experience.
  8. Certified Forensic Social Worker (C-FSW): Social workers working in the criminal justice system or forensic settings can obtain this certification to demonstrate their expertise in this area.
  9. Certified Hospice and Palliative Social Worker (CHP-SW): Social workers in hospice and palliative care can pursue this certification to enhance their skills in providing end-of-life care and support.
  10. Functional Aging Specialty Certification: The Functional Aging Specialist program- built upon the Functional Aging Training Model (FATM)-is designed to educate and train health and fitness professionals to empower active agers to live healthy, active, and happy lives.

FAQs On Social Work

How long does it take to become a social worker?

Generally, it can take anywhere from 6 to 8 years, including undergraduate and graduate education, fieldwork, and the process of obtaining licensure to become a social worker.

What are the common specializations in social work?

Social work offers various specializations, including clinical social work, school social work, medical social work, child welfare, mental health, and substance abuse counseling, among others.

What skills are important for success in social work?

Skills such as empathy, active listening, communication, problem-solving, cultural competence, advocacy, and ethical practice are crucial for social work.

What are the career prospects for social workers?

Career prospects for social workers are generally positive, with opportunities in various settings, including healthcare, education, mental health, child welfare, and aging services.


As a social worker, you can make a big difference in your community. By addressing increasing problems in mental health, aging, child abuse and neglect, substance abuse, chronic illness, homelessness, and food insecurity. Choose to take up a career in social work today.


  • – How To Become a Social Worker (Education and Training)
  • – What Does a Social Worker Do (and How Do I Become One)?
  • – How to become a social worker

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