How to Become a Licensed Social Worker

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Are you a graduate student interested in becoming a licensed social worker? In order to become licensed, there are certain requirements you must meet. In this blog post, we will outline the requirements you need to take to become a social worker. Keep in mind that requirements vary depending on the state in which you reside. So be sure to check with your state’s licensing board for specific information. Let’s get started!


How to Become a Licensed Social Worker?

In order to become a licensed social worker you may need to earn a master of social work (MSW). Many MSW programs allow students from any major to enter the field, though courses in psychology, sociology, economics, and political science are recommended, according to the BLS.

Other requirements to become a licensed social worker include:

  • Minimum of two years of supervised clinical experience after graduation
  • Pass clinical exam
  • Accrue state-specified number of hours working directly with clients

Keep in mind that specific licensure requirements vary from state to state. For instance, many states have on-going or continuing education credits and on-going supervision requirements.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

For most states, earning your MSW is enough to qualify for the Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW). Social workers with this licensure are dedicated to enriching the lives of their clients by helping them overcome obstacles and investigating the root causes of their emotions and negative behavior.

Some of the ways those with a LMSW can help are:

  • Careers in case management for child protection or government agencies evaluating eligibility for public assistance
  • May work on policy reform or social advocacy jobs
  • Help clients change harmful behaviors
  • Empower clients to create new choices to become happier and reach their full potential

While the LMSW licensure is an important step for social workers, many find that advancing their careers requires continuation to LCSW.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

While many social workers begin their careers with a LMSW license and move onto a LCSW, it’s important to remember that one is not necessarily better than the other. However, those who are Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) are the only types of social workers allowed to provide, without supervision:

Those with a LCSW may be able to:

  • Have direct service positions such as schools, hospitals, drug rehab centers, inpatient psychiatric facilities, outpatient mental health clinics, emergency and crisis evaluators, private practices
  • Offer professional supervision to newer clinicians in the field, which may lead to professional advancement

LCSW Requirements

  • Psychotherapy
  • Assessment-based planning
  • Diagnosis

Clinical social workers may need to have a Master of Social Work (MSW) and state licensure. The license follows at least two years of experience in the field. Those who want to teach, work in private practice or research often tend to have a PhD or Doctor of Social Work (DSW). These are the highest degrees. So, they may help you grow as a leader and or practician. When looking into a degree, it is important to look into CSWE approved programs.

What is the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)?

CSWE is the Council on Social Work Education. They set norms and standards for the profession. Grads from these programs are likely to be able to sit for licensure exams. The same is true for credentials obtained through the NASW.

What is the National Association of Social Workers (NASW)?

NASW is the National Association of Social Workers. They offer post degree certs in areas like gerontology, military and palliative care.

Keep in mind that earning a LCSW usually has many more requirements than a LMSW. One of these requirements includes a minimum of 2,000 client contacts over a continuous three to six-year period. Usually, this also includes at least 100 hours of individual or group clinical supervision during that time. Every state has their own requirements, which is why it’s important to check out the specific qualification requirements in your state.

  • Earn your degree from a university with a “Whole Human Education” approach that focuses on assisting you in all aspects of your education: academic, emotional, career, financial, and family.
  • Choose from 75+ programs: Whether you’re starting fresh or seeking advancement, our career-focused programs are designed to help you make an impact in your chosen field.
  • National University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

How long does it take to become a social worker?

The length of time it takes to become a social worker depends on the level of education you pursue. Social workers can earn a bachelor’s degree in as little as four years, although many choose to pursue a master’s degree, which can take an additional two to three years. Some social workers also choose to pursue a doctorate in social work.

Importance of MSW

70% of healthcare social workers (O*Net) and 77% of mental health and substance abuse social workers have a master of social work degree (O*Net).

Learn more about how a licensed social worker can help in Types of Social Worker Career Paths.

Are you interested in a Master’s in Social Work (MSW)? Check out these other offers that could be of interest to you:

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