Arizona Social Work License Requirements
Arizona is home to over 6.5 million people.1 When comparing nonmetropolitan areas by state, Arizona has one of the highest employed social worker labor forces in the US, second only to New York.2 If you are interested in learning more about social worker licenses and the employment outlook in Arizona, you can use this guide to understand degree options, career paths, and salary information in the state. In Arizona, the Arizona State Board of Behavioral Health Examiners regulates the standards for social workers. Below is an overview on how to become a licensed social worker in Arizona and the associated educational paths.
How to Become a Social Worker in Arizona
In order to become a licensed social worker in the state of Arizona, individuals must hold at minimum a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW). A master’s degree in social work (MSW) will also be required if the candidate hopes to progress from licensed social worker to master or clinical social worker. Keep reading to learn more about obtaining a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work.
Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)
To qualify for licensure, bachelor degree programs can be either regionally accredited or accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Only two schools in Arizona have CSWE-accredited BSW programs; however, it is not a requirement to obtain your BSW from a school in Arizona to become licensed in Arizona. BSW programs generally include courses on topics such as children and older adult services, human behavior, policy, practice, and social welfare. Students who receive a BSW from a CSWE school are able to combine their studies with research and complete field work in social work agencies. After receiving their BSW, individuals may apply for a license as a baccalaureate social worker.
Master of Social Work (MSW)
Arizona has one university with a master’s degree in social work program accredited by the CSWE. To apply for licensure in the state, students must attend either a CSWE or regionally accredited MSW program. In an MSW program, students will take advanced courses in social work such as human behavior and human practice, social policies and services, diversity and oppression, and community and organizational changes. Most colleges offer accelerated MSW programs for students who have a BSW, allowing them to complete their coursework in one year instead of the average two. Social workers with an MSW will gain a broader understanding of the field, have more work experience, and generally be more likely to earn more throughout their career. In Arizona, you must possess an MSW in order to become licensed as a master or clinical social worker.
Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Arizona
The Arizona Board of Examiners offers three licenses for social workers: licensed baccalaureate social worker (LBSW), licensed master social worker (LMSW), and licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). Each license has a specific set of requirements which are detailed below. Continue reading to find out more about the different social work licenses in Arizona.
Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)
To become an LBSW in the state of Arizona, candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited or regionally-accredited school. After satisfying the educational requirement, candidates can move to the next step in the licensure process. Supervised work experience does not have to be documented or reported to become an LBSW.
1. Complete the application.
LBSW candidates must apply to the Arizona Board by completing the application packet and submitting an official, sealed transcript. As of October 2015, the application fee was $250.
2. Take and pass the ASWB bachelors exam.
Candidates seeking their LBSW can take any of the exams offered by the ASWB, which include the bachelor’s, master’s, advanced generalist, or clinical exam. Candidates must first register for the exam through the ASWB website and upon approval, pay the examination fee*, and schedule their exam date. The passing range for all exams is 96 to 105 correct answers. Applicants have 12 months within the date of their application (to the Board) to pass the exam; they can attempt the exam a maximum of two times within the 12-month period.
*As of October 2015, the bachelor’s and master’s level exams were $230 and the advanced generalist and clinical exams were $260.
3. Receive your LBSW license from the Board.
Once the above steps have been satisfied. You will become an LBSW in Arizona. While LBSWs are not authorized to practice clinical social work independently*, they may practice non-clinical social work independently after accruing at least 3,200 hours of supervised experience in at least two years post-licensure.
*LBSWs may only practice clinical social work under direct supervision.
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)
LMSW candidates must have a master’s degree in social work from a regionally or CSWE-accredited school in the state of Arizona. Similar to the process to become an LBSW, LMSW are not required to have documentation of supervised social work experience. To become an LMSW, candidates must:
1. Complete the application.
LBSW candidates must submit the social work application to the Examiners Board in addition to submitting an official transcript. As of October 2015, the application fee for an LMSW was $250.
2. Take and pass the ASWB masters exam.
To qualify for licensure, LMSW applicants can take the ASWB masters, advanced generalist, or clinical exam. Candidates must register and schedule their exam online and pay the appropriate fee*. LMSW candidates must answer between 96 and 105 answers correctly in order to pass. All licensure applicants can attempt to pass the exam a maximum of two times within 12 months; after that, they must re-apply to take the exam and pay all associated fees.
*As of October 2015, the master’s level exam was $230 and the advanced generalist and clinical exams were $260.
3. Receive your LMSW license from the Board.
After meeting the education requirement and passing the exam, candidates will become LMSWs in the state of Arizona. LMSWs may practice non-clinical social work independently after becoming licensed but they must practice clinical social work under direct supervision.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
An LCSW is another license you can hold in Arizona. To qualify, you must have at least a master’s degree in social work from a regionally or CSWE accredited college or university. The requirements for an LCSW differ from that of an LMSW and LBSW in that a specific amount of supervised work experience is required by the Arizona Board to become licensed. The steps for licensure are as follows:
1. Obtain the required work experience.
LCSW candidates must have 3,200 hours of supervised work experience in two years or more prior to applying for licensure. This cannot include experience acquired while in an MSW program. The experience gained must be in the practice of clinical social work, which includes using psychotherapy assessments and diagnosing and treatment of individuals, families, couples, and groups. Half of the experience, 1,600 hours, must consist of direct client contact and at least 100 hours must be supervised. Supervision must be carried out by a licensed clinical social worker in Arizona.
2. Complete the application.
LCSW candidates must submit the social work application to the Arizona Board along with the required documents. LCSWs must submit an official transcript and the supervisor verification form, provided by the Board. As of October 2015, the application fee for an LCSW was $250.
3. Take and pass the ASWB clinical exam.
To qualify for licensure, LCSW applicants must take the ASWB clinical exam. Candidates must register and schedule their exam online and pay the appropriate fee*. To pass the clinical exam in Arizona, LCSW candidates must answer between 96 and 105 answers correctly. All licensure applicants can attempt to pass the exam two times in (up to) 12 months. If they fail to pass in both attempts, they must re-apply to take the exam and pay the examination fee again.
*As of October 2015, the clinical exam fee was $260.
3. Receive your LCSW license from the Board.
After meeting the education and experience requirements, applying to the Board, and passing the exam, candidates will receive their LCSW. LCSWs may practice independently immediately following licensure. The license fee is $250 (as of October 2015).
Social Work License Reciprocity in Arizona
Arizona has no formal reciprocity with any other state, but the Board does offer licensure by endorsement for clinical social workers. This allows clinical social workers who were licensed in other states to become licensed in Arizona without repeating the licensure process. Endorsement applicants must apply and submit an official transcript, along with proof of their passing score on the clinical ASWB exam. If an endorsement licensure applicant was licensed in another state prior to July 1, 2004, he or she must submit proof of passing scores on the advanced generalist ASWB exam and must have held an active LCSW license since the date of passing the exam. If a candidate is registered on the ASWB Social Work Registry, ASWB will provide their exam score to any social work board at no additional cost.
Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information
All licensed social workers in Arizona must renew their licenses every two years. To renew, LBSWs, LMSWs, and LCSWs must have 30 hours of continuing education (CE) hours. As of October 2015, the renewal fee is $350. The The National Association of Social Workers (NASW): Arizona Chapter is a good resource to find continuing education opportunities.
Arizona Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information
Over 13,000 social workers were employed in Arizona in 2014; over half were employed in child, family, and school social work (6,670).3 The average annual salary of a social worker in Arizona is $43,350; however, social workers in the healthcare and other categories (not including child, family, and school or mental health and substance abuse) earn an average annual salary of $50,240 and $54,140 respectively.3 Projections show growth for the social worker industry at 18% with most of the gains in healthcare (27.8% increase) and mental health and substance abuse (20.9% increase).4 These increases are projected to occur between 2015 and 2022.4 The table below provides a detailed salary breakdown.
|Type||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Child, Family, and School Social Workers||6,670||$38,420|
|Healthcare Social Workers||2,950||$50,240|
|Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers||2,520||$30,600|
|Social Workers, All Other||1,380||$54,140|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.2
Social Work Associations in Arizona
- The National Association of Social Workers (NASW): Arizona Chapter – The Arizona chapter of the NASW provides updated information about local state chapters, conferences and workshop, and continuing education opportunities.
- Arizona Society for Clinical Social Work and Psychotherapy – Promotes the highest level of education for Arizona’s clinical social workers by offering professional development opportunities, advocating for the field, and connecting members.
- School Social Work Association of Arizona (SSWAA) – The SSWAA is an organization in Arizona that provides an avenue for communication and collaboration amongst social workers that work in various educational settings. The organization informs members of continuing education opportunities and available grants.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Can I begin practicing independently once I become registered as an Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)?
Answer: Yes, once you complete the process outlined above to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in Arizona, you are eligible to practice without any supervision.
Question: For the 3,200 hours of work experience required for an LCSW, can I count experience I gained years ago?
Answer: Yes, as long as you have gained that experience in at least two years or more.
Question: What kinds of qualifications are required of the person supervising my experience?
Answer: Supervisors must be an LCSW in the state of Arizona.
Question: What kind of degree do I need to practice social work in Arizona?
Answer: Social workers need a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) or a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from a regionally accredited or CSWE-accredited to practice social work in Arizona.
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Arizona: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/AZ
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage, Social Workers, All Other, Arizona: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211029.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook: Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_az.htm
4. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm