...in a bunch of not-necessarily-easy--but
I remember as I was first
looking into the profession, nothing spelled out this process in a
way that made much sense. Degree--which? Internships--what?
Study--how? Hopefully this will help. (Heads-up: Links are mostly
for California. Elsewhere, try the ASWB and/or Google (and, if you're feeling generous, post
helpful links in comments.)) So, here goes...
First, figure out that an
LCSW's really what you're looking to get. Check out other options:
MFT, PsyD, PhD. Note that MFTs need internship hours with kids,
families, and adults--hard to get at one job. Note that a PsyD and
PhD take a lot of money and time. Arrive at your decision: social
Find a school. (CA accredited
list is here.) I went to USC. It was nearby, they
didn't require a GRE, didn't have a statistics prerequisite, and
they let me in.
Get your MSW. Maybe try
learning something along the way. It's nice to have challenging,
inspiring teachers and internship supervisors, but...doesn't always
Got your Master's?
Congratulations! Celebrate good times. Done? Now, you need hours.
3200 of them in California. If you haven't already, time to find a
job. Try careerbuilder, try craigslist, try anything you can think of. Time to
be a social worker. And don't forget to register with your state licensing
Work. Accrue hours. Get
supervised. Check with your licensing board and make sure you're
getting the right kind of hours supervised by the right kind of
supervisor (some % has to be sup'd by an LCSW--at least in CA).
Hint: Getting on top of signatures for hours and such early will
save you panic later on. Most people wait and panic,
3200 working hours pass (about two years). Done? Wow,
congratulations again. Get your CEs done. Now, time to get your application
in. This is potentially nerve wracking. You've put years into this,
and if they nix your hours, it's a bummer. So...do it right. Check
it with someone else. Don't fuss getting it too, too perfect. But
don't fudge things either. Your licensing board wants to okay your
app. Don't give them a reason not to.
Approved? Celebrate some more.
Now, it's test prep time. This takes a while and can get really
expensive. Survey what's out there. Try out practice
questions. If you can afford it, choose a test-prep company
(hopefully, this one!). Probably worth it.
Once you've picked a company,
choose components--books, CDs, workshops, etc.
Ebay and craigslist sometimes have used materials. Free and
helpful audio is available on the web. Most crucial, I
think, are the online test banks. Seems like it'd
be tough to prep without them.
Study. Run the questions. Read
through this blog. Gather in groups. Maybe hire a tutor. Keep in mind: the people putting
together the test probably just want to make sure you don't do harm
to clients. That means you need to know the law, have a grasp of
social work ethics, can do assessments (especially for danger and
basic needs), and won't try to work outside the scope of practice.
If you've got that stuff down, you're most (maybe all) of the way
You've also got to learn the
test, which is why the practice questions come in handy. Run
complete exams in real time. Four hours! Two hours! Take breaks
just like you will for the actual, factual test.
And keep tabs on your
anxiety. Maybe take advice you've been
ignoring--exercise, eat a little better, meditate--at least till
you get through the test. Maybe try to enjoy the learning process.
The test result is just a result; but studying, you're getting
better at what you do every day.
Done all that? Feel ready?
Great, then you're ready. Book the test (in CA, call PSI). Take the test. Pass the
You're done. Nice job.