Resources for Social Workers and Students in California

Written by Sam Medley

social worker student studying

If you’ve decided to become a social worker, you’ve probably had some deep conversations with yourself. Maybe you’ve even considered another career. But when you imagine doing anything else, it never seems as fulfilling. You have a calling — helping others.

So what next? Who do you want to help? Where do you want to do it? And before anything else, how do you learn how to guide people through some of the most difficult and dangerous times of their lives?

From scholarship lists and career guides to information about self care, the following pages contain a wealth of resources for social workers and social work students in California. No matter where you are on your journey, your next step starts with learning more.

Becoming a Social Worker in California

As public wellness professionals, social workers must adhere to state laws and ethical guidelines. These standards often dictate what level of education and type of training different types of social workers need. While you’ll learn all about it as you earn an MSW, has a few guides to get you started.

Social Work Licensure Requirements

The only type of social worker in California that needs a license is the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Even if you don’t currently plan on becoming one, it’s important to understand what you can and can’t do with a social work license in California.

License Reciprocity

If you earn your social work degree or license in another state, you might qualify for licensure in California if you meet certain requirements. However, these requirements vary depending on the state you move from.

Organizations That Define Licensing Laws and Ethical Guidelines

A number of different organizations influence and enforce social work regulations across California. Throughout your education and career, you might turn to them for guidance, cooperate with them, or even work for them.

Some of the most important organizations for social workers in California to know are the:

  • Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS). The BBS is a state regulatory board that oversees licensing for LCSWs and other types of mental health providers. By enforcing rigorous training, educational, and license renewal rules for LCSWs, they preserve the field’s integrity and maintain public trust.
  • The National Association of Social Workers (NASW). As the nation’s largest professional social work organization, the NASW is instrumental in forming the field’s ethical guidelines and educational standards. However, they also offer a number of programs to support the social service workforce. While they don’t actually write or enforce laws, state boards and social work programs across the nation look to the NASW for guidance.
  • Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Since 1952, the CSWE has upheld rigorous academic standards in social work education. They accredit schools, help them develop curriculum, and ensure consistency amongst their member schools. To become an LCSW in California, you must earn an MSW from a CSWE-accredited school.

However, these organizations aren’t just there to enforce rules. They’re there to support social workers and the people they serve. For instance, the California Chapter of the NASW offers a number of support groups, scholarships, and continuing education resources for social workers in California.

Finding the Right MSW Program

MSW programs provide an education unlike any other. At its best, social work education is in-depth, hands-on, and teaches evidence-based intervention techniques alongside inclusive ethical principles. But depending on your career goals, you might be looking for a particular kind of MSW program.

Types of MSW Degrees

MSWs are more accessible than ever. Along with on-campus, full-time options, there are online MSW programs and accelerated one-year programs for students of all kinds. If you still need to earn or complete your bachelor’s degree, California’s BSW programs offer just as many flexible options.

Degree Specializations

Social work is a broad field. While you can pursue a degree in general practice, many programs offer specializations in traditional fields like child welfare and homeless outreach and emerging fields like environmental justice. Whatever your passion, there’s degree specialization for you.

Field Education

Fieldwork allows social work students to hone their new skills under the supervision of practicing professionals. Learn about fieldwork hour requirements, what social work interns do, and where you might complete your hands-on learning experience.

CSWE-accredited MSW Programs in California

With more Council on Social Work Education-accredited (CSWE) MSW programs than most states, California is a great place to start your social work career. Explore the most affordable MSW programs in California and learn about our Editor’s Picks.

Associate Degree Programs

Bachelor’s and Master’s programs don’t fit so easily into everyone’s lives. Fortunately, earning an associate’s degree in social work, human services, or another related field can prepare you for a career in advocacy. Many of these degrees can be earned in two years and are offered by community colleges across the state. Check out our list of the most affordable associate degrees and our Editor’s Picks.

Financial Resources for Social Workers

One of the biggest reasons students don’t pursue advanced degrees is money. But as a social work student in California, your education may be more affordable than you think. 

Scholarships and Grants

Whether you’re going to college for the first time or pursuing an advanced degree, applying for scholarships and grants can be intimidating. But organizations of all kinds offer ones you may very well be the perfect candidate for. Learn about different types of MSW scholarships and grants and how to apply.

Financial Resources for MSW Students in California

Looking for specific ways to fund your MSW? Browse our list of scholarships, stipends, loan forgiveness programs, and other financial resources for social workers and students in California.

Resources for Veterans Becoming Social Workers

Veterans who want to become social workers face unique challenges. Fortunately, California is home to organizations that support them financially, professionally, educationally, and more.

Career Planning and Salaries

No matter your passion and no matter your talents, there’s a place for you in California’s massive social work community. But figuring out how to turn that drive into an actual career is no small task. To help you make that decision, here are a few pages about the ins and outs of social work careers in California.

Social Work Specializations

California’s diverse population needs an equally diverse social service workforce to support it. From healthcare advocacy to immigration support, there are a number of unique and exciting job opportunities to explore.

MSW Jobs and Careers

Within each specialization, there are a wide range of roles to fill: clinical expert, administrator, researcher, policy advocate, and more. Find out what these advanced professionals do, where they work, and how an MSW can help you become one.

MSW Salaries

money questions

Even if you’re driven by a strong sense of social justice, learning about salaries for different types of social service jobs can help you plan your next step. Our MSW salary guide uses government-reported income data to help you do just that.

Careers and Salaries by City

While social workers have plenty of state and national employers to choose from in California, each city is home to its own advocacy community. For instance, San Diego hosts an impressive immigration support network while many of San Jose’s agencies advocate for people left behind by the area’s massive tech boom. Roles at any of these agencies come with different responsibilities, salary expectations, and career possibilities.

Professional Development Resources for Social Workers

Learning doesn’t end after you earn your degree. Researchers will discover new interventions. The ever-changing social and economic landscape will bring new people to your door. You won’t have to figure it all out for yourself — your colleagues in California and beyond can help.

Continuing Education

Continuing education courses keep social workers up-to-date on emerging trends and new intervention strategies. If you’re a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in California, you’ll be required to complete a certain amount of courses every two years. Find out more about these requirements, what kinds of enriching classes you can take, and where to find approved providers.

Mental Health Resources for Social Workers

As rewarding as social work can be, it’s quite possibly one of the most psychologically-taxing careers today. But social workers don’t have to go through the pitfalls of the job alone. Learn about common issues like compassion fatigue as well as therapists, support groups, and other resources for social workers who need mental health support.