How Do I Become a Social Services Specialist?

People who are studying social work or a related field may wonder, “How do I become a social services specialist?” In addition to completing a degree in a relevant major or field of study, there are additional steps that need to be taken in order for a person to become gainfully employed in this line of work. Understanding the steps required for this career path helps a person make concrete plans for their professional future.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work

The first step in becoming a social services specialist is to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW). The BSW typically takes four years. This program includes courses in sociology, human behavior, psychology and statistics. A clinical rotation or supervised internship is typically required in order to complete this degree. A BSW prepares a person to work as a mental health assistant or case worker.

Earn a Master’s Degree in Social Work

Anyone who wants to work one-on-one with clients should plan to earn a master’s degree in social work (MSW). In an MSW program, candidates learn clinical management skills. They also learn how to assess clients for different types of conditions, including substance use disorders and anger management problems. A typical MSW program involves an internship as well as coursework and a master’s thesis or capstone project. An MSW program usually takes two years to complete on a full-time basis. Candidates can begin the program as soon as they earn a BSW or related degree. Some people choose to work full-time as a case worker in order to gain relevant experience while earning an MSW.

Complete a Supervised Clinical Rotation

In order to complete an MSW and gain licensure to practice as a clinical social worker or social services specialist with direct client contact, it is necessary to complete a supervised clinical rotation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the supervised practicum or internship is typically in the candidate’s area of specialty. For example, people who plan to work with at-risk youth may have their supervised practicum in a center for juveniles who have been in trouble with the law or at a therapy center that specializes in counseling for children and adolescents.

Obtain Licensure or Certification from the State

Before a person can become a social services specialist, they must obtain licensure or certification from the state where they want to work. This is typically accomplished by completing an examination conducted by a state licensing or certification board. A fee is usually required in order to take the test. Two years of supervised clinical work is also required for licensure or certification. Once a person has licensure or certification from the state, they are able to practice independently as a social services specialist in a clinical setting.

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

Knowing what it takes in order to become a social services specialist allows a person to create a plan of action for their future. Following these steps and perhaps finding a mentor who has worked as a social services specialist for several years increases a person’s chance of achieving their personal and professional career goals. Having the answer to the question of, “How do I become a social services specialist?” allows a person to plan their education, licensing and other requirements.