Choosing social work as your career may be the best decision in your life. It is such an occupation that ensures personal growth and public welfare globally.
In recent days, there is no alternative to this dynamic profession to spread peace and prosperity in the world.
If you are planning to start your career in charitable activities, this article will show you the pathways.
Today, we will uncover everything from the beginning of social work to the steps of becoming a successful one in this profession.
What is Social Work?
The International Federation of Social Workers declared the global definition of social work in its General Assembly in July 2014. The association states:
“Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work.
Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledges, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing.”
When did Social Work Begin?
In the truest sense, the history of community service is not a new story. It began after the development of human civilization. In one way or another, people in all periods did something for the betterment of others.
But the term “Professional Social Work” had its origin in 19th century England. The Industrial Revolution brought about social and economic unrest. As a result, urban people suffered from mass poverty and the problems related to it.
Under such circumstances, to save the people who are in need, the concept of professional social work emerged.
For the first time, Columbia University offered social work class in its Summer Session in 1898.
After that, welfare services providers toiled hard establishing and flourishing charitable organizations. They came forward with people’s social problems so that they can be heard nationally and internationally.
How to Become a Social Worker: 7 Proven Steps
In this section, we will discuss the step by step procedure of your journey. Stick to us to reach to your destination.
1. Research and Decide: Does a Career in Social Work Suit You?
Choosing a career is one of the most significant decisions in your life. Once you are engaged, it’s hard to come back. So, do a thorough research on the topic you are about to undertake.
A career in public assistance is toilsome and challenging. Therefore, before taking it as your profession, make sure you are interested enough to dive into the pool.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you ready to carry out the educational requirements?
- “Does it align with your professional goals?”
- Are you physically and mentally fit to deal with stressing situations?
- Are you compassionate enough to listen to your clients’ sorrows and sufferings?
- Do you have the creativity to find innovative solutions?
However, make a list of questions alike. Answer them honestly to determine whether you should start your career in social work or not. If your answers are ‘Yes’, you are good to go with this career.
2. Complete the Educational Requirements
The first requisite of a successful career is to gather educational qualifications. So, it is your time to choose your education pathways. Here, we have shown you the ways to complete your degrees. Let’s dig in!
A) Obtain a Bachelor Degree in Social Work (BSW)
When you are determined to walk the road of welfare, your first step is to go for a Bachelor Degree (BSW). In this stage, you will learn the knowledge of nonclinical services.
You will get prepared for the entry level position such as hospitals, mental health clinics, schools, rehabilitation facilities, etc.
Knowledge of the following areas may be included as the coursework for a Bachelor program.
- Intro to Social Work.
- Social Work Practice.
- Human Behavior and the Social Environment.
- Social Welfare Policy.
Besides, these pave the way for your further study like Masters of Social Work (MSW). Hence, you should try to be more productive in college.
As this is the fundamental phase of your career, choose your institution for this program wisely.
B) Explore Your Master of Social Work (MSW) Degree
After completing your Bachelor, pursuing the Master (MSW) is the only way of progression. This degree will enable you to be a licensure practitioner. Besides, without it, your career opportunities are limited.
If you complete your MSW, you can play clinical roles. You will be able to create treatment plans. Plus, you may become a leader by supervising other social workers.
The common coursework contains:
- Studies in social and economic justice.
- Working with at-risk populations.
- Social welfare policy.
- Direct practice with diverse clients.
Every year the students in this field in both BSW and MSW are increasing. The table below shows the data.
|Year||2005||2010||2015||Change in Numbers |
|% Change 2010-15||Change in Numbers 2005-15||% Change 2005-15|
3. Fulfil Fieldwork Hour Requirements
Your internships or practicum period is generally considered as fieldwork hours. It is the time to apply what you have learnt from your courses. You can also come in touch with other social workers and achieve something new by observing their works.
However, fieldwork requirements vary from one to another institution. The location of your School and your degree level determine your field research hours.
For example, the minimum field-work hours for the Bachelor students of social work at Loyola University, Chicago is 480 hours.
In the same vein, the master’s students at Fordham University have to spend at least 1200 hours on fieldwork.
The main purpose of this stage is to make you ready for the next step. Besides, it gives you a new window to learn more about leadership and teamwork. This time, you have to undertake huge stress.
4. Get a Social Work License from Your State
After meeting your educational requirements, the beginning of social work starts with the process of obtaining your licence. The authority will not permit you to directly participate in the field without getting the licence.
According to a report of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, all social workers must have a license.
Again, licensing requirements vary from state to state. So, do a research before applying to get a licence from your state.
When you have a license, you can participate as an active social worker. The Table below will show you the numbers of active workers of different Races.
Bachelor’s Degree %
|Bachelor’s in Social Work |
|Master’s or Greater |
|Black or African|
and Alaskan Native
and Other Pacific
|Some other race ||3.0||1.9||2.0||2.4|
|Two or more races||3.0||2.1||2.5||2.7|
Source: ACS, 2015
5. Start Your Career as a Licensed Social Worker
Once you have got your license, you are free to work as a welfare services provider. You can shine in this sector because there are huge job opportunities with higher pay. Therefore, select a career path that goes with your skills, passions and interests.
Here are some career paths you may choose from.
- Clinical Social Work.
- Macro Social Work.
- School Social Work.
- Medical Social Work.
- Substance Abuse Social Work.
Social work jobs are high in demand in recent days. The below table shows the increasing job opportunities from 2016 to projected 2026.
|Occupation||Employment, 2016|| New jobs, projected 2016–26|
|Child, family, and school |
|Healthcare social workers||176,500||35,400|
|Mental health and substance |
abuse social workers
|Social workers, all other||64,000||5,300|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program.
6. Pursue Professional Certifications
Professional certifications express your skills and understanding. They are not always required for getting a job. Rather they keep you ahead of the others.
When you have one, the employers and the clients will think that you are an expert in this line. As a result, your reputation will increase.
7. Complete Continuing Education Requirements
Social work is ever-evolving in nature. If you don’t update yourself, you will fall behind. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) states that a practitioner must complete 48 hours of continued learning for renewing his or her licence. But the timing varies from one to another.
Some examples of Continuing Education Requirements may involve the following:
- Staff development.
- Panel discussions.
- Book writing.
- Publications of journals.
- Engagement in research.
- Reading professional books.
Some Famous Women Social Workers in the History
- Jane Addams (1860-1935)
- Frances Perkins (1880 – 1965)
- Jeannette Rankin (1880-1973)
- Edith Abbott (1876-1957)
- Harriett Rinaldo (1906-1981)
- Mary Ellen Richmond (1861-1928)
- Grace Coyle (1892-1962)
- Frances Feldman (1913-2008)
- Barbara Mikulski (1936- )
Question # 1: When was the social work movement?
Answer: The social work history timeline shows that the movement started in 19th century Europe and North America after the industrial revolution. It was first considered a profession in the 1930 census.
Question # 2: Who is the father of social work?
Answer: Jane Addams is the pioneer of social work. She worked for immigrants’ house settlement in Chicago in the early 1900s. She is the first prestige holder woman who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.
Question # 3: What do Social Workers Do?
Question # 4: What are the 7 principles of social work?
Answer: The principles are:
- Self Determination.
- Non-judgmental Attitude.
- Controlled Emotional Involvement.
Question # 5: What are the six social work values?
Answer: The core values are:
- Social justice.
- Human relationships.
Wrapping Up: Beginning of Social Work
The beginning of social work can bring about a radical change in this COVID-19 driven world. This profession can play a pivotal role fighting against the pandemic.
However, every career is challenging. When you decide to be a social worker, it becomes more stimulating. You may lose track without proper guidance.
Therefore, research and follow the above procedure step by step. Work hard to prepare yourself for this promising occupation.
Take social work as a profession, extend your helping hands and make this world a better place!