Florida Social Work Licensing Requirements

There are many reasons that people have flocked to this state of nearly 20 million residents.1 With the population growing, a low unemployment rate, and a lower-than-average cost of living, Florida is a great place to pursue a career in social work.2 There are plenty of opportunities here, but to become a social worker means meeting several requirements set by the state of Florida.

Florida’s Department of Health: Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling (Board) licenses social workers in the state and sets the educational requirements. Here we provide a guide for how to become a social worker in Florida according to these licensing requirements.

How to Become a Social Worker in Florida

Educational Paths

To become a social worker in Florida you can choose between two educational paths. To decide which path you want to take, explore career options to see what kind of setting you want to work in and which path will help you meet the requirements. It is important to understand that many jobs in social work require licensing and that these jobs typically offer better pay and a greater variety of opportunities.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

In Florida you can begin working as a social worker with a bachelor’s degree. The bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) is a four-year degree that prepares students to continue on to earn a master’s degree in social work (MSW) or to work in entry-level, generalist positions. Look for a program that has been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. These programs include a general, liberal arts series of coursework as well as courses in social work theory and practice. Course topics may include human behavior, social welfare policy, social work data management, and multi-cultural and diversity studies. BSW programs also include hands-on experience and field training as preparation for a career in social work. With a BSW you can apply for and work as a generalist social worker in Florida. Positions open to you include working with residents at nursing homes, as a case manager, as a residential counselor, or at crisis centers, substance abuse facilities, and for child welfare programs.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

A BSW not only prepares you to work as a generalist social worker, but also to continue your education in an MSW program. You may also enter an MSW program with a bachelor’s degree in another field of study, but with a BSW you may be able to complete the program more quickly. Earning a master’s degree means achieving the highest level of education for a social worker in Florida. MSW programs include both academic study and fieldwork experience. With an MSW you can become a licensed social worker in the state and be eligible for any job in the field. Jobs for master’s level social workers include medical or school social worker, therapist, or social work supervisor or administrator in a variety of settings such as hospitals, private practice, or elder care facilities. With a master’s degree in social work, you can choose to work in clinical or non-clinical settings. Eligibility for clinical jobs will depend on the type of license you pursue. Students who are interested in research or teaching social work courses in a university setting should consider a PhD.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Florida

You can begin working as a social worker in Florida with a BSW degree, but to find more opportunities and to work in clinical settings you need to earn an MSW. There are two levels of licensing in Florida, both of which require an MSW degree: Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW) and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). The requirements for each level are outlined below.

Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW)

A CMSW in Florida is a social worker who has completed graduate-level coursework with an emphasis on administration and clinical practice. To be licensed as a CMSW, applicants must have earned an MSW from an ASWB-accredited program with three credit hours of coursework in the following subject areas:

  • Agency administration and supervision
  • Community organization
  • Community Services
  • Human services advocacy
  • Program planning and evaluation
  • Research
  • Social planning
  • Staff development

CMSW candidates must also complete three years of field experience, including two years of post-degree experience under the supervision of a CMSW or LCSW. Applicants must also pass the ASWB masters examination and complete a laws and rules course, a prevention of medical errors course, an HIV/AIDS course, and a domestic violence course. Certified Master Social Workers are not licensed to provide clinical services.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

To become an LCSW in Florida, a master’s degree in social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education is required. Applicants must also demonstrate that 24 credit hours covered clinically oriented human behavior and practice methods, including one course in psychopathology. The state does not consider administration, policy, organization, or community courses to be clinically oriented. In addition to an MSW, applicants must also meet the following requirements:

  • Supervised field work as part of an MSW program with clinical services provided directly to clients
  • Two years of post-MSW experience conducted under the supervision of an LCSW with 1,500 hours of face-to-face psychotherapy with clients
  • A passing score on the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) clinical examination
  • Completion of a laws and rules course
  • Completion of a prevention of medical errors course
  • Completion of an HIV/AIDS course and a domestic violence course

How to Apply for Social Work Licensing in Florida

Unlicensed social workers in Florida may apply to the state Board by requesting an application or completing an online application. This process is called “Applying by Exam.” Applicants must also submit official school transcripts, a practicum letter to prove that clinical services were provided directly to the client during field experience, ASWB exam scores, and certification of completion of the laws and rules, HIV/AIDS, prevention of medical errors, and domestic violence courses. The Board may also require course descriptions or syllabi to determine that the coursework completed meets the state requirements. The applicant’s supervisor must complete a Supervised Experience Attestation Form. A non-refundable $100.00 application fee is due at the time the application is submitted and a $105.00 fee is due when licensing is granted.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Florida

If you hold a social work license in another state, you can apply for licensing in Florida by the “Applying by Endorsement” process. Applicants must provide the Board with official school transcripts, license verification, and certification of completion of the Florida laws and rules and prevention of medical errors courses. Endorsement applications must complete the HIV/AIDS and domestic violence courses within six months of achieving Florida state licensing. Applicants must pay a $100.00 application fee and a separate $100.00 licensing fee.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Florida social workers are required to renew their licenses biennially. The Board requires 30 hours of continuing education credits for each renewal period. Six of those hours may be administrative in nature. The Board requires certain courses for each renewal period, and other courses to be taken every six years or third biennium. Courses are permitted to be taken by home-study or online, but must be approved by the Board. New licensees are exempt from the continuing education requirement; no classes are required until after the first two years of licensure have passed.

Florida Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

In Florida, there are currently thousands of social workers employed in a variety of settings. The largest number of social workers in the state are working in the field of child, family, and school social work, with 9,290 so employed.3

All areas of social work are seeing growth in Florida. Long-term predictions suggest that mental health and substance abuse social work careers will expand by 23.2% over the next few years, while careers in healthcare social work will grow by 30% and those categorized as “other,” by 15.3%.5 This means that about 600 new positions in these areas of social work will be available each year between now and 2022 in the state of Florida.5

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers9,290$40,800
Healthcare Social Workers5,260$47,680
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers3,570$39,340
Social Workers, All Other2,360$60,860

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.3

Social Work Associations in Florida

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can I work as a social worker without going to graduate school?

Answer: Yes, in Florida you can find employment in entry-level positions with a bachelor’s degree in social work. However, with a master’s degree in social work and licensing through the state either as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker or a Certified Master Social Worker, you will have many more opportunities.

Question: Does a social work license have to be renewed periodically?

Answer: Yes. In Florida, social workers are required to renew their licenses every two years. The requirements for renewal are 30 hours of continuing education coursework, including three hours of social work ethics and two hours of prevention of medical errors. You are exempt from the 30 hours of continuing education for the first two years of being licensed. The requirement begins in the second two-year period, after you renew your first license.

Question: What kind of coursework is acceptable for the 30 hours of continuing education?

Answer: There are a lot of choices for getting the 30 hours, which include graduate level courses in psychology, human behavior, counseling, therapy, and clinical practice. You can also earn hours by attending programs for non-clinical skills like office management or by providing pro bono services in areas of Florida with critical need. You can also earn hours by teaching courses.

Question: During the two years of required post-master’s degree field experience needed to apply for a clinical social work license, how many hours are required?

Answer: Candidates for licensure are required to complete 1,500 hours of practical experience. One hundred of those hours must be supervised by a licensed social worker. The frequency of the supervised time must be at least one hour per two weeks or one hour per 15 hours of practice time.

1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Florida: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fl
2. Sperling’s Best Places, Florida: https://www.bestplaces.net/state/florida
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Florida: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_fl.htm#29-0000
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014, Social Workers, All Other: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211029.htm
5. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm