How to Work as a Social Worker Without a Degree
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Social worker positions typically require at least a bachelor’s degree, if not a master’s. However, if you do not have a college degree—but have at least a high-school diploma or GED—you can still work in the field of social work, although you will likely have a job title of “case aide” or “social services assistant.” Your job duties can include keeping case records, arranging for client transportation, translation, investigating whether clients are eligible for certain social programs and providing emotional support.
Volunteer with an organization that provides social services in your community. Nonprofit organizations and local and state government are the best places to look for volunteer positions. Their missions are varied, so find one whose work you support and wish to contribute to. Try to volunteer directly with case managers or social workers to learn about their work.
Stay with the organization for a long time so you develop an in-depth knowledge of the ins and outs of the organization and the population it serves. The long-term commitment will also look good on your resume when looking for future employment.
Apply for a position as a case aide or assistant when one comes available with the agency with which you have volunteered. Case assistants do not have the same level of responsibility as full-fledged case managers or social workers. However, they do get to work with clients on a direct basis and provide critical support to case managers and other social workers.
Emphasize your passion for the population the organization serves in your cover letter and resume when you apply for the job. Even if you do not apply for a position with the organization with which you have been volunteering, your previous social work volunteer experience with a nonprofit organization or government agency demonstrates your commitment to serving others.
Highlight the skills you developed as a volunteer case assistant in your job application. For example, if you volunteered with a refugee resettlement organization, you might emphasize your knowledge of apartment setups, the native languages of the refugee populations as well as the list of appointments they have to complete within their first 30 days they are in the United States (medical exams, housing orientations, school enrollments, for example).
Leyla Norman has been a writer since 2008 and is a certified English as a second language teacher. She also has a master's degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology.