Step 1: Get Your Social Work License

It’s that time of the year again, and flocks of new social workers have left the safe bosom of academia to look for jobs and jumpstart their careers. But, depending on which state you live in (I’m looking at you, LSWs in New Jersey, trying to be different and all), not before you take the grown-up version of the SATs: the LMSW licensing exam. [Stage direction: Insert dramatic ominous music]

This site hopes to, in affiliation with Social Work Test Prep, provide young and young-at-heart social workers with resources, tips, and strategies to not only pass, but confidently master the generalist licensing exam. Every once in a while, I will also post articles or issues relevant to new social workers.

First of all, why is it important to get licensed?

1.  It makes you legit.
Seriously. It’s one feeling to walk across the stage and receive your Master of Social Work degree (or an empty envelope with your mailing address in it if you are an August graduate or still owe the school library money); it’s a completely different feeling to be officially licensed after the test. Whether it’s the immediate dopamine rush of being rewarded after a nerve-wracking exam, or adding an extra letter to your name, many of us remember the day we passed our test more than the day we earned our degree.

Getting licensed protects our profession’s claim of being defined by a specific body of knowledge, skills, and values, and makes sure that not just anyone can call themselves a social worker (as often has been the case with people who do human service jobs). It also protects clients and gives us the confidence that we are entering the profession with a solid beginning skill-set.

2. You need it for your other license.
In most states, you need your LMSW before you can even begin accruing hours for your terminal license in clinical social work (the LCSW). This is the license that will help you get that fancy office on fifth avenue and land a celebrity guest spot on Dr. Phil as a panel expert. Even if you do not plan on going into independent clinical work, many jobs, including government/military jobs require this license as a base requisite.

Ok, so what will I need?

1. A positive, strengths-based attitude.
After one to three years of sitting in a classroom, practicum, and being inspired by the clients we serve, we often forget that we know more than we think. Also, considering the interest-rates of student loans now, it was in our best interest to really pay attention in class.

2. Your handy-dandy DSM.
Nota bene: The ASWB has given license candidates a grace period until application of the DSM-V and plans to use the DSM-IV TR until July 2015. After which point your DSM-IV book will have vintage status and occupy an obscure bookstore in Williamsburg.

3. Resourcefulness.
I hope this site will be one of many resources that you use in addition to networking with your classmates (now colleagues), the ASWB’s own excellent resources, and Social Work Test Prep’s offerings for extra support.

Who are you?
Full disclosure time! I am a licensed master of social work in New York State who passed the LMSW exam on July 26 of 2012 (Summer-versary coming up!). I work as a therapist in community mental health and in a group private practice (owned by an LCSW) on weekends. Neither I nor Social Work Test Prep are officially affiliated with the ASWB or NASW. While this blog was started as an extra resource for clients of Social Work Test Prep, the opinions, tips, and voice of this blog are my own and in no way reflect the views of any specific individual or organizations.

I am a new(-ish) social worker hoping to help other social workers using my own experience of the exam, practice experience, and offline work as a part-time tutor.

Good luck!


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