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Rhode Island Social Work Licensing Requirements

While it may be the smallest state by size and have a population of only slightly more than one million, there are still many opportunities for social worker jobs in Rhode Island including casework, clinical practice, and macro level analysis. There are many educational pathways available to enter the field of social work in Rhode Island, and licensing is only required for clinical social workers who intend to diagnose and provide services to individuals with mental health challenges. The licensing process for clinical social workers is handled by the Rhode Island Board of Social Work Examiners (the “Board”), which is housed within the Rhode Island Department of Health.

How to Become a Social Worker in Rhode Island

Educational Paths

To qualify for generalist Rhode Island social work jobs, a bachelor’s degree (BSW) or Associate in Arts (AA) degree in Social Work is recommended. These degrees allow you to work with individuals, groups, and communities to increase wellbeing using a holistic, systems approach. If you wish to practice clinical social work, the minimum degree requirement is a Master of Social Work (MSW), leading to two types of licensing depending on your level of experience – Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). Individuals holding a Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) are also eligible to apply for licensing, but there are currently no accredited schools offering the DSW program in Rhode Island.

Associate of Arts in Social Work (AA)

In Rhode Island, it is possible to complete a two-year Associate of Arts degree in Social Work. These programs include liberal arts courses, such as psychology and sociology, combined with courses on generalist social work practice or one specific area of generalist practice, such as gerontology or mental health. Although the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) has not accredited these programs as of January 2016 and therefore they may not be a transferable to social work jobs in other states, this degree may be accepted for generalist social worker jobs in Rhode Island. Additionally, the AA degree may be used as transfer credit to a CSWE-accredited school for upgrading.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

Typically, a BSW degree can be completed in as little as four years. BSW programs include a diverse range of courses, including psychology, biology, politics and human behavior. Students often must complete two supervised fieldwork placements during the program to develop a practical understanding of how social work theories and approaches can be used in generalist practice settings. Students may apply to the BSW program after completing at least one semester in a general arts, humanities or science degree. There are three schools of social work accredited by the CSWE in Rhode Island that offer Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) programs – Providence College, Rhode Island College and Salve Regina University.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

The master of social work degree provides the opportunity to enhance and develop generalist social work skills and specialize in a particular type of social work practice. Typically, the MSW takes two years to complete full-time or three-to-four years part time. The first year includes courses on direct practice, human behavior, policy analysis and research. In the second year of the program, students may choose a concentration for their courses and practicums, for example in clinical or macro practice. Choosing a clinical social work focus during the MSW prepares students to apply for licensing, as clinical social work jobs in Rhode Island are only available to MSW-level social work graduates. Pursuing a macro concentration is also possible, and prepares students to manage and lead social work programs and organizations. Advanced standing may be granted to individuals who have completed a BSW degree from a CSWE-accredited school in the last five years.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Rhode Island

There are two types of licensed social worker jobs in Rhode Island – Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). If you have an MSW or a DSW with a clinical social work concentration, you may apply for the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) designation. As you gain experience, you may be eligible to apply for the Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) designation. The licensure process can take a minimum of four-to-six weeks and outcomes are communicated in writing. If approved, individuals will then be asked to take the relevant Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam and submit their successful results. Once the process is complete, an official license card will be mailed within eight weeks. Individuals with an MSW degree who continue to work in generalist social work jobs in Rhode Island do not need to seek licensing.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

The Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) designation is available to MSW graduates who have gained clinical skills through education but do not have any post-graduation experience. After finishing your MSW degree and gaining Board approval, you must also pass the ASWB master’s level exam. This license enables Masters-level social workers to gain experience in clinical Rhode Island social work jobs in order to progress to the Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) level. To become an LCSW, you must:

1. Submit an application to the Rhode Island Board.

The first step to becoming a licensed clinical social worker in Rhode Island is to submit an application form along with a non-refundable $70 fee, two professional references, and, if applicable, an Interstate Verification Form. You must also ensure official transcripts are sent directly to the Board from the school.

2. Take and pass the ASWB masters exam.

Once your application has been reviewed by the Board, you will be required to take the ASWB master’s level exam. The Board will send you an eligibility letter to register, however you are responsible for the cost of the exam. As of January 2016, the cost to take the exam was $230. You will be allowed three attempts to pass. Once you have passed, submit your official exam results to the Board.

3. Receive your LCSW license.

Once you have completed all the necessary steps, your application will be approved by the Board and your license card will be mailed to you at the address provided in your application within eight weeks. You will then be eligible to practice as an LCSW in Rhode Island.

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)

Once you have acquired the LCSW designation, you might plan to work towards becoming a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). To apply for the LICSW, you must have an MSW or a DSW and have considerable experience working in clinical social work practice. To apply for LICSW licensing, you must:

1. Become an LCSW.

To be eligible for the LICSW license, you must first be approved as an LCSW by following the steps above.

2. Accumulate the required experience.

Once you have been approved as an LCSW, you may start accumulating clinical practice experience. Within a 24-to-72 month period, you must accumulate at least 3,000 hours of post master’s clinical practice. Of these 3,000 hours, a minimum of 1,500 hours must be direct clinical work with clients. Although some of this work may be completed in groups of up to 10 clients, 75% of the direct clinical work must be with individuals. You must be supervised by an LICSW for at least two hours every two weeks during this period.

3. Submit an application form to the Board.

After completing the necessary practice experience, complete and submit the application form along with a non-refundable $70 application fee, two professional references, if applicable, an Interstate Verification Form, and a Supervised Practice Form. You must also ensure official transcripts are sent directly to the Board from the school.

4. Take and pass the ASWB clinical exam.

After your application has been reviewed by the Board, you will be required to take the ASWB clinical exam. The Board will send you an eligibility letter to register, however you are responsible for the cost of the exam. As of January 2016, the cost to take the exam was $260. You will be allowed three attempts to pass. Once you have passed, submit official exam results to the Board.

5. Receive your LICSW license.

Once you have completed all the necessary steps, your application will be approved by the Board and your license card will be mailed to you at the address provided in your application within eight weeks. You will then be eligible to practice as an LICSW in Rhode Island.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Rhode Island

Individuals seeking employment in generalist social work jobs in Rhode Island are not required to gain a license, so reciprocity is not an issue. However, individuals interested in clinical social worker jobs in Rhode Island are not eligible for automatic reciprocity. If you wish to be employed as a clinical social worker in Rhode Island, you must seek the appropriate license relevant to your level of experience. If you are currently or have been licensed as a social worker in a different state in the past, you must disclose this information during the licensing process by submitting the Interstate Verification Form mentioned above.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

LCSWs and LICSWs must renew their licenses every two years. The initial fee is $100, and $100 every two years thereafter. Licenses are valid from May 1 to April 30 of odd-numbered years. For example, a license acquired in January 2016 would cost $100 and be valid until April 30, 2017. If your license renewal is submitted late, you will be charged an additional $25 fee. There are no provisional, temporary, inactive or retired practitioner license options available in Rhode Island.

Both types of licensed social workers are required to complete 30 hours of continuing education (CE) every renewal period (e.g., every two years). Of these 30 hours, three hours must address cross-cultural practice and the alleviation of poverty, and three hours must address professional ethics. No more than six hours may be completed via online learning during each renewal cycle.

Rhode Island Social Work Jobs and Salary Information

According to data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3,090 individuals are employed as social workers in Rhode Island and 62% of Rhode Island social workers work in child, family and school positions.1 An additional 1,170 social workers are employed in healthcare, mental health and substance abuse, or other areas of social work.1 The average annual salary among all four groups is $59,955.1 According to Projections Central, the need for social workers in all areas of practice was and is expected to increase during the 2012-2022 period, creating more Rhode Island social work jobs in the future.2 Healthcare social work jobs in Rhode Island are likely to experience the greatest increase of 18.5%, while mental health and addictions social worker jobs and child, family, and school social worker jobs in Rhode Island also show positive growth, at 12.6% and 9.5% respectively.2

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 1,920 $58,250
Healthcare Social Workers 590 $59,990
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 500 $50,730
Social Workers, All Other 80 $70,850

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.1

Social Work Associations in Rhode Island

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can I apply to social work jobs in Rhode Island without a license?

Answer: Yes, as long as you intend on working in a generalist manner. Licensing is only required for clinical social work positions.

Question: Do I have to pass an ASWB exam to be a social worker in Rhode Island?

Answer: If you wish to practice clinical social work in Rhode Island, you must successfully pass the master’s level exam (for the LCSW license) and the clinical level exam (for the LICSW license) once you receive approval from the Rhode Island Board of Social Work. If you do not intend on practicing clinical social work, you do not need to pass an ASWB exam.

Question: What type of CE qualifies towards my 30 hours?

Answer: Only six hours of online learning may be claimed per renewal cycle; therefore you must complete at least 24 hours of in-person training to meet the CE requirements of your license. Three hours must be related to cross-cultural practice, and three hours must be related to professional ethics. The remainder is at your discretion and can be chosen in relation to your practice interests.

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Rhode Island: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ri.htm
2. Projections Central, Long Term Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm