How to Become a Social Worker

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Contributor, Benzinga
May 27, 2020

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Imagine working in a position that allows you to improve the quality of life for individuals who face undue challenges. Social work is a career that will enable you to do just that while advocating for social justice. 

Not sure how to launch your career as a social worker?

In this guide, Benzinga covers the steps you should take to become a social worker and what to expect when you enter the workforce. 

Social Worker Overview

Before embarking on your journey toward becoming a social worker, you should have an idea of what the role entails. It’s also a good idea to be aware of the education and licensure requirements, average salary and job outlook for the profession.

Job Description

Social workers identify individuals who need assistance and devise strategies to help them overcome everyday challenges. They advocate for those they serve and provide them with educational material and point them toward resources they need most. 

Choose from a career as a child and family social worker, healthcare social worker, school social worker or substance abuse social worker. Expect to work full time in both an office setting and in the field. 

These industries hire the most significant number of social workers: 

  • Ambulatory healthcare services
  • Individual and family services
  • Local government 
  • State government

Salary Information

In May 2019, the median annual wage for social workers was $50,470, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Here’s how it breaks down by industry: 

  • Ambulatory healthcare services: $51,290
  • Individual and family services: $43,030
  • Local government: $55,500
  • State government: $49,100 

Education Requirements

A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW), psychology, sociology or a related field is enough to get your foot in the door. With this degree under your belt, you can work as a mental health assistant, as a caseworker or in a similar role. Most programs span 4 years, but you can earn your degree faster if you already have college credits. 

You’ll need a master’s degree in social work (MSW) to work in a clinical setting. Expect to spend 2 years working through the program. You’ll also complete an internship or practicum. In most instances, you’ll also need 2 years of supervised work experience to land a clinical social worker position. 

Both clinical and nonclinical social workers must also get certified by the licensure board in their respective states. 

Job Outlook

The anticipated growth rate for social workers is 11% through 2028, notes This is 6% higher than the average for occupations across all industries. 

Steps to Becoming a Social Worker

Follow these steps to become a social worker. 

Earn a Degree

You will need at least a bachelor’s degree to become a social worker. A master’s degree is also required to go the clinical route. When evaluating degree programs, look for options that are accredited and have a solid reputation. The college or university should also be affordable and offer individualized support for distance learning students. 

Get Licensed 

Whether you seek a role as a clinical or non-clinical social worker, you will need to get licensed to work in the field. However, you can only get certified as a clinical social worker by earning a master’s degree, working 2 years in the field in a supervised clinical setting and passing an exam. 

Learn more about the rules in your state on the Association of Social Work Boards website.

Boost Your Knowledge

An online course is an ideal way to learn more about the profession or sharpen your skills before entering the field. Affordable options are available for all levels and budgets and you can work through the course material at your own pace. 

Best Universities for Becoming a Social Worker

These online degree programs will help you fulfill the education requirements needed to work as a social worker. 

1. University of Utah

The University of Utah offers an online Bachelor of Social Work. It’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and equips students with the tools needed to work as change agents for the individuals they serve. The curriculum covers human behavior and the social environment, social diversity and cultural understanding, social welfare policy and services, social work writing and more. You will complete group assignments, engage with others in discussion forums and conduct peer reviews.

2. Washington State University

Washington State University also features an online Bachelor of Science in psychology. It delves into psychological principles and the many ways scientific principles and methods are implemented in the field. It’s a great launchpad for a social work master’s degree. Students participate in undergraduate research experiences while working as teaching assistants and tutors. Once you complete the program, you’ll be ready for a career in social work. 

These online courses help you decide if social work is a good fit and dive into the essentials of the profession. 

Social Worker 101 – Basic Training for Helping Professionals

Beginner • 13 videos • 0.8 hours
Social Worker 101 – Basic Training for Helping Professionals
securely through Social Worker 101 – Basic Training for Helping Professionals's website

1. Social Worker 101 – Basic Training for Helping Professionals 

This introductory course is ideal for aspiring social workers. Social Worker 101 – Basic Training for Helping Professionals is led by Ernesto Bejarano, award-winning practitioner, and covers the mechanics of the role, confidentiality, mandated reporting, cultural competence and more. 

A seat in the class is only $29.99. Register today to unlock full lifetime access to 1 hour of on-demand video lectures, 1 article and 14 downloadable resources. Plus, you will receive a certificate of completion when you finish the course. 

The class comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee if you’re unsatisfied for any reason. 

So, you want to be a social worker?

Beginner • 10 videos • 1.5 hours
So, you want to be a social worker?
securely through So, you want to be a social worker?'s website

2. So, You Want to Be a Social Worker? 

Still unsure if a career in social work is a good fit? Consider this free course to help you make an informed decision. You will also get a more in-depth understanding of how to become a social worker and what to expect once you’re working in the field. 

So You Want to Be a Social Worker? includes 5 core lessons: 

  • Are You Sure? 
  • Do You Have What it Takes?
  • Are You Open to Learning?
  • Making Application
  • Pre-Course Preparation 

You will receive 1.5 hours of online video instruction from leading social work author Dr. Neil Thompson. 

Prepare for a Career as a Social Worker

Social workers do impactful work and help others alter the trajectory of their lives. If you’re ready to prepare for a career in social work, take a look at our recommended online degrees and courses. Evaluate your options and enroll with confidence, knowing you’re working toward achieving your career goal. 

Hard work, determination and strategic networking will help you find yourself in a position as a social worker in record time.

Southern New Hampshire University Online

SNHU Online Offers:

  1. Flexible schedules
  2. Affordable tuition
  3. Online tutoring
  4. Access to electronic research materials
  5. Specialized academic advising
  6. Supportive online community