How to Become a Social Worker in California

When researching how to become a social worker in California, it is worth considering several important points: what kinds of social work programs are available in the state, how to earn a license, what kind of salary a social worker can expect to make in California and the nature of the job itself. Working as a social worker in California involves tending to the needs of those who are most vulnerable in society. In addition to working with children and the elderly, an increasing number of social workers in California work in fields such as drug rehabilitation, immigrant welfare and specialized mental health fields.

California Social Worker License Requirements

A masters degree is the minimum amount of education required to be licensed in California as a social worker. Only masters degrees earned at institutions that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the Council on Social Work Education are accepted. The state also requires the following courses to be completed before licensing: seven hours of child abuse assessment and reporting, 10 hours in human sexuality, 15 hours in spousal abuse reporting and assessment, 15 hours in substance abuse and dependency, and 10 hours on aging and long term care. Some California colleges don’t offer all these courses in the curriculum so they will need to be taken after graduation.

There are two levels of social work in California. Associate Clinical Social Worker (ASW) is the entry level to social work in California. An ASW must have a masters degree in social work, pay an application fee, complete the above listed courses if necessary, and work supervised for 3,200 hours in 104 weeks before taking an Association of Social Work Boards Exam to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. The LCSW is required to pass the exam and also another test called the Written Clinical Vignette Exam. California is in the middle of changing over the designation and qualifications of social workers and many of today’s social workers will be grandfathered in. The new title of ASW will be LPCC (Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor).

Out-of-state licensed social workers will have to submit a syllabi of their degree and remedial courses taken unless their degree was earned after 1983 from an accredited school. The program isn’t fully integrated at this time and California is still transitioning. Every two years, 36 hours of continuing education are required for renewal, although just 18 hours until expiration are required for first time renewals.
(Source: California Board of Behavioral Sciences)

California Social Worker Salary and Job Outlook

According to estimates by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, California has about 25,050 child, family, and school social workers who earn an average annual salary of $50,030 as of 2011.1 Healthcare social workers tend to earn a higher salary with the 12,300 healthcare social workers in California earning an average of $60,490.1 California is one of five states with the highest employment level of social workers and the highest concentration of jobs. The Sacramento and Oakland areas are two of ten metropolitan areas with the highest employment levels for this profession. Social workers are projected to see strong growth in through 2020, with an expected increase 25% in jobs from 2010-2020.2

Social Worker TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers25,050$50,030
Healthcare Social Workers12,300$60,490
Mental Health and Substance Abuse10,280$48,840
Social Workers, All Other12,530$63,080

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2011.

Top Ranked Social Work Programs in California

US News Best Graduate Social Work Programs
University of California; Berkeley #7
University of Southern California; Los Angeles #11
University of California–Los Angeles; Los Angeles #16
San Diego State University; San Diego #60
California State University–Long Beach; Long Beach #66
San Francisco State University; San Francisco #66
San Jose State University; San Jose #66
California State University–Sacramento; Sacramento #89
California State University–Fresno; Fresno #104
California State University–Northridge; Northridge #104
California State University–San Bernardino; San Bernardino #104
Humboldt State University; Humbolt #130
Loma Linda University; San Bernardino #130
California State University–Chico; Chico #148
California State University–Dominguez Hills; Carson #148
California State University–Fullerton; Fullerton #148
California State University–Bakersfield; Bakersfield #172
California State University–Stanislaus; Turlock #172
California State University–East Bay; East Bay #187

Social Work Programs in California

California Social Work Career and Job Resources

In California there are a wide range of opportunities open to those who want to work with veterans, many of which can be found with the Department of the Air Force. Clinical social workers can broaden their horizons with the wide range of university boards available across the state, while child development specialists can work with the Casey Family Program. Many local schools and health care facilities also offer chances to work with families. Social workers can sometimes find jobs in California through their colleges or universities, which often post job openings on their websites. The California Chapter of the National Association for Social Workers is a helpful resource with information about industry events and job openings.

Schools with Social Work Programs in California

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ca.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/Community-and-Social-Service/Social-workers.htm