Social work is a thriving field, one that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects to grow twice as quickly as the average occupation in the United States. Yet competition for the best jobs, the ones you are likely to seek with a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree, can still be fierce. For one thing, social work jobs with a master’s degree can pay considerably more than those with a bachelor’s degree, the National Association of Social Workers reported, and the highest-paying jobs are also the most sought-after. Additionally, prospective employers expect a greater extent of advanced knowledge, a higher level of experience and more ambitious goals out of candidates who hold their MSW. To meet these expectations, you should prepare for interviews by practicing your answers to interview questions, considering how a career move will help you reach your future goals and, if you aren’t yet licensed, making a point to understand how this role will support your efforts toward licensure.
Be Prepared for Questions About Clinical Social Work
If you have applied for jobs in the social work field before going to graduate school, one of the primary differences you will see upon interviewing with a master’s degree is the kind of questions you encounter. Because you have earned your MSW, you may face questions about mental health assessment, treatment and counseling that bachelor’s degree holders would not be asked. Whether you are already a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) or are currently considered a master’s social worker as you gain the experience required for licensure, you have the opportunity to work in clinical roles that wouldn’t be open to you with just a bachelor’s degree.
This means that, depending on the nature of your prospective employer, you might be asked more knowledge-based, as opposed to scenario-based, questions than in past interviews. An interviewer may ask you about specific theoretical perspectives, counseling strategies or therapeutic interventions that you might use in a clinical setting. Because clinical social workers often collaborate with other mental health care providers, you might be asked about the roles and boundaries of different providers or how you would handle professional disagreements with these parties.
Some of these clinical social work questions will ask you to draw scenarios you experienced during your internship experience as well as your classroom knowledge, so your formal education and hands-on work experience are both valuable in your responses.
Think About Your Future
You want to make big things happen. Otherwise, you would have been content with the opportunities a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree offered you instead of putting in the extra work to attain a master’s degree. As you search, apply and interview for jobs with your MSW degree, don’t lose sight of your ultimate career goals. The positions you accept and the social work professionals you connect with now can help you achieve these goals later.
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Keeping your future plans in mind is important during the job interview as well as in the earlier stages of a job search. Your interviewer may ask general questions, like where you see yourself in five or 10 years, as well as more specific questions, like what you are hoping to accomplish by finishing your master’s degree. How detailed you get in your answers may depend on your personality, the rapport you have built with your interviewer and the extent of opportunities that align with your goals at the organization. In a large organization with many leadership positions, telling your interviewer that you eventually want to advance to the role of director may be a wise choice.
On the other hand, telling a prospective employer that you hope to have enough experience in five years to leave and start your own private practice is less likely to land you the job.
Focus on Your License
For new MSW graduates, you have an education in the clinical components of social work, but you still need experience before you can get your license. In most states, you will need two years of supervised clinical experience, plus a passing score on a clinical exam, to acquire your license, the BLS reported. Your first job out of graduate school plays an essential role in qualifying you for that license.
If you want to get your license, you need to make sure that the role offers experience in a clinical capacity that will count toward licensing requirements. You also need to learn more about the supervision you will receive during this training period. If the organization doesn’t have a licensed professional to supervise you, then you could find out later on that your experience does not count toward your license.
Licensing requirements can vary drastically from state to state, so you need to know what requirements apply to you. The amount of post-degree supervised experience needed to become an LCSW ranges from 1,500 hours in Florida to 5,760 hours in Louisiana.