How Can I Become a School Social Worker?

Research what it takes to become a school social worker. Learn about degree requirements, key skills, licensure and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Educational Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a School Social Worker?

School social workers are problem solvers and facilitators. They act as liaisons between children, parents and school personnel. In many cases, they act as advocates for the student as he or she tries to cope with any number of troubling situations having to do with that student's experience with the school environment. Students may have trouble adjusting to new surroundings, dealing with their parents, or interacting with teachers and other students. Though requirements vary by state, most states require nonclinical social workers to be licensed or certified.

Learn about this career, including the educational and licensure requirements for becoming a school social worker in your state from the chart below.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Social work
Key Skills Problem-solving, listening, compassion, organization, interpersonal
Licensure/Certification Some form of registration, licensure or certification is required per state law
Job Growth (2014-2024) 12% (for all child, family and school social workers)*
Median Salary (2015) $42,350 (for all child, family and school social workers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Should I Study to Become a School Social Worker?

To work as a school social worker, you're usually required to have a master's degree in social work. Many of these programs offer a focus on school social work and can be completed in two years of full-time study. Graduate programs often include at least 900 hours of supervised training or field internships that can help you meet licensure requirements. You don't need a bachelor's degree specifically in social work to be eligible to enroll in a master's degree program, but it could qualify you for advanced standing and shorten your graduate training to one year.

A graduate program in school social work combines coursework in social work practices and behavioral theory with field experiences. Some courses cover the following topics:

  • Behavioral and emotional problems
  • Domestic violence
  • Substance abuse
  • Truancy
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Suicidal behavior

How Do I Become Licensed?

Depending on your state, you need to become either licensed, certified or registered to practice social work in a school setting. The requirements vary by state but usually include minimum education and experience conditions. To ensure you have the necessary skills, you might need to pass a licensing examination. Other requirements include background checks and CPR certification. To renew a license or certification, you could need to complete specific continuing education requirements, such as take courses, attend seminars or conferences, complete workshops or be involved with professional development programs.

What Duties Might I Have?

As a school social worker, you'll cooperate with parents, guardians, teachers and other school personnel to help students succeed in their academic and personal growth. You might help students manage stress, emotional issues, academic struggles and disabilities. You could also arrange for additional help or placement services for students who are victims of abuse. You might confront issues with misbehavior, poor attendance, substance abuse and pregnancy as well as advise teachers on how to cope with unruly students. In the classroom, you could speak to students about conflict resolution and other subjects.

What Is the Job Outlook for School Social Workers?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that jobs for child, family and school social workers would grow by about 12% between 2014 and 2024, which was considered faster than the average for all occupations. Growing student bodies and the need to accommodate disabled students could lead to increased demand for school social workers. However, inadequate school funding might inhibit job growth. Though there could be competition over jobs in cities and regions that have sufficient educational programs for social workers, the BLS expected more opportunities for social workers in rural areas and underserved communities.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

With the preponderance of addictive substances in the world today, the career of substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors melds very easily with that of school social worker. These counselors work with adults and well as school age children as they investigate behavioral disorders possibly brought on by and/or reflected in substance abuse. They try to support their clients and help them modify behavior and/or recover from the pattern of abuse. They advise and try to educate abusers and their families in order to develop healthy relationships and productive behavior patterns.

Sometimes anti-social behavior, behavioral disorders or drug abuse wind up with an individual being tried, convicted and sentenced to probation rather than prison. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists are assigned to monitor and work with probationers to ensure that they don't revert to their previous behavior. They meet regularly with probationers and their families in order to advise and recommend effective rehabilitative treatment. They test probationers for drug abuse and submit reports of the progress of treatment as well as on how the probationer is adjusting. Parole officers perform similar duties to individuals who have served prison time.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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