Obtaining a master’s degree in social work may soon become easier for people who hold bachelor’s degrees and live in the District.
On Feb. 1, Councilmember Robert White reintroduced legislation that, if passed, will make it free for people who live or work in D.C. to obtain a master’s degree in social work. The program will offer scholarships to students who enroll at the University of the District of Columbia and will cover the full cost of tuition and provide a stipend for transportation, books and living expenses.
Social work can be a difficult field to break into. To become a social worker in D.C., a person must possess a master’s degree in social work. There’s also a licensing requirement that mandates that every applicant provide a list of character references in addition to paying an over $200 fee and sitting through an exam. The bill, if passed, would also help lower the financial barriers for people interested in working in this field.
“I’ve seen positive movement on mental health over the past couple of years, including reduced stigma and more people seeking out the support they need,” White said in a press release. “But I hear from people all the time who can’t find a therapist or counselor, so we have to do something to expand the pipeline of mental health professionals. Mental health services are also a key component of a holistic approach to crime prevention and response, but we must have the workforce in place for it to make a real difference on the ground.”
Currently, the proposed legislation has a built-in plan to grow over time. In its first year, it would serve 20 students, and double the number of participants the following year. Legislators estimate the program will cost around $6 million over four years. If passed and enacted, the program could open as early as spring 2024.