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Michigan Social Work Licensing Requirements

By SocialWorkGuide.org Staff

Known as an industrial hub with an abundance of natural beauty, Michigan offers many opportunities for those seeking careers in social work. With over 24,000 social workers employed in the state in 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment in this field to continue growing from 2018-2028. Students interested in becoming employed as social workers in Michigan should explore the different tiers of licensure and education.

The Michigan Board of Social Work regulates licensure in the state. Read on to learn more about these credentials, along with information on employment trends, salary data, and licensing requirements.

In This Article

How to Become a Social Worker in Michigan

Educational Paths

To become a licensed social worker in Michigan, you will need a minimum of a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) from a school accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The state also offers the option of becoming registered as a registered social service technician (RSST), which requires either an accredited associate degree or two years of board-approved supervised experience or training in social work.

Associate of Social Work

Earning an associate degree in social work (ASW) from a regionally accredited program allows you to register as an RSST in Michigan. RSSTs can provide some services under the supervision of licensed social workers. ASWs typically take about two years to complete, and the courses provide a broad overview of many different topics in social work.

Bachelor of Social Work

A professional must earn a bachelor of social work (BSW) degree for recognition as a licensed social worker in the state of Michigan. BSWs typically take four years and provide students with an introduction into the field of social work through coursework, including the study of human behavior, social welfare policy, and the social welfare system.

Core courses in psychology, political science, biology, and economics also commonly appear in coursework for students pursuing their BSWs. Most BSW programs will also include a field placement component, which allows enrollees to gain experience in real-world social work roles. As of March 2020, Michigan boasts 22 BSW programs that hold CSWE accreditation. Students who earn BSWs can pursue certification as licensed bachelor's social workers (LBSWs).

Master of Social Work

A master of social work (MSW) degree can provide even more job opportunities than a BSW. With an MSW in the state of Michigan, you can become a licensed master social worker (LMSW) with either a macro or clinical designation. MSW programs usually take two years of full-time study to complete, but with a BSW, you may qualify for advanced standing, which can shorten the degree to one year. MSW programs involve a deeper dive into the field and combine academic study with fieldwork.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Michigan

Based on your career path, Michigan offers aspiring social workers multiple points of entry into the industry. Regardless of which level best suits your goals, all professionals must register with the Michigan Board of Social Work.

Registered Social Service Technician

RSSTs in Michigan can provide some basic social work services, such as client interviews and administration of some assessment tools under the supervision of a licensed social worker. For eligibility, you must have completed two years of college that included coursework in human services or hold an associate degree in social work from a regionally accredited school.

Eligible candidates must also maintain current employment in social work or have completed one year (2,000 hours) of hands-on, supervised social work experience under a limited social service technician (LSST) credential. Below are the steps for becoming an RSST.

  • 1. Apply for limited registration and complete supervised work experience (if required).

    If you have completed two years of college education (including four social work courses) but have not earned 2,000 hours of supervised field experience, you will need to complete these hours as an LSST before applying to become an RSST. To become an LSST, apply to the board.

    You will also need to include a form verifying your employment in social work, along with a form certifying you have met the educational requirements. As of March 2020, the fee for the LSST application is $43.20. The board will also send instructions for completing a criminal background check after receiving your application.

    After registering with the board as an LSST, you can begin accruing the 2,000 required hours of supervised social work experience required to become an RSST. When you apply to become an RSST, your LBSW or LMSW supervisors will need to document that you have completed this requirement by filling out a verification of experience form.

  • 2. Submit the RSST application.

    Once you have met all of the requirements to become an RSST, you can apply to the board. An LSST can apply to upgrade to an RSST by submitting a reclassification form and, as of March 2020, a fee of $15.90.

    Students pursuing RSST licensure can apply using the board's application form. As of March 2020, the fee for this application is $43.20. You will need to provide supplemental documentation verifying your education and work experience. The board will provide instructions on performing a criminal background check if necessary.

  • 3. Wait for the board to notify you that they have accepted your application.

    Before you can begin working as an RSST, the board will need to review your application and determine whether they need any additional information before granting your registration. Once they have issued your RSST registration, you can begin practicing under this credential.

Licensed Bachelor's Social Worker (LBSW)

To become an LBSW in Michigan, you must hold a bachelor's degree from a CSWE-accredited program. Once you have earned an LBSW license, you can provide bachelor's-level social work services such as case management, general social interventions, and psychosocial assessment. After you have earned your BSW, you can follow the steps below to become an LBSW.

  • 1. Apply for a limited LBSW license (if completing supervised experience in Michigan).

    Before becoming eligible to receive an LBSW license, you must complete a certain amount of supervised social work experience. If you plan to obtain this experience in Michigan, you must first apply for a limited LBSW license (LLBSW) by completing the board's application form and sending your BSW transcript to the board. After receiving your application, the board will send you instructions for completing a criminal background. As of March 2020, the fee for applying to become an LLBSW is $43.20.

    If you accrue supervised hours outside of Michigan, you do not need to apply to become an LLBSW in Michigan.

  • 2. Complete 4,000 hours of supervised social work experience.

    All aspiring LBSWs in Michigan must complete 4,000 hours of supervised post-degree social work experience in a period of no fewer than two years. While earning these hours, you must work 16-40 hours per week under the supervision of a licensed master's-level social worker. You will need to receive at least two hours of in-person individual supervision each month. Candidates must document their supervised hours when applying for LBSW licensure.

  • 3. Pass the ASWB Bachelor's exam.

    After the board has approved your LLBSW application, they will also permit you to take the ASWB bachelor's exam. You can take this exam at any time before applying for full LBSW licensure. As of March 2020, the fee for this exam is $230. The test has a four-hour time limit and consists of 170 multiple-choice questions.

  • 4. Apply for an LBSW license.

    After completing the required 4,000 hours of work experience and passing the ASWB bachelor's exam, you can apply for an LBSW license. If you currently hold an LLBSW license, you can apply to upgrade using the reclassification form. As of March 2020, the fee for reclassification of an LLBSW license is $15.90.

    If you earned your work experience in another state and do not currently hold an LLBSW license, you will need to apply for an LBSW license by submitting the board's application form. With this application form, include documentation of your supervised work experience and, as of March 2020, an application fee of $43.20. You must also request that your school send the transcript of your BSW to the board.

    Students who have completed the ASWB bachelor's exam with the permission of another state's board of social work must request that state to transfer the results to the Michigan board. If you have not yet taken this exam, you will receive permission after you submit your application form to the board and will need to complete the exam before receiving an LBSW license.

  • 5. Receive your LBSW license from the board.

    The Bureau of Professional Licensing sends ASWB bachelor's exam scores to the board within about two weeks of your test date. The board issues your LBSW license after reviewing your application and determining that you have met all of the requirements.

Licensed Master's Social Worker (LMSW)

In Michigan, each LMSW must hold a master's degree from a CSWE-accredited program. Michigan splits its LMSW licenses into macro and clinical fields. These designations indicate the types of services that licensees can perform. An LMSW with a macro designation performs primarily administrative tasks, such as program evaluation and training, while an LMSW with a clinical designation can provide clinical services, such as diagnosis and psychotherapy.

Once you hold an LMSW with one of these designations, you can apply to earn the other (after completing an additional year of supervised experience) to provide the entire range of LMSW services. Read on to explore the steps for earning an LMSW with either designation.

  • 1. Apply for a limited LMSW license (if completing your supervised experience in Michigan).

    All Michigan LMSW candidates must complete supervised work experience before becoming licensed. If you are planning to earn these hours in Michigan, you must first apply for a limited LMSW license (LLMSW) by submitting an application form and requesting that your school send your MSW transcript to the board. As of March 2020, the fee for an LLMSW license costs $43.20. You will need to indicate on the application whether you plan to earn a macro or clinical designation.

    If you are planning to earn your supervised hours outside of Michigan, you do not need to apply for an LLMSW license.

  • 2. Complete 4,000 hours of supervised social work experience.

    After receiving your LLMSW license, you can begin completing your postmaster's supervised experience. The Michigan Board requires all LMSW applicants to complete 4,000 hours of work experience under the supervision of a licensed masters-level social worker. Note that the type of work you perform during this step should correspond with the type of designation that you plan to seek with your full license.

    During this time, you must work 16-40 hours per week and receive at least two hours of in-person individual supervision each month. Aspiring professionals can accrue no more than 2,000 hours of experience each calendar year, so it will take a minimum of two years to complete your supervised experience. Your supervisors must document these hours using the board's verification form.

  • 3. Complete the required ASWB licensing exam.

    When the board grants your LLMSW license, they will also permit you to take the corresponding ASWB licensing exam. Macro applicants need to take the ASWB advanced generalist exam, while clinical applicants need to take the clinical exam. As of March 2020, the registration fee for both of these exams is $260.

  • 4. Apply for an LMSW license.

    After you have completed 4,000 hours of supervised social work experience and passed the ASWB licensing exam, you can apply for an LMSW license. If you were required to hold an LLMSW license, you can apply to upgrade to an LMSW license by completing the reclassification application with a $15.90 fee.

    If you completed your supervised experience outside of Michigan and did not hold an LLMSW license, you will need to apply for an LMSW license using the application packet. As of March 2020, the LMSW application fee is $43.20. In addition to completing this form, you must have your school send your MSW transcript to the Michigan board. Each candidate must submit to a criminal background check after the board has reviewed their application.

    If you completed the ASWB licensing exam for your designation with the permission of another state's social work board, you will need to request that the ASWB transfer these scores to the Michigan board. Candidates who have not already taken the exam will receive permission from the board reviewing the LMSW application. You must pass the exam before the board issues your license.

  • 5. Receive your LMSW license from the board.

    After the board reviews your reclassification form or LMSW application and determines that you have met all requirements for licensure, they will issue your LMSW license. Once they have granted your license, you can begin practicing under the designated macro or clinical scope.

Social Work Licensure by Endorsement in Michigan

Michigan offers prospective LBSWs and LMSWs the opportunity to apply by endorsement if they are currently licensed and in good standing in another state. To apply for licensure by endorsement, complete the board's application form. Note that you will need to have your ASWB exam scores transferred to the Michigan Board. As of March 2020, the application includes a $43.20 fee.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Professionals must renew all permanent social work registrations and licenses every three years. Additionally, Michigan requires all LBSWs and LMSWs to complete 45 hours of continuing education during each three-year renewal period. Of the 45 required continuing education hours, five must occur in ethics, and one hour must take place in pain symptom management.

Social workers must earn at least half of their required continuing education hours through in-person activities. The Michigan Social Work Continuing Education Collaborative offers assistance with understanding the board's continuing education requirements, along with finding qualifying activities.

LSSTs, RSSTs, LLBSWs, and LLMSWs do not need to complete continuing education activities. However, RSSTs must renew their credentials every three years. The board considers all limited licenses and registrations as temporary and without the three-year renewal cycle of permanent credentials. However, you can submit a renewal request to the board if you need a longer period to complete the requirements for full licensure or registration.

Michigan Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

BLS data indicates a total of 24,670 social workers were employed in Michigan in 2019. The majority of social workers in Michigan found roles in child, family, and school social work (13,790). In 2019, the average annual salary for social workers in Michigan (across all fields of social work) reached $53,820.

According to Projections Central, Michigan is expecting an increase in all four areas of social work from 2016-2026, with the highest job growth projected for healthcare social workers (18.6% increase) and mental health and substance abuse social workers (18.2% increase).

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 13,760 $51,410
Healthcare Social Workers 5,410 $57,280
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 4,190 $50,440
Social Workers, All Other 1,310 $56,150

Source: BLS

Social Work Associations in Michigan

The National Association of Social Workers, Michigan Chapter

NASW provides its members with a career center, professional training opportunities, legislative advocacy, and more.

Michigan Association of School Social Workers

MASSW offers an annual conference, networking opportunities, and professional development to its members.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I work in the field of social work in Michigan without getting a social work degree?

Yes. Michigan offers registration as an RSST with as little as two years of college. To become a licensed social worker, however, an aspiring professional must earn a BSW or MSW.

How often does my social work license have to be renewed?

Michigan requires professionals to renew their social work licenses and registrations every three years. Along with renewal, LBSWs and LMSWs must complete continuing education.

Am I required to become licensed as a limited social worker or a limited social service technician before applying for a full license?

Most candidates will apply to become LSSTs, LLBSWs, or LLMSWs to accumulate the necessary hours of experience to become a full RSST, LBSW, or LMSW. However, prospective LBSWs and LMSWs can skip this step if they complete their supervised work requirements in another state.