Arkansas Social Work License Requirements
Over 2.9 million people live in the southern state of Arkansas.1 Social workers in the state have annual salaries ranging from $36,000 to $44,000.2 If you wish to work in the social work field in Arkansas, you will need to understand the licensing requirements and the various paths to get there. The Arkansas Social Work Licensing Board administers social work licenses in the state. Continuing reading to understand the specific requirements of licenses for social workers in Arkansas.
How to Become a Social Worker in Arkansas
To practice social work in Arkansas, you must earn a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a school accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). To practice clinical social work or to practice independently, you will need a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited college or university.
Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)
In Arkansas, you must possess at a minimum a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a school accredited by the CSWE. Eight colleges in Arkansas have been accredited by the CSWE for their bachelor’s programs. BSW programs prepare students for social work practice through a combination of lectures, research, and hands-on experience. After receiving a BSW, you will be eligible to apply to become a licensed social worker (LSW) in Arkansas. Some jobs for bachelor’s-level social workers include case manager, child welfare social worker, and residential counselor.
Master of Social Work (MSW)
To become eligible for master’s-level and independent licenses and potentially earn a higher salary, you will need a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited school. Three schools in Arkansas have CSWE-accredited MSW programs; however you can attend any CSWE-accredited MSW program in the US. Most MSW programs offer students who hold a BSW “advanced standing”, enabling these students to complete the MSW program in one year as opposed to the two years it generally takes. Each MSW program will cover the same basics, but may offer different areas of focus, electives, and field placement opportunities. For social workers who desire to work in the field (rather than teach at the university level or perform research), a master’s degree is considered a terminal degree. Once you earn an MSW, you will have the highest level of education necessary to perform all social work jobs in Arkansas. Jobs for master’s-level social workers include school social worker, social work supervisor, and medical social worker.
Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Arkansas
The Arkansas Social Work Board offers three licenses– licensed social worker (LSW), licensed master social worker (LMSW), and licensed certified social worker (LCSW). Additionally, the Board administers one-year provisional licenses for LSW and LMSW candidates who meet the licensure requirements but have yet to take the exam. Continuing reading below for more information about Arkansas social work licenses and the qualifications for a provisional license.
Licensed Social Worker (LSW)
To become a licensed social worker (LSW) in Arkansas, you will need a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a CSWE-accredited school. The LSW is an entry-level social work license that will allow you to practice as a social worker in Arkansas. The steps below detail the process to becoming licensed.
1. Complete the application.
Individuals aspiring to become LSWs must complete the application for licensure online. As a part of the application process, candidates must provide the following documents to the Arkansas Board:
- An official transcript (sent directly from the applicant’s college or university)
- Background check forms
- $100 application fee* (online application fee is $105*)
You must apply to the Identification Bureau of the Arkansas State Police for a complete criminal background check. The fees are $22 for the state background check and $15.75 for the national/FBI background check. After the Board receives your application, they will mail you a fingerprint card and instructions for completion. The fingerprint card must be returned before the Board will approve your application.
The Arkansas Board will administer a provisional license to applicants who have met the requirements for licensure but have yet to take the ASWB exam. The license has a 12-month expiration and is nonrenewable.
2. Take and pass the ASWB bachelors exam.
Candidates must register for and take the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) bachelor’s level exam. The $230* exam is a 170-question, multiple-choice exam and is usually completed in four hours. Candidates must correctly answer between 96 and 105 questions to pass. Candidates may take the exam up to three times during a 12-month period if needed. LSW candidates can prepare for the exam by joining study groups and taking practice tests. You must have a social work license on file in order to register for the ASWB exam.
3. Receive your LSW license.
After receiving Board approval, you will become a licensed social worker in Arkansas and may practice social work under supervision. There is no experience requirement for LSWs in the state of Arkansas.
*All fees are as of December 2015.
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)
If you have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited college or university you can apply to become a licensed master social worker. The application process for an LMSW is very similar to that of an LSW but the job opportunities presented would likely bear more responsibility and a higher salary. To apply, LMSW candidates must:
1. Complete the application.
LMSW candidates must apply to the Arkansas Board for licensure prior to taking the ASWB exam. Applicants must submit an official transcript, background check forms, and the $100 application fee*. If you complete the application online, the fee is $105.
You must complete a state and national background check via the Identification Bureau of the Arkansas State Police. The fees are $22 for the state background check and $15.75 for the national/FBI background check. After the Board receives your application, they will mail a fingerprint card and instructions to the address provided. The fingerprint card must be returned before the Board will approve your application.
A provisional license will be administered to LMSWs who have applied and met the licensure requirements but not taken the ASWB exam. This license allows social workers to continue practicing while waiting to take their exam. The provisional license is automatically awarded and expires 12 months from the date it’s issued. Provisional licenses are non-renewable.
2. Take and pass the ASWB masters exam.
LMSW candidates may take the ASWB master’s level exam only if they have an application on file with the Arkansas Board. The exam consists of 170 multiple-choice questions of which only 150 will be scored. You must answer between 96 and 105 questions correctly in order to receive a passing score. The ASWB website offers online practice tests and a host of exam materials to help candidates prepare for the exam. Candidates may take the exam a maximum of three times per calendar year.
3. Receive your LMSW license.
Once you complete the steps listed above, you will become a licensed master social worker in Arkansas and can practice social work under supervision.
*All fees are as of December 2015.
The Arkansas Board administers provisional licenses for applicants who are applying for their LSW or LMSW license for the first time. The provisional license allows applicants to practice social work while they pass the ASWB exam. Provisional licenses expire 12 months from the date of issuance and are prohibited for LCSWs. There are no additional steps to complete to receive a provisional license. The Board will automatically provide a license to those who meet the requirements.
Licensed Certified Social Worker
To practice social work independently in Arkansas, you must be a licensed certified social worker (LCSW). LCSWs practice social work using advanced clinical skills through assessment and diagnosis and treatment for mental and behavioral health disorders. To become licensed, you first need an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program. In addition to meeting the education requirement, you must complete the following steps:
1. Gain the required experience.
LCSW candidates must acquire 4,000 hours of post-graduate, social work experience. This experience must be supervised and completed in no less than two years. Social work experience must be supervised by an LCSW and the license candidate should have an average of one hour of face-to-face supervision per week.
The Arkansas Social Work Board must approve a supervision plan between the LCSW candidate and the supervisor. The plan must be submitted within 60 days of starting supervision and it should focus on:
- Development of professional identity
- Ethical practice
- Practice management skills
- Practice skills
- Skills for continuing competence
If you change supervisors prior to completing the 4,000 hours of experience, you will need to submit a new supervisor plan and gain Board approval.
2. Complete the application.
After acquiring the needed experience, LCSW candidates must apply to the Arkansas Social Work Board. Applicants must submit an official transcript, background check forms, supervision verification and the $100 application fee* ($105 fee* for online application).
All social workers must complete a state and national background check as a part of their application process and pay $37.75 in fees ($22 for the state background check and $15.75 for the national background check). After the Board receives your application, they will mail a fingerprint card and instructions to the address provided. The fingerprint card must be returned before the Board will approve your application.
*All fees current as of December 2015.
3. Take and pass the ASWB clinical exam.
Once your application is approved by the Arkansas Board, you may register for and take the ASWB clinical exam. The $260* exam is 170 questions and tests the applicant’s knowledge on clinical social work theory, methods, and practice. Candidates must correctly answer between 96 and 105 questions to pass. Candidates may take the exam up to three times during a 12-month period. Your application must be on file with the Arkansas Board in order to sit for the exam.
4. Receive your LCSW.
After completing the steps above, you will receive your LCSW license and can practice social work independently in Arkansas. LCSWs may also supervise other social workers.
Social Work License Reciprocity in Arkansas
Arkansas offers social worker licenses by reciprocity, allowing social workers who were licensed in a different state to become licensed in Arkansas without retaking the exam. Reciprocity applicants will have to complete the application for the license they wish to hold, submit the verification of licensure in other state form, and pay the required fee. Reciprocity licenses will only be granted if the applicant’s home state has social worker licensure guidelines equal to (or more stringent than) the guidelines in Arkansas. An individual applying for licensure by reciprocity will receive a provisional license valid for six months. This license allows the recipient to practice social work while awaiting the results of his or her criminal background check.
Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information
Social workers in Arkansas must renew their license every two years (from the date the license was issued). To stay up to date on laws, regulations, and practice methods licensees must complete 48 hours of continuing education (CE). A maximum of 10 CE hours are allowed for presentation preparation, no more than 10 CE hours can be applied for a paper published in a professional journal, and no more than 20 CE hours can be attained through home study (i.e. internet courses). All other CE hours should come from seminars, workshops, or mini-courses offered to increase social work skills and training.
Arkansas Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information
As of 2014, 3,710 social workers were employed in Arkansas and over 1,300 were employed in child, family, and school social workers.2 The average annual salary for all social workers in Arkansas is $41,920, which is $1,152 over the median household income for the state.2,1 By the year 2022, employment opportunities for social workers in the nation are projected to increase by 19%, making social work a viable field to enter into.3 The table below details the annual salary and number of employed social workers for different categories in Arkansas.
|Type||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Child, Family, and School Social Workers||1,330||$36,510|
|Healthcare Social Workers||1,060||$48,030|
|Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers||710||$39,010|
|Social Workers, All Other||610||$44,130|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.2
Social Work Associations in Arkansas
- The National Association of Social Workers (NASW): Arkansas Chapter – The Arkansas chapter of the NASW offers information about regional chapters within the state, upcoming conferences, and continuing education opportunities.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Can I begin practicing independently once I become registered as a licensed certified social worker ?
Answer: Yes, once you meet the requirements for an LCSW as described above, you may begin practicing independently.
Question: For the 4,000 hours of work experience required, can I count experience I gained years ago?
Answer: Yes. As long as your social work experience was acquired no less than two years
Question: What kinds of qualifications are required of the person supervising my experience?
Answer: Supervisors must be licensed LCSWs . You must develop a supervision plan with your supervisor and it must be approved by the Board to count towards licensure.
Question: What kind of degree do I need to practice social work in Arkansas?
Answer: Social workers need a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) or a master’s degree in social work (MSW) to practice social work in the state. To practice independently in Arkansas you will need an MSW. All degrees must be from a CSWE-accredited school.
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Arkansas: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/AR
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Arkansas: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ar.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm