How Do I Become a Certified Social Worker in Health Care?

Individuals interested in a career where they can help others not just feel better but transition to a lifestyle where they can better adapt to their health issues often choose to become certified social workers in health care. This field requires extensive college education, clinical experience and certification. It’s also a field that’s very much in demand today. Learn everything you need to know on how to become a certified social worker in health care.

Education Requirements

To become a certified social worker in health care, an individual must have a master’s degree in social work from an accredited school and pass a certification exam. Individuals interested in entry-level positions in social work can have a bachelor’s degree, but they must have a master’s degree to work as a certified social worker. The individual should already have a bachelor’s degree prior to enrolling in a social work master’s degree program, although the bachelor’s degree does not need to be in social work.

Earning the master’s degree typically takes two years of full-time study. In addition to completing the coursework and lab studies, students are also required to complete an internship. Health care social work programs help students develop clinical assessment and management skills. As of 2017, there were more than 200 master degree and more than 500 bachelor degree social work programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

Certification/Licensure Requirements

Social workers are required to be licensed in all the states before they can work as social workers, and they must pass a certification (clinical) exam to obtain a license. To be eligible to take the certification exam, the candidate must have earned the master’s in social work degree and completed at least two years of clinical experiences under the supervision of a licensed health care social worker. The candidate is usually required to complete a certain number of hours of supervised clinical work.

States vary in their licensure requirements. For example, Wisconsin requires 3,000 hours of clinical work; Massachusetts requires 3,500 hours, and Arkansas requires 4,000. Aspiring health care social workers should check with their state licensure board to learn what their state requires. State licensing information can be found on the Association of Social Work Boards website. To maintain licensure, the social worker must complete a certain number of continuing education credits. This can also vary from state to state.

Career Outlook

Social workers, in general, continue to be in demand, but healthcare social workers are expected to experience the largest job growth according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The bureau predicts health care social workers will see an employment growth of 20% during the decade of 2016-2026, which should result in about 35,400 new health care social worker jobs by 2026. Health care social workers earn an average annual wage of $58,470 as of May 2018 with some wages going as high as $84,870 or more.

Related Resource: Top 10 Affordable Master of Social Work Online (MSW) Degrees

Working as a certified health care social worker has many benefits, including good wages, excellent job growth and the potential to help sick individuals in a variety of ways. While seeking this career may involve hard work and commitment, the end result of becoming a certified social worker in health care can bring about a challenging and rewarding career.