Earning a Social Work License

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If you aspire to become a clinical social worker, then earning your Master of Social Work (MSW) degree is just one step toward your goal. You will need to attain a license to practice clinical social work. While exact licensing requirements vary from state to state, it’s typical for aspiring clinical social workers to need to meet education and experience requirements to be eligible to apply for a license as well as earn a passing score on a licensing exam.

Go to Graduate School

If you want to become a licensed clinical social worker, then you must first earn your master’s degree in social work. Even if you earned your bachelor’s degree in a subject other than social work, you can still go to graduate school for social work. Master’s in social work degree programs often consider candidates who majored in sociology, psychology, political science and economics as undergraduates, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Most MSW programs require two years of full-time study, though some can be completed in just one year if students have an undergraduate background in social work or qualify for advanced standing. Many MSW programs also offer part-time study options.

The graduate social work program you choose can affect your opportunities for licensure. Most importantly, you need to make sure that your program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. You should also consider the extent of your program’s fieldwork requirements and academic offerings when deciding which school is right for you. The more hands-on social work experience you gain as a graduate student, the easier it will be to get your first social work job out of school. At some of the top master’s in social work degree programs in the United States, you will find the opportunity to pursue a concentration in clinical social work practice. Digging deeper into clinical social work practice at this stage can help you gain valuable skills for direct practice as well as prepare to eventually take the clinical exam.

Complete Your Supervised Experience Requirements

Once you earn your MSW, you’ll need to prove your skills in real-world settings. Most states require aspiring clinical social workers to complete at least two years of supervised clinical experience before they sit for the exam, the BLS reported. Throughout this experience, you will have the opportunity to learn from licensed clinical social workers in a hands-on setting.

Pass the Clinical Exam

Once you have met all eligibility requirements for your state, you need to take the Association of Social Work Boards clinical exam. The exam consists of 170 multiple-choice questions, and candidates have four hours to complete the test electronically. When taking the test, you should be prepared to answer questions about human development, diversity, behavior in the environment, assessment and diagnosis of mental health conditions, treatment planning, case management, psychotherapy, clinical interventions and professional ethics and values.

Becoming a licensed clinical social worker takes a good deal of time and effort. However, many social workers find that the process is worthwhile. Once they attain their licenses, clinical social workers can do the rewarding work of helping people recover from mental health and emotional disorders. They have the option of opening their own private practice, if they choose. Having their MSW degree and clinical social work license will expand your career options and enhance your salary potential.