You may wish to consider becoming a social worker in Texas if your dream job involves working in the Lone Star State and helping people who are struggling. Social work job prospects in Texas look good for those who graduate from an accredited school of social work and fulfill state of Texas licensing requirements.

Several nationally recognized schools in Texas offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work. Enrolling in a social work program will give you the skills to assist people of all ages in learning how to solve problems and in reaching their goals. Through internships, you may discover a passion for working with certain populations, such as teen runaways, military veterans or developmentally disabled adults. Certain personal qualities are also needed, such as empathy, acceptance and compassion.

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Beginning social workers in Texas must have a bachelor’s degree in social work from an accredited school, pass state and national licensing examinations and clear a background check. Licensed clinical social workers also need a master’s degree in social work and two years of supervised clinical practice to counsel clients in Texas.

What Is a Social Worker?

A social worker connects individuals and families with community resources that can help them deal with personal problems and overcome barriers, such as lack of education. After conducting an intake interview, the social worker assesses the client’s needs and facilitates referrals to agencies and organizations, such as hospice care, vocational training programs, job services and substance abuse treatment.

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The social worker also provides information to clients on government assistance programs if they meet income eligibility requirements. Becoming a social worker in Texas may also offer the opportunity to advocate for social justice and public policy on important issues, such as immigration and asylum. Jobs can be found in many different settings including government centers, hospitals, legal services, mental health agencies, schools, nursing homes and nonprofit community organizations.

The goal of the social worker is to support people through difficult circumstances and figure out how to overcome barriers that limit their quality of life. While studying to be a social worker, you will take an introductory class in social work followed by specialized classes in human behavior, diversity and social justice. You will then gain hands-on experience through fieldwork practice in many settings, such as social service agencies, schools, hospitals and nonprofit organizations.

The day-to-day duties of a social worker vary according to work setting and specialization. For instance, social workers in child and family services may work with adoptions, foster placement, parenting education classes and housing. School social workers help children who are experiencing problems that interfere with their academic success. Health care social workers educate and support patients with health-related concerns. Clinical social workers are employed in mental health settings, private practice or addiction treatment centers. They are licensed to provide individual, family and group counseling.

Social workers must learn and practice good self-care to avoid burn out. Jobs in the field of social work can require working days, evenings, weekends and holidays. Case loads may feel too large to effectively manage them. In addition to direct client contact, social workers must keep detailed case notes, write reports and possibly testify in court. Social workers must also advocate for clients and help them wade through confusing bureaucratic forms.

An important consideration in choosing what kind of social worker you want to be is the amount of school to which you are willing to commit in pursuit of your ideal job. At a minimum, you will need a Bachelor of Social Work and a state license to be a social worker in Texas. A BSW will qualify you for generalist positions, such as an intake worker in a county agency. Many people earn their BSW, work in the field for a while to gain experience and then return to school for a master’s degree in order to acquire advanced-practice skills.

No matter which educational pathway you select, your education will entail classroom instruction and extensive hands-on training in settings where you will learn to apply social work theory to the practice of social work. Work hard at landing internships related to the areas that most interest you. Don’t just settle for any internship that is easy to get. Internships can be competitive, so it helps to have good grades, volunteer experience and proficiency in more than one language.

What Kind of Degree Do You Need to Be a Social Worker?

The Bachelor of Social Work is preferred by most employers, although it is possible in some states to work in a social service capacity with a related degree. All states require a license in social work in order to hold a job as a social worker. The BSW provides a solid foundation for becoming a social worker in Texas and elsewhere. Examples of classes include introduction to social work, human behavior, social justice, state law, social work ethics and cultural diversity. Once you have completed all your courses, you will intern under supervision at a community site for a period of time required by your program. With a BSW and a social work license in Texas, you can pursue generalist jobs such as a case worker, case manager or mental health assistant.

If you are more interested in an area of specialization, counseling clients or starting a private practice, you will need a Master of Social Work and two years of postgraduate supervised clinical practice. Graduate classes involve writing, research and intensive field-placement internships. The MSW generally expands career options and offers higher salaries. You can apply to MSW programs even if your undergraduate degree is not in social work; however, it will likely take you at least two years to finish the requirements of the program. At some schools, students with a BSW can finish an MSW in approximately 12 months. The advantage of the MSW is that you can pursue a graduate social worker license that will allow you to work in the mental health field as a licensed clinical social worker.

A Ph.D. is needed for most academic research jobs and social work teaching positions at colleges and universities. The doctoral curriculum is research and writing intensive. Full-time doctoral students can earn a Ph.D. in social work from a top-notch school like the University of Texas at Austin after three years of study and after writing a dissertation.

If you are thinking of social work as a possible career, choose a college that offers a social work program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. The Texas State Board of Social Workers Examiners requires applicants seeking a Texas social work license to provide transcripts verifying that they have a social work degree from a CSWE school.

Before you can officially declare a social work major, your school will likely expect you to take general education classes to help you become a well-rounded, cultured professional. General education classes can include subjects like math, English composition, humanities, science and global studies. A typical social work curriculum covers social justice, research, social welfare programs, psychology and community resources. Meeting with an adviser is very important. Classes may need to be taken in a certain sequence to graduate in four years.

How to Get Your Texas Social Work License

As part of your training in Texas to become a social worker, your instructors will help you understand how to get your Texas social work license. Further, you will take classes related to social work ethics, professional standards, state laws and licensing requirements. A combination of course work and hands-on training will give you confidence in your ability to obtain your Texas social work license.

The Texas State Board of Social Workers Examiners sets education requirements for licensure. The Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker is a generalist license requiring a bachelor’s degree in social work. The Licensed Master Social Worker is an option for those with a master’s degree in social work. Pursuing a Licensed Clinical Social Worker credential requires a master’s degree in social work along with documentation of clinical supervision hours. Texas has strict requirements about what initials you can use after your name. It is against the law to claim a license you do not have or to call yourself a social worker if you lack the proper credentials.

Graduates of a school of social work that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education may submit a licensing application to the Texas State Board of Social Workers Examiners after passing an online jurisprudence exam. The licensing requirements of Texas are rigorous to ensure that social workers are properly trained to do their job. A Texas social work license also requires clearing a criminal background check, passing the four-hour national Association of Social Work Boards exam, paying licensing fees and documenting annual continuing education hours. Graduate level licenses and nonclinical specializations have additional requirements.

Texas does not have licensing reciprocity with other states. Social workers licensed in other states may seek a Texas social work license by applying to the Texas State Board of Social Workers Examiners and documenting that they meet the qualifications for licensing in Texas.

What Is the Social Worker Salary in Texas?

Job prospects for social workers look bright across the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that demand for social workers will increase 16 percent between 2016 and 2026, which represents an increase of 109,700 jobs. Social workers earn a median salary of $47,890, or $23.07 per hour, as reported by the BLS in May 2017. Median salary means that half of all social workers made more money than the midpoint, and half earned less.

Earnings vary by geographical location, type of license, area of specialization and years of experience. The average social worker salaries in Texas are:

  • Family, child and school social workers: $43,980
  • Health care social workers:  $57,980
  • Mental health and substance abuse workers:  $41,740
  • All other social workers:  $69,860

Texas Social Work Board

The Texas State Board of Social Workers Examiners is a governor-appointed licensing board. It makes rules and upholds high standards for the social work profession in order to protect the public. Its website offers important information on obtaining and maintaining a Texas social work license. The board is also charged with investigating malpractice complaints against social workers. In addition, the website has a roster of licensed social workers in the state, listing their scope of practice. The list may be used for networking with colleagues or possibly finding a mentor.

Jurisprudence Exam for Social Workers

Licensed professionals in social work and mental health are required to take a state jurisprudence exam when applying for a license in Texas. The jurisprudence exam for social workers is an online test of the applicant’s knowledge of Texas laws and regulations applicable to the social work profession. A passing score on the exam is needed before you can go any further in the Texas social work license application process. Registration instructions can be found on the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners Texas Health and Human Services website. The registration fee for taking the social work jurisprudence exam is $39 as of December 2018.

Things Needed

  • State licensure
  • Bachelor's degree in social work
  • Master's degree in social work
  • Two years experience under LMSW

About the Author

Dr. Mary Dowd is a dean of students whose job includes student conduct, leading the behavioral consultation team, crisis response, retention and the working with the veterans resource center. She enjoys helping parents and students solve problems through advising, teaching and writing online articles that appear on many sites. Dr. Dowd also contributes to scholarly books and journal articles.