Although most social workers need a bachelor's degree in social work, clinical social workers must have a master's degree and 2 years of post-master's experience in a supervised clinical setting. Clinical social workers must also be licensed in the state in which they practice.
A bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) is the most common requirement for entry-level positions. However, some employers may hire workers who have a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as psychology or sociology.
A BSW prepares students for direct-service positions such as caseworker or mental health assistant. These programs teach students about diverse populations, human behavior, social welfare policy, and ethics in social work. All programs require students to complete supervised fieldwork or an internship.
Some positions require a master's degree in social work (MSW), which generally takes 2 years to complete. Master's degree programs in social work prepare students for work in their chosen specialty by developing clinical assessment and management skills. All programs require students to complete a supervised practicum or an internship.
A bachelor's degree in social work is not required in order to enter a master's degree program in social work. Although a degree in almost any major is acceptable, courses in psychology, sociology, economics, and political science are recommended. Some programs allow graduates with a bachelor's degree in social work to earn their master's degree in 1 year.
Some universities offer doctoral programs in social work, where students can earn a Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) or a Ph.D. Most doctoral programs in social work require students to have a master's in social work and experience in the field. Many doctor's students go on to work as postsecondary teachers.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Most states have licensure or certification requirements for nonclinical social workers. Requirements vary by state.
All states require clinical social workers to be licensed. However, some states provide exemptions for clinical social workers who work in government agencies. Becoming a licensed clinical social worker requires a master's degree in social work and a minimum of 2 years of supervised clinical experience after graduation. After completing their supervised experience, clinical social workers must pass a clinical exam to be licensed.
Because licensing requirements vary by state, those interested should contact their state board. For more information about regulatory licensure boards by state, contact the Association of Social Work Boards.
Communication skills.Clients talk to social workers about challenges in their lives. To effectively help, social workers must be able to listen to and understand their clients' needs.
Empathy.Social workers often work with people who are in stressful and difficult situations. To develop strong relationships, they must have compassion and empathy for their clients.
Interpersonal skills. Being able to work with different groups of people is essential for social workers. They need strong people skills to foster healthy and productive relationships with their clients and colleagues.
Organizational skills. Social workers must help and manage multiple clients, often assisting with their paperwork or documenting their treatment.
Problem-solving skills. Social workers need to develop practical and innovative solutions to their clients' problems.
Time-management skills. Social workers often have many clients and administrative responsibilities. They must effectively manage their time to provide adequate service to all of their clients.