How to Become a School Social Worker

School social workers gather information on students to identify those who may need additional academic or social assistance. They provide direct counseling to students and refer students and families to appropriate community resources. They help students develop problem-solving and decision-making skills, encourage positive coping strategies and work with students both individually and within groups. School social workers work at all school levels, from preschool to high school and sometimes work in specialized schools for disabled children. Most school social workers have full-time employment with a school district, though that time may be divided up among more than one school. They generally receive a variety of benefits as well, such as sick days, health insurance and retirement accounts.

Instructions

    • 1

      Start training in high school by volunteering in a social-services or peer-counseling program. This provides experience in addition to a chance to network with others interested in this career as well as professionals in the field. Contact your school's social worker for more information on local volunteer opportunities.

    • 2

      Complete a bachelor's degree in social work. Courses in health, child development and psychology offer basic and vital information needed to work in this area. This qualifies you to obtain an entry-level position in the social work field, but does not provide all the training needed to work as a school social worker.

    • 3

      Finish a master's degree in social work to qualify for most positions with public schools. Choose a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Most graduates complete at least one year of supervised experience in an educational setting during this time as well.

    • 4

      Become licensed by the state by gaining further experience as required in your specific state. Most states require two years of supervised experience, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Find additional information on individual state licensing requirements by visiting the Association of Social Work Boards at aswb.org or contacting your state social work board.

    • 5

      Receive your school social work license from the state education agency if you live in one of the more than 30 states with such a requirement. Social workers may have to demonstrate their understanding and expertise in school social work through the portion of the National Teachers Examination (NTE) designed specifically for this field.

    • 6

      Seek certification from the National Association of Social Workers as a School Social Work Specialist (SSWS). Applicants for the SSWS credential must have a master's degree, two years of supervised experience and a passing score on the social work section of the NTE examination.

Tips & Warnings

  • Develop your communication skills, counseling abilities and patience. Social work with children can be challenging and requires continued development and the refinement of such abilities.
  • Social workers spend a great deal of time focused on their jobs, sometimes beyond the typical 40-hour work week. Communicating with parents, co-workers and community organizations may take place outside of normal business hours, especially when a child is in crisis.
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References

Resources

  • Photo Credit reading girl image by Julia Britvich from Fotolia.com

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