logo

Texas Social Work Licensing Requirements

As the second largest state in area and population, it is no surprise that Texas is a top employer of social workers in the United States.1 In fact, according to May 2014 data, Texas employs the fourth-highest number of healthcare social workers and of child, family, and school social workers in the United States.2,3

Becoming a social worker in each state is unique, as each state has its own set of standards and regulations. Texas social workers are governed by the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners (TSBSWE), a subgroup of the Texas Department of State Health Services. Below you will find detailed instructions on how to become a social worker in the state of Texas, how to become licensed, and the requirements for each.

How to Become a Social Worker in Texas

Educational Paths

There are two educational options for people interested in pursuing social work in Texas. In order to identify as a “social worker” in Texas, you must obtain either a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in social work and obtain a social work license. The types of license you can receive with each of the educational paths are different, as are the types of jobs for which you will be qualified. Typically, those with a terminal degree in social work (considered an MSW for non-clinical and clinical social work) will earn more money than those with a lesser degree.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

With a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW), you can apply to practice in the state of Texas. A Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited BSW will prepare you to become a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW) in Texas, or to go on to pursue a master’s in social work (MSW) to continue your education. In a BSW program, which typically takes four years to complete, you will study both in the classroom and in the field. Students will learn to work with clients one-on-one and in groups, including families and communities. Texas LBSWs might work as general social workers, case managers, or family and youth specialists, among many other job titles. As an LBSW, you are also eligible to apply for Independent Practice Recognition (IPR) in a non-clinical setting from the Board.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Another common educational goal to become a social worker in the state is to obtain a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited college or university. Before beginning a master’s degree in the field, you must hold a bachelor’s degree in any field, but if you have a bachelor’s degree in social work, you may be eligible for “advanced standing,” which could shorten the amount of time it will take to obtain an MSW. An MSW typically takes two years to complete, but with advanced standing it could take as little as one year. With a master’s degree in social work in Texas, you can apply to be a licensed master social worker (LMSW). After the required supervised experience, an LMSW can go on to become a licensed master social worker- advanced practitioner (LMSW-AP), which is non-clinical, or a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). LMSW-APs are eligible to apply for Independent Practice Recognition (IPR) in a non-clinical setting from the Board.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Texas

In order to identify as a “social worker” in Texas, you must be licensed as such, or risk incurring hefty fines and penalties for misrepresenting the profession. Further, the National Association of Social Workers- Texas (NASW-TX) urges social workers to seek licensure and employers to hire licensed social workers. The state of Texas offers different levels of licensure, both at the BSW- and the MSW-levels, the licensed baccalaureate social worker (LBSW), the licensed master social worker, the licensed master social worker – advanced practitioner (LMSW-AP) and the licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). The paths to these different levels of licensure are detailed below.

Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)

Once you have received a BSW, you may apply to become an LBSW in the state of Texas. To become an LBSW, you will need to:

  1. Request official college transcripts verifying a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program*
  2. Complete the online Jurisprudence Exam
  3. Complete the TSBSWE’s application for licensure (Form A)**
  4. Complete the verification of licensure in other jurisdiction (Form II) (only if previously licensed in another jurisdiction)
  5. Complete the examination security information form (Form VII)
  6. Complete the social work employment history form (Form I)
  7. Submit to a criminal history evaluation, which has a fee of $50 as of August 2015.
  8. Upon approval by the Board, take and pass the ASWB bachelors exam***

*If a student is in his or her final semester of a BSW program, a letter from the Dean may also be included in lieu of official transcripts.
**The fee to submit TSBSWE’s application for licensure (Form A) as of August 2015 is $91.00.
***The fee for the ASWB exam as of August 2015 is $230.00.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

The steps for becoming an LMSW are similar to the LBSW process. The difference between the two is only that an LMSW has a master’s degree in social work while an LBSW has a bachelor’s degree in social work. To become an LMSW, you will need to:

  1. Request official college transcripts verifying an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program*
  2. Complete the online Jurisprudence Exam
  3. Complete the TSBSWE’s application for licensure (Form A)**
  4. Complete the verification of licensure in other jurisdiction (Form II) (only if previously licensed in another jurisdiction)
  5. Complete the examination security information form (Form VII)
  6. Complete the social work employment history form (Form I)
  7. Submit to a criminal history evaluation, which has a fee of $50 as of August 2015.
  8. Upon approval by the Board, take and pass the ASWB masters exam***

*If a student is in his or her final semester of an MSW program, a letter from the Dean may also be included in lieu of official transcripts.
**The fee as of August 2015 is $91.00.
***The fee for the ASWB exam as of August 2015 is $230.00.

Licensed Master Social Worker – Advanced Practitioner (LMSW-AP)

Once a person is an LMSW in the state of Texas (or currently licensed at the master’s level in another jurisdiction via the ASWB masters exam), he or she can apply to become an LMSW-AP. An LMSW-AP is the highest level of licensure for a Texas non-clinical social worker. The steps for becoming an LMSW-AP are listed below.

1. Accrue the supervised non-clinical experience needed to gain licensure as an LMSW-AP.

If you are looking to become an LMSW-AP in Texas, the first thing you will need to do is gain the necessary experience. An LMSW will seek out a master’s level social work position with a qualifying agency. Then, he or she will submit a Supervision Plan alongside a Board-approved LCSW or LMSW-AP supervisor within 30 days of beginning the supervised work. A minimum of 24 months and 100 hours of supervision of full-time employment (30 or more hours per week) is required. Keep in mind that should your supervisor change, you will need to submit a Non-clinical Supervision Verification Form documenting the work completed under the previous supervisor, as well as a new Supervision Plan with the new supervisor.

2. Submit the application for upgrade of licensure (Form A).

Once the supervised employment has been completed, applicants can submit the application for licensure/ upgrade/ specialty recognition form (Form A), along with a fee*, to the TSESWE. The items you must include with your application are:

  • Social work employment history form (Form I)
  • Verification of qualifying supervision/experience (Form VI)
  • Examination security information form (Form VII)
  • Proof of completion of the online jurisprudence exam

*The fee for an upgrade of licensure as of August 2015 was $20.00.

3. Submit a non-clinical supervision verification form.

Upon completion of the supervised work experience, applicants will submit a Non-clinical Supervision Verification Form documenting the work completed under the supervisor of the approved plan. This form will be submitted to the Board for approval, along with a current Social Work Employment History Form (Form I).

4. Complete the ASWB advanced generalist exam.

Once approved, the applicant can then register for and complete the ASWB advanced generalist exam. A minimum score of 70 is required to pass. If the exam is failed, applicants must wait 90 days to apply to retake the exam (with a written petition to the Board). Three attempts are allowed, and there is a one-year waiting period to reapply for licensure at that point. As of August 2015, the cost of the exam is $260.00.

5. Receive LMSW-AP license from the Board.

Within two weeks of the passing exam date, the Board will receive the test scores. LMSW-AP licenses will be mailed to the applicant within seven days of the Board’s receipt of the test scores.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

Another option for potential social workers in Texas is to pursue an LCSW. To become a licensed clinical social worker, you must first have received an MSW from an institution accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). You must also be currently licensed as an LMSW or LMSW-AP with the TSBSWE (or be currently licensed at the master’s level in another jurisdiction by having passed the ASWB masters examination). A licensed clinical social worker is considered the highest level in the field for those who want to practice in a clinical setting. LCSWs in Texas can practice independently. Application for Independent Practice Recognition (IPR) is unnecessary for LCSWs. Below are the steps for becoming an LCSW in the state:

1. Accrue the supervised clinical experience needed to gain licensure as an LCSW.

Before becoming an LCSW in Texas, applicants must gain experience in the field. The first step you need to take to accomplish this is to find a master’s level job in a clinical setting with a supervisor who is a Board-approved LCSW. Together with this supervisor, you will submit a Supervision Plan within 30 days of beginning the work. In accordance with TSBSWE regulations, the work must include key clinical duties such as assessment, diagnosis, and treatment (including clinical therapy or psychotherapy). A minimum of 24 months and 100 hours of full-time (30 or more hours per week), supervised work will need to be completed in this position. Should your supervisor change during this period, you will need to submit a clinical supervision verification Form documenting the work completed under the previous supervisor, as well as a new supervision plan with the new supervisor to the Board.

2. Submit an application for upgrade of licensure (Form A).

Once the required supervised experience has been completed, applicants will submit the application for licensure/ upgrade/ specialty recognition form (Form A), along with the fee*, to the TSBSWE. Items that should be submitted along with your application include:

  • Social work employment history form (Form I)
  • Verification of qualifying supervision/experience (Form VI)
  • Examination security information form (Form VII)
  • Proof of completion of the online jurisprudence exam

*The fee for an upgrade of licensure as of August 2015 was $20.00.

3. Submit a clinical supervision verification form.

Applicants must complete a Clinical Supervision Verification Form documenting the supervised clinical work they performed in the Board-approved position during the past 24 months. This form will be submitted, along with a Social Work Employment History Form (Form I) to the Board for approval.

4. Take and pass the ASWB clinical exam.

Once the clinical supervision has been approved by the Board, applicants are eligible to apply for the ASWB clinical exam. A minimum passing score of 70 is required. A total of three attempts are permitted, but a 90-day waiting period is enforced between each attempt, and a written petition to the Board is required to retake the exam. After three failed attempts, applicants must wait one year to reapply for licensure. As of August 2015, the cost of the exam is $260.00.

5. Receive LCSW license from the Board.

The TSBSWE Board will receive your test scores within two weeks of the exam date. If you passed the exam, your LCSW license will be mailed to you within seven days of their receipt of the test scores.

Independent Practice Recognition (IPR)

If you hold an LBSW, LMSW, or LMSW-AP and would like to provide independent non-clinical social work for which you assume complete responsibility for your services, then you must apply for Independent Practice Recognition. Recognition as an independent practitioner allows you to provide social work services directly for clients pro bono, in exchange for direct payment or third-party reimbursement. You will need to obtain IPR status if you (or your employer) plan to bill clients or third parties directly for your services. Remember, only LCSWs can provide clinical social work services independently. An LBSW, LMSW, or LMSW-AP recognized for independent practice may provide non-clinical services without the supervision of an agency or organization. Social workers with IPR status may work independently or within an agency. Social workers without IPR status must work under direct supervision within an agency.

The steps to obtaining an LBSW-IPR or LMSW-IPR are listed below.

1. Gain the required experience.

To become an LBSW-IPR or LMSW-IPR in Texas, you must first gain the necessary experience. An LBSW or LMSW will seek out a social work position at the appropriate level (bachelor’s or master’s) with a qualifying agency. Then, he or she will submit a Supervision Plan alongside a Board-approved LCSW, LMSW-AP, LMSW, or LBSW with independent practice recognition supervisor (as appropriate) within 30 days of beginning the supervised work. A minimum of 24 months and 100 hours of supervision of full-time employment is required. Keep in mind that should your supervisor change, you will need to submit a non-clinical supervision verification form documenting the work completed under the previous supervisor, as well as a new supervision plan with the new supervisor.

2. Submit required application and documents.

  • Application for upgrade of licensure with appropriate fee ($20 as of August 2015)
  • Non-clinical Supervision Verification Form documenting the supervision completed by the supervisor of the approved plan for approval
  • Current social work employment history form

3. Receive LMSW-IPR or LBSW-IPR from the Board.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Texas

While Texas has no formal reciprocity with other states, if you have been licensed in another state via the ASWB Exam, you may be eligible to waive the exam requirement to become licensed in Texas. You will need to complete the verification of licensure in another jurisdiction (Form II) and meet all criteria for the category of social work for which you are applying.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Every two years, you will need to renew your license in the state of Texas. Renewal fees, as of August 2015 are $86.00 for LBSWs and LMSWs and $106.00 for LMSW-APs and LCSWs. Keep in mind that penalty fees may apply if you let your license expire. Continuing education is also required to keep your license up-to-date. A total of 30 hours of continuing education must be completed every 24 months leading up to the renewal.

Texas Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

The field of social work is expanding across the United States, and the state of Texas is no exception.5 Over 29,700 social workers were employed in the state in 2012, and that number is expected to increase through 2022.5 The greatest number of social workers in Texas are employed in the field of child, family, and school social workers, with a total of 16,020 employed, the fourth-highest in the nation.3 Also the fourth-highest employed in the nation are healthcare social workers in Texas, with 8,600 employed.4

The greatest increases are expected in the subfield of healthcare (with a 30.8% increase projected through 2022) and mental health and substance abuse (with a 20.8% increase projected through 2022), substantially higher than the projections for rest of the country.5 A total of 1,290 social work jobs are expected to open up in Texas over the next several years, with the greatest number of job openings expected in the child, family, and school social work field (590 jobs).5

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 16,020 $40,480
Healthcare Social Workers 8,600 $56,090
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Unknown $40,820
Social Workers, All Other 1,960 $61,560

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.2

Social Work Associations in Texas

  • The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Texas Chapter: The NASW-TX has about 5,700 members for whom it seeks to provide support. It also promotes and attempts to advance the profession of social work in the state.
  • The Texas Society for Clinical Social Work: Their mission is to advocate for Texas graduate-level clinical social workers, and they address concerns regarding ethics, insurance, and lobbying of the legislature in the state. They also provide information about continuing education, networking opportunities, and news for their members.
  • The Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners (TSBSWE) can provide valuable information for those who are interested in either becoming a social worker in the state or advancing their careers. This site will provide information on the steps needed to pursue those social work goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can I begin practicing independently once I become registered as an LBSW or LMSW?

Answer: LBSWs and LMSWs may apply for Independent Practice Recognition (IPR) with the TSBSWE. To be eligible, LBSWs and LMSWs must accrue qualifying supervised social work hours under the guidance of a Board-approved LCSW, LMSW-AP, or LMSW or LBSW with IPR. For more information, you can review the full guidelines here

Question: Do I have to be licensed to practice social work in the state of Texas?

Answer: Yes. In Texas, you are prohibited from representing yourself as a social worker unless you are licensed at one of the levels listed above. If you do falsely represent yourself, either directly or indirectly, to the public, you will be subject to fines.

Question: Do I have to use my licensure title or initials?

Answer: Yes, it is required that you use your licensure title or initials to create public awareness of the licensure program. The title or initials must be used in all professional uses of your name, including business cards, letters, and advertising.

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

Answer: Texas social workers need either a bachelor’s in social work (BSW) or a master’s in social work (MSW) to apply for licensure in the state. The choice of which degree you pursue should be based on the type of social work you ultimately want to practice.

Question: I keep failing the examination. Am I still able to become a social worker in Texas?

Answer: If you have failed the exam two times, with a score of 65-69, you may be eligible for the Alternative Method of Examining Competency (AMEC), consisting of a professional portfolio that will be evaluated by the Board. Find out more information about the AMEC on the TDSHS website.

References:
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Texas: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/48,00
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Texas: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_tx.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014, Child, Family, and School Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211021.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014, Healthcare Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211022.htm
5. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm