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Arkansas Social Work License Requirements

Over three million people live in the southern state of Arkansas, and social workers in the state earn average annual salaries ranging from $36,260 to $47,660.1,2 If you plan to pursue social work employment in Arkansas, you will need to understand the different degree options for aspiring social workers and the licensure requirements. The Arkansas Social Work Licensing Board issues social work licenses in the state. Continuing reading to learn more about the specific requirements for Arkansas social work licenses as well as employment and salary data for social workers in the state.

How to Become a Social Worker in Arkansas

Educational Paths

To practice social work in Arkansas, the minimum educational requirement is a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a program 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 program.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

In Arkansas, you must possess a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a school accredited by the CSWE. As of February 2019, eight BSW programs in Arkansas have been accredited by the CSWE. 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 for a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) credential 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 to increase your salary potential, you will need a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited program. Three schools in Arkansas have CSWE-accredited MSW programs. Most MSW programs offer students who hold a BSW advanced standing, typically enabling these students to complete the MSW program in one year instead of the two years it generally takes. CSWE-accredited MSW programs generally include the same core curriculum but may offer different areas of focus, electives, and field placement opportunities. Once you earn an MSW, you are eligible to apply for the Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) and Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW) licenses 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 Board offers three licenses: Licensed Social Worker (LSW), Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW), and Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW). Additionally, the Board issues one-year provisional licenses for LSW and LMSW candidates who meet the licensure requirements but have not yet taken the licensing exam. Continuing reading below for more information about Arkansas social work licenses.

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 license that will allow you to practice non-clinical social work under the supervision of an LMSW, LCSW, or another qualified individual. The steps below detail the process to become licensed as an LSW.

1. Complete the LSW application.

Individuals aspiring to become LSWs in Arkansas must first complete an application and submit it to the Board. This application can be completed online or you can mail the application form to the Board. As of February 2019, there is a $100 fee for the application and you must pay an additional $5.50 if you submit it online. After you submit your application, request that your program mail a copy of your BSW transcript to the Board (electronic copies are not accepted).

2. Complete the criminal background check and receive your provisional license.

After the Board receives your application, they will mail you a fingerprint card and instructions for completing the required background check. After you return the card to the Board and they receive the results of the background check, they will issue you a provisional LSW license. This will allow you to practice as an LSW for up to one year, during which time you are allowed three attempts to pass the licensing exam.

3. Pass the ASWB Bachelor’s exam.

LSW candidates must take the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Bachelor’s exam. The $230 exam (as of February 2019) is a 170-question, multiple-choice exam and must be completed in four hours or less. You cannot register for this exam until the Board has reviewed your application and notified the ASWB that you are eligible to take the test.

4. Receive your LSW license.

After you have passed the ASWB Bachelor’s exam, the Board will receive your scores within two weeks. They will then replace your provisional license with a permanent LSW license.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

If you have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited college or university you can apply for the Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) credential. In Arkansas, an LMSW can provide more social work services (including clinical services) than an LSW but must work under the supervision of an LCSW or another qualified individual. To apply for licensure, LMSW candidates must complete the following steps.

1. Complete the LMSW application.

The first step to LMSW licensure is to submit an application to the Board. You can print the social work application and mail it to the Board or complete it online. As of February 2019, the application fee is $100 and you must pay an additional $5.50 if you submit it online. After you complete the application, ask your MSW program to mail an official transcript to the Board (note that electronic copies are not accepted).

2. Complete the criminal background check and receive your provisional license.

After the Board has processed your application, they will send you instructions for completing the criminal background check required of all social work candidates. You will need to have your fingerprints taken and return your fingerprint card to the Board. After your criminal background check has been completed, the Board will grant you a provisional LMSW license that is valid for one year. During this year you may practice as an LMSW and you are allowed up to three attempts to pass the required licensing exam.

3. Pass the ASWB Masters exam.

LMSW candidates may take the ASWB Master’s exam once the Board has given them permission to register. The exam consists of 170 multiple-choice questions, of which only 150 will be scored. After your test date, the ASWB will transfer your scores to the Board within two weeks. As of February 2019, the Master’s exam fee is $230.

4. Receive your LMSW license.

After you have completed the steps listed above, the Board will replace your provisional LMSW license with a permanent one. You will still need to be supervised by an LCSW or another Board-approved supervisor for any services you provide.

Licensed Certified Social Worker

To practice social work independently in Arkansas, you must hold the Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW) credential. This license allows a social worker to provide clinical and non-clinical social work services without supervision and to supervise LSWs and LMSWs. To become an LCSW in Arkansas, you must hold an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program and complete a certain amount of supervised experience before becoming licensed. After you have earned your degree, complete the steps below to become licensed as an LCSW.

1. Gain the required experience.

To become licensed as an LCSW in Arkansas, all applicants must acquire 4,000 hours of post-graduate, supervised social work experience. This experience must be completed in no fewer than two years and you will need to be supervised by an LCSW while you are earning it. You will need to receive an average of one hour of face-to-face supervision per week during this time. Within 60 days of beginning your supervised work, you and your supervisor must submit a Supervision Plan form to the Board. Note that if you change supervisors at any point, you will need to submit a new supervision plan.

2. Complete the LCSW application.

After acquiring the necessary supervised experience, the next step is to submit an application to the Board. You can complete and submit the online application or print and mail a hard copy to the Board. The application fee is $100 as of February 2019 and you must pay an additional $5.50 if you complete the application online. As part of the application, you will need to have your supervisor(s) submit the Supervision Evaluation form and have your school mail a copy of your MSW transcript to the Board.

3. Complete the criminal background check and receive your provisional license.

After the Board reviews your application, they will mail you instructions for completing the required background check. For this, you will need to have your fingerprints taken at an approved agency and return your fingerprint card to the Board so they can conduct the background check.

The Board does not issue provisional LCSW licenses. However, if you do not already hold an LMSW license when you submit your LCSW application, they will grant you a provisional LMSW license after they have received your background check materials. This will allow you to practice as an LMSW (under the supervision of an LCSW) for up to one year as you prepare to pass the LCSW licensing exam.

4. Pass the ASWB Clinical exam.

Once your application has been approved by the Board, you may register for the ASWB Clinical exam. The $260 exam (as of February 2019) contains 170 questions and tests the applicant’s knowledge on clinical social work theory, methods, and practice. The ASWB will automatically send your exam scores to the Board within about two weeks of your test date.

5. Receive your LCSW license.

After completing the steps above, you will receive your LCSW license, which will allow you to practice social work independently in Arkansas. LCSWs can also supervise other LSWs, LMSWs, and individuals earning supervised experience for an LCSW license.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Arkansas

Arkansas offers social worker licensure by reciprocity. This allows social workers who are licensed in other states to become licensed in Arkansas without retaking the exam. Reciprocity applicants will have to complete the application form for the license they wish to hold (or submit it online), include the Verification of Licensure in Other State form, and request that the ASWB send their past exam scores to the Board. As of February 2019, application fees are $100, with an additional $5.50 fee for applications submitted online. All applicants must also complete a criminal background check. 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 may receive a provisional license that is 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 licenses every two years on the last day of the month in which the license was originally issued. As of February 2019, it costs $80 to renew an Arkansas social work license. Renewal instructions can be found on the Board’s website. Before renewing, all licensees must complete 48 hours of continuing education (CE) during each renewal period. A maximum of 10 CE hours each are allowed for giving presentations and preparing manuscripts and no more than 20 CE hours can be attained through home study (i.e. internet courses). For more information, see the Board’s list of acceptable and unacceptable CE activities.

Arkansas Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

As of May 2017, 4,270 social workers were employed in Arkansas.2 The majority were employed in the fields of child, family, and school social work (1,380) and healthcare social work (1,340).2 The average annual salary for all social workers in Arkansas was $41,650.2 The number of social work positions in Arkansas is expected to grow substantially between 2016 and 2026, with projected growth of 20.7% across all types of social work jobs during the 10-year period.3 The most growth is expected in mental health and substance abuse social work positions, which are projected to increase 27.6%, or by about 24 new jobs created each year.3 The table below details the annual salary and number of employed social workers across different subfields in Arkansas.

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 1,380 $36,260
Healthcare Social Workers 1,340 $42,380
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 990 $40,300
Social Workers, All Other 560 $47,660

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2

Social Work Associations in Arkansas

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can I begin practicing independently once I become licensed as a Licensed Certified Social Worker ?

Answer: Yes, once your LCSW license has been issued by the Board, 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 supervised social work experience was acquired in no less than two years and you filed a supervision plan with the Board within 60 days of beginning your experience.

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

Answer: Supervisors must be licensed LCSWs. You must develop a supervision plan with your supervisor and it must be filed with the Board in order to be counted 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.

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