Becoming a Social Worker in California

California licenses social workers at the highest level of practice; a master's is required. However, you can pursue a social worker education in California at the bachelor's level and you can use your degree to obtain an entry-level position.

Here are some tips for becoming a social worker in California – whatever your current education level or future goals.

If You are in High School

Step 1:

Concentrate on making yourself competitive for university admission. There are no courses that you need that are not part of a standard college prep curriculum. However, you may opt for AP psychology.

Step 2:

Meanwhile seek out opportunities for career exploration. You may have the opportunity to shadow a professional.

Step 3:

If you want to study social work at the bachelor's level, look for a school with a CSWE-accredited program. This is becoming increasingly important in California -- Bill 252 would stipulate that only graduates of master's programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) could call themselves social workers.

Step 4:

Admission to the social work degree program will be a separate step from general college admission. You will need to take some prerequisites during the first year or two. The school of social work will set a minimum GPA. When it comes time to apply, you may need to write an essay describing your experiences and professional goals.

Step 5:

You will spend a significant portion of your senior year completing an internship experience. You will graduate with a Bachelor in Social Work (BSW). You will not be regulated by the state licensing agency at this point, but you can choose to become a member of the National Association for Social Workers- California.

Step 6:

If you enter a master’s program within five or six years, you may be able to skip many foundational courses – up to a year, in some cases. You typically need a GPA of at least 3.0 in your major; having a GPA of 3.5 to 4.0 will give you more options.

Find more detailed California Social Work Licensure information here.

If You Have a College Degree

Step 1:

Take preliminary steps for admission to a social work program. If you do not have work experience in a related field, spend some time volunteering.

Step 2:

Consider the many CSWE-accredited MSW programs available in California. You have many options, including clinical social work and ‘macro’ or indirect practice. Allow plenty of time to complete any required prerequisites and go through the application process.

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.

Step 3:

During the second year of the master's program, you will pursue a concentration like health, mental health, or community organization and administration. Some master's students also pursue a sub-concentration.

You can seek membership in a professional organization like the California Society for Clinical Social Work as a student.

Step 4:

If you are pursuing clinical social work, you will need to obtain a license through the Board of Behavioral Sciences. You will first seek credentialing as an Associate Social Worker. You will work under supervision for at least two full years.

Step 5:

You will take the California law and ethics exam during your first year as an associate. Later, you will need to pass a national board examination administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB).

Step 6:

California has specific clinical coursework requirements that may or may not be included in your MSW program (for example, spousal/ partner abuse). If you are deficient in any coursework, you must make up the deficiencies while under associate status.

Step 7:

When all steps are complete, you will be licensed as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).

Find more detailed California Social Work Licensure information here.

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