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Georgia Social Work Licensing Requirements

The southeastern state of Georgia employs over 13,000 social workers who earned an average annual wage of $52,000 in 2014.1 If the idea of becoming a social worker in the state of Georgia interests you, you should first understand the specific requirements needed to get there.

The Georgia Composite Board of Professional Counselors, Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists (the Board) regulates and sets the requirements for social workers in the state. Provided below is an outline of how to become a social worker in Georgia based on the standards set forth by the Georgia Board of Social Work.

How to Become a Social Worker in Georgia

Educational Paths

Those with a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited program can practice as social workers under the supervision of a more experienced social worker. However, a minimum of a master’s in social work (MSW) is required for licensure in the state of Georgia. Individuals seeking higher pay or with the desire to teach clinical social work should consider obtaining a doctoral degree in social work. Below you will find more detail about the educational requirements for a licensed master social worker (LMSW) or a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) in the state of Georgia.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

The first step to becoming a social worker in the state of Georgia is usually to obtain your bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW). While you will not be able to become licensed with just a BSW, you will be able to practice as a social worker in many settings (under supervision) or you can use the degree as a springboard to obtaining your MSW. With a BSW accredited by the CSWE, you can often enter an MSW program with an “advanced standing” status, allowing you to complete the degree in just one year. Most BSW programs take three to four years to complete, and include coursework focused on an overview of social work, including clinical practice, community empowerment, social welfare policy, and program development.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Even though you may have a bachelor’s degree in a different field, you may choose to obtain your master’s degree in social work (MSW). However, you must receive a master’s in social work from a school accredited by the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) in order to become licensed by the Georgia Social Work Board. Seven universities in Georgia offer a master’s program that is accredited by the CSWE. Some schools may offer a “fast track” for students who hold a bachelor’s in social work (BSW) from a CSWE-accredited school. This allows students to earn their MSW in a shorter amount of time, in one year instead of the common two years it takes to complete an MSW. Courses covered in MSW programs will typically include human behavior and social environment, social welfare policy, ethics, intervention strategies, and a research and field practice component. Master’s candidates learn advanced skills for dealing with children and families, mental health issues, and school social work. MSW programs also include fieldwork, which offers a real-world glimpse into the field. An MSW is the first step to becoming an LMSW or LCSW in Georgia.

Doctorate of Social Work (DSW)

A doctorate of social work (DSW), or PhD in social work, is another option for individuals wishing to specialize in clinical practice in the field of social work. While this degree is not a requirement to become an LCSW, more opportunities may arise for LCSWs who hold a DSW. Further, those LCSW candidates who have an MSW and a doctoral degree in professional counseling, social work, marriage and family therapy, medicine, psychiatric nursing, applied psychology, pastoral counseling, or applied child and family development and whose program included a supervised clinical internship, may substitute this for one year of supervised experience required to become an LCSW (see below). Advanced practitioners are more likely to obtain a DSW (or a PhD in social work) and may use this degree to practice professionally, conduct research at a higher education institution, or teach undergraduate and graduate clinical social work programs. DSW degrees cover topics on neuroscience and epistemology for clinical methods and practice, interpersonal psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, addictions and diagnosis treatments, trauma-focused interventions, and clinical leadership. The focus of a DSW program is typically on research and teaching, preparing students for careers in academic research settings. A PhD in social work ordinarily takes between three and four years to complete.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Georgia

While you can practice social work in the state without a license, more opportunities should arise if you pursue a Georgia social work license. Georgia offers two levels of licensure, a licensed master social worker (LMSW) and a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), both of which require a minimum of an MSW from a CSWE-accredited social work program. The level of licensure you choose should be based largely on the type of social work you wish to practice–clinical or non-clinical. Read more about

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

In Georgia, only individuals with an MSW degree or higher can apply to become licensed master social workers (LMSWs). An LMSW shows clients and potential employers that you are capable of passing a state-certified licensing exam and are serious about your profession. An LMSW should have greater job opportunities and pay than a non-licensed social worker in Georgia. LMSWs in Georgia are free to practice privately if their practice does not include counseling or psychotherapeutic techniques; those two specialties require supervision and ultimately clinical social work licensure. While obtaining an LMSW is not a prerequisite to applying for an LCSW, it is highly recommended by the Georgia Society for Clinical Social Work that those interested in becoming an LCSW become an LMSW first. Following are the steps required to becoming an LMSW in Georgia.

1. Take and pass the ASWB masters exam.

The master’s level ASWB exam must be taken prior to applying for licensure with the Georgia State Board. LMSW candidates should begin preparing for the exam during their final semester of graduate school as they must take the exam within one year of graduation from a CSWE-accredited MSW program. In Georgia, new MSW graduates have an opportunity to gain experience and earn a living while studying to take the master’s level ASWB exam. Per the Georgia State Board, individuals preparing to take the master’s level ASWB examination may practice social work for up to one year.

Candidates must first register for the four-hour, master’s level ASWB exam. After receiving confirmation from ASWB, candidates can schedule their exam online or by phone. As of September 2015, the ASWB master’s level exam fee was $260 and the application fee was $25. The master’s level ASWB consists of 170-multiple choice questions, 150 of which will be scored. Candidates must answer between 94 and 107 questions correctly to pass the exam. If an LMSW candidate fails the exam, he or she must retake the exam at the next available date. Candidates have three chances to pass the master’s level ASWB exam; if they fail to meet this requirement, they must abstain from practicing social work until they pass the exam.

2. Apply for licensure to the Board.

LMSW candidates must submit an application to the Board for licensure. As of September 2015, the cost of the application for an LMSW was $100. Two personal references must be furnished to the Board as a part of the application process. LMSW candidates must provide official transcripts to the Board along with a detailed explanation of a criminal history, including arrests, felony convictions, or DWI/DUI.

3. Receive LMSW license from the Board.

Upon completion of the steps outlined above, candidates will be licensed as master social workers in Georgia.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

In the state of Georgia, an LCSW is the only type of social worker who can practice independently in a clinical setting. An MSW from a CSWE-accredited school is required for licensure as a clinical social worker in Georgia. Although it is highly recommended by the Georgia Society for Clinical Social Work, an LMSW is not required as a prerequisite to applying for an LCSW.

1. Gain the necessary experience.

One major difference between an LMSW and LCSW is the amount and type of experience required. LCSW candidates with an MSW must acquire three years (or 3,000 hours) of supervised social work experience over a time period of three to nine years. LCSW candidates must have 120 hours of documented supervision. LSCW candidates with a DSW must demonstrate that they have two years (or 2,000 hours) of supervised, clinical social work experience, gained within two to six years and 80 hours of documented supervision.

2. Apply to the Board for licensure.

Candidates wishing to become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) must apply to the Georgia State Board and pay the application fee of $100 (as of September 2015). Additional supporting documentation to accompany the application includes an official college transcript (requested of your institution) and two personal references from teachers or supervisors. In the case of criminal history, a written explanation must be provided to the Board detailing each occurrence.

3. Take and pass the ASWB clinical exam.

As with any other social work license, LCSW candidates must take and pass the ASWB clinical exam. The exam costs $260 and the ASWB application fee is $25 (as of September 2015).

4. Receive LCSW license from the Board.

Once the above steps are complete, applicants will be licensed clinical social workers in the state of Georgia.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Georgia

According to the Board, the state does not offer reciprocity licensure for LSWs or LCSWs. Social workers wishing to transfer their license to the state of Georgia must have taken the master’s level ASWB (or higher), have their scores transferred from ASWB, and should apply for a Georgia social work license by exam waiver using Form N. The candidate’s home licensure state must certify the legitimacy of the candidate’s license.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Due to changing laws and an evolving society, LMSWs and LCSWs are required to take 35 hours of continuing education every two years to renew their Georgia social work license. Of those hours, five must be in ethics. No more than ten hours may be acquired online. Licensed social workers can visit the National Association of Social Workers: Georgia Chapter for a listing of continuing education offerings.

Georgia Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

Social workers in Georgia earn an average of $46,802 annually, which is lower than the national average of $50,983; however, because Georgia’s cost of living is 8% less than the national average, the state would make a great place for social workers to start their career.1,2 Around 13,760 social workers are currently employed in Georgia with the majority being employed in child, family, and school social work (6,480).1 It is projected that by 2022, the number of social worker jobs in Georgia will increase by 21.85%, equating to roughly 480 jobs.3 The largest increase is projected to occur in the category of mental health and substance abuse social workers (45%).3

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 6,480 $37,300
Healthcare Social Workers 4,090 $48,920
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 1,650 $48,920
Social Workers, All Other 1,540 $52,890

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.2

Social Work Associations in Georgia

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can I begin practicing independently once I become registered as a Licensed Master Social Worker (ASW)?

Answer: Yes, after two years of supervised social work practice, an LMSW can practice privately and independently.

Question: For the 3,000 hours of work experience required, can I count experience I gained years ago?

Answer: Yes. As long as you were issued an ASW registration number, you can count years of experience as far back as nine years from the date the social work Board of Georgia receives your LCSW application.

Question: What kinds of qualifications are required of the person supervising my experience?

Answer: Your supervisor must possess an LCSW and at least 2,000 hours of experience within no less than two years.

Question: What kind of degree do I need to practice social work in Georgia?

Answer: Social workers need a master’s degree in social work (MSW) to practice social work in the state. To become an LCSW in Georgia, you need a master’s degree in social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Georgia: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ga.htm
2. Sperling’s Best Places, Georgia: http://www.bestplaces.net/cost_of_living/state/georgia
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm