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Alabama Social Work Licensing Requirements

With over four million residents, Alabama has shown a 1.4% growth in population since the 2010 census.1 In the first six months of 2015, the southern state has also shown an average growth of 3% in the Education and Health Service job sector, as well as growth in professional and business services, making it a good location for a career in social work. In Alabama, the State Board of Social Work Examiners (the “Board” or “BSWE”) regulates three levels of its estimated 7,860 licensed social workers.2 On this page you will find information about the state’s unique licensing and practice requirements.

How to Become a Social Worker in Alabama

Educational Paths

To become a social worker in Alabama, the first requirement for your career is to complete either a bachelor’s and master’s degree program in social work accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The option you choose depends on which sector you desire to work in and which license level you wish to earn. Typically, those with master’s degrees in social work (MSWs) will have more job opportunities and be more competitive in the market. Alabama recognizes five distinct areas of practice, including social casework, clinical social work, social work administration, social work research, and community organization, and requires you to choose one when applying for a license, although you can certainly become licensed for multiple areas.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

Completing a four-year bachelor’s degree in social work from one of the 15 CSWE-accredited programs in Alabama will prepare you to be a generalist social worker. The coursework will include studies in social welfare laws and policies, human behavior, treatment methods, an introduction to research, and field experience. With a BSW, you can begin supervised social work in roles such as a case worker or community program manager while completing the necessary exam and accruing experience. After you have fulfilled the required experience hours, you will no longer be required to be supervised.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

If you choose to specialize your social work education with a master’s degree program in one of Alabama’s four CSWE-accredited MSW programs, you will spend two years engaging in both generalist-level coursework as well as advanced training in a specialized area, social policy studies, and research. The required number of fieldwork hours will also increase with this degree. If you enroll in an MSW program after completing a BSW, it may reduce your completion time by one year, although you can earn an MSW with any other bachelor’s degree. There are two more licensing levels an MSW qualifies you for within Alabama (licensed graduate social worker (LGSW) and licensed certified social worker (LCSW)) in addition to the ability to open a private independent practice (PIP).

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Alabama

With a minimum of a BSW, you can apply with the BSWE to become a licensed bachelor social worker (LBSW). With a master’s degree, you can apply to become a licensed graduate social worker (LGSW), licensed certified social worker (LCSW), and finally, a PIP-certified social worker. Licensing at all levels offered by the Board require you to pass the national Association of Social Workers Board (ASWB) exam for that level, but unlike many other states, Alabama allows you to work in the field once you have become “license eligible,” and gives you up to one year to pass the ASWB exam in order to receive a license.

Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW)

Before applying to the Alabama BSWE, you must have completed a BSW from a CSWE-approved institution. Aside from the educational requirement, candidates must also:

1. Complete the application form.

This universal application is available on the BSWE site, either online for a fee of $75 + $3.50 ($78.50 total)*, or print/mail with a payment $75.* You will need to select “Bachelor Social Worker” on the application and follow the instructions including all required documentation.

2. Receive a “license eligible” status from the Board.

Once your application has been received and processed, the BSWE will consider you “license eligible,” which means you are approved to register for and take the ASWB exam and begin LBSW or LCSW-supervised social work.

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.* Once registered, you will need to schedule your test online, which will be conducted at a Pearson Professional Center of your choice. This must be completed less than one year from when your application for licensing was filed with the BSWE.

4. Return the Supervision Statement of Understanding to receive your license.

Once your exam results have been submitted to the BSWE, your license will be printed and mailed to you pending your submission of the Supervision Statement of Understanding for LBSWs. This verifies that you understand the follow-up work experience requirements.

5. Complete the required supervised practice hours.

Alabama requires that LBSWs complete four hours a month for 24 months of LGSW or LCSW-supervised work experience, for a total of 96 hours. You must sign a supervision contract and provide a copy to the Board, as well as notify them if the agreement is terminated for any reason. After you have documented the required supervised experience, you no longer require supervision at the bachelor’s level.

*As of November 2015

Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)

For this licensing level, you must have completed an MSW from a BSWE-approved institution, but no supervised work experience is necessary to apply. You must also:

1. Submit the application form.

This universal application is available on the BSWE site, either online for a fee of $75 + $3.50 ($78.50 total)*, or print/mail with a payment of $75.* You will need to select “Graduate Social Worker” on the application and follow the instructions for including all required documentation.

2. Receive a “license eligible” status from the Board.

Once your application has been received and processed, the BSWE will consider you “license eligible,” which means you are approved to register for and take the appropriate ASWB exam and begin (or continue) your social work career.

3. Take and pass the ASWB masters 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.* Once registered, you will schedule your test online, which will be conducted at a Pearson Professional Center of your choice. This must be completed less than one year from when your application for licensing was filed with the BSWE.

4. Receive your license from the Board.

An LGSW does not need to fill out a supervised experience agreement form (though you will need to accumulate supervised experience if you wish to pursue the next licensing level), so as soon as your exam results are received by the Board, your license will be printed and mailed to you.

*As of November 2015

Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW)

LCSW candidates in Alabama must first become LGSWs using the steps above. A master’s degree in social work is required as an educational requirement. The LCSW license also requires that candidates acquire supervised experience before becoming eligible. Candidates must:

1. Accumulate the required experience.

The LCSW is the only license that requires documented supervised work experience hours at the time of application. For this license, you will need 24 months (96 hours) of LCSW-supervised social work experience, and be an active LGSW in order to be eligible to take the ASWB advanced generalist or clinical exam.

2. Complete the application form.

This universal application is available on the BSWE website, either online for a fee of $75 + $3.50 ($78.50 total)*, or print/mail with a payment of $75.* You will need to select “Certified Social Worker” on the application and follow the instructions for including all required documentation, including your supervised work experience.

3. Receive “license eligible” status from the Board.

Once your application has been received and processed, the BSWE will consider you “license eligible,” which means you are approved to register for and take the appropriate ASWB exam and continue your social work career.

4. Take and pass the ASWB exam.

In order to take the required exam for the license level you are seeking, you must register on the ASWB website and pay both the $25 application fee* and the $260 exam fee.* Once registered, you will schedule your test online, which will be conducted at a Pearson Professional Center of your choice. This must be completed less than one year from when your application for licensing was filed with the BSWE.

5. Receive your license from the Board.

An LCSW does not need to fill out a supervised experience agreement form (although you will need further supervised experienced if you wish to become PIP-certified for going into private practice), so as soon as your exam results are received by the Board, your license will be printed and mailed to you. You are now licensed to practice as an LCSW.

*As of November 2015

Private Independent Practice Certification (PIP)

This certification is only necessary if you wish to open a private practice, but it requires an active LCSW license and an additional year of documented experience under the supervision of a PIP-certified LCSW. You may also request certification in more than one of the five social work areas. As with the LCSW, you must hold a master’s degree in social work.

1. Accumulate the required experience.

To become eligible for PIP status in Alabama, candidates must first acquire the necessary experience required by the Board. The candidate must accumulate either:

  • Three years of full-time or five years of part-time post-graduate experience (after receiving their MSW, OR
  • One year of full-time or two years of part-time post-graduate experience after receiving their LCSW.

2. Complete and submit the application form.

There is a separate application for PIP certification on the BSWE site; the online application fee is $78.50*, and $75* if you choose to print/mail it in with your payment. Be sure to include all the required documentation, including the certification of your supervised experience.

3. Receive your PIP certification from the Board.

*As of November 2015

Social Work License Reciprocity in Alabama

If you have been licensed in another state, you are welcome to apply for an equivalent-level license from the BSWE in Alabama. In addition to filling out the application for licensure form, with the accompanying $78.50 fee for the online version and $75 fee for the print/mail version (as of November 2015), you will need to provide a Verification of License form to prove your credentials. You will also need to have passed (and provide the test results from) the ASWB exam required for your current and desired licensing level. Once your application has been approved, you will receive your Alabama license by mail.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

The BSWE in Alabama requires all licensed social workers to complete continuing education (CE) hours in order to renew their licenses every two years. The online application for renewal requires a fee of $104*. The educational requirements include 30 hours for non-PIP-certified social workers, with an additional 20 required for those who are PIP-certified, which includes a separate application.

Alabama Social Work Jobs and Salary Information

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that over 7,000 social workers are currently employed in various fields of social work in Alabama.2 The average salary for a social worker in Alabama is $45,110, and statistics indicate job growth in all fields of work.2 The greatest number of social workers (3,840) are currently employed in areas of child, family, and school social work. Overall, the number of social workers in Alabama is projected to increase an average of 16.03% by the year 2022.3

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 3,840 $39,090
Healthcare Social Workers 2,250 $45,010
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 1,270 $35,120
Social Workers, All Other 290 $61,220

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.2

Social Work Associations in Alabama

  • NASW Alabama – The Alabama chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, this association promotes the professional development of its members through education, resources, and advocacy.
  • Alabama Society for Clinical Social Workers — Comprised of licensed social workers, this society provides education, mentorship, and professional advocacy for clinical social workers.
  • Alabama Society for Healthcare Social Workers — Provides a medium for exchanging information and growing the practice of social work practice within healthcare institutions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Where do I apply for the social work licensing exam?

Answer: Go to Alabama State Board of Social Work Examiners website and click on the link for “Applications and Forms.” There you will find information about the applications, and be able to either fill them out online or print them off and send them into the Board for review. After you have been approved for testing, you will need to register to take the ASWB exam before you are fully licensed.

Question: What is required to become “License Eligible?”

Answer: The Board must have received and accepted your application for you to become “license eligible.” This allows you to practice social work within an agency or organization while you are preparing for and taking the ASWB exam.

Question: I’m an LBSW and changing jobs, but I haven’t completed my supervised hours. Do I need to start the 24 months of supervised experience over again?

Answer: It depends on whether you are moving to a job within the same type you are in now or will be serving another type of client. If you are moving within the same type of work, you will not need to restart your supervisory period. However, if your new job is in another type of social work, you will need to complete an additional six months of supervised work. You will need to access the Supervision form from the Board’s website and submit it for approval.

References:
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Alabama: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/01
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Alabama: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_al.htm
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm