Louisiana Social Work License Requirements

Over 4.6 million people live in Louisiana where 8,363 individuals are licensed, certified or registered as social workers.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 and options for the state. The Louisiana State Board of Social Work Examiners currently administers the social work licenses, certifications and registrations in the state. Continue reading to learn more about the educational paths, regulations, and standards imposed by the Louisiana Board of Examiners.

How to Become a Social Worker in Louisiana

Educational Paths

Social workers in Louisiana must have a master’s degree in social work (MSW) to become a licensed social worker, practice clinical social work, or to practice independently. To become a registered social worker, you must have a bachelor’s in social work (BSW). Read below to understand the differences between a BSW and an MSW.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

If becoming a 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 school. There are seven CSWE-accredited schools across the state of 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. Most social workers with this level of education work as case managers, advocacy specialists, and can administer programs and activities.

With a BSW, you may become a registered social worker in Louisiana. A person who holds only a BSW will not be able to practice social work independently in Louisiana. For that, you will need to further your career with a graduate degree.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

In Louisiana, a candidate must have a master’s in social work (MSW) or master’s in social welfare to become licensed and practice social work independently. Like BSW programs, the master’s level program must be accredited by the CSWE. There are four schools in Louisiana that have CSWE-accredited MSW programs. CSWE-accredited MSW programs have the same core curriculum, but each school may have a specialty area or have varying electives. You should review these factors and try to talk with students who are currently enrolled in MSW programs to determine which school is right for you. Most MSW programs offer “advanced standing” for students who hold a BSW which allows them to complete the MSW program in one year as opposed to the two years it generally takes. An MSW is considered the terminal degree in Louisiana, meaning you will have the highest level of education necessary to perform all social work jobs in the state.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Louisiana

In order to practice social work in Louisiana, you must be licensed, certified or registered by the Louisiana Board of Examiners. Bachelor’s level social workers can apply to become registered social workers and master’s level candidates can apply to become certified social workers while working to meet the requirements of a licensed master social worker.

The state administers two social work licenses in addition to administering registered and certified social worker designations. In Louisiana, you can become a licensed master social worker (LMSW) or a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) with a master’s degree in social work. Continue reading below to learn about the different requirements for each license and to determine which one is right for you.

Registered Social Worker (RSW)

All social workers in Louisiana must be recognized by the Louisiana Board of Examiners in order to practice, including social workers who hold a BSW. To apply to become an RSW in Louisiana, you must have a BSW from a CSWE-accredited school. In addition to submitting a completed application, you must submit:

*As of November 2015.

The Louisiana Board will send a letter confirming that they have received your application within two to four weeks. Once you submit the application and gain approval by the Board, you will become a registered social worker in Louisiana. RSWs may engage in general social work practice under supervision but neither clinical nor advanced practice social work. There is no examination or experience requirement to become an RSW.

Licensed Master’s Social Worker (LMSW)

Licensed master’s social workers (LMSW) must have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited school. Additionally, if you wish to practice independently or to practice clinical social work in the future, you must have an LMSW first. LMSWs practice using prevention and intervention, treatment planning, case management, referral and counseling skills, among other advanced social work skills. In addition to meeting the education requirement, LMSWs must:

1. Complete the application.

LMSW candidates must complete the application
for licensure. Along with the application, they must submit:

2. Take and pass the ASWB masters exam.

After your application is approved by the Louisiana Board, you may register for and take the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) master’s-level exam. The $230* exam is designed to test the candidate’s knowledge of advanced social work practice. The exam consists of 170 questions and requires between 96 and 105 correct answers to pass. Candidates may retake the exam after 90 days by completing and submitting the retake examination application and paying the $50 fee*.

3. Receive your LMSW.

After completing the steps above and passing the master’s-level ASWB exam, you will become a licensed LMSW in the state of Louisiana. With this license, you may practice advanced generalist social work or continue to satisfy the requirements to become a clinical social worker. LMSWs must practice social work under supervision.

*As of November 2015.

Certified Social Worker (CSW)

The certified social worker (CSW) designation is a certification regulated by the Louisiana Board of Social Work Examiners. Upon completing the application for an LMSW and obtaining Board approval, you will receive a CSW license that allows you to practice social work while preparing to take the ASWB exam. CSWs must sit for the master’s-level ASWB exam within six months of becoming certified and they must pass the exam within three years. If you are unable to pass during that timeframe, you will become eligible to apply for an RSW license. With an RSW, you may continue to take the ASWB exam until you pass.

As of November 2015, there is a $50 fee to retake the ASWB exam.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

To practice clinical social work, you must apply to the Louisiana Board to become a licensed clinical social worker. LCSW candidates must possess a current LMSW and hold an MSW from a CSWE-accredited university. 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. Licensed clinical social workers 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. Complete the application.

LCSW candidates must apply to the Louisiana Board to become licensed and submit the appropriate documents:

  • An official transcript sent directly from the applicant’s college or university
  • A record of supervision form
  • An employment verification form for every place where you worked as an LMSW
  • A passport-style photo
  • Results of a criminal records check
  • The $100 application fee*

2. Gain the required experience.

LCSW candidates must have acquired 5,760 hours of social work experience after obtaining their MSW and LMSW, which equates to about 2.8 years of full-time (40 hours per week) experience. During that time, 3,840 hours must be supervised by a Board-approved clinical supervisor (LCSW-BACS).

Supervisors must be LCSW-BACS, which means they must hold an LCSW license and have at least three years of full-time, supervised experience post LCSW. LCSW-BACS must also complete an orientation workshop presented by the Board and a workshop on theory and techniques of supervision, along with presenting two letters of professional references.

3. Take and pass the ASWB clinical exam.

LCSW candidates must take and pass the ASWB clinical-level exam. The $260* exam is 170 questions; candidates must correctly answer between 96 and 105 questions to pass. Candidates who fail the ASWB exam may retake it after 90 days by completing the retake examination application and paying the $50 fee*.

4. Receive your LCSW.

After completing the steps above and passing the ASWB clinical exam, you will become a licensed clinical social worker by the Louisiana Board of Examiners. LCSWs can practice clinical social work independently.

*As of November 2015.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Louisiana

Louisiana does not have formal reciprocity with any other state but the Board offers social work licenses by endorsement. In order to apply, candidates will have to complete the appropriate application (i.e. RSW, LMSW, or LCSW application) and submit a passport-style photo, an official transcript (sent directly from their school), criminal records results, official ASWB scores, the verification of licensure form (which can be found on the Board’s application page), a copy of the licensing laws for the state where they hold their license, and the required fee:

  • RSW – $50 application fee
  • LMSW – $75 application fee
  • LCSW – $100 application fee

*All fees current as of November 2015.

Candidates hoping to apply for LCSW licensure by endorsement must also submit the supervisor verification form.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Louisiana social workers must renew their licenses every year by August 31. If you renew after August 31 but before November 30, there is no additional license renewal fee. 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 have 10 CE hours in clinical content as a part of their 20 hours. The Louisiana Board of Examiners provides a listing of approved CE organizations.

As of November 2015, the fee to renew a social work license is as follows:

  • Registered Social Worker – $25
  • Certified Social Worker – $50
  • Licensed Master Social Worker – $50
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker – $75

Louisiana Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

In Louisiana, 4,100 social workers are employed and they earn an average salary of $49,587 per year.3 Child, family, and school social workers earn the second highest salary of social workers in the state ($52,190); social workers who work in other uncategorized fields in Louisiana earn the most – $53,900 per year.3 Projections show that between 2015 and 2022, social worker jobs in Louisiana will increase by 13.9%.4 The highest gains are projected for healthcare social workers (19.3%) and mental health and substance abuse social workers (14.3%).4 Considering the high projections for social worker jobs in Louisiana and the annual salaries, Louisiana would make a great place for a social worker to start his or her career.

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 810 $52,190
Healthcare Social Workers 1,910 $49,110
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 910 $43,150
Social Workers, All Other 470 $53,900

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.2

Social Work Associations in Louisiana

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 gain approval by the Board, 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 from the past, but please refer to the Handbook for Students for more clarification.

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

Answer: Supervisors must be LCSW-BACS which means they must hold an LCSW license and have at least three years of full-time, supervised experience post LCSW. LCSW-BACS must also complete an orientation workshop presented by the Board and a workshop on theory and techniques of supervision, along with presenting two letters of professional references.

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 school to practice social work in the state. To practice independently in Louisiana, you need a master’s degree in social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Louisiana: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/22
2. Louisiana State Board of Social Work Examiners: https://labswe.org/
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Louisiana: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_la.htm
4. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm