Alabama Social Work Licensing Requirements
Alabama has almost five million residents and has been steadily growing, with a population increase of 2.3% between 2010 and 2018.1 A growing population means that the need for social workers is increasing, making Alabama a good location to consider if you are planning to seek employment in the field. In Alabama, the State Board of Social Work Examiners oversees the practice of the 7,240 social workers employed in the state.2 On this page, you will find information about the state’s licensing and practice requirements, details about educational paths for Alabama social workers, and salary data.
How to Become a Social Worker in Alabama
To become a social worker in Alabama, the first requirement is to complete either a bachelor’s or a master’s degree program in social work that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The option you choose will depend on the type of social work you would like to practice and the license you plan to pursue. Typically, those with a master’s degree in social work (MSW) will have more job opportunities and be more competitive in the job market. Below is more information about each of these degree options to help you decide which is a better fit for you.
Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)
Completing a four-year bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from one of the 15 CSWE-accredited programs in Alabama will prepare you to become licensed as a Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW). The coursework will typically include studies in social welfare laws and policies, human behavior, treatment methods, an introduction to research, and field experience. With a BSW, you can be hired for roles such as caseworker or community program manager.
Master of Social Work (MSW)
If you choose to pursue a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from one of Alabama’s six CSWE-accredited MSW programs, you will spend two years engaging in 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 enter an MSW program after completing a BSW, it may reduce your completion time by one year, although you can enroll in an MSW program with any other bachelor’s degree. Holding an MSW in Alabama qualifies you to apply for licensure as a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) or a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW), licenses which will both allow you to practice more independently.
Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Alabama
The Board offers three social work licenses, each with its own requirements and scope of practice: Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW), Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW), and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). To become licensed, you must pass the appropriate Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam for the license you are seeking. Unlike many other states, however, Alabama allows you to practice social work for up to a year after you become “license eligible,” during which time you are expected to pass the licensing exam and obtain your license.
Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW)
In Alabama, an individual with the Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW) credential is able to practice basic, non-clinical social work such as conducting psychosocial interviews and providing case management services. Although LBSWs must work under supervision for a period of time after licensure, they can eventually practice independently. To become an LBSW in Alabama, you must have completed a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program. The steps below describe how to apply for licensure after you have completed your BSW.
1. Complete the application form.
This Application for Social Work Licensure is available on the Board’s website and can be mailed in or completed online. Both methods require a fee of $75 (as of February 2019) and an official transcript sent directly from your BSW program. You will also need to complete the LBSW supervison acknowledgement form and return it to the Board.
2. Receive a “license eligible” status from the Board.
Once your application has been received and processed, the BSWE will consider you “license eligible.” This means that you are approved to register for the licensure exam and can begin practicing under the supervision of an LMSW or LICSW. Before you can begin working, however, you must have a supervision contract on file with the Board documenting your supervisor and area of practice.
3. Pass the ASWB Bachelor’s exam.
The ASWB Bachelor’s exam is required for LBSW licensure in Alabama. You are able to register for this test (which costs $230 as of February 2019) when the Board notifies you that you are license eligible. There are 170 multiple-choice items on the test covering the bachelor’s-level practice of social work.
4. Receive your LBSW license and complete the required supervised practice hours.
Once your passing exam results have been submitted to the Board, they will issue your license. The Board requires that newly-licensed LBSWs be supervised for 24 months (in no more than a 36-month period, if the practice is not consecutive) after becoming licensed. Any supervised work you completed while license eligible does not count towards this requirement. You must be supervised by an LMSW or LICSW under a Board-approved supervision contract and receive at least four hours of supervision per month. When you have completed this training, have your supervisor submit the Termination of Supervision form to document your hours. After this, you can practice independently in the area of practice identified in your supervision contact. If you decide to pursue another area of practice in the future, you will need to complete an additional 24-month period of supervised work before being able to practice independently in that area.
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)
In Alabama, a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) is able to practice more advanced general social work than an LBSW and can practice independently immediately upon becoming licensed. To be eligible for an LMSW license, you must hold an MSW from a BSWE-accredited program. Once you have earned this, follow the steps below to become licensed.
1. Submit the application form.
This Application for Social Work Licensure is available on the Board’s site and can be submitted online or printed and mailed in. As of February 2019, the LMSW application fee is $75. When you submit your application, also request that your school mail your MSW transcript directly to the Board to verify your education.
2. Receive a “license eligible” status from the Board.
Once your application has been approved, the Board will consider you “license eligible,” which means you are approved to register for the required ASWB exam. Earning your license eligible status allows you to begin practicing as an LMSW for up to a year, during which time you must pass the licensing exam.
3. Take and pass the ASWB Master’s exam.
All LMSW candidates are required to take the ASWB Master’s exam to become licensed. As of February 2019, this test costs $230 and contains 170 multiple-choice questions about master’s-level social work. You have up to a year to complete this exam after becoming license eligible. If you do not pass the test in this time you will need to submit another application form.
4. Receive your license from the Board.
When the Board is notified by the ASWB that you have passed your exam, they will issue your license. You do not need to be supervised if you are providing non-clinical social work services. However, if you plan to accrue supervised clinical hours for LICSW licensure, you will need to be supervised by an LICSW.
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)
The Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) license allows an Alabama social worker to practice independently and provide clinical services. Like the LMSW, the LICSW license requires an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program. In addition to this degree, candidates must complete a certain amount of supervised experience before applying for LICSW licensure. If you complete this experience in Alabama, you must first hold an LMSW license. Once you have an MSW and (if required) an Alabama LMSW license, complete the steps below to become an LICSW.
1. Accumulate the required experience.
As an LMSW, you must complete 24 months of LICSW-supervised social work experience within a 36-month period, including four hours per month of supervision. You will need to be supervised by an LICSW who works in the same organization as you or has private independent practice (PIP) status. Before you can begin earning these hours, you must have an approved supervision contract on file with the Board.
2. Complete the application form.
After you have completed the supervised hours, you can complete the Application for Social Work Licensure. You can submit this form electronically or print and mail it to the Board. As of February 2019, the application fee is $75. In addition to the application form, you must have your program send a copy of your MSW transcript, and your supervisor will need to complete the Termination of Supervision form to document your hours.
3. Receive “license eligible” status from the Board.
Once your application has been received and approved, the Board will notify you that you are “license eligible.” This allows you to practice as an LICSW for up to one year as you prepare to pass the required licensure exam.
4. Pass the ASWB Clinical exam.
To become an LICSW in Alabama, you must pass the ASWB Clinical exam. The exam costs $260 (as of February 2019) and contains 170 multiple-choice questions. Keep in mind that this will need to be completed within one year of becoming license eligible or you will need to reapply for licensure.
5. Receive your license from the Board.
After the ASWB notifies the Board that you have passed the Clinical exam, the Board will issue your license. This will allow you to practice without supervision within organizations and agencies. You can also supervise LBSWs or LMSWs.
6. Apply for Private Independent Practice certification (optional).
LICSWs are able to apply for Private Independent Practice (PIP) certification after accruing a certain amount of experience in at least one of Alabama’s five identified areas of practice. This step is necessary if you want to practice outside an organization or agency (i.e., privately). To be eligible, you must acquire at least three years of full-time experience post-degree or one year of experience post-LICSW in your area of practice, during which time you must be supervised by a PIP-certified LICSW in the same area. After this, you can apply for PIP certification through the Board for a fee of $75 (as of February 2019).
Social Work License Reciprocity in Alabama
If you are licensed in another state, you can apply for the equivalent Alabama social work license. To receive a license by reciprocity, your current license must be in good standing and you must meet Alabama’s requirements for the license you are applying to obtain. To apply, complete the Application for Social Work Licensure and pay the $75 fee (as of February 2019). You will also need to provide a Verification of License form and have the ASWB send your past exam scores to the Board.
Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information
The Board requires all licensed social workers to complete 30 continuing education (CE) hours every two years in order to renew their licenses . At least three of these hours must be in ethics. The Board provides extensive information on continuing education requirements, including approved activities and providers. After you have completed the required amount of CE, you can renew your license for a fee of $100 (as of February 2019).
Alabama Social Work Jobs and Salary Information
May 2017 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that 7,240 social workers are employed in Alabama.2 The average salary for a social worker in Alabama is $47,240.2 The number of social work positions in Alabama is expected to increase by 12.5% between 2016 and 2026, with the most growth projected for the subfield of mental health and substance abuse social work (16.4%).3
|Type||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Child, Family, and School Social Workers||3,280||$41,610|
|Healthcare Social Workers||2,380||$47,170|
|Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers||1,180||$38,580|
|Social Workers, All Other||400||$61,600|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2
Social Work Associations in Alabama
- National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Alabama Chapter: Promotes the professional development of its members through education, resources, and advocacy.
- Alabama Society for Clinical Social Workers (ASCSW): Provides education, mentorship, and professional advocacy for clinical social workers.
- Alabama Society for Healthcare Social Workers (ASHCSW): Provides a medium for exchanging information and growing the practice of social work within healthcare institutions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Where do I apply for the social work licensing exam?
Answer: You will need to gain approval from the Board before registering for the licensing exam. To do this, complete the Board’s application form. After the Board notifies you that you are eligible for the exam, follow the registration instructions on the ASWB website.
Question: What is required to become “license eligible?”
Answer: To be “license eligible,” you must hold the degree needed for your level of licensure (a BSW or MSW) and submit a complete application to the Board. After the Board reviews your complete application, they may declare you eligible for a license. 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 scope of practice 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 Contract for Supervision form from the Board’s website and submit it for approval.
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Alabama: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/al
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 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