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What is a Licensed Social Worker?

Licensed social workers are professionals who work to better the lives of individuals within the context of their own environment. Social workers examine various aspects of their clients' lives and cultures to match these clients with available resources to improve their quality of life. Because clients in different populations and individual situations require different resources, the role of the social worker also varies greatly between individuals and across locations.

Social workers are found in a broad range of settings, including public agencies, hospitals, schools, private practices, and police departments. These professionals serve communities, families, and individuals, working with everyone, including children, people with mental illnesses, the unemployed, and the elderly. Social workers also work with city officials and corporations to amend policies and prevent discrimination of any kind.

The problems that social workers address vary widely and include some of life's most difficult challenges. Social workers help individuals deal with poverty, stress, addiction, depression, abuse, disability, unemployment, death, and divorce, among other issues. Some social workers specialize in dealing with only one of these problems, while others address any or all of these issues with their clients. A social worker who specializes in unemployment may help clients negotiate their state unemployment system while looking for a job. One who deals mostly with children and families would likely make frequent house calls to make sure that the children are being cared for properly. And a social worker who specialized in mental illness might provide clients with counseling or refer them to an appropriate counselor in their neighborhood. They would also ensure that such clients are capable of taking care of themselves and are not a danger to themselves or to society.

In order to completely understand clients' problems and be able to help these people within the context of their complicated situations and environment, social workers must be educated and experienced. The education requirements for becoming a licensed social worker vary by state, but all states require at least a Bachelor's degree in Social Work to get started in the profession. Some states require that all licensed social workers hold a Master's degree in Social Work. The number of supervised hours of work required to receive certification as a licensed social worker also varies by state. In California, for example, social workers must have a Master's degree in Social Work and 3,200 hours of supervised experience to be eligible for licensing, while in Mississippi, social workers need only a Bachelor's degree in Social Work and do not need to complete any hours of supervised work experience. Once an individual meets their state's requirements, they can then register for their state's licensing test. If they pass, they finally become a licensed social worker.

Social work as a profession can be both challenging and rewarding. Because social workers face a variety of situations and must help people surmount various personal problems, they must be resourceful and dedicated. Although being a social worker can be very difficult, social workers do get to enjoy the feeling of helping improve the lives of the people that they encounter as they work for social change, social welfare, and social justice for all people.