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Qualifications

News flash: You probably won't be able to snag a social worker position using only your charm or connections. Unlike some other careers, you've got to have some hard and fast qualifications before you even land an interview.

Let's start with the education. You'll need a bachelor's degree for an entry-level case worker position. While a social work concentration is preferred, some employers may hire impressive applicants with a sociology or psychology track. Completing a supervised internship demonstrates that you have received exposure to multi-cultural populations and clients of varied ages.

If you plan to work in health care settings, or as a school-based social worker, you'll probably need a master's degree with a social work focus. This Master's in Social Work program often takes two years to complete, but will provide you with a solid background in your social work subspecialty. You'll learn clinical assessment and client management skills; you'll also complete a challenging internship. That's a lot of work, but here's the good news: You can enter a master's degree program with a bachelor's degree in just about any major; a bachelor's in social work is not mandatory.

Also note: If you want to hang your shingle as a clinical social worker (also called a licensed clinical social worker, or LCSW), you'll definitely need the Master's Degree in Social Work. In addition, you'll need to verify that you completed 3,000 hours (or about two years) of monitored clinical experience after you receive the Master's sheepskin. But wait, there's more! You'll still have to pass a professional exam before you can receive your LCSW credential.

All states require a social worker to be licensed or certified; however, the type of license varies by state. Although all states require LCSWs to be licensed, a non-clinical social worker's license is often optional. The Association of Social Work Boards has the lowdown on each state's licensing rules.

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