Licensed clinical social worker: How I got my job and where I'm going
What education and training are required to become a licensed clinical social worker? Evony talks about the degrees she pursued to become a social worker, how requirements vary across states, and the importance of internships in helping her determine her career path.
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So in 2008 when I graduated with my Bachelor's of Science in Psychology, and I started applying for jobs, I quickly realized that a lot of them wouldn't hire you without experience, which I had none. So I had a really hard time finding a job. So I ended up working as a waitress for, I think, two more years after that before I started volunteering at Aviva Children's Services, and that I really enjoyed doing. So through the contacts that I had made at Aviva, I was told that there was job opening with child protective services, and I applied and I got the job. So I did that for maybe two and a half years until I realized that it was super hard work, and not very great pay. And so I decided to work towards my master's degree, which I did in social work, and I graduated in 2013. So to become a licensed clinical social worker, you have to obtain your master's in social work. I ended up with my undergrad in psychology, and so I needed to complete the full program. If you end up actually getting a bachelor's in social work, then the master's program is shorter. So with a bachelor's in psychology, my master's program was two years, although I went part-time so it took me three years. After graduating, in order to become licensed, you do 3,000 hours of direct client work, and you receive supervision by somebody who's already licensed for a certain number of hours. And then you study for your test, and you take your test for licensure. So the test is approximately four hours long. It's 120 questions, and if you pass, and you've met all of the hours requirements, then you're given your license. And it depends on the state as well. So in Arizona, there's two different types of licensure. So in Arizona, you get an LMSW, Licensed Master's Social Worker, before you can start working towards your clinical license. In Colorado, that license doesn't exist, so here you just go straight for your clinical license without ever getting a license prior to that. So I graduated my master's program and actually ended up working at the agency that I interned with while I was still in school, and I did that for almost one year before I decided to move to Denver. So I ended up moving here and applied for several jobs, although because the licensing structure is different in the two states, I was technically considered unlicensed, which made it even more difficult for me to get a job. So I applied several places. I did get one offer before I got the call back from the Mental Health Center of Denver. So the reason that I was given this position, I mean other than I think I interviewed well, is because I'm bilingual, so that was really key in helping me get a job that would provide supervision so that I could obtain my license, because finding a job that provides that is pretty difficult. So the typical career path for a therapist or a licensed clinical social worker, there are many but I think probably the most popular is to work for community mental health, work for an agency, until you can get licensed. And then a lot of people go on to open their own private practice. I think that I wanna continue doing this work because I really enjoy it, but I think that I would wanna strive towards having more work/life balance. So maybe in the future, work a little less, enjoy life a little more, but still continue doing this work. My piece of advice that I would give somebody who was just starting this work would be to look into the emotional toll that it can take. To learn about self-care, what it means to really take care of yourself so that you can continue to do this work, and to learn about the importance of supervision, which is sort of the support that you receive from a supervisor while in the job. Something I wish I had known was how much paperwork is actually required, 'cause it's a lot. And although, like I'd mentioned, it is necessary to keep track of everything that you're doing, sometimes it's overwhelming. I think pitfalls in this line of work would include maybe not learning to compartmentalize, taking your work home. Letting it affect you in your personal life, and there are definitely ways to avoid that, but I think for new therapists, it happens more often than not. I think that's really important to consider before choosing a career in social work, but it is incredibly rewarding.