Louisiana Social Work License Requirements
Over 4.6 million people live in Louisiana, and 5,050 of its citizens are employed in the field of social work.1,2 If a career in social work interests you and you wish to practice in Louisiana, it is imperative that you understand the licensure requirements for the state. The Louisiana State Board of Social Work Examiners oversees social work practice and credentials in the state. Continue reading to learn more about the educational paths, regulations, and standards imposed by the Board.
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How to Become a Social Worker in Louisiana
To practice social work in Louisiana, you must have a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in social work to practice. Earning a bachelor’s degree will allow you to become licensed and provide general social work services. However, a master’s degree is required for higher levels of licensure and may increase your job options and earning potential. Keep reading to learn about the differences between a BSW and an MSW.
Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)
If becoming a Louisiana social worker is in your plans, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)-accredited program. There are seven CSWE-accredited BSW programs in Louisiana. BSW programs prepare undergraduates for professional social work practice through classroom and field experience. Individuals with BSWs will take courses in human behavior and the social environment, social welfare policy, research, social work practice, and field education. Many social workers with this level of education work in positions such as case management or advocacy. With a BSW, you may become credentialed as a Registered Social Worker in Louisiana.
Master of Social Work (MSW)
In Louisiana, a social worker must have a master’s in social work (MSW) to become licensed and practice social work independently. As with BSW programs, the MSW program must be accredited by the CSWE in order for you to qualify for licensure. There are four schools in Louisiana that have CSWE-accredited MSW programs. Different schools may offer specialty areas and/or varying electives. You should review these factors to determine which school is right for you. Most MSW programs also offer “advanced standing” for students who hold a BSW, which allows them to complete the MSW program in one year instead of the two years it generally takes.
Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Louisiana
In order to practice social work in Louisiana, you must be licensed by the Board. The Board offers three social work credentials: the Registered Social Worker, the Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW), and the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Continue reading to learn about the different requirements for each credential and the type of practice they allow to determine which one is right for you.
Registered Social Worker (RSW)
The Registered Social Worker (RSW) credential is available to individuals who have completed a CSWE-accredited BSW program. RSWs are able to provide general social work services such as case management, supportive counseling, and advocacy. They do not need to be supervised after becoming registered but must work within an agency or organization. Below are the steps to becoming an RSW.
1. Submit an application to the Board.
After receiving your BSW, complete an online application through the Board’s website. You will be required to upload a photograph of yourself and pay a $53 application fee (as of February 2019). During this step, you should also have your BSW program send an official copy of your transcript to the Board.
2. Complete a criminal background check.
In addition to submitting a completed application, you must provide fingerprints for a criminal background check. The Board provides instructions for this step, which requires you to pay a fee of $38-$48 dollars (depending on the method you use and as of February 2019).
3. Receive your RSW credential.
Unlike other levels of social work credentialing in Louisiana, the RSW does not require an exam. Approximately 10-15 days after you submit your application, it will be reviewed by the Board and you will be notified if you have met the requirements for becoming an RSW. Once your RSW credential has been issued, you can begin providing general social work services as part of an agency.
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)
To earn a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) license, you must have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited school. An LMSW is able to provide advanced non-clinical social work services and can practice clinical social work under supervision. Below are the steps required to become an LMSW in Louisiana.
1. Complete the application.
To begin the LMSW licensure process, you will need to complete the online application and pay the $78 fee (as of February 2019). You will need to upload a photograph of yourself and request that your MSW program send an official copy of your transcript to the Board.
2. Complete a criminal background check.
All social work applicants must complete a criminal background check. The Board provides background check instructions. Depending on the method you use to complete this step, it will cost $38-$48 (as of February 2019).
3. Receive your Certified Social Worker (CSW) credential.
If the Board determines your LMSW application is complete, they will issue you a Certified Social Worker (CSW) credential. This is a temporary permit that will allow you to practice under the scope of an LMSW for up to six months, during which time you must take the licensure exam (see Step 3). If you do not pass the licensure exam the first time you take it, the CSW credential can be renewed periodically, but you must take the exam at least once per year and cannot hold a CSW credential for more than three years total.
3. Pass the ASWB Master’s exam.
When your CSW permit is issued, the Board will also grant you permission to register for the ASWB Master’s exam, which costs $230 as of February 2019. The exam is designed to test the candidate’s knowledge of master’s-level social work practice through 170 multiple-choice items. The results of your exam will be sent to the Board about two weeks after your test date.
4. Receive your LMSW.
After the ASWB notifies the Board that you have passed the Master’s exam, you will receive your LMSW license, which will replace your CSW permit. With this license, you can practice non-clinical social work without supervision, and can also accrue supervised clinical hours for LCSW licensure.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
To practice clinical social work in Louisiana, you must apply for a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) license. LCSW candidates must possess a current LMSW (or the equivalent in another state) and hold an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program. Clinical social work practice includes assessment and diagnosis of behavioral disorders, treatment planning, case management, and making referrals to physicians for the treatment of behavioral disorders. LCSWs can practice independently or with an agency. To become an LCSW, you must acquire a certain number of hours of experience and take an advanced exam. Continue reading below for details on the process of becoming an LCSW.
1. Gain the required experience.
To become an LCSW, you must accrue 5,760 hours of supervised social work practice; at least 3,840 of these hours must be supervised by a Board-approved clinical supervisor (LCSW-BACS). You must receive at least 96 hours of in-person supervision and no less than two hours of supervision for every 80 hours of work. Before beginning your supervised experience, you must submit a Registration of Supervision form to the Board. Within 60 days of beginning your supervised experience, you must also submit the Plan of Supervision and Supervision Agreement forms.
2. Complete the application.
After completing the 5,760 hours of supervised experience, you can submit an LCSW application to the Board. With this application, you must include a photograph of yourself and your supervisor will need to complete the Professional Experience Verification Record. If the Board does not already have a copy of your MSW transcript, request that your school send one. As of February 2019, the application fee for an LCSW is $103.
3. Complete the criminal background check.
Even if you previously completed a background check for the Board, you will need to complete a new one for your LCSW license. Background check instructions are provided on the Board’s website and fees range from $38-$48 (as of February 2019).
4. Pass the ASWB Clinical exam.
The Board will allow you to register for the ASWB Clinical exam once they review your application and determine you have met all other licensure requirements. The $260 exam (as of February 2019) contains 170 multiple-choice questions. Scores are sent to the Board within about two weeks following your test date.
5. Receive your LCSW license.
After you complete all of the steps above, the Board will issue your LCSW license and you can begin providing the full range of social work services without supervision. Note that you cannot provide supervision unless you apply to become a Board-approved supervisor (see next step).
6. Apply to become a Board-approved supervisor (optional).
If you are interested in supervising CSWs or LMSWs, you will need to apply for the Board-Approved Clinical Supervisor (BACS) designation. Before submitting an application, you must work as an LCSW for at least three years and complete multiple Board-approved supervision training courses. You can then submit an application to the Board, which will require you to provide two letters of reference. Once you receive the BACS designation, you can provide supervision.
Social Work Licensure by Endorsement in Louisiana
Louisiana does not have formal reciprocity with any other state, but the Board offers social work licensure by endorsement for social workers licensed in other jurisdictions. If your current license was issued under requirements equivalent to (or more stringent than) Louisiana’s, you may be eligible for this type of licensure. For licensure by endorsement, submit an application to the Board. As of February 2019, application fees are $53 for the RSW, $78 for the LMSW, and $103 for the LCSW. You will also need to complete a criminal background check, provide verification of your current license, and have your ASWB exam scores sent to the Board.
Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information
Louisiana social workers must renew their licenses every year by August 31. All social workers must obtain 20 hours of continuing education (CE) per year, which includes at least three CE hours of professional ethics every other year. LCSWs must complete 10 CE hours in clinical content as a part of their 20 hours, and LCSW-BACS must complete three hours in supervision every two years. The Louisiana Board of Examiners provides a listing of approved CE courses.
As of February 2019, the fees to renew a social work license are as follows:
- Registered Social Worker: $28
- Certified Social Worker: $53
- Licensed Master Social Worker: $53
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker: $78
Louisiana Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information
5,050 social workers are employed in Louisiana, with an average salary of $49,328 per year according to May 2017 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.2 This average salary is above the median household income in Louisiana ($46,710).1 Projections suggest that between 2016 and 2026, social work jobs in Louisiana will increase by 12.5%, or about 52 new positions each year.3 The most growth is expected for healthcare social workers (15.3%) and mental health and substance abuse social workers (12.0%).3 Considering the competitive social work salaries and projected growth in jobs, Louisiana can be a great place for a social worker to start a career.
|Type||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Child, Family, and School Social Workers||920||$52,390|
|Healthcare Social Workers||2,160||$52,010|
|Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers||1,330||$41,610|
|Social Workers, All Other||640||$51,300|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2
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Social Work Associations in Louisiana
- The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Louisiana Chapter: Offers information about regional chapters within the state, upcoming conferences, and continuing education opportunities.
- The Louisiana Society for Clinical Social Work (LSCSW): Offers professional development and continuing education opportunities, advocates for clinical social workers, and connects members.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Can I begin practicing independently once I become registered as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)?
Answer: Yes, once you meet the requirements for an LCSW and the Board issues your license, you may begin practicing clinical and nonclinical social work independently.
Question: For the 5,760 hours of work experience required, can I count experience I gained years ago to become an LCSW?
Answer: Yes, you may count experience earned in the past. However, it must have been earned under a Board-approved supervisor (LCSW-BACS), and supervision forms must have been filed with the Board.
Question: What kinds of qualifications are required of the person supervising my experience?
Answer: Supervisors must be LCSW-BACS. This means they must hold an LCSW license, have at least three years of full-time, post-licensure experience, and complete Board-approved training in supervision. After they have met these requirements, they can receive the LCSW-BACS license and supervise your experience.
Question: What kind of degree do I need to practice social work in Louisiana?
Answer: Social workers need a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) or a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited program to practice social work in the state. To practice independently in Louisiana, you need an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program and the appropriate license from the Board.
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Louisiana: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/la
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Louisiana: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_la.htm
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm