Introduction to Social Work Licensing

A previous post offers a general description of types of social workers, as cited by the Occupational Outlook Handbook produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  According to that Handbook, “All States and the District of Columbia have licensing, certification, or registration requirements regarding social work practice and the use of professional titles.”

The Handbook notes that laws and titles vary among states.  Marks and Knox (2008, p. 150) cite, as examples applicable to people with master’s degrees, the titles of LCSW (meaning “licensed clinical social worker” in Alaska, but “licensed certified social worker” in Alabama), along with LMSW (licensed masters social worker), LGSW (licensed graduate social worker), LSW (licensed social worker — which can also apply to BSWs in some states), and ASW (associate clinical social worker).  There are other titles as well, such as RSW (registered social worker), LICSW (licensed independent clinical social worker), and SWT (social work technician).

The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) maintains a database of state licensing requirements, and provides certain services connected with social work licensing.  According to the ASWB database, aome states offer only one or two kinds of social work licenses (for e.g., BSW and MSW graduates), while other states offer several.  Michigan, for instance, offers two kinds of “Licensed Master Social Worker” credentials:  one (LMSW-C) for clinically oriented practitioners, and the other (LMSW-M) for macro-oriented practitioners.  Michigan also offers the LBSW and three routes to what the ASWB calls the SWT — which, ASWB oddly says, is short for Social Service (i.e., not Work) Technician.

Licensing typically requires taking courses, earning a degree, passing a licensing exam, and working for several thousand hours under the supervision of a licensed professional.  There can be timing issues.  For instance, the supervised work hours may have to be performed after graduation, after (or possibly before) taking the licensing exam, on a full-time rather than part-time basis, etc.  Further posts in this Licensure category in this blog will address some of those topics.

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