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The Social Work Love Story: How to Make it Through

Updated: Dec 31, 2021

When I was very young and giving consideration to what I wanted to do in life, I had a fairly diverse choice of career paths: judge, chef, or teacher. Ultimately, I chose something much more fulfilling, Social Work. At the time, the opportunity to make $30-40K seemed like A LOT of money. Silly 20 year old me!

Now for those of you that want to be Social Workers, this is not mean to discourage you. Remember, this is a love story... but then again, so was Romeo & Juliet. I digress.

There is a lot of information out there about how to become an LMSW or LCSW, but sometimes it can be overwhelming. Also, it helps to hear from someone who has done it.

Keeping in mind that each states licensing board has different requirements, let's talk about what it takes to become a NY Social Worker. At one point, I felt like my desire to advance my career was like chasing a toxic relationship. I would dream about it, ignore red flags, and do things to make it work at a cost to my health/sanity/financial stability. At every point where I thought the relationship was ready to progress, some BS roadblock would pop up or some carrot would be dangled to keep me strung out.

Jobs/Student Loan Forgiveness: "I know I said having your Masters would be good enough but... I dunno, I'm starting to think we can't move forward with this unless you get licensed."

Me: "Okay! I guess I can find the time to study after work somehow... and if I work a little more, I can set aside the money to pay for it all."

I would risk everything to get licensed thinking we could finally be happy and then...

Other SWs/Higher Paying Jobs: "Look, I know I said getting licensed would be enough for me but I don't know if you & me can work out if you don't go for your clinical."

Me: "Oh... I thought... umm okay no problem. I can find a way to squeeze in another job to get my clinical hours. All 2000 of them. If I do part time, it'll only take me six years max and then you'll be happy right??"

Find time, make time, lose time. More studying, another application, more fees and exam. But this time, it'll be enough.

Insurance panels: "You know, you really should get your "R"...

Me: "You know what... fuck you. Its over."

Understand the FULL cost of becoming a Social Worker. For me, it included:

1. Patience & Money

  • I complete a two year masters program with an accredited university. I applied to two programs at about $100 per application. I didn't have a few thousand laying around so "helllloooo student loans!"

2. Time

  • I often felt like I was using more time than there were hours in the day. Years ago Stony Brook offered all day Saturday classes. I took the max amount of courses, two during the week in the evenings after work, and 3 on the weekend, starting at 8:30 AM. One year I did my 14 hours of internship in one shot every Sunday because I worked full time. During my 2nd year, I was able to break my work schedule up and squeeze my internship hours into the work day because it was only a three minute drive from my job.

3. More Money

  • The licensing exam application fee was $294. The ASWB practice exam cost $85 and the real exam cost $230. If you decided to pursue your "C", well, that cost $260. Thinking you're all done with fees? Nope! Renewal costs $179. I can't even get into the cost of training to gain CEUs.

4. Yes, more time!

  • Earning my "C" was beneficial for my plans but it required more time... 2000 hours of experience in 36 months or three years to be exact.

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