What Certifications are Required To Be a Social Worker?

Social Worker CertificationsSocial workers have demanding jobs, and few people realize that they often need one of more certifications required to be a social worker. Though nursing and other professions have a number of certifications available that workers need to obtain before seeking employment in specific areas, social workers usually only need a license from the state where they work and at least one college degree. You’ll find other certifications that can assist you in helping your clients as well.

Bachelor of Social Work

The most common degree obtained by social workers today is a Bachelor of Social Work. Completing this program requires that you take some general education courses in the humanities, math and science, but you’ll also take upper and lower level courses on social work and the social sciences. Undergraduates may also have access to government internships. These internships let you work for Child Protective Services and other agencies, and you’ll find other internships that let you work with populations at risk, including victims of domestic violence and the homeless.

Master of Social Work

A BSW is the only thing you need for many introductory and entry-level positions, but a Master of Social Work can help you go further. This is a two-year program that may take slightly longer to complete. Most MSW programs include either an internship or a thesis component. A thesis requires you to pick a topic in social work, research that topic and write a paper that includes your research and your own thoughts and opinions on that topic. If your school uses an internship component in lieu of a thesis, you’ll spend at least one semester doing volunteer work in your community.

State License

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one of the certifications required to be a social worker is a social work license from your state. Social workers must go through a background check and agree to let the agency performing that check share the information uncovered with any social work agencies. The BLS points out that while most states have a different system of licensing social workers, states typically ask that those workers have a minimum of 3,000 hours of clinical experience and a minimum of two years work experience before applying for a license. Some schools will let you complete those requirements as part of your studies.

Other Certifications

Though you don’t need any other certifications required to be a social worker, you may find other certifications that can help you in regards to working with specific groups of people. A certification in mental health counseling helps you provide services to those struggling with depression and other mental illness, and you’ll find some program designed to give you more experience working with children or victims of abuse. With so many social work agencies now relying heavily on computers, a computer science certificate is also useful. Many of these programs are available through community colleges and vocational schools that let you take classes online or at night.

Related Resource: Family Services Director

Social workers investigate claims made against people and help individuals find the support that they need. Working in this field often requires a BSW or an MSW and a license from your state. While you don’t need any specialized certifications required to be a social worker, some certificate programs can make your job a little easier.