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Georgia Social Work Licensing Requirements

Over 13,000 social workers are employed in the southeastern state of Georgia, where the average annual wage for social workers was $47,943 in 2017.1 If the idea of becoming a social worker in the state of Georgia interests you, you should first understand the specific requirements needed to work in this field in the state.

The Georgia Composite Board of Professional Counselors, Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists regulates and sets the requirements for social workers in the state. Provided below is an outline of how to become a social worker in Georgia based on the standards set forth by the Board.

How to Become a Social Worker in Georgia

Educational Paths

Those with a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)-accredited program can practice as social workers under the supervision of a more experienced social worker. However, a minimum of a master’s degree in social work (MSW) is required for licensure in the state of Georgia. Individuals seeking higher pay or with the desire to teach clinical social work may consider obtaining a doctoral degree in social work. Below you will find more detail about the educational requirements for licensure as a Licensed Master’s Social Worker (LMSW) or a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in the state of Georgia.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

The first step to becoming a social worker in the state of Georgia is usually to obtain your bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW). While you will not be able to become licensed with just a BSW, you will be able to practice as a social worker in many settings (under supervision) or you can use the degree as a springboard to obtaining your MSW. With a BSW accredited by the CSWE, you can often enter an MSW program with “advanced standing” status, allowing you to complete the degree in just one year. Most BSW programs take three to four years to complete and include coursework focused on an overview of social work, including clinical practice, community empowerment, social welfare policy, and program development.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Even though you may have a bachelor’s degree in a different field, you may choose to obtain your master’s degree in social work (MSW). However, you must receive a master’s in social work from a school accredited by the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) in order to become licensed by the Georgia Social Work Board. Seven universities in Georgia offer master’s programs that are accredited by the CSWE. Some schools may offer a “fast track” for students who hold a bachelor’s in social work (BSW) from a CSWE-accredited school. This allows students to earn their MSW in one year instead of the two years it usually takes to complete an MSW. Courses covered in MSW programs will typically include human behavior and social environment, social welfare policy, ethics, intervention strategies, and a research and field practice component. Master’s candidates learn advanced skills for dealing with children and families, mental health issues, and school social work. MSW programs also include fieldwork, which offers a real-world glimpse into the field. An MSW is the first step to becoming an LMSW or LCSW in Georgia.

Doctorate of Social Work (DSW)

A doctorate of social work (DSW), or PhD in social work, is another option for individuals wishing to specialize in clinical practice in the field of social work. While this degree is not a requirement to become an LCSW, more opportunities may arise for LCSWs who hold a DSW. Furthermore, LCSW candidates with a doctoral degree in social work or a related field (e.g., professional counseling or marriage and family therapy) may be able to apply this degree to fulfill one of the three required years of supervised experience needed for licensure. Advanced practitioners are more likely to obtain a DSW (or a PhD in social work) and may use this degree to practice professionally, conduct research at a higher education institution, or teach undergraduate and graduate clinical social work programs. DSW degrees cover topics on neuroscience and epistemology for clinical methods and practice, interpersonal psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, addictions and diagnosis treatments, trauma-focused interventions, and clinical leadership. The focus of a DSW program is typically on research and teaching, preparing students for careers in academic research settings. A PhD in social work ordinarily takes between three and four years to complete.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Georgia

While you can practice social work in the state without a license, more opportunities should arise if you pursue a Georgia social work license. Georgia offers two levels of licensure, Licensed Master’s Social Worker (LMSW) and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), both of which require a minimum of an MSW from a CSWE-accredited social work program. The level of licensure you choose should be based largely on the type of social work you wish to practice, clinical or non-clinical. Read more about the steps towards each of these licenses below.

Licensed Master’s Social Worker (LMSW)

In Georgia, only individuals with an MSW degree or higher can apply to become Licensed Master’s Social Workers (LMSWs). An LMSW should have greater job opportunities and higher pay than a non-licensed social worker in Georgia. LMSWs in Georgia are free to practice privately if their practice does not include counseling or psychotherapy; those two services can only be provided by LMSWs who are being supervised in preparation for obtaining their LCSW licenses. While obtaining an LMSW is not a prerequisite to applying for an LCSW, it is highly recommended by the Georgia Society for Clinical Social Work that those interested in becoming an LCSW become an LMSW first. Following are the steps required to become an LMSW in Georgia.

1. Submit an LMSW licensure application to the Board.

The first step towards obtaining your LMSW license is to complete and mail an application to the Board or apply online. As of December 2018, the cost of the LMSW application is $100. In addition to submitting the application, you will need to ask two professional references to complete forms and request that your school send your MSW transcript to the Board.

1. Take and pass the ASWB Master’s exam.

The ASWB Master’s exam must be taken prior to earning your LMSW license. You can practice under supervision for up to a year after earning your MSW before taking the licensing exam, but cannot be granted a license until you have passed the exam. You can sign up for the ASWB Master’s exam after the Board has reviewed your application and notified you that you are eligible to register. As of December 2018, the ASWB Master’s exam fee is $230. The test is four hours long and consists of 170 multiple-choice questions.

3. Receive your LMSW license from the Board.

Upon completion of the steps outlined above, you should be eligible to receive your LMSW license. The Board will notify you when they have issued your license and you can begin practicing under it.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

In the state of Georgia, an LCSW is the only type of social worker who can practice independently in a clinical setting. An MSW from a CSWE-accredited school is required for licensure as a clinical social worker in Georgia. Although it is highly recommended by the Georgia Society for Clinical Social Work, an LMSW is not required as a prerequisite to applying for an LCSW.

1. Gain the necessary experience.

One major difference between an LMSW and LCSW is the amount and type of experience required. LCSW candidates with an MSW must acquire 3,000 hours of supervised social work experience over a time period of three to nine years. LCSW candidates must have 120 hours of documented supervision. LSCW candidates with a DSW or doctoral degree in a related field that included a supervised internship must demonstrate that they have 2,000 hours of supervised, clinical social work experience, gained within two to six years with 80 hours of documented supervision.

2. Apply to the Board for licensure.

Candidates wishing to become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) must submit an application to the Board and pay the application fee of $100 (as of December 2018). Additional supporting documentation to accompany the application includes an official transcript of your MSW (to be sent to the Board by your school) and two professional references from teachers or supervisors. Your previous clinical supervisors will also need to submit forms verifying that you have completed the required amount of supervised experience.

3. Take and pass the ASWB clinical exam.

Like clinical social work applicants in most states, LCSW candidates in Georgia must take and pass the ASWB Clinical exam. The exam costs $260 as of December 2018. The four-hour exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions, and you cannot register for the exam until the Board has reviewed your application and given you approval.

4. Receive LCSW license from the Board.

After you have completed the steps above and the Board has received documentation from the ASWB that you have passed the Clinical exam, your license will be issued. You must wait until you have received your license to begin practicing as an LCSW, even if you have completed all of the required steps.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Georgia

According to the Board, the state does not offer reciprocity licensure for LSWs or LCSWs. Social workers wishing to transfer their license to the state of Georgia must have taken the ASWB Master’s exam (for LMSWs) or Clinical exam (for LCSWs) and should have their scores transferred to the Board from the ASWB. If you meet the criteria for LMSW or LCSW licensure in Georgia and have already passed the required exam, submit the application for your level of licensure and indicate you are applying for licensure by examination waiver. As part of this application, you will also need to provide verification of your current license in another state.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Due to changing laws and advances in practice, LMSWs and LCSWs are required to complete 35 hours of continuing education every two years to renew their Georgia social work license. Of those hours, five must be from in-person activities providing education in ethics. No more than 10 hours may be acquired online. Licensed social workers can visit the National Association of Social Workers: Georgia Chapter for a listing of continuing education offerings.

Georgia Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

Across all fields of social work in Georgia, the average salary is $47,943 per year.1 Social workers in the “all other” category are the highest-paid, with an average annual salary of $60,250.1 Just over 13,000 social workers are currently employed in Georgia, with the majority being employed in child, family, and school social work (7,080).1 It is projected that between 2016 and 2026, the total number of social work jobs in Georgia will increase by 14.3%, equating to roughly 214 new positions each year.2 The largest increase is projected to occur in the category of healthcare social work, with an expected increase of 17.4% during the same 10-year period.2

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers7,080$39,000
Healthcare Social Workers3,730$52,070
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers1,100$40,450
Social Workers, All Other1,1400$60,250

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2

Social Work Associations in Georgia

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can I begin practicing independently once I become registered as a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)?

Answer: Yes, after two years of supervised social work practice, an LMSW can practice social work privately and independently. However, they are not eligible to provide clinical services such as counseling and psychotherapy unless they are under supervision in preparation for applying for an LCSW license.

Question: For the 3,000 hours of work experience required for the LCSW, can I count experience I gained years ago?

Answer: Any qualified supervised experience completed after you earned your MSW can be applied to your LCSW application as long as it was acquired over a period of at least three years but less than nine years (108 months) following the award of the MSW.

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

Answer: Your supervisor must possess an LCSW or a similar credential (e.g., professional counselor, marriage and family therapist, psychologist) and have completed at least 2,000 hours of work experience within two years after becoming licensed.

Question: What kind of degree do I need to practice social work in Georgia?

Answer: For both LMSW and LCSW licenses in Georgia, you must earn an MSW from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Georgia: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ga.htm
2. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm