Licenses, Certifications, and Social Work Practice

If you are studying or are considering studying social work, you are probably well aware of the many roads this field can take you. I’ve said this before but I truly believe that one of the best things about being a social worker is the abundance of career options! Social workers can work in schools or hospitals or as independent therapists. Social workers can work with lawyers or families or the elderly. Social Workers are for everyone and that’s what makes the prospect of a career in social work so exciting. It’s also, however, what can make a career in social work so confusing. One thing to consider, however, is that many social work specialties require specific licenses and certifications.

Some of these requirements may influence which track you pursue in your studies. If your school or graduate school is anything like mine, there are multiple tracks offered for social work students, depending on your ultimate career goals. For instance, a university may offer tracks in Mental Health, School Social Work, Family Social Work, or research careers. Though these tracks are not binding, they do serve to prepare you for licensure and certification requirements for certain careers.

Take for example, school social work. In many states, school social workers are required to complete specific classes and internship hours before they are permitted to practice in a school. Some regions may even require a job specific exam. Additionally, those who choose to work in mental health will find that many agencies require a state license as well as a clinical social work license. Independent clinical licenses typically require hours of supervision and additional testing and can take 2 years or more to obtain. Besides the social work licenses that are often required, some jobs may require other certifications that are specific to the job or population with which you work.

It is important to know these things while you explore your educational and career choices. Speak to other social work students and professionals about the requirements of their jobs to get a better understanding. Check the website of your state social work board to learn state specific requirements. Often, state social work board websites will detail the specific education, supervision, and exam requirements for a specific career or specialty in that state. And, if you’re like me and are not too keen on test-taking, many schools and social work organizations offer information sessions and study groups/strategies for different licensure exams. Additionally, there are now several apps that can help you study and prepare for Social work licensure exams from your phone, tablet, or computer! Of course, there’s also the good old fashioned way of flashcards and study groups! Everyone learns differently and I’m sure you’ll find what works for you. In the mean time, do a little research on the career track that you may want to follow. Keep your options open but, consider the time commitments and requirements and use that information to find what best suits your goals. Good luck in your pursuit!

About the Author

Amanda Body

Meet our blogger, . She grew up in Harlan, Kentucky and currently resides in Louisville KY. Amanda graduated from Valparaiso University in 2009 with a B.A. in Political Science and English. Most recently, she attended the University of Kentucky where she earned her Master's of Social Work degree. Amanda is currently pursuing her passion as a hospital social worker in Louisville Kentucky.