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Florida Social Work Licensing Requirements

There are many reasons that people have flocked to this state of over 20 million residents, and Florida is a great place to pursue a career in social work.1 There are plenty of opportunities here, but to become a social worker means meeting several requirements set by the state of Florida. Florida’s Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling 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 (CWSE). 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 multicultural 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 a Master of Social Work (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. MSW programs include both academic study and fieldwork experience. With an MSW you can become a licensed social worker in the state of Florida and be eligible for many jobs 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, and elder care facilities. With a master’s degree in social work and the appropriate license, 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. They are not licensed to provide clinical services. To be licensed as a CMSW, applicants must have earned a doctoral or master’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program with at least three credit hours of coursework in eight different subject areas (see the Board’s requirements for CMSW licensure for a list of these areas). After you have earned this MSW, you will need to complete the following steps for licensure:

1. Complete three years of supervised non-clinical social work experience.

CMSW candidates must complete a total of three years (4,500 hours) of non-clinical social work experience under the supervision of a CMSW or LCSW before becoming licensed. Although one year (1,500 hours) can be completed before earning your MSW, at least two of these years (3,000 hours) must be completed post-master’s. During your two years of post-master’s work, you must receive at least 100 hours of face-to-face supervision per year.

2. Submit an application for a CMSW license to the Board.

After completing your supervised experience, the next step is to request a CMSW application from the Board and complete it. Some portions of this form will need to be completed by your supervisors to verify your work experience. Once you have completed this form, return it to the Board with $205 for application and license fees. You will also need to request for your MSW transcripts to be sent directly to the Board.

3. Complete the ASWB Advanced Generalist Exam.

After the Board has approved your application, you can take the ASWB Advanced Generalist examination. This four-hour exam consists of 170 multiple-choice questions and costs $260.

4. Receive your CMSW license from the Board.

Your ASWB Advanced Generalist exam scores will be sent to the Board approximately two weeks after you complete the test. Once the Board receives these scores and determines that your application is complete, they will issue your CMSW license.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

To become an LCSW in Florida, a doctoral or master’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program is required. Applicants must demonstrate that 24 credit hours covered clinically-oriented human behavior and practice methods, including one course in psychopathology. This program must also have included a clinical practicum. Once you have earned this degree, you will need to follow the steps below to become an LCSW:

1. Complete two years of supervised clinical social work experience.

Before submitting any application materials to the Board, you will first need to earn two years (at least 100 weeks) of clinical social work experience under the supervision of an LCSW. During these two years, you must complete at least 1,500 hours of direct clinical work with clients and receive at least 100 hours of face-to-face supervision.

2. Complete the required supplemental courses for licensure.

In addition to the coursework completed during your graduate program, you must also complete three supplemental courses for LCSW licensure in Florida. The first of these is an eight-hour course on social work laws and rules, which must be completed before applying for your license. You must also complete a three-hour course on HIV/AIDS and a two-hour course on domestic violence. If you do not complete these two courses by the time you apply for your license, you will need to submit additional paperwork stating that you will take them within six months of receiving your license. All required coursework can be completed through CE Broker.

3. Submit an application for an LCSW license to the Board.

After you have completed your supervised clinical work and the supplemental coursework, the next step is to submit an application to the Board for an LCSW license. This application can be completed online or printed and mailed in. In addition to the application form, you must include the following materials:

  • The Verification of Clinical Experience form
  • Transcripts from your doctoral or master’s degree (have your school send these directly to the Board)
  • A letter from your graduate school verifying that you have completed the practicum requirements
  • An advanced standing letter (if necessary to document any courses you completed during your bachelor’s degree)
  • HIV/AIDS Affadavit (if you have not already completed the required HIV/AIDS course)
  • $180 for application and license fees

4. Complete the ASWB Clinical exam.

After the Board reviews your application, you will need to take the ASWB Clinical exam. This is a four-hour, 170-item multiple choice exam. Registration fees for the Clinical exam are $260.

5. Receive your LCSW license from the Board.

Once you have completed this exam, the ASWB will report your scores to the Board in approximately two weeks. After the Board has been notified of your passing score, they will issue your LCSW license. Remember that if you have not already taken the HIV/AIDS and domestic violence courses, you will need to complete these within six months of receiving your license.

Social Work License by Endorsement in Florida

If you hold a social work license in another state, you can apply for a license in Florida through the “Applying by Endorsement” process. Applicants must provide the Board with verification of their current license as well as documentation that they have met the requirements for a CMSW or LCSW license, including official school transcripts, ASWB exam scores, and certification of completion of the Florida laws and rules and HIV/AIDS courses (if applying for LCSW license). Applicants for LCSW licensure by endorsement must complete the domestic violence course within six months of achieving Florida state licensing. Fees for licensure by endorsement are $305 for CMSW applicants and $180 for LCSW applicants.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Florida social workers (both CMSWs and LCSWs) are required to renew their licenses by the end of March during each odd-numbered year. The Board requires 30 hours of continuing education credits for each renewal period. The Board requires certain courses for each renewal period, and other courses must 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 8,550 so employed.2

All areas of social work are seeing growth in Florida. Long-term predictions suggest that in Florida, mental health and substance abuse social work careers will expand by 24.4% between 2016 and 2026, while careers in healthcare social work will grow by 25.7%; careers in child, family, and school social work will grow by 23.0%; and social work positions categorized as “all other” will grow by 11.0%.3 This means that about 517 new positions across these areas of social work are expected to be added each year between 2016 and 2026 in the state of Florida.3

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers8,550$41,600
Healthcare Social Workers8,380$50,470
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers3,510$42,910
Social Workers, All Other1,480$67,270

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2

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. 100 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.

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