Becoming a Social Worker in Alabama
Social workers in Alabama practice the profession at multiple levels. You can practice at the highest level – clinical or mental health practice -- even if you don’t earn your bachelor’s degree in social work. However, the path will be shorter if you make the decision to pursue social work in high school or during your first years of college.
Here’s a look at how to get your social work education in Alabama and how to become a licensed social worker and begin a social work career.
If You Are in High School
The most important goal in high school is to make yourself competitive for the school of your choice. This means plenty of English, math, and science. There is nothing else you have to do at this stage, but volunteering can help you determine if the field is right for you.
If you want to pursue social work at the undergraduate level, you will need to select a school that has a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). There are multiple CSWE-accredited social work programs in Alabama.
College admission is a separate step from admission to the social work major. Your professional studies are usually concentrated in the last two years. You may be admitted as a pre-professional social work major.
Schools have different requirements for admission to the social work major. Just completing the prerequisites and general studies requirements with an acceptable GPA will take you much of the way there at some schools. You will likely need to write an essay and pass a criminal background check – the background check ensures that you will be eligible to complete internship requirements and ultimately to become licensed. Some schools also require a volunteer stint in human services before admission to the social work major.
Complete coursework and internship requirements and pursue licensure. You will need to take a licensing exam to work at the bachelor’s level; by submitting an application to the agency, you can be deemed license eligible – and begin work. You will have strict supervision requirements during your first 24 months as an LBSW in Alabama.
You can opt to complete a master’s and move up to a higher practice level. Expect to get credit for foundational coursework; the program should take you a year to a year-and-a-half of full-time study.
If You Already Have a College Degree
Even if your degree is in a field other than social work, you may be as little as 60 semester hours away from practice as a social worker. Begin by researching CSWE-accredited education programs.
The Simmons College School of Social Work ([email protected]) is the nation’s oldest school of social work and is offering an innovative Online Master of Social Work program. You can complete this CSWE-accredited Master's in Social Work program in as little as 15 months. There is no GRE required for acceptance to this program. Request information.
The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work offers a CSWE-accredited online Master's in Social Work. The GRE is not required to apply to the [email protected] program. A Bachelor's degree is required. Learn more about this program.
Capella University is now offering an online Master of Social Work that is in CSWE candidacy status. The MSW program helps prepare students to enter the general or clinical practice role (in most states). Capella also offers an online Doctor of Social Work. Click Here to contact Capella University about their Master of Social Work program or Doctor of Social Work program.
Admission standards are higher at the graduate level. The admission committee will be interested in your work and/ or volunteer experience. If you don’t have paid work experience that utilizes similar skills, try volunteering. Websites like Hand on Birmingham will point you to lots of organizations that are seeking your services.
You will have a choice of different types of social work program at the graduate level. One year is devoted to foundations coursework, and another to developing advanced competencies and specialized knowledge. Your post-graduate practice will be instrumental in determining what practice areas you are qualified to practice independently, but you can put yourself on the path by choosing the right program.
After graduation, you can be licensed as a Graduate Social Worker. You will take the ASWB master’s level exam.
After two years of supervised practice, you can seek licensure as a Licensed Certified Social Worker. Be prepared for another examination. At this point, you will be qualified to exercise independent judgment on the job, but not to go into private practice.
After an additional year, you can be authorized for Private Independent Practice in one or more of five practice areas: social casework, community organization, clinical practice, research, or administration.