How to Become a Social Worker

By Eric Hammer

So you want to become a social worker. A social worker is the most common of the three tiers of people who work with those who suffer from mental anguish. The other two levels of course are a psychologist and a psychiatrist. You'll need to be someone who loves working with people and who wants to help them with their problems.

Keep in mind that a social worker, unlike a psychiatrist does not prescribe drugs and generally works by talking and discussing a person's problems rather than by actively trying to solve them through specific techniques such as a psychologist might. The experience for the patient is most akin to speaking to a good friend about their problems as opposed to the more formalized experience of speaking to a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Of course, unlike the other two branches of the mental health profession, you won't need to earn a doctoral degree or a medical degree in order to work in this profession. Instead, a simple Master's of Social Work is all that you'll need to have in order to work in the field.

How Much Can You Make?

According to the bureau of labor statistics, the average salary in 2008 for a social worker was $43,208 per year.

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While we focused above on the mental health aspect of social workers, many social workers also work in other aspects of personal needs. For example, some social workers are involved in arranging adoptions for children and others work in school settings, though again, in all cases you are working on the mental health side of the equation. So therefore in the case of a social worker who is involved in adoptions, you would be helping to evaluate whether a child is ready for adoption and whether a potential family is ready to adopt the child.

You may also deal with the mental health aspects of long term illness. In this case, there is no mental health issue per se, however the stress of dealing with a prolonged illness can have a profound effect on people and will be something where you would be called upon to help people to cope with the problems that they are experiencing as result.

Qualifications / Requirements

In order to become a social worker, you'll need to earn a master's of social work degree or MSW. There are no shortcuts and no other routes available. Your state may also require additional testing for licensing purposes.

First Steps

Start by researching schools where you can earn your Masters of Social Work degree. These programs abound in most cities so there should not be a problem with finding one, however you may want to look at the ratings for different schools and find one that is particularly well known so as to increase your employment options.


Check out these helpful resources to learn more about how to become a social worker:

Bureau of Labor Statistics- Use the the search box here to find information on what it takes to become a social worker and what the wages currently average. Social Worker Quiz - This is an interactive quiz to help you decide if you are a good candidate for this position.

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