Before we discuss what the requirements to become a social worker are, it is necessary to understand exactly what a social worker is, what they do, where they work and what the job prospects are for this career. This will help you make the correct decision on becoming a social worker and will prepare you for the journey ahead. Having enough knowledge and fully understanding what social workers are all about, is one of the most important steps in becoming a social worker.
A Short History Of Social Work
In the past there was no social work, there was only charity, and poverty was seen as a scourge and something which was just there with no use. Poor people were looked down on and treated as less than nothing, as servants to the rich. Those who suffered from a disease were to be avoided like the plague and those who were unfortunate enough to suffer from a mental condition, were often thought to be witches or inhabited by the devil.
After the industrial revolution things started to take a turn for the better and social work was born as a career. This was, however still in its infancy, based on science and was still seen as something which was self-inflicted and needed to be controlled and dealt with. Those who suffered mental anguish still fared no better and often ended up in the direst of circumstances in a mental institution.
The Modern Social Worker
Fortunately the role of the social worker has come of age and is now more encompassing, empowering to the client, and takes on a holistic role wherein the person is not treated as being less, but is given assistance and advice to deal with the situation in which they find themselves, within their own environment. There are various requirements to become a social worker including regulation, licensure, and personality social worker requirements. There are also various education requirements for social worker positions, depending on the type of social work which is to be practiced.
The social worker career is like no other, as it has varying education requirements for social worker positions, it has its own code of ethics, licensing laws, nationally accredited training programs and practice standards. The social worker requirements do differ slightly from state to state, but they are relatively similar, and there is a national standard which most employers demand is met.
The role of the modern social worker is to provide relief, assistance and advice to an individual, community or family. They work with the elderly, families, and individuals who are dealing with substance abuse problems, poverty, unemployment or a host of other social problems. The modern social worker can also be found in schools, hospitals, police departments, nursing homes, healthcare facilities, courts, public agencies and private businesses. Social workers also work in government departments initiating and developing legislature, and those with a lot of experience may also work as teachers, managers, supervisors and administrators.
The duties of the modern social worker include:
- Case Management
- Community Organizing
- Human Services Management
- International, Social & Community Development
- Policy and Practice Development
- Social & Political Research
- Social Welfare Policy Analysis
- Teaching – in Schools of Social Work
There are various fields of social work in which the individual can decide to specialize and they develop and implement programs which:
- Address poverty, substance abuse, homelessness, child abuse, and violence.
- Research and analyze programs, policies and regulations.
- Identify social problems and put forward legislative and other solutions.
- Write grants and organize fundraisers.
Some of the above-mentioned branches of social work have different social worker requirements, which may include higher education requirements for social worker positions in specialized fields than the basic Baccalaureate which is one of the basic requirements to become a social worker at entry-level.
Personality Requirements To Become A Social Worker
Social work is by its nature a career which should not be entered into lightly, as it is hard work, can sometimes require evening and weekend work and being on call for emergencies. It is also a job which can expose one to the darker underbelly of life where situations can get very stressed, conflicted, abusive and sometimes even dangerous. It is for these reasons that there are very specific personality social worker requirements for those wishing to enter into the social worker career.
Social work programs will look for these traits, and some of them will have them down as requirements to enter the program. Prospective employers will also require that the social workers they employ can cope with the stresses of the job.
Social workers need the following traits and abilities:
- Ability to handle responsibility
- Emotional maturity
- Resilience is vital
- Sensitivity to people and the problems they are facing
- Confidentiality is prime
- An ability to work independently
- They must maintain good working relationships with co-workers and clients
- Objectivity and being non-judgmental is vitally important
- Patience and the ability to remain calm in a crisis
- Be flexible and able to easily adapt and adjust to new tasks, rules, and situations
- Be able to show initiative
- Have strong observation, analytical, and listening skills
- Be able to easily absorb procedural/legal information
- The ability to mediate/negotiate/interpret on behalf of clients
- General administrative skills such as report-writing
- Good intrapersonal and communication skills
Other social worker requirements are empathy, the genuine desire to serve and improve the lives of the less fortunate, the ability to think on one’s feet, and the ability to make tough decisions under pressure.
Education Requirements For Social Worker Positions
The requirements to become a social worker at the basic level include being in possession of a bachelor’s degree. Educational social worker requirements at other levels, such as positions in the health and school environments require either a Master’s Degree or a Doctorate in Social Work. Most states require that you are licensed, and in order to get licensed you need a postgraduate degree or honors in social work. Teaching and research social worker requirements include a certain amount of hours as a practicing social worker and a doctorate.
There are more than 468 bachelor’s degree programs and in excess of 196 master’s degree programs which have been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. There are also around 75 doctorate programs listed by The Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education. This means that no matter where you are in the United States you are sure to find an accredited social worker program in which you can take part in order to qualify to enter the wonderful world of social workers where you can make a difference to countless lives.
Pre Social Worker Program Requirements
In order to enter a social work program, there are some requirements which need to be met. Although these requirements vary slightly from state to state, they generally include the following:
A grade point average of between 65-70 % in pre-professional studies or an undergraduate degree
- Completed coursework in Social Sciences, English, and Humanities
- Introductory Social Work courses
- Work experience or volunteer experience in an area of human or social services which has a direct relationship to Social Work
- A written motivation as to why you wish to enter the Social Work profession
- Letters of reference
- Personal interviews with a selection committee
Bachelor’s Degree Program
Having a degree in social work is the accepted minimum requirement for anyone who wants to enter into a social worker career. It teaches all students about the economic and social justice and the cultural diversity which exists in at-risk populations. Students are introduced to the role that social services play in the community, and various social work practices. The training is mostly generalized and really prepares students to enter in to the arena of social work in a lot of various fields.
Bachelor’s Degree Programs include:
- Applied Statistics
- Counseling Strategies
- Community Organizing
- Cultural Diversity and Anthropology
- Human Behavior
- Policy Analysis
- Research Methods
- Social Justice
- Sociology and Psychology
According to the Council on Social Work Education, a Bachelor’s degree program must include at least 400 hours of supervised fieldwork.
The employment opportunities that are available to those who meet the bachelor’s degree social worker requirements, are the following:
- Group Home Worker
- Mental Health Assistant
- Counseling Assistant
- Residential Counselor
- Drug Counselor
Once you have obtained your bachelor’s degree and have completed the required amount of hours of supervised clinical work, you can apply to be licensed. Standards for licensing vary by state but it is always better to get licensure, and it is required for certain posts such as in various schools or most clinics.
You might decide to further your studying, and do a Master’s or a Doctorate in Social Work. You may also decide that you would like to specialize in one or other field, in which case you should research what social worker requirements there are for that particular field. All in all, make sure you do your research to best understand how the social worker industry works.