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Career Development in Social Work

by Alice Stuart, studioD

Social workers fill many roles in the community. They work with children, older adults, families and for the government. Social workers generally must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree although many also have a master's of social work, or MSW. Career development is important for social workers to keep them abreast of current laws and standards of practice, and to keep them employable.

Continuing Education

Social workers have many venues for continuing education. Courses are offered at community colleges and universities, and online courses are available. You can attend conferences that provide new information and practices in the field or you could attend professional organization meetings for lunchtime lectures. No matter how you get it, continuing education is an essential aspect of every social worker's career as laws and standards often change. Every jurisdiction requires continuing education to maintain a social worker license, but the amount of hours required varies from place to place. For example, in California a social worker must complete 36 hours in the preceding two years, while Texas requires 30 hours of education in the preceding year.

Specialized Certifications

You can increase your job prospects and ability for promotion by obtaining a certification. Although most social workers obtain the basic social worker license required by their state, specialized licenses are available for those who want to become experts in a particular area of interest. You can pursue a specialized certification in family social work, addiction, hospice care, gerontology, educational social work, clinical social work or case management, for example.

Networking Opportunities

Increasing your skills can involve socializing with other members of your profession. Your colleagues may be an ongoing source of information and assistance. Consider joining the local chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, where you will be able to meet and speak with other social workers in your area, regardless of their field. You will also be eligible for the educational opportunities provided by the NASW and be able to use their resources to prepare for your licensing exams.


Another way to increase your skill set and visibility is to engage in outreach in the social work community. You can do this by mentoring students who want to be social workers, giving lectures at local community colleges or other schools, or speaking at conferences. If you prefer a career in academia, you can submit papers detailing research you've conducted or apply for a teaching position at a local college or university.

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