As a social worker, you'll be making a huge difference in your community, whether you choose to become a certified or licensed social worker. You'll be dishing advice and providing support to vulnerable people, such as addicts, the elderly or the mentally ill. Plus, you'll need loads of patience, understanding, and sensitivity. Still, there are differences in the positions. Level of education and duties separate the two -- get to know what's required and you can choose a career that works for both you and your clients.
Type of Schooling
Certified social workers need less schooling than their licensed counterparts. To become a certified worker, you'll need a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW). A BSW preps students to understand social welfare policy, human behavior and different populations, and is usually capped off by an internship or supervised fieldwork. A position as a mental health assistant or caseworker awaits, though if they want to work in health care or a school, a master's in social work (MSW) is a must. All licensed social workers need an MSW. This takes about two years, though if you have your BSW you may be able to zip through the program in a year. A BSW isn't required -- most any undergraduate program will do. Again, an internship or supervised fieldwork is definitely needed. MSW students will then go on to work in their chosen specialty.
If you're not a clinical social worker, you often don't need to be licensed. Phew. Some states do offer licenses for non-clinical workers, but they're usually optional. Check with the Association of Social Work Boards for details on what your state requires. All clinical social workers in all states have to be licensed, though those who work for a government agency are sometimes exempt. To get licensed, candidates need that master's in social work, about 3000 hours of supervised clinical experience, and a passing grade on the state's exam.
Here's the main difference between the two jobs: certified social workers help vulnerable people solve and cope with every day problems, while licensed social workers are involved with behavioral, emotional and mental issues. Certified workers can find themselves supporting those diagnosed with a terminal illness, pointing clients toward needed government or community services, or helping with an adoption. On the other hand, licensed social workers carry out group or individual therapy, liaise with other professionals to develop a treatment plan and encourage clients to talk about their emotional lives to better understand them.
Place Of Work
Both certified and licensed social workers can find jobs in mental health clinics, schools and hospitals, though the last two usually need an MSW. In both cases, school social workers help students with their academics, social skills, and bullying, while hospital social workers help clients adjust to their illness and refer them to services. Generally, licensed social workers will focus more on the mental health aspect in these specializations. They also have the option to work in private practice.
Alana Vye is a Canadian writer living abroad. She had a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Toronto and has worked in online marketing and publicity. She's also an avid traveler who has visited Asia, Europe and Central America.