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Oklahoma Social Work Licensing Requirements

With 9,770 social workers practicing in the state in May 2015, the midwestern state of Oklahoma offers its residents a low cost of living and has a decent need for social workers.1 In fact, it is the number five most densely concentrated state for child, family, and school social workers, just after South Dakota.2

The governing board for Oklahoma law and licensure of social workers in the state is the Oklahoma State Board of Licensed Social Workers (the “Board”). If you are interested in practicing social work in the state of Oklahoma, chances are you will need to become licensed. While you may be able to find some entry-level, support positions in the field without a license, going through the licensure process will provide you with more opportunities for jobs in the state.

How to Become a Social Worker in Oklahoma

Educational Paths

Depending on the type of social worker you are planning on becoming licensed for, you will first need to seek a degree in social work as a prerequisite for most social work jobs. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) is required to become an licensed social work associate (LSWA) in the state of Oklahoma. Look for schools that are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), which is also required for licensure. For more advanced social worker licensure, a master’s in social work (MSW) will be required. Those who hold a master’s degree or higher will usually have the best job prospects.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

Oklahoma offers five bachelor’s level programs of social work that are accredited by the CSWE. BSW degrees typically take four years to complete and lay the foundation for a career in social work by providing a broad overview of the profession, including social policy, family relations, and a fieldwork component. Once you have a BSW in Oklahoma, you can begin your career as an LSWA or go on to pursue an advanced degree.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Master’s degrees in social work are the logical next step for either BSW graduates or undergraduates with another degree who are interested in a career in social work. While a BSW is not a requirement for entry into an MSW program, it will come in handy for prospective students, usually affording them the ability to complete the graduate program in one year rather than two, with an “advanced standing” status. The CSWE has accredited one MSW program in Oklahoma. In an MSW program, students will acquire a more specialized knowledge-base, often choosing a specialty based on a heavier emphasis on fieldwork than in BSW programs. An MSW is required to become a licensed master social worker (LMSW), a licensed social worker (LSW), a licensed social worker – administration (LSW-ADM), and a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Board offers licensure for five different levels of social work: licensed social work associate (LSWA), licensed master social worker (LMSW), licensed social worker (LSW), licensed social worker – administration (LSW-ADM), and licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). In some cases, only an educational requirement and an exam is required, but other positions require experience as well. Keep reading to learn more about the different types of licensure and the requirements for each.

Oklahoma also offers provisional licenses to those candidates who have mailed in their application and completed the other preliminary steps to become licensed, while they are studying for the Association of Social Work Boards’ (ASWB) exam. Should a candidate fail the ASWB exam, they can retake it every 90 days for a period of one year, at which point the application and provisional license will no longer be valid. Should the candidate pass the ASWB exam, the provisional license will be replaced by the Board with a permanent one.

Licensed Social Work Associate (LSWA)

The first level of licensure in the state is a licensed social work associate. To become an LSWA in Oklahoma, you must first get a BSW from a CSWE accredited program. Once the educational requirement has been met, you must:

1. Complete the application form.

This application for licensure form is the same for all levels of licensure in the state. You must complete it in its entirety, agree to a background check, request and submit an official copy of your transcript, and pay the $150 application fee (as of November 2015).

2. Receive provisional license from the Board.

Once the application process has begun, candidates will receive a provisional license, under which they can practice under supervision while they study for the ASWB exam.

3. Take and pass the ASWB bachelors exam.

In order to take the required exam, you must register on the ASWB website and pay both the $25 application fee and the $230 exam fee, as of November 2015. Once registered, you will need to schedule your test online, which will be conducted at a Pearson Professional Center of your choice.

4. Receive your LSWA license from the Board.

Once you have passed the ASWB exam, the Board will replace your provisional license with a permanent one. You will then be licensed to use “LSWA” as a title and to practice as an LSWA in the state.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

To become an LMSW in Oklahoma, you will first need a master’s degree in social work from a CSWE accredited college or university. Aside from the educational requirement, you will need to:

1. Complete the application form.

Use the Board’s application for licensure form to begin the process.

2. Receive provisional license from the Board.

Once the application process has begun, candidates will receive a provisional license, under which they can practice under supervision while they study for the ASWB exam.

3. Take and pass the ASWB masters exam.

Once your application is complete, register for the ASWB master’s-level exam on their website, pay the necessary fees, and take the exam.

4. Receive your LMSW license from the Board.

Once all requirements have been met, you will become eligible to use “LMSW” as your title and to practice as an LMSW in the state. The Board will replace your provisional license with a permanent one.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

The process for becoming an LSW is very similar to that for becoming an LMSW, except that LSWs must have accumulated additional experience. Besides having a master’s degree from a CSWE approved school, prospective LSWs must:

1. Accumulate the required experience.

Before they are eligible to become an LSW, you must acquire two years of supervised, full-time, postgraduate experience in social work. Your supervisor must be qualified under the Social Workers’ Licensing Act, and must submit a educational supervision log after six, 12, and 24 months.

2. Complete the application.

Once you have met both the educational and experience requirements set by the Board, you will complete the application for licensure form.

3. Receive provisional license from the Board.

Once the application process has begun, candidates will receive a provisional license, under which they can practice under supervision while they study for the ASWB exam.

4. Take and pass the ASWB advanced generalist exam.

The next step is to register for and pass the ASWB advanced generalist exam.

5. Receive your LSW license from the Board.

Once the above steps have been completed, the Board will replace your provisional license with a permanent one.

Licensed Social Worker – Administration (LSW-ADM)

Licensed social workers with an administration specialty (LSW-ADM) will need a CSWE-approved master’s in social work degree to begin the application process. Besides meeting the degree requirement, they will need to:

1. Accumulate the required experience.

After receiving your MSW, you will need to acquire two years of postgraduate, full-time experience in the practice of administrative social work under the supervision of a person qualified under the Social Workers’ Licensing Act. Your supervisor must use the educational supervision log to report your experience.

2. Complete the application.

Next, the application for licensure form will need to be completed.

3. Receive provisional license from the Board.

Once the application process has begun, candidates will receive a provisional license, under which they can practice under supervision while they study for the ASWB exam.

4. Take and pass the ASWB advanced generalist exam.

Register for and schedule the ASWB advanced generalist exam here.

5. Receive your LSW-ADM license from the Board.

Finally, the Board will send you your LSW-ADM license when you are approved, which will replace your provisional license.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

Finally, if you are interested in practicing social work at the clinical level, which will allow you to assess and diagnose disorders as well as conduct counseling and psychotherapy, you may decide to pursue the LCSW license in Oklahoma. A master’s degree in social work is also required to become an LCSW. Candidates must also:

1. Accumulate the required experience.

Two years of full-time, postgraduate experience must be acquired by those who are interested in becoming an LCSW in Oklahoma. Your work must be supervised by someone who is qualified under the Social Workers’ Licensing Act, and he or she must periodically submit a educational supervision log to report your experience.

2. Complete the application.

The same application for licensure form will be used to apply to become an LCSW.

3. Receive provisional license from the Board.

Once the application process has begun, candidates will receive a provisional license, under which they can practice under supervision while they study for the ASWB exam.

4. Take and pass the ASWB clinical exam.

Once your application has been submitted, you are ready to register for and take the ASWB clinical level exam.

5. Receive your LCSW license from the Board.

Once the above steps have been completed, you will receive your LCSW license from the Board, which will replace your temporary license.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Oklahoma

Oklahoma does allow those previously licensed in a different state and with a current license in good standing, to apply to become an equivalent social worker by reciprocity or endorsement. In addition to the application steps above, these applicants will need to contact their previous jurisdiction to complete the verification of license form and send it to the Board. You will also need to contact the ASWB either on their website or by phone (1-800-225-6880), to request that your passing scores be transferred to the Board. Once your application has been approved by the Board, you will be eligible to practice social work in the state of Oklahoma.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

All Oklahoma social workers must renew their licenses every two years, providing evidence to the Board at that time of the completion of at least 16 hours of continuing education (CE) hours per specialty, with three of those hours being in ethics. You can find a full list of Oklahoma State Board approved CE providers here Renewal of licenses costs a fee of $100 (as of November 2015), with a $50 late fee for those who do not renew on time.

Oklahoma Social Work Jobs and Salary Information

The average salary for a social worker in the state is $45,110, and statistics indicate positive job growth in all fields of work.2 The greatest number of social workers (5,710) are currently employed in areas of child, family, and school social work, and in fact, Oklahoma ranks fifth for the highest concentration of these jobs. Overall, Projections Central predicts that the number of social workers in Oklahoma is projected to increase by an average of 11.9% by the year 2022.3 The most growth is expected in the sub-category of healthcare social workers, which is expecting an increase in jobs of over 25%.3

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 5,710 $33,340
Healthcare Social Workers 2,080 $44,260
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 1,260 $30,060
Social Workers, All Other 720 $46,790

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.1

Social Work Associations in Oklahoma

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can I practice social work before I receive my license in Oklahoma?

Answer: You may be able to work as an entry-level social worker without a license, but most social workers elect to pursue a license. Before receiving your permanent license, Oklahoma also grants candidates a provisional license, allowing them to practice while studying for the ASWB exam.

Question: What degree do I need to become licensed to practice social work in Oklahoma?

Answer: All licensure levels in the state require a minimum of a BSW, but most require an MSW as an educational requirement. An MSW will prepare you for more advanced social work positions and be necessary if you are interested in practicing independently or in a clinical capacity.

Question: How do I maintain my licensure in the state?

Answer: You are required to renew your license every two years to keep it current, and along with your renewal application, you are also required to document a minimum of 16 hours of continuing education each renewal period.

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Oklahoma: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ok.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Child, Family, and School Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211021.htm
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm