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Arizona Social Work License Requirements

Arizona is home to over 7 million people, and over 13,000 of its citizens are employed in the field of social work.1,2 If you are interested in learning more about social work licenses and the employment outlook in Arizona, this guide will help you understand degree options, career paths, and salary information for social workers in the state. In Arizona, the Arizona State Board of Behavioral Health Examiners regulates social work licensure. 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

Educational Paths

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) is required for the higher levels of licensure. Keep reading to learn more about bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work and the paths to licensure.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

To qualify for licensure in Arizona, the bachelor’s degree program a candidate completes must be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) or be regionally accredited and determined by the Board to meet equivalent standards. There are currently four CSWE-accredited BSW programs 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-accredited school are able to combine their studies with research and complete fieldwork in social work agencies. After receiving their BSW, individuals may apply to become a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW).

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Arizona has two universities with CSWE-accredited MSW programs. To apply for licensure with a master’s degree in Arizona, individuals must attend either a CSWE-accredited MSW program or one that is regionally accredited and approved by the Board as providing equivalent training. In an MSW program, students will take advanced courses in social work such as human behavior, 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 higher salaries throughout their careers than social workers with BSWs. In Arizona, you must possess an MSW in order to become licensed as a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) or a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).

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)

In Arizona, a social worker can apply to become a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW) if they have a bachelor’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited or equivalent program. Post-degree supervised work experience is not required for LBSW licensure. After receiving their licenses, LBSWs are able to practice non-clinical social work independently, but can only practice clinical social work under the supervision of a licensed independent provider. Below are the steps for becoming an LBSW in Arizona.

1. Complete the LBSW application.

The first step in the LBSW licensure process is to submit an application to the Board. This application requires you to submit some supplemental materials, including a sealed transcript from your BSW program, a copy of a valid ID card, and a fingerprint card that will be used for a background check. As of December 2018, the application and criminal background check fees are $290.

2. Take and pass an ASWB exam.

Candidates seeking their LBSW can take any of the four licensure exams offered by the ASWB (the Bachelor’s, Master’s, Advanced Generalist, or Clinical exams). You will not be able to register for your chosen test until the Board has reviewed your LBSW application and given you approval. The content of each exam is different, but all consist of 170 multiple-choice questions and have a time limit of four hours. As of December 2018, the exam fee for the Bachelor’s and Master’s exams is $230 and the fee for the Advanced Generalist and Clinical exams is $260.

3. Receive your LBSW license from the Board.

Once the Board receives notification from the ASWB that you have passed your chosen ASWB exam, they will grant your LBSW license. You will need to pay a $100 fee at this time to receive your license.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

To become a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) in Arizona, you must hold a master’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program or one that the Board determines to be equivalent. No post-degree experience is required to become an LMSW. Like the LBSW license, an LMSW license will allow you to independently practice non-clinical social work and practice clinical social work under supervision. Below are the steps for applying to become an LMSW in Arizona.

1. Complete the LMSW application.

After completing your qualifying MSW, the first step in the licensure process is to submit an application to the Board. In addition to this application form, you will need to include a copy of a valid ID card, a set of fingerprints for a background check, and a sealed MSW transcript. As of December 2018, the fee for the LMSW application is $250.

2. Take and pass the ASWB licensing exam.

To qualify for licensure, LMSW applicants can choose to take one of three ASWB licensing exams. Once the Board has approved your LMSW application, you can register to take either the ASWB Master’s, Advanced Generalist, or Clinical exam. Each of these tests focuses on a different domain of social work, but all consist of 170 multiple-choice questions. The fee for the Master’s exam is $230 and the fee for the Advanced Generalist and Clinical exams is $160 (as of December 2018).

3. Receive your LMSW license from the Board.

After you have passed your chosen licensing exam, the Board will issue your LMSW license. You must pay a $100 fee to receive your license.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

The highest-level social work credential offered by the Board is the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Although you must hold a CSWE-accredited or equivalent MSW to become an LCSW, this license differs from the LMSW in the amount of experiential training required before licensure. LCSWs are able to practice all types of social work, including clinical social work, without supervision. Below are the steps to becoming an LCSW in Arizona.

1. Obtain the required work experience.

Before applying for licensure, LCSW candidates must complete 3,200 hours of supervised postgraduate experience in no less than two years. 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. Of the total 3,200 hours of required experience, 1,600 hours must be earned through direct client contact (with no more than 400 of these involving provision of psychoeducation). You must receive at least 100 hours of supervision during this time, at least 50 of which must come from an LCSW who has completed a certain amount of training in supervision. The remaining 50 hours of supervision can come from other Board-approved clinical supervisors such as licensed psychologists or counselors.

2. Complete the LCSW application.

After you have completed the required 3,200 supervised hours, you can submit an LCSW application to the Board. The application contains a checklist of supplemental materials you will need to submit, including a sealed copy of your current transcript and a set of fingerprints for a background check (not required if the Board has previously received these from you). Note that a portion of your application will need to be completed by the supervisor(s) who can verify your work experience. As of December 2018, the fee for an LCSW application is $250. However, if you recently received or renewed an LMSW license in Arizona, you may not need to pay this fee.

3. Take and pass the ASWB Clinical exam.

To qualify for licensure, LCSW applicants must take the ASWB Clinical exam. After the Board has processed your LCSW application, they will grant you permission to register for this test. There are 170 multiple-choice questions on the Clinical exam, and the fee (as of December 2018) is $260. The Board will receive your scores from the ASWB approximately two weeks after you take the test.

3. Receive your LCSW license from the Board.

After meeting the education and experience requirements, applying to the Board, and passing the exam, you will receive your LCSW license. You will need to pay a license fee of $250 at this time. Immediately after receiving your license, you can begin practicing independently as a social worker in Arizona.

Social Work Licensure by Endorsement in Arizona

Arizona has no formal reciprocity with any other state, but the Board does offer licensure by endorsement for social workers who have held a license in another state for at least three years with no disciplinary actions. To be eligible for licensure by endorsement, you must have earned your current social work license under regulations that were equivalent to or more stringent than those set forth by the Arizona Board. To apply for licensure by endorsement, submit an application to the Board along with the required supplemental materials. You will need to have your ASWB exam scores transferred to the Arizona Board. Note that although the Clinical exam is typically required for LCSW applicants, individuals who were licensed as clinical social workers before July 1, 2004 by passing the Advanced Generalist exam may be able to use that score instead.

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 complete 30 hours of continuing education (CE) during every two-year period. The renewal fee is $325. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Arizona Chapter is a good resource for finding continuing education opportunities.

Arizona Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

Over 13,000 social workers were employed in Arizona in 2017, with the highest number (6,090) working in the field of child, family, and school social work.2 Across all categories of social work employment, the average annual salary of social workers in Arizona is $46,478.2 Social workers in the healthcare social work and “all other” categories earn the highest average social work salaries in the state ($48,910 and $61,360, respectively).2 Projections suggest that there will be considerable growth in Arizona social work positions between 2016 and 2026. Across all areas of social work in the state, a 35% increase in jobs is expected during that 10-year period.3 Although all areas of social work are expected to see growth, the highest number of new jobs is expected in healthcare social work, with a projected 43.3% increase.3

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 6,090 $38,380
Healthcare Social Workers 3,760 $48,910
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 2,550 $37,260
Social Workers, All Other 1,230 $61,360

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2

Social Work Associations in Arizona

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 and receive your license, 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 across a period of at least two years after earning your MSW.

Question: What kinds of qualifications are required of the person supervising my experience?

Answer: The primary clinical supervisor for an individual working towards an LBSW, LMSW, or LCSW must be an LCSW in the state of Arizona who has completed additional training in supervision.

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 CSWE-accredited program (or one that meets equivalent standards) to practice social work in Arizona.

References:
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Arizona: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/az/PST045217
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Arizona: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_az.htm
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm