A social worker is a mental health professional. This professional gives evaluation, counseling, and intervention to people who need social, mental, familial, and medical help. Various levels of social work licensure and types sometimes require specific education, training, and licenses. Social work licensure ensures the necessary education and training for social workers.
Types of Social Work Licensure
There are multiple licenses associated with the field of social work. The type of work you want to do will determine which of the following you’ll need to pursue.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
To become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), you will first need a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as counseling, psychology, sociology, and social work. After you obtain your bachelor’s degree, you will need to pursue a LCSW degree by earning a master’s in social work. A master’s degree is necessary if you are enrolled in a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited program.
You next need to accumulate supervised clinical hours. The required hours vary by state, and an accredited LCSW must provide supervision during your hours. The next step is passing the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Clinical Level or a different level exam. Some states require passing a jurisprudence exam before you can work as a social worker. For renewing your license, you must provide proof that you have completed contact hours of continuing education.
A Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) is a mental health professional with clinical training. You must have a master’s degree or a doctorate in counseling with a minimum of sixty graduate semester hours. You are also required to have at least three years of full-time, supervised counseling experience in a professional counseling setting. Next, you have to pass the National Counselor Examination from the National Board for Certified Counselors. In addition, LPCs need to complete continuing education credits each year.
An LAMFT is a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist most commonly known as an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (AMFT). They focus on counseling families, marriages, and couples. An LAMFT is a license you would work under while accruing experience hours to earn a full LMFT licensure. This therapist has a master’s degree and has passed the national exam).
Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family. The LCMFT has similar requirements with a master’s degree for working with families.
Similar to the previous requirements, the Licensed Marriage Family Therapists (LMFT) requires a master’s degree.
An LMFT also works with families and requires a master’s degree.
Do I need a License to Practice Social Work?
Yes, you need a license to practice social work. A common license is awarded through the Association of Social Work Board (ASWB) exam. Applicants who pass this exam earn an LSW and must have 3,000-4,000 hours of supervised experience over two years. After this, they can take another ASWB exam for clinical or advanced specialists. The clinical ASWB exams lead to LCSW and LICSW licenses, while an advanced specialist exam leads to LISW licensure.
Which Social Work Licensure is Right for Me?
The social work licensure that is right for you depends on where you want to work as a social worker and at what level. For example, if you want to work unsupervised as an LCSW, you must take a clinical ASWB exam. Otherwise, you would work supervised as an LSW.
How to Become a Licensed Social Worker (LSW)
A person becomes a licensed social worker by obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Next, you would get a master’s degree. You need to get a license from the state you reside in because each state has different license requirements.
Social Work Licensure Career Outcomes
According to Payscale.com, LCSWs earn a median of $59,000 per year, but the range falls between $44,000 and $79,000 per year. The Licensed Clinical Social Worker is under the general category of a social worker according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and therefore has a 9 percent growth rate between 2021 and 2031. The employment change for a social worker between 2021 and 2031 will be 64,000 jobs.
According to Payscale.com, LPCs earn a median of $55,000 per year. The typical entry-level education is a master’s degree with on-the-job training of an internship or residency. The job outlook for 2021-2031 is favorable, with an increase of 22 percent by 2029. The employment change is 77,500 jobs.
According to Payscale.com, LAMFTs earn a median of $65,000 a year. The usual entry-level education is a master’s degree with on-the-job training of an internship or residency. The job outlook for 2021-2031 is the same for marriage therapists, 14 percent, which is much faster than average. The employment change for 2021-2031 is 9,100 jobs.
A Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist has the same pay expectations and outlook as any marriage therapist. According to Indeed.com, state licensing requirements decide what qualifications a licensed marriage therapist has for their occupation.
The median pay for an LIMFT (Licensed Independent Marriage Family Therapist) is, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, $49,880 per year. The typical entry-level education is a master’s degree with on-the-job training of an internship or residency. The job outlook for 2021-2031 is favorable, with an increase of 22 percent by 2029.
The median pay for an LMFT (Licensed Marriage Family Therapist) is, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, $49,880 per year. The usual entry-level education is a master’s degree with on-the-job training of an internship or residency. The job outlook for 2021-2031 is 14 percent, which is much faster than average. The employment change for 2021-2031 is 9,100 jobs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the general outlook for all social workers is better than average, with a 9 percent growth rate between 2021 and 2031. The employment change for a social worker between 2021 and 2031 will be 64,000 jobs.
Career options for social workers are numerous. Social workers can work in private, public, and government settings. Some options are adoption workers, school social workers, prison social workers, and suicide prevention, coordinators.
Social Work Licensures Benefits
The obvious benefit to you of getting social work licensure is being able to practice as a social worker. But, beyond this, other benefits are:
You Can Make a Difference
You can help others in your community. With their skills, social workers help people healthily express their emotions and help people solve their problems. Social work benefits your community as a whole.
Flexible Hours and Working Schedules
While you may have large caseloads and long hours, social workers have more flexible work hours. This is particularly true for social workers in private practice. Flexible work hours and schedules help social workers avoid burnout.
Multiple Career Options
Licensed clinical social workers often start their careers by specializing in a specific client population. However, as you grow in your career, you can choose more options for the population you work with as a social worker. Social workers with licensed clinical degrees have more options.
High Job Satisfaction
Social work is a great career for people who enjoy helping others. You will have the skills and resources to help other people with problems such as physical or mental illness, unemployment, divorce, poverty, and substance abuse.
New and Improved Service Options
Social workers have opportunities to use current and new approaches as technologies and knowledge evolves in their field. With continuing education, social workers can keep ahead of what is happening in their field.
Your social worker wages will depend on the employer you work for, and your earning potential varies by your licensure and degree. The more education and experience you have in your field are predictive of your earning potential.
Demand for licensed social workers has increased. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has stated the social field is in great demand. For example, an aging population will need social workers who specialize in the area of gerontology.
How Much Does a Social Work Licensure Cost?
Social work licensure costs vary by state because each one has different licensure requirements. Also, licensure costs vary for the same license in each state. A one size fits all cost is not available. The cost to get a master’s degree varies by state and institution, but the median cost for a master’s degree, according to the National Center for Education Studies, enrolling in a four-year degree program from a public college averaged $18,383 in data gathered for 2018-2019.
The cost for a private college was $47,419 per year. For a master’s degree, the price was $54,500 for a public school and $81,800 for a private school. This cost does not include the individual state cost requirements for state licensure or the ongoing training and certification licensed social workers must have to keep current with their expertise.
Social Work Licensure Requirements
Do All States Have the Same Licensure Requirements?
No, all states do not have the same licensure requirements. Each state regulatory board gives social workers their licenses, and the criteria for licensure and licensure levels vary by state. Social workers may need to obtain social work licenses depending on state regulations. Some states do not require licensure; most employers prefer licensed workers.
Can I Be a Licensed Social Worker in the Multiple States?
You can be a licensed social worker if you meet each state’s licensing requirements. For each state, you must take their exam and pass the exam, as well as pay for your state license. Licensing can become expensive for each state license requirement you meet.
Common Courses in a Social Work Licensure Program
Social worker students who earn a master’s degree in social work take courses relevant to social welfare policy. Courses such as human behavior and the social environment, psychopathology, and social work practice with groups and families are standard. Social work degrees require students to engage in fieldwork or a clinical practicum for their degrees. They gain experience as supervised interns at hospitals, nonprofits, schools, government, and social service agencies
How Long Does It Take to Earn a Social Work License?
Earning a basic bachelor’s degree requires four years before obtaining a master’s degree in social work. A master’s degree takes two years to obtain. After your master’s degree, you must go through a clinical internship. A clinical internship is usually nine hundred hours, 37.5 days of supervised clinical work, but this may vary according to state licensure requirements. Options for the two years of a master’s degree are an accelerated program that allows you to take more credits than a regular program or an advanced standing program from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited program. The advanced standing program allows you to bypass some requirements in the initial stages of a master’s degree in social work.