The LMSW, the LCSW, and the Cayman Islands Approach

I had completed my MSW.  I wondered what I should do next, toward the goal of becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).  For instance, I wondered whether I should begin by becoming a Licensed Masters Social Worker (LMSW).

This post presents some thoughts and investigations along these lines.  It seems that these investigations might provide information and education, regarding certain licensing issues, that some other MSWs will find useful.  I certainly welcome feedback from knowledgeable individuals on any errors or shortcomings.  This post is essentially an amalgamation of notes, with potential errors of logic, grammar, and so forth, provided primarily to put forth ideas and questions that arose as I considered LMSW licensure.

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ASWB and Licensing Generally
The Cayman Islands Concept
Choosing a Jurisdiction, Part I:  The LMSW Angle

Part I, Case 1: District of Columbia
Part I, Case 2: Virgin Islands
Part I, Case 3: Texas

Choosing a Jurisdiction, Part II: The LCSW Angle

Part II, Case 1: Michigan
Part II, Other Cases

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Professional licensing tends to be a matter of state law.  States vary in their terminology.  In this post, LBSW means the first level of licensing available to graduates from bachelor’s degree programs in social work; LMSW means the first level of licensing available to graduates from master’s degree programs in social work; and LCSW means the next higher level of licensing available to clinically oriented master’s graduates.  Generally, in this usage, state laws impose no requirement of prior experience for an LBSW or LMSW, but there is commonly a requirement of two years (or 3,000 hours, or 4,000 hours) of supervised work experience for an LCSW.  As described in more detail below, the ASWB exams commonly associated with these levels of licensing are the Bachelors, the Masters, and the Clinical, respectively.

Most of this post uses the narrative style that I ordinarily prefer in blog posts.  That is, it discusses various questions I had and things I observed, regarding various materials that I encountered in my investigation.  This style seems more supportive of readers’ independent thinking, and less likely to mislead, than the authoritative style commonly used in informational writing.  I was not an expert in the things I was investigating; that’s why I was investigating them.  I had the disadvantage of not having simple, quick answers to questions, and the advantage of asking the kinds of questions that would naturally occur to someone in my situation.  This approach also seemed useful for those who would wonder how someone (even an expert) reached a conclusion.  This sort of narrative writing has the drawback, however, of seeming to ramble, from the perspective of those who might not have the same questions or be interested in the same things as the writer.

That said, the early paragraphs of this post do use an authoritative style to some extent.  These early paragraphs were catch-up notes that I prepared to piece together what I had already somewhat figured out before starting this particular post.  After that initial catch-up, the post switches to the narrative style.

ASWB and Licensing Generally

A person who wishes to become a licensed social worker in the U.S. might begin by consulting the laws of his/her state, since state law generally specifies the requirements for social work licensure.  The laws of a particular state will probably criminalize the unauthorized practice of a licensed profession, including social work.  The question of what you may call yourself, with or without an actual license, appears to vary from state to state and from profession from profession.  For instance, you can generally call yourself a doctor if you have a PhD rather than an MD (or perhaps even if you have no degree at all), whereas it doesn’t tend to work that way in law.  I don’t know how state laws may vary on the question of whether you can call yourself a social worker without any kind of license.

This post does not go into detail on supervision.  In some states, hours of supervised (e.g., clinical) practice performed without a relevant license (e.g., LMSW) could be evidence of criminal unauthorized practice by the practitioner and possibly his/her supervisor.  On the other hand, it may be possible to petition the state licensing board to count such hours as though they had been performed after obtaining a license.  Again, the best advice is probably to consult the state licensing board and its website early and often.

The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) is a convenient starting point for social work licensure information.  ASWB provides a list of links to the social work regulatory boards for each state.  Another way to find the right licensing board (often referred to as a “board of social work examiners”) might be to add the name of one’s own state to a standard Google search.

(Note added later:  In writing this post, I wanted to start with a description of what ASWB is, but did not find an “About” webpage.  ASWB’s annual report (as of April 2012, the latest available report was the one for 2010) was somewhat helpful.  That report indicated that ASWB was based in Culpeper, Virginia; it had a staff of 31 people; and it administered about 34,000 exams, producing revenues of about $8 million.)

(I also found ASWB’s webpage frustrating for purposes of blogging.  As I discovered after I had already written a substantial chunk of this post, many links to specific pages within ASWB’s website would fail when accessed directly.  Instead, I would get a page indicating that there had been a timeout.  Fortunately, clicking on the link provided in that webpage tended to take me to the page originally intended.  An alternative would be to return to ASWB’s main webpage and search around from there.  Later in the post, I switch to the tactic of explaining how to find specific webpages, starting from ASWB’s main webpage.)

States commonly require people seeking social work licenses to take ASWB exams.  To cite a few examples from the top of ASWB’s list of social work regulatory boards, Alaska, Arizona, and Arkansas all require ASWB exams for licensure.

People who haven’t yet decided on the particular state where they want to practice might be better advised to use a general comparison page provided by ASWB.  To get to that page, go to ASWB’s lookup webpage that summarizes the requirements for each state.  On that page, click the “Table 2 – Levels of Practice Regulated” link with “No Selection” specified.  This shows summary information for all U.S. states and territories and all Canadian provinces.

That Table 2 indicates that, as of this writing, states (and territories and provinces) offer between one and seven levels of licensed practice.  Even in the states that offer four, the licensing levels do not necessarily match up with the four exams (Bachelors, Masters, Advanced Generalist, Clinical) that ASWB offers.  Among other things, according to the table as of this date,

  • Jurisdictions vary according to whether they require any ASWB exams at all.  California, Puerto Rico, and most Canadian provinces do not.  Note that these jurisdictions may have their own tests instead.
  • Some jurisdictions require ASWB exams for some levels of licensure, but not for others.  For instance, Alabama seems to require two years of experience beyond the clinical license, but may not require an additional exam, to obtain the Private Independent Practice certification.
  • Jurisdictions vary according to how many levels of practice they offer, and what exams are required.  A number of jurisdictions have just one license, invariably the clinical, for which the ASWB Clinical exam is the usual requirement.  Other jurisdictions have two, three, or more levels of licensure.  In those places, the Masters and Bachelors exams are the next most commonly listed.  The Advanced Generalist exam appears to be required or optional (typically, in lieu of the clinical) in only about 25 of the 60+ jurisdictions.
  • The combinations of experience and exams are not consistent.  Again, pending a closer look at the actual wording of the state rules, the table appears to indicate that the Bachelors and Masters exams are appropriate for people without work experience, but some jurisdictions appear to have experience requirements linked to the levels of licensure for which people would be taking Bachelors or Masters exams.  For instance, the table indicates that Alabama has a two-year experience requirement for the Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW).
  • Note that these varying levels of licensure could be accompanied by variances in the kinds of work that states allow social workers to do — as distinct from, say, the work that clinical or counseling psychology PsyD or PhD holders can do.  For instance, there may be restrictions on the kinds of psychological testing permitted.

I assume, but have not verified, that there is some point to becoming a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) (known by other names in some places), in each of those jurisdictions that do offer a level of licensure for which ASWB’s Masters exam is required.  For example, since Alabama offers a Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW) credential to those who earn MSWs and pass ASWB’s Masters exam, I assume that Alabama law allows LGSWs to do things that LBSWs cannot do.  I would guess, further, that where an LMSW-level license is available, it tends to function as a stepping-stone toward the LCSW.  But these would be things to verify in the specific jurisdiction, preferably by referring to the individual state webpages (above).

As further discussed in another post, schools of social work are not all made equal, for purposes of preparing graduates for the ASWB exams.  ASWB does not tend to tell students the pass rates for graduates of individual schools.  Some state laws require publication of such information, however, and that information can be disturbing.  For instance, Thyer (2010) notes that pass rates for graduates of MSW programs in Florida ranged from a low of 42% to a high of 78%.  My experience with law school and bar exams leads me to warn that prestigious schools may or may not attend carefully to the rules of particular states.  They may attract better test-takers, though.

ASWB’s main webpage provides two lists of items pertaining to licensing.  This post focuses on the second list, the one that is not specifically oriented toward licensing exams.  That second list provides links to other sources of licensing information, including FAQs (below), licensing boards, state laws, and the database of licensing requirements (above).  That second list also links to ASWB’s registry, where people can store their school transcripts, ASWB exam scores, records of supervision, continuing education documentation, references, employment history, and other professional credentials.  ASWB will transfer this information to any licensing board on request.  This service costs $35 (for students) for initial setup plus $25 per year plus $25 for each report sent.

The licensing FAQs page provides clarification of various topics, some of which are summarized above.  A few items that I found worth noting at this point:

  • The typical procedure seems to be that one begins by applying to the state for LMSW licensure.  In other words, this is not a GRE-type process, where you can take the exam before necessarily knowing where you will be sending the scores.  This is apparently more like a process where you would apply to a graduate school first, pay their fee, send them your transcripts and letters of reference, and only then be given permission to take the GRE — and you would have to pay for each score report, without the four freebies that GRE-takers can designate at exam time.  In this state licensing process, you can still send the scores elsewhere, but because of the hassle and expense, it would make sense to start with a likely target state.
  • The test can be taken at any ASWB exam center.  It doesn’t matter whether the exam center is located in the target state.  Exam centers are located throughout the U.S. and Canada.
  • Depending on the rules of the target state, it might be possible to take the exam within a specified period (e.g., 60 days) before graduating.
  • After filing the LMSW license exam, one might have to wait a month or more to receive permission, from the state board, to register for the ASWB exam; then it will be a question of when the ASWB test centers have an opening; then it will probably take at least several weeks for the state licensing board to receive the scores and issue the license (which requires further user input in some states).  Then it is time to start making arrangements to meet state continuing education requirements.
  • There is no automatic reciprocity among states.  That is, getting licensed in another state requires the same application process.  Hours of supervised work might or might not count, depending on what the new state requires.  ASWB exam scores are generally accepted (i.e., it should not be necessary to take the same exam again).  Exam scores can become stale, however, within as little as five years.  Scores from California’s unique exam might be accepted as substitutes for ASWB exam scores in a few states.  Presumably one must continue to pay licensing fees and meet continuing education requirements in each state in which one wishes to retain his/her license, unless the state has an “inactive” or “retired” option.
  • People coming into the U.S. with social work degrees from elsewhere can have their degrees examined by CSWE to determine whether it would be treated as equivalent to a degree from a CSWE-accredited program.

I wanted more information about the question of choosing a state, so I went back to ASWB’s Laws and Regulations link and chose No Selection > Table 5 – Administrative and Licensure Fees.  A quick glance through Table 5 provided additional insights:

  • License application fees ranged from as low as $20 (Texas) to as high as $250 (Arizona).
  • In addition, many jurisdictions had initial license certification fees that ranged up to $410 (Alaska).  My ballpark estimate was that the median initial certification fee, among those jurisdictions that did levy such a fee, was somewhere around $100-125.
  • In most jurisdictions, licenses had to be renewed every one or two years.  Renewal fees ranged from zero up to $410 (Alaska).  It might have seemed logical to make the renewal fee the same as the initial fee, and in fact a number of jursdictions did that, but others did not.  It looked like the median renewal fee was around $125-150.

The Cayman Islands Concept

Some people know exactly which state they are going to work in, and that will be the only place where they will work.  For reasons of family or otherwise, they will not relocate, even if there are no jobs in their location, or if the opportunities are better elsewhere.

I was not in that position.  Like many social work students and graduates, I was willing and able to relocate for work.  I had seen, however, that a number of classmates had landed in temporary, part-time, or other unreliable positions.  So as I thought about the LMSW and the LCSW, I worried that the tests that I might take, and the hours that I might work, could be vulnerable to later relocation.  There seemed to be many complexities and unknowns in licensing procedures from state to state, and there did not seem to be any reliable authority on their interactions.

To resolve those unknowns, I was not going to spend the time to survey the licensing boards in 50 states.  Even if I did undertake such a survey, it would probably neglect to inquire into one or more possible permutations, and the rules could change by the time I actually arrived in any such state.

This presented a problem.  I simply did not know, and was not sure how to find out, what would happen if I started to accumulate hours toward the LCSW in a state that did not offer an LMSW license, but then moved to a different job, in a state that did require an LMSW license before one begins to accumulate hours of practice.  I could get the LMSW at that point, but would that new state disregard all of my hours of pre-LMSW work in the previous state?

I had seen that there were some jobs (in e.g., the federal government) that just required an LCSW; they did not seem to care where it was from.  It also appeared that, while there was no automatic reciprocity between jurisdictions, it might not be too difficult to become an LCSW in State B (after filing the forms and paying the fees) if one has already become an LCSW in State A.  So while a person might ordinarily want to become an LCSW in the state of his/her employment, that was not necessarily the only place where s/he could or prudently should seek an LCSW.

The concept, then, was that an MSW graduate might begin with a plan of pursuing absentee licensure in the Cayman Islands (using that term as shorthand for a suitably flexible jurisdiction, not yet identified).  In other words, you would mail the forms, take the test, and send the results to the licensing authorities there.  Then, as the MSW undertook employment in various jurisdictions, s/he could also begin to pursue the LCSW in those jurisdictions, while continuing on track in the Cayman Islands — even though s/he might never actually set foot in the latter.  Getting an LCSW in the places of physical location might entail some setbacks, some loss of hours, but progress toward the LCSW in the Cayman Islands would continue uninterrupted.

In addition to its real-world practicality, the Cayman Islands approach seemed to offer certain psychological benefits.  It can be discouraging to encounter instability and major career setbacks.  The loss of a year’s worth of supervised social work experience would be an example of a discouraging setback.  A person would ordinarily prefer to have a sense that his/her career is progressing in a stable, orderly manner.  It seemed more feasible to achieve that sense of progress if one could know that progress toward a Cayman Islands license could continue despite experiences of unemployment and relocation among other jurisdictions.

The Cayman Islands concept did not appear to be illegal or morally questionable.  There are different governments in this world, and they value different things.  Some jurisdictions may believe that they can and should charge high fees, disregard hours of legitimate professional service, and otherwise make life difficult for future LCSWs.  That would be one approach.  By contrast, other jurisdictions may be interested in giving young professionals a reason to consider moving there, or may believe that the world needs more LCSWs.  This post does not attempt to research the relative merits of such philosophies.  My concern was simply with the question of whether a Cayman Islands approach could provide appropriate career (and psychological) protections and advantages for a would-be LCSW.

In short, I decided to see whether any jurisdictions welcomed people who might want to put in an application on an absentee basis, meet the requirements for that license, and maintain that license at a low annual fee.  Was there a place where an MSW student or recent graduate could preserve options by filing a relatively straightforward and inexpensive application, not necessarily being sure that s/he would ever actually move there?

Choosing a Jurisdiction, Part I:  The LMSW Angle

It was surely possible, at least for some people, to obtain a social work license abroad (in e.g., the real Cayman Islands) and then transfer it into at least some U.S. or Canadian states, provinces, or territories.  But, as I say, I was looking for simplicity, not the additional complexity that would probably arise during such international processes.  So, again, in writing this post, I was using “Cayman Islands” to refer to an as-yet-unidentified jurisdiction, within the U.S. or possibly Canada, that would make things as easy as possible for someone who wanted to obtain an LCSW within that jurisdiction.

As noted above, one scenario entailing potential risk for the future LCSW would begin with employment in a jurisdiction that did not require the LMSW, followed by relocation to a jurisdiction that did require the LMSW.  The concern in that scenario was that work done before one has obtained the LMSW license would not be counted toward the LCSW in that new jurisdiction.  And as just described, one response would be to look for a Cayman Islands jurisdiction that did require the LMSW.  In other words, I would be living — and working toward the LCSW — in a state where the LCSW was the first (and possibly the only) license available to social workers; but I would meanwhile obtain the LMSW in another state meeting Cayman Islands criteria (e.g., simple, cheap, not requiring physical presence).  That way, if I had to relocate before finishing the LCSW, I would have some degree of protection.  The protection would be that, if the licensing board in my new state required the LMSW, they might not disregard my previous hours of supervised work on the mere grounds that I had performed those hours before obtaining an LMSW license.  In fact, I would have taken the Masters exam and obtained an LMSW in the Cayman Islands before accumulating any hours.

This sort of protection might be unnecessary.  Even for someone facing a substantial risk of relocating, it was not certain that relocation would lead to a jurisdiction that would require the LMSW.  It might also turn out that the licensing board in an LMSW-requiring future state would be flexible in its handling of prior hours of supervised work.  The risk was that they would not.  Generally, I could not know how robust this sort of protection would be.  Yet it did seem to offer an improvement over going to the new state naked and begging for mercy.  If it could be done without excessive cost and hassle, it might be a wise move.

One obvious source of cost and hassle was that the LMSW requirement, in the Cayman Islands, would mean that I would have to buy test prep materials for ASWB’s Masters exam, and I would have to pay and study for that exam, which I might never really need.  The path of least resistance argued against all that.  But there were some reasons to consider it nonetheless.  For one thing, the best time to take the Masters exam would presumably be earlier rather than later, before graduate school became a distant memory.  Studying for and passing the Masters exam would also surely provide a good start toward preparing (and knowing how to prepare) for the Clinical exam, which might arrive at a point in life when one’s hands are really full.  (I had heard that the two exams were not terribly different, but had not yet checked that.)  Or, to put it in negative terms, if someone cannot pass the Masters exam during or shortly after graduate school, there may be reason to worry that s/he will not pass the Clinical exam years later.  It could be helpful to have a sense of that situation before investing thousands of hours in supervised clinical practice with the intent of obtaining an LCSW.  Not that failing the first time would be conclusive; it appeared that most if not all jurisdictions would allow a retry.

Of course, in some cases the proper choice of LMSW jurisdiction would not be some remote Cayman Islands place but, rather, the anticipated future destination.  That is, if I knew I was going to move eventually to a state that required the LMSW, it might make sense to just focus on meeting that state’s requirements from the outset, although license renewal fees in some such places could be intimidating.  I, however, did not have that kind of future knowledge.  I was more like those MSWs who were unemployed, living with their parents, volunteering, working in a part-time social work gig, or otherwise in limbo while jobhunting or awaiting other career developments that may take them to unknown ports.  For someone in this position, the appeal of a potentially superfluous Cayman Islands licensure would likely depend in part upon its affordability.

So I decided to look into possible Cayman Islands candidates.  I went to the ASWB main page > Laws and Regulations > No Selection > Table 2 – Levels of Practice Regulated.  In Table 2, I distinguished the jurisdictions that did have a level of licensing that would accept or require the ASWB Masters exam from those that did not.  Those permitting or requiring the Masters exam for one or more social work licenses included Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, the District of Columbia (D.C.), Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virgin Islands, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.  Those that did not seem to have any licensing levels involving the ASWB Masters exam included California, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the Canadian provinces.

In other words, 40 jurisdictions did require or allow the Masters exam to count toward some kind of social work license.  Among those 40, were some particularly welcoming to new MSWs?  Focusing, first, on cost, my quick look through ASWB’s data, not checked for exactitude, suggested that one could pay $100 or less, in total, for the Masters-related social work license plus the initial license fee (if any) in 25 of those 40 jurisdictions:  Alabama ($75 total), Arkansas ($100), D.C. ($50), Georgia ($100), Idaho ($50), Illinois ($50), Indiana ($50), Iowa ($100), Kansas ($100), Kentucky ($75), Louisiana ($75), Maryland ($100), Mississippi ($100), Missouri ($0), Nevada ($100), New Mexico ($100), North Carolina ($100), North Dakota ($100), Pennsylvania ($25), Rhode Island ($100), South Carolina ($40), South Dakota ($90), Texas ($50), Virgin Islands ($75), and West Virginia ($75).

Of those 25, some seemed to charge relatively low fees for annual (or biennial) renewals.  The ones with LMSW-level renewal fees at or below $50 per year included Alabama ($42.50/year), Arkansas ($40), D.C. ($42.50), Georgia ($50), Idaho ($50), Illinois ($30), Indiana ($25), Iowa ($50), Kansas ($50), Kentucky ($25), Louisiana ($50), Mississippi ($50), Missouri ($32.50), New Mexico ($37.50), North Carolina ($37.50), North Dakota ($37.50), Pennsylvania ($25), Rhode Island ($50), South Carolina ($45), South Dakota ($45), Texas ($15), Virgin Islands ($0), and West Virginia ($32.50).  Again, I was not sure if there might be an inactive status that would mitigate these costs in any particular jurisdiction.

It occurred to me that continuing education (CE) requirements could also impose a substantial ongoing cost.  I went back to ASWB’s main page > Social Work Licensing > Laws and Regulations > No Selection > Continuing Education Requirements.  I saw that states typically imposed CE requirements in terms of hours of qualifying class or workshop time.  Some had formulas for translating values from various kinds of educational activities.  For example, among other possibilities, Alabama interpreted a two-credit graduate-level course in a university as being equal to 30 contact hours, and granted 20 contact hours for publication of a professional social work paper.  For the states listed in the preceding paragraph, CE requirements were as follows:  Alabama (30 hours (per two years?)), Arkansas (24 hours per year), D.C. (12), Georgia (17.5), Idaho (20), Illinois (15), Indiana (20), Iowa (13.5), Kansas (20), Kentucky (10), Louisiana (20), Mississippi (20, starting after the first renewal), Missouri (under revision, but possibly 15), New Mexico (15), North Carolina (20), North Dakota (15), Pennsylvania (15), Rhode Island (15), South Carolina (20), South Dakota (20, starting after the first renewal), Texas (30 hours in the year preceding renewal), Virgin Islands (none), and West Virginia (25-40).  Note that these calculations skim over the fine points in some states (e.g., the option, as distinct from the requirement, of earning all of one’s clock hours in just one year of a two-year biennial renewal period).  I was also not absolutely confident that all of these states required CE for LMSWs.

To sum up, then, taking the last paragraph first, the jurisdictions that appeared to require the least continuing education (i.e., less than 15 hours per year) were D.C., Iowa, Kentucky, and the Virgin Islands, plus Texas in the first year, plus Mississippi and South Dakota for the first two years.  Going back to the paragraph before that, the jurisdictions charging the lowest renewal fees (i.e., $25 or less per year) were Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Texas, and the Virgin Islands.  Finally, in terms of the initial application and license fees, those costing least (i.e., $50 or below) were D.C., Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas.  Those charging $51-75 were Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Virgin Islands, and West Virginia.

Again, all of this would have to be double-checked against the actual state websites and their laws and regulations.  But for purposes of preliminary reflection, there certainly appeared to be some divergences among jurisdictions, in terms of their possible openness to a new MSW who might want to start down a relatively straightforward and inexpensive route to LMSW-level licensure somewhere, without being sure when or whether s/he would be able to obtain and retain employment in that particular place.  Looking at the preceding paragraph, certain names came up repeatedly.  The Virgin Islands caught my attention, due to the relatively exotic nature of the place; and except for their somewhat higher initial cost, they seemed to be among the least expensive and demanding on an ongoing basis.  Texas, currently on a job-creation binge, seemed particularly welcoming for those who might not mind catching up with CE requirements in their second year, if they managed to snare one of those jobs in their first year.  I had heard that D.C. was a relatively straightforward place to become licensed as a lawyer, and wondered if its licensing processes would be comparably streamlined in social work.  Anyway, D.C. failed to make the top in all three criteria only because of its still-moderate $42.50 annual renewal cost.  Others (e.g., Kentucky, Pennsylvania) were also in the running.  In addition, CE requirements of 15-20 hours per year were not especially onerous in a number of other states.

These findings stood in sharp contrast to the situation in some other jurisdictions.  There was, for example, California, with its largely nontransferable licensing exam, though its fees and CE requirements were not bad.  (Note:  “bad” here means inconvenient.  This post takes no position on what research may have shown regarding the quantity and quality of CE needed to have a measurable positive effect on professional practice.)  New York required no CE, but its fees were hefty.  Some Canadian provinces required 40 hours of CE per year plus substantial initial and/or renewal fees.  West Virginia required 25 CE hours per year for regular licensees and 40 CE hours per year for temporary licensees; I did not investigate how “regular” and “temporary” were defined.

In short, ASWB data supported the sense that some jurisdictions were indeed friendlier to the undecided, migrating, or as-yet-unemployed MSW graduate interested in LMSW-level licensure.  If I decided that the Masters exam was not a barrier, then it preliminarily appeared that licensing fees and CE requirements would not stand in the way of an application for LMSW licensure in places like the District of Columbia, Texas, or the Virgin Islands.

Part I, Case 1:  District of Columbia

Among the several seemingly favorable jurisdictions just identified, I decided to take a closer look at the requirements for Masters-level licensure in Washington, D.C.  DC certainly had an urban setting in which social workers would be needed.  For those interested in policy-type internships, DC would be an especially appealing location.

To learn more about DC’s Masters-level licensing scheme, I started by going to the ASWB main page > Laws and Regulations > District of Columbia > Summaries of Individual Jurisdictions.  This told me that DC had perhaps the ideal arrangement, from an ASWB perspective:  four levels of licensing corresponding to each of the four ASWB exams.  The LGSW was the license correlated with the Masters exam.  As noted above, it required no prior experience.  The webpage said that the next steps, to achieve the licensing levels associated with the Clinical or Advanced Generalist exams, would require 3,000 hours “over 2-4 years.”  There was a conflict, here, with what I had seen on the ASWB page that provided extensive text regarding CE requirements.  There, I read, “An applicant for renewal shall submit proof of having completed 24 hours of approved continuing education credit during the two year period preceding the date the license expires.”  Here, it said that all four levels of licensure required 40 hours of CE (presumably over the two-year license renewal period).

To investigate these matters more closely, I went to the ASWB main page > Links to Statutes and Regulations.  It did not have links for DC.  I went back to the main page > Find a Licensing Board > District of Columbia.  That put me onto DC’s Health Professional Licensing Administration page.  I chose Professional Licensing Boards/Registrations > Social Work.  The Board of Social Work webpage contained several relevant links.  The first went to the Social Work Application Package.  Items of immediate interest there included:

  • New License Application,  This form said that the fee for an LGSW was $230.  This was obviously very different from the $50 fee stated on ASWB’s summary page.  I did not know whether ASWB had gotten it wrong (via e.g., typo) or whether, instead, ASWB had not updated its webpage for a number of years.  Running into this considerable error, at this early stage of detailed inquiry, certainly raised the question of whether ASWB’s website was accurate in other regards, including those cited above.  For LGSW purposes, the application required several supporting documents, including two passport photos, three character references, an exam score report, an official MSW transcript, and a verification of licensure, though possibly that last item was supposed to be marked (as other items were) as being relevant only to those form-users who were applying for higher levels of licensure.  The application form also posed a number of screening questions, to which “yes” answers would require further explanation.  The more significant topics addressed by these questions included debts to the District of Columbia government; impairment of ability to practice due to substance abuse or “physical or medical” (supposed to be mental?) condition; arrest or conviction of anything other than a minor traffic crime; being a defendant in a malpractice suit; and several seemingly redundant questions regarding prior clinical and licensing experience including termination, resignation, withdrawal of any prior license, investigation for violation of law, or pending charges.  I didn’t notice any required statement of intention to reside or practice in DC, nor any specification of courses that an applicant would have to have taken in his/her MSW program.
  • Application Instructions.  This document said that the DC Board of Social Work met at least once a month.  Presuambly meetings tended to be held at about the same time each month, though exceptions could entail a delay of five weeks or more for an application that arrived at exactly the wrong time.  The document also said that, while there were no reciprocity arrangements, “[T]he Board may grant licensure by endorsement to applicants meeting the requirements as set forth in 17 DCMR § 7007.”  That seemed to be a reference to a section in the DC Municipal Regulations pertaining to Social Work that said that someone who obtained licensure somewhere else in the U.S., with substantially equivalent licensure requirements, would be eligible for licensure by endorsement upon supplying certain documents and paying certain fees.  The Application Instructions didn’t say what the significance of the requested information might be, regarding prior criminal or otherwise investigated acts, except that “Applicant must not have been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude, which bears directly on the applicant’s fitness to be licensed.”  That vague term, “moral turpitude,” could apparently refer to a variety of crimes, including violent crimes, forgery, and prostitution.  (This inspired the question of whether these had to be felonies, but apparently the answer would be no; it seems prostitution is often a misdemeanor.)  The Application Instructions went on to specify the procedures for licensure by examination (as distinct from licensure by endorsement).  They said, “You must first apply for a Social Work License by Examination in the District of Columbia and be approved to take the National Exam for the District. After you are approved to sit for the examination, you must contact ASWB at 888-579-3926 for information concerning exam and exam reservations.”  It wasn’t clear how you could apply for the license, presumably using the New License Application (above), when that application required the applicant to provide exam scores, which wouldn’t exist at that point if “one must first apply” for the license before taking the exam.  An Application Checklist called for the same materials, but without mentioning the exam scores, so evidently the answer was to file the application without the exam scores.  Moving on, the Application Instructions seemed to say that an applicant would have to retake the exam if his/her passing scores were more than five years old, unless s/he had been continuously licensed and practicing social work somewhere in the U.S. during those intervening years.  I was not sure whether that would apply at the LMSW level if one was previously licensed at the LBSW level.  The instructions also confirmed that an LISW (i.e., DC’s equivalent to the LCSW) applicant would have to put in at least 3,000 hours of supervised post-MSW or post-doctoral experience (with a total of at least 100 hours of supervisory contact), and that those hours had to be accumulated within the preceding two to four years.
  • On-Site and Off-Site Supervision Verification Forms.  These weren’t directly relevant to the LGSW, but I was curious.  Both forms required the supervisor to certify that s/he supervised the applicant during a stated period of months (e.g., Oct. 2001 to Oct. 2002) while the applicant worked for ___ hours per week.  The offsite form required a statement of the number of hours of “immediate (face-to-face, direct observation) supervision.”  That seemed to rule out supervision via Internet, though I wasn’t sure.  The onsite form required that same statement, and also a statement of the number of hours of “direct supervision.”  Presumably an LCSW-level applicant could submit several of these forms, from different supervisors, covering the required total of 3,000 hours.

Along with the link to the Application Package, the Health Professional Licensing Administration page had a Licensing Fees link that said there would be a $50 charge for the required criminal background check.  It also said that renewal fees were now $145 (per two years, presumably).  There were other fees (e.g., Document Duplication $34, Verification of Records $34).  I wasn’t sure which of these, if any, would be required for a LGSW license.  This question of additional fees would presumably apply in other jurisdictions as well.

To recap, this tentative overview of the LMSW-level application requirements in DC posed several thoughts.  One was that the hunt for a relatively non-burdensome venue for LMSW licensure would probably not begin at DC, with these fees and CE requirements that were much higher than ASWB had said.  These discrepancies, cropping up in the very first jurisdiction that I examined in detail, raised the question of whether my entire inquiry process was flawed — whether, in fact, the lists of states provided above were at all accurate.  Except where influenced by politics or other corruption, it sounded like a licensed applicant with appropriate credentials from another jurisdiction would face a fairly straightforward process of supplying the documentation and paying the fee to become licensed in DC.  Finally, it was dismaying that DC’s Board seemed to have decided on a blanket prohibition against anyone who had ever committed a crime of “moral turpitude.”  One might expect that people interested in social work could include a number of individuals from the underclass who may have been justly or unjustly targeted by authorities.  It did appear, in any case, that one could obtain an LMSW in DC on an absentee basis, unless one’s mailing address would trigger some unspecified further scrutiny.

Looking ahead to DC’s LCSW-level credential, the information on required hours prompted certain calculations.  For a newly minted MSW considering part-time social work volunteering or employment post-graduation, there were certain implications from the requirement of 3,000 hours within a period of no less than two and no more than four years.  On the slow side, an accumulation of 3,000 hours within four years would necessitate an average of 14 hours per week, which would be within the realm of possibility even for someone already employed full-time.  To allow for vacations, sick time, slack periods, and possible intermittent unemployment, though, it would probably be advisable to start with a schedule closer to 20 hours per week.  On the faster track, the requirement that these 3,000 hours be accumulated within no less than two years meant a maximum of 30 hours per week, on average, assuming 50 weeks of work per year.  Anything above that would be wasted, for purposes of accumulating hours toward DC’s LCSW-level credential.  In this sense, for someone working 40 hours per week over a period of two years, there might be no practical difference between a jurisdiction requiring 3,000 hours and one requiring 4,000 hours.

From this review of LMSW licensing in DC, I learned a few things about the practical aspects of the process.  Having articulated those matters, it appeared that a review of a second jurisdiction might go more quickly.  Since I had not yet identified an actual Cayman Islands solution for the itinerant MSW, I decided to try again, with a look at a venue that appeared (in ASWB’s data) to be even more suitable.

Part I, Case 2:  Virgin Islands

The Virgin Islands are Caribbean islands divided between U.S. and British control.  The U.S. Virgin Islands (predominantly St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas) are about 50 miles east of Puerto Rico, about 1,100 miles southeast of Miami.  Their total land area is 133 square miles, about one-third the size of an average county in Indiana.  The U.S. obtained these islands from Denmark in 1917 for $25 million.  (Denmark had acquired the islands from France around 1700 and and had utilized slavery on sugarcane planations until abolition in 1848, a half-generation before the start of the U.S. Civil War.)  The Virgin Islands are among a half-dozen non-state island territories monitored by the U.S. Office of Insular Affairs.

As with DC, the ASWB main page > Links to Statutes and Regulations did not have links for the Virgin Islands, so I used the main page > Find a Licensing Board > Virgin Islands.  That put me onto the webpage of the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA) for the Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands.  I clicked on the link for Requirements for Social Workers’ Licensure and Examination and arrived at a one-page statement of such requirements.  The brevity of this page inspired the thought that perhaps my original concept had been drawn to the Cayman Islands — that, in general, perhaps the world’s bankers and such were talking about places like Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Singapore — because smaller places are capable of having simpler governments.

This Virgin Islands webpage seemed to indicate, consistent with ASWB information, that a Certified Social Worker (CSW) applicant would need a master’s or doctoral degree from an accredited school.  Unlike the Certified Independent Social Worker (CISW), there was no stated requirement of supervisied practice for the CSW.  Hence, the CSW appeared to be the LMSW equivalent, and the CISW appeared to be the LCSW equivalent.

The supervised practice requirement for the CISW consisted of two years of supervision “in the field of specialization in which the applicant will practice.”  It was not clear what would count as a field of specialization for that purpose.  This would be more of a concern if specialties were defined narrowly:  the MSW whose years of experience spanned several jobs might find that not all of those hours met the requirement.  There was, in this, a possible counterpoint to the thought about small government:  when a place is so small as to have few cases, it may be less likely to have settled procedures that are not subject to uncomfortable change when a leading person leaves the position or changes his/her mind.  Of course, there was also some likelihood that the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands was, in fact, the government of the U.S. and, as such, would prove in many ways not to be small or flexible at all.

The webpage seemed to say that the application fee was $25 and the annual license fees were $65 for a CSW and $97.50 for a CISW.  Those annual fees were inconsistent with ASWB’s Table 5, which put them at $50 and $75, respectively.  Again, then, ASWB’s information appeared outdated.  On the positive side, at least there was consistency in the fact that prices everywhere seemed to be rising.  Here, as in the case of DC, the actual prices landed somewhat above the cutoffs I had used to arrive at my short list of Cayman Islands candidates.

Likewise, although not reflected in ASWB’s page on CE requirements, this Virgin Islands webpage stated a requirement of two CE units (CEUs) per year.  I did not see a definition of CEUs.  On ASWB’s page, Alabama defined a CEU as equal to ten contact hours, as did Arkansas and Georgia.  On that basis, the Virgin Islands seemingly required 20 CE hours per year.  Finally, the webpage stated, “ALL APPLICANTS FOR ALL LEVELS OF LICENSURE MUST SATISFACTORILY PROVE TO THE BOARD THAT HE/SHE IS A PERSON WHO MERITS THE PUBLIC TRUST.”  I guessed that this would probably tend to be defined in terms roughly comparable to those listed for DC (above).

The Virgin Islands webpage indicated that an application would require references, passport photos, a transcript, etc., and also a tax clearance letter from the Bureau of Internal Revenue.  Since I had not seen that last requirement in the DC materials, I wondered what particular concern it might address.

None of these requirements were terrible.  There did now appear to be more confirmation, though, that the ASWB data were both outdated and incomplete.  Under the information available at this point, simplicity appeared to be the primary distinguishing characteristic warranting a choice of the Virgin Islands over other venues for purposes of LMSW licensing.

Part I, Case 3:  Texas

I decided to try one more state.  Texas had come up in the preliminary screening (above), and I thought perhaps a check of its current requirements might go fairly quickly, now that I had a bit of experience.

The ASWB main page > Links to Statutes and Regulations did provide links to both statutes and rules for Texas.  Now that I finally had some such thing, though, I decided I wasn’t too interested in getting in that deep, at least not yet.  So, as above, I opted instead for ASWB’s main page > Find a Licensing Board > Texas.  This led to the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners Home Page.  It was a mess.  I had a feeling, already, that this was going to be more difficult than the Virgin Islands had been.

On that webpage, at the left, I saw several interesting links.  The first one, Apply for a New License, opened up a drop-down menu with some relevant picks.  I started with Requirements.  This page did not say much, but it said it unclearly.  I decided to interpret it with the aid of the FAQs link.  Bad choice.  What I was seeking, at this introductory point, was a simple listing of levels of social work licensure.  I finally found it on the Apply Online webpage.  Judging from that page, Texas licensed LBSWs and LCSWs, using exactly those terms, plus two kinds of LMSWs:  the plain LMSW, and the LMSW-AP (short for Advanced Practitioner).  ASWB indicated that the last would require an ASWB Advanced Generalist exam, and I did not double-check that.  But I was confused to see, on the Apply for a New License – Requirements webpage, the statement that “The Board currently issues three licenses and several specialty recognitions. LMSWs who meet the requirements may receive recognition as an ‘Advanced Practitioner’.”  Although I wasn’t sure, it appeared the other specialties they had in mind were what they described, there, as “recognition for independent practice of non-clinical social work” for “LMSWs and LBSWs who meet the requirements” and “supervisor approval” for qualified licensees.  I didn’t know, and at present didn’t need to know, how an LMSW-AP would differ from an LMSW who had been recognized for independent practice of non-clinical social work.

On that same page, I saw this statement:  “All new applicants must pass the board’s jurisprudence examination.”  Not a favorable omen, for those who sought LMSW status with an eye toward minimal hassle and expense.  The Jurisprudence Exam webpage led to another saying that this exam entailed a $40 fee.  The accompanying explanation described this exam as an “Online ‘no-fail’ exam with immediate answer remediation, requiring a correct answer for each question before the user can proceed. All of the subject material is included within the exam itself. Estimated completion time is approximately 2 hours. There is no time limit. User may stop and start the exam, returning as often as necessary or desired in order to complete.”  So the fee was the only thing to fear there.

The Requirements page did not actually state the requirements for any license.  I tried again with the New-Reapplication for LBSW or LMSW webpage.  This one had a link to an Application Checklists document — plural because, as it turned out, this document contained checklists for what appeared to be all new, renewal, and upgrade license options, evidently including some if not all specialty recognitions.   The new and renewal LMSW fees were $91, not the $20 promised by ASWB.   It appeared the ASWB Masters exam could be taken during the final semester in a BSW or MSW program.  Altogether, this document said that the requirements for the LMSW included the application form, fee, college transcript, an acknowledgement form, a passing score on the ASWB Masters exam, and proof of completion of the Jurisprudence exam.  Another document available on the New/Reapplication for LBSW or LMSW webpage helpfully broke down the steps of the licensing process and concluded that initial LMSW licensing could take three months or more.  The Application Form, like the Checklists document, appeared to be designed for applications for a variety of licenses.  It asked questions similar to those posed by DC (above).  The Continuing Education webpage indicated that Texas required 30 hours of CE within the 24 months before license renewal.

From the LMSW stage, the focus would turn to the LCSW.  The New & Re-application for LCSW webpage led, again, to the Application Checklists and to the same Application Form, as did the Application for Upgrade from LMSW or LMSW-AP to LCSW webpage.  On the question of whether someone seeking the LCSW in Texas was required to have either a prior LCSW in another state or an LMSW in Texas, an FAQ said this:

May I maintain my license if I am not working as a social worker or not living in Texas?

Employment in a social work position or residence in Texas is not required to hold an active license. However, inactive status is available if you are not currently employed in social work or are living outside of Texas. Inactive status may be requested in writing any time prior to the expiration of the license, and it requires payment of an inactive status conversion fee of $36. Inactive status requires biennial renewal. While you are on inactive status, no documentation of continuing education is required. If you are on inactive status, you may return to active licensure without penalty or reapplication by putting the request in writing and paying the renewal fee.

So that would ameliorate the CE requirement and reduce the fee significantly.  Finally, page 23 of the PDFcontaining the rules said that, as in DC, an LCSW applicant needed at least 3,000 supervised hours over a period of 24 to 48 months, and that this experience needed to have occurred within five years before the application.

Part I:  Conclusion

A review of three jurisdictions led to several conclusions.  For one thing, I was not confident that ASWB’s summaries provided reliable information.  A selection of any additional jurisdictions for review would perhaps be best guided by (a) word of mouth via Google searches and (b) personal factors (e.g., geographical convenience).

The rules in these three jurisdictions did not seem to be designed with an eye toward the circumstances of current or recent MSWs who might wish to get an LMSW and begin to accumulate hours toward the LCSW.  For one thing, the four-year limit on accumulating hours was going to restrict licensure to people who could find an average workload of at least 15 to 20 hours a week — which would hardly be unreasonable during times of a favorable job market, but could pose a problem for newcomers or re-entrants to the market in more economically distressed times.  Whatever the role of the market in discouraging excess enrollment in oversubscribed careers, it would be very unfortunate if there were people out there who had devoted thousands of hours, over a period of years, but were not managing to get enough of those hours together within a four-year timeframe.  This rule would also prevent progress toward licensure for some who might not have quite enough hours per week but whose credentials might suggest that they should be welcomed into the profession.  An example would be a clinical social work PhD student who had already completed his/her MSW, who was continuing to study and work in relevant areas, and who could spare an average of, say, five to ten — but not 15 to 20 — hours per week for clinical practice.

The rules in these jurisdictions posed other barriers as well, for purposes of the Cayman Islands concept, where the applicant might have limited income or employment, a need to keep costs down, and a desire to begin to accumulate supervised hours at some rate.  Specifically, the fees were not at all on the high side, but neither were they as low as ASWB had indicated.  Given the prospect that the Cayman Islands approach would call for simultaneous licensure efforts in two different jurisdictions, Texas was the only one of the three jurisdictions examined here that would apparently cut fees significantly for an absentee and/or inactive individual.  Roughly the same observations applied to the CE requirements as well.

These remarks were based on a hasty and incomplete review of materials supplied by these three jurisdictions.  Firmer conclusions would call for a closer look at the materials and confirmation from licensing personnel.  At present, while the full picture was not ideal, it did appear that, in principle, one could obtain an LMSW and begin progress toward an LCSW on an absentee basis, accumulating supervised hours at an appropriate rate, paying (at least in Texas) fairly low fees, and thereby safeguarding oneself against the risk of a subsequent move to a jurisdiction that might otherwise penalize the migrant for lack of a prior LMSW credential.  In that sense, the Cayman Islands concept seemed to have potential.

Choosing a Jurisdiction, Part II:  The LCSW Angle

To review, the scenario driving the preceding discussion is as follows:  I start work in a state without an LMSW option; I move from there to a state that has an LMSW requirement; I obtain the LMSW; but the state prohibits the application of pre-LMSW supervised hours of work to the LCSW; therefore I have to start over, accumulating my two years’ worth of supervised hours in the new state, before I can qualify for an LCSW.  Aside from any flexibility that the second state might or might not offer, the possible solution offered in the preceding discussion is to start, promptly after graduating, with LMSW licensure in some other state (e.g., Texas), so as to prevent the possibility that any supervised hours could be considered pre-LMSW.  Whether this approach would be accepted in practice is unknown; conversations with licensing people might well highlight flaws with it.  The concept also suffers from the likelihood that no such insurance would ever be needed.  There are other drawbacks and limits to the concept, as noted above.

As I was working through these matters, it occurred to me that there might be another way to protect one’s licensure hopes against vagaries of the job market.  This approach would not necessarily be an alternative to the foregoing; it might be possible to pursue this one in addition to the foregoing, with little further cost or hassle.  As above, this approach would be best developed through communication with licensing authorities.

My review of ASWB’s state-by-state summaries made me aware that some states that did not have an LMSW option seemed to impose fairly light demands.  In these states, fees were low and CE requirements were light.  Imagine, then, an addition to the scenario just described.  The person starts in a no-LMSW state, spends a year there, switches to an LMSW state, and finds that the hours won’t transfer toward an LCSW in State no. 2 because those hours were pre-LMSW.  No problem; s/he obtains an LMSW in the new state, and begins accumulating supervised hours there.  After the first year in the new state, s/he does not yet have enough hours for an LCSW according to that state’s rules.  But for purposes of some other LCSW-only states, s/he does have enough hours:  a year in the first state, plus a year in the second.  So, naturally, s/he files a Cayman Islands LCSW application in a suitable jurisdiction:  low fees, low CE requirements, absentee-friendly, possibly offering an inactive status.  Presto!  S/he is an LCSW in the Caymans.  Now, maybe s/he just sails ahead for another year in State no. 2, accumulating an extra year of supervised work, so as to make them happy.  In that case, the Cayman Island LCSW is superfluous.  But as an alternative, after obtaining that LCSW in the Caymans, s/he might apply to transfer the Caymans LCSW to State no. 2 at that point.  So instead of spending three years to get the LCSW in State no. 2, possibly s/he can be an LCSW in State no. 2 after just two years of supervision — even though s/he ran afoul of the LMSW rules and would seem to have only one year of qualifying work experience in State no. 2.  Or if State no. 2 doesn’t think this is very funny, perhaps there are other states where s/he could find a job as a new Cayman Islands LCSW.

There might be LMSW states that would let a person just waltz in with a Cayman Islands application, a year or more after s/he has already begun accumulating hours.  That is, maybe not all LMSW states require the person to get the LMSW together before accumulating supervised hours.  As a simpler alternative, there may be no-LMSW states that have no interest in the person until s/he has accumulated 3,000 hours and steps forward with an LCSW application in hand.  In other words, I don’t know how a state like Texas (with an LMSW option or requirement) would respond to the person who did not lead with an LMSW application.  But a state that does not require an LMSW is hardly going to penalize someone for failing to get an LMSW before beginning supervised work.  In short, this alternative approach would not seek to anticipate the LMSW, but rather to circumvent it as other LCSW transfers do.

Part II, Case 1:  Michigan

In my travels through ASWB’s data tables, I noticed that Michigan supposedly had low fees and CE requirements.  Michigan did not seem to require or offer an LMSW option, so I did not consider it as I was working through the analysis in Part 1 (above).  But now it occurred to me that Michigan might be a place to facilitate this other approach to the LCSW.

ASWB said that Michigan used three of ASWB’s four exams:  the Bachelors, the Advanced Generalist, and the Clinical, but not the Masters.  ASWB said, further, that the license associated with the Clinical exam was called, confusingly, the Licensed Master Social Worker – Clinical (LMSW-C), while the license associated with the Advanced Generalist exam was called the LMSW-M (for Macro).  At the bottom of Michigan’s social work licensing webpage, I found a link to application packets for Bachelor’s and Master’s social workers.  It turned out that the latter did double duty for both the Clinical and Macro varieties of Master’s social workers.  In that PDF document, I found instructions, not only for the Master’s license (Macro and Clinical), but also for something called the Limited Master’s license.

As I looked into that Limited Master’s option, it developed (as I had gathered, to some extent, during a year at the University of Michigan) that the new MSW would take ASWB’s Clinical (not Masters) exam, and would thus qualify to become, in effect, a limited LCSW — immediately after or perhaps even before graduation, if so desired.  So that could be the end of a Michigander’s obligation to prepare for and take ASWB exams.  Now (assuming a passing score), s/he would just have to accumulate the required 4,000 supervised hours within the one-year term of the limited license, which “can be renewed for not more than six (6) years.”  It appeared that renewals were for three-year periods, in which case this would mean a total of seven years altogether.  The application fee was $40 — unchanged from what ASWB said!  I was not able to find the renewal fee on Michigan’s website, but it seemed ASWB might be right in putting that, too, at $40.  There appeared to be a potential discrepancy between the application packet and Michigan’s website on CE:  the former seemed to say that, for the Limited Master’s, a CE obligation would kick in after the fourth year, whereas the latter said there would be none.  Either way, though, the CE load appeared light, for the new MSW.  Finally, Michigan confirmed that out-of-state supervised hours would count.

Given these factors, Michigan appeared to have potential for some situations.  It would apparently lead to an LCSW-type credential without an intermediate LMSW-type exam and application, though it did require that LCSW exam at the outset.  Its extended renewal periods seemed to provide an option for new MSWs who feared it might take years to pull together enough hours, though the bump to 4,000 hours didn’t help in that regard.  Fees and CEUs seemed manageable.  As above, it seemed essential to confirm these understandings with licensing personnel before proceeding.

Part II, Other Cases

In Part I (above), I listed jurisdictions that (according to ASWB) did not require or offer an LMSW option.  Those jurisdictions were California, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the Canadian provinces.  Of those, California’s separation from ASWB exams seemed unhelpful.  I have just examined Michigan.  ASWB’s Table 2 indicated that all others on this short list imposed a post-license supervision requirement.  I guessed that these were probably comparable to Michigan’s requirement for an early limited license application.  In that case, the alternate Cayman approach offered false promise:  there might not be any jurisdictions in which one could suddenly appear, take an exam, and become an LCSW after a few years of racking up supervised hours.  It seemed that it might be necessary in all states to file an application and take an exam of some sort at the outset.

This is not to say that exceptions could not be made.  I had encountered a few stories of such.  But I doubted that an absentee, with no current or anticipated ties to a jurisdiction, would be the best candidate for seeking special treatment therein.  Pending individualized inquiry into other jurisdictions, then, the best I could say was that there were some states (e.g., Texas, Michigan) that seemed willing to work with something resembling a Cayman Islands kind of approach to the LCSW.  In other words, MSWs who feared that some of their supervised hours might be disregarded by some state of future residence seemed to have a possibility of protecting themselves by starting the paperwork for a potentially superfluous LMSW and/or LCSW in a third state on an absentee basis.  In all cases examined so far, the process apparently had to begin with an application and an ASWB exam, not with supervised work done without any prior application and exam.

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  • Scott  On July 3, 2017 at 2:00 AM

    This is excellent information; thank you for this. What route did you end up taking? If I were interested in becoming an LCSW as quickly and efficiently as possible, it seems that Michigan would be the best route, would it not?

    • Ray Woodcock  On July 3, 2017 at 12:27 PM

      I can’t advise on anyone’s individual situation here. Generally, I’d say review the licensing requirements for the states you would consider, and talk to the licensing authorities to double-check any assumptions or special features of your situation. Go through every step in detail, so you know what you’re getting yourself into. For example, some states protect their LCSWs by making it difficult for others to join them. There can be stringent limits on what counts as valid supervision. Also, before assuming too much, take the LMSW licensing test. It is designed to weed out a certain percentage of applicants. Another post has more info.

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