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The New Social Worker is the quarterly magazine for social work students and recent graduates, focusing on social work careers for those new to the profession. This blog is a companion to the free online magazine at http://www.socialworker.com.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Now What?

What comes next?

I feel like that’s one of those obvious questions that no one seems to think to ask themselves until they’ve finished their MSW and gotten settled into a job… or maybe I just didn’t think to ask it.

Most everywhere, one knows the steps for going from Bachelor’s degree to MSW; choose schools to apply to, follow the application instructions, begin the coursework, complete said coursework, graduate. After that though, it gets a bit muddy.

For reasons I still don’t understand, each state has its own licensing levels, CEU requirements, titles, labels, and processes for obtaining each. For example, in Ohio, a person may take their LSW (licensed social worker) test during their last semester/quarter of the MSW program or they can go right for the LISW (licensed independent social worker) test. If one opts to jump immediately to the LISW, the test is tougher, but if passed, 2 yrs of supervision and the person automatically has their LISW –one test, one test fee, and done, but if one doesn’t pass the tougher LISW test, the student risks graduating without any license, making job hunting much tougher. In Florida, there is no such thing as either an LSW or an LISW, and in New York, tests must be taken in a certain order with a minimum of 3 yrs of supervision before attaining the final licensure level (LCSW).

Then there are the CEU requirements (which state requires what, how many of said hours may be completed online or from home or at what price point) to consider as well, not to mention finding supervision from someone you trust and whom you can afford (always tricky to find a balance when you understand how much many social workers need the money that comes with supervising but you’re a broke recent graduate). Of course, if you move to a different state, well, that’s just a horse of a different color! Add in that only a select few number of states have title protection (which means that, in those without it, anyone may call him/herself a social worker, leading one –or me at least- to huge levels of frustration as I jump through the hoops and battle student loan debt for a title that anyone can use), and it sometimes seems like a whole lot of hoops to jump through for a title that doesn’t always feel like it’s as respected as it should be.

I feel like things should just be easier, that social workers have enough red tape to cut through by the very nature of the profession. Instead of all of the variables by state, why not have one uniform process across the country that’s taught to students in their final MSW class so everyone graduates with a true understanding of the licensing process and all it entails? Why not have reciprocity between states? And while I’m at it, title protection for us all! A girl can dream, right?

In the meantime, I continue to wade through the process… I’ve been downloading licensure study materials for the New York LMSW test, reading up on NASW’s information regarding CEUs, and participating in as many socialworkchat.org discussions as possible about the difficulties of navigating this new terrain. Quite honestly, my head still spins sometimes.

I hope you readers are having/have had an easier time with the transition!

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