Should I Become a Caseworker?
A caseworker is a non-clinical social worker with a direct care position. They work with families or individuals to help with a wide range of problems, such as food and housing assistance. These professionals may also act as liaisons in court cases; report child, physical or substance abuse; and provide consultation to individuals seeking employment. Another job duty is to keep detailed records of their clients' overall case history and note any mental instability, school misbehavior or social anxiety issues. This profession may be stressful due to large caseloads caused by understaffing.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree|
|Degree Field||Social work|
|Licensure and Certification||Licensure is voluntary; voluntary certification is available through the National Association of Social Workers (NASW)|
|Key Skills||Compassion; organization, time-management, people and listening skills, database, spreadsheet, and word processing software skills|
|Salary (2014)||$59,100 per year (median for social workers)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Association of Social Workers, O*NET Online
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Typically, a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) is the minimum education requirement to work as a caseworker. However, other viable majors may include psychology, sociology or a comparable discipline. Schools offering social work degree programs should be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), which is the accrediting association for all undergraduate and graduate degree social work programs. A BSW program explores theories and principles such as social work methodology, social welfare and human behavior. Social work majors also learn how to manage cases, solve various problems, participate in community outreach and interview subjects.
- Complete a practicum to gain social work experience. Various laboratories or practicums may be required for students while they complete their bachelor's coursework. These opportunities are usually held in the last semester and include placement in an organization or agency that handles social work issues.
- Take advantage of school resources and activities. To help social work students complete their studies, some schools have intimate gathering facilities equipped with reference libraries, study spaces and computer labs. Students could also join a social work student group to network with other majors.
- Research if licensing is required. The Association of Social Work Board website has links to all of the state's social work regulatory boards. Students should research whether their state of employment requires such credentials. Basic licensing requirements include graduation from a CSWE-approved program.
Step 2: Obtain Certification
Certification isn't required by all employers, but it can be beneficial for caseworkers. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) offers certifications for caseworkers with bachelor's and master's degrees in social work. Licensed social workers may qualify for NASW Specialty Credentials, such as the Certified Social Work Case Manager (C-SWCM) designation. This certification requires a bachelor's degree; a minimum of three years and 4,500 hours of paid supervised post-bachelor's work experience; and a bachelor's level license.
- Keep certification current. According to the NASW, caseworkers must meet certification renewal requirements, such as completing continuing education courses online or on campus, attending approved workshops or taking a home study program. The NASW requires 20 hours of continuing education in a given renewal period.
Step 3: Consider Attaining a Master's Degree
While a bachelor's degree may be sufficient for entry-level work, some employers may require a Master of Social Work (MSW). In graduate school, students take courses and participate in research projects that build their professional foundations as caseworkers. Students also gain hands-on experience in a clinical setting. Many MSW programs allow students to focus their studies in an area of interest. Examples could include school social work, child and family, mental health and administration. Students could also elect to complete graduate studies on a weekend or evening schedule.