How Long Does it Take to Become a Social Worker?

How long does it take to become a social worker? Depending on how committed you are to working in the field, it can take anywhere from six to eight years. While that may seem like a long training timeline, it’s necessary to spend this time focusing on your education and training. Keep reading to see how long it might take you to be licensed as a social worker.

Undergraduate Degree

All social workers are required to have an accredited undergraduate degree in social work; this accreditation, which comes from the Council on Social Work Education, provides students with the proper foundation to build upon as well as the necessary competencies for becoming a licensed social worker. The Bachelor of Social Work can take four years to complete in a traditional setting or two to three years with an online school; however, if you choose to pursue your degree online, please check to ensure that the program has been fully accredited and will lead you down the path to licensure.

Master’s Degree

When it comes to thinking about how long it takes to become a social worker, think about adding graduate school to your timeline. This is because many employers require a Master of Social Work for candidates; the program allows students to become competent in a specialization and will have access to practicums and internships that will demonstrate their competency in the skills necessary to becoming a social worker. An MSW can take just one year with full-time study and two to three years with part-time or online study.

Working Under Supervision

Although education is important in order to become a social worker, the length of time training outside of school is equally as critical. Most social workers will be required to participate in supervised experiences at hospitals, clinics, or in government agencies. This training can take anywhere between two to three years, depending on a social worker’s stated specification and licensure categorization; in some states, the license cannot be earned until a student finishes the supervised work experience. This is to ensure that social workers, who tend to work with children, are competent in the field and will be an asset to their job sector.


The length of your training will depend on what kind of social worker you would like to become. General social workers tend to need at least an undergraduate degree; many positions require graduate education. Advanced generalist social workers will be required to complete a graduate degree plus two years of supervised non-clinical social work experience prior to licensure. Clinical social workers will be required to also finish a graduate degree as well as partake in two years of supervised clinical social work before they can earn their license. In many states in the country, you will have the opportunity to work toward progressive licenses, which are necessary in order to stay eligible to practice in those states.

Social work is an incredible and challenging career and is one that is growing at the rate of 12 percent through 2024. While it can take a few years to become proficient enough to be a successful social worker, with the timeline currently being anywhere between six to eight years, it is well worth it if you want to make a difference in the country. Now that you know how long it takes to become a social worker, start planning for your new career.

Related Resource: Top Ten Best Online Social Work Degree Programs