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How to Become a Social Worker

If you're always the one listening to your friend's problems (for free!), or feel your calling is rooted in helping others via a social services organization, you may have asked the question, either out loud or quietly to yourself, "How do I become a Social Worker?"Social work is a broad field with many different options for employment, especially in large urban centers where the population is diverse and in need of social services. A person with the required education could earn a living seeing patients one-on-one in a private therapeutic setting, could work in a hospital, a school or many other settings where people need support.

One thing is certain: Choosing to become a social worker is hard work. And it's often thankless and can even be heartbreaking. The pay isn't great, and the working conditions can range from awesome to completely depressing. But surely the work is meaningful, and varied. The requirements to become a social worker do vary by state, but people who work as social workers typically have a 4-year undergraduate college degree (sometimes a BSW or Bachelor of Social Work) but often a degree in the sciences or social sciences. Beyond that, people choose different advanced degrees that are typical for the kind of social work they aim to pursue. For example, someone aiming to have a private practice of one-on-one therapy might go for an advanced degree called LCSW, License in Clinical Social Work. Those hoping to work in an institutional setting might instead pursue the MSW, or Master of Social Work degree. Depending on which school you attend and the requirements of both that school and the state in which you plan to work, there is often a period of practical, supervised work---thousands of hours of critical training---that is considered part of your education. After that, each state will have licensing and professional requirements that are specific to the type of work you intend to do.

The pay for social workers tends to be on the low-end of the pay scale for people with advanced degrees, especially at first. There is also a glut of social workers, meaning that often there are not enough jobs available to absorb the number of CSW and LCSW graduates in schools worldwide. So if you do choose to become a social worker, you may have to be enterprising and be willing to work in various capacities, possibly taking some detours before you land a job that you find meaningful. The key is to do well enough in your coursework and network well enough to get a prestigious clinical internship. This will increase your chances of cultivating professional relationships that could allow you a rewarding job both financially and in terms of overall career satisfaction. Most certainly, people don't choose to become a social worker for the money. For most, regardless of what they choose to pursue with their training, social work is about helping others live a better life.

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