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Michigan Social Work Licensing Requirements

Known as a state synonymous with industry and abundance of natural beauty, it’s no surprise Michigan offers those interested in a career in health services a wealth of opportunity.1 For those interested in social work services, it’s important for you to to understand the different tiers of licensure and education. Regulated by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) state Board (the Board), the Great Lakes State offers various levels for you to achieve a successful career in social work.

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 two technician designations–a limited social service technician and a social service technician, and these require as little as two years of college in any subject or one year of experience in the field of social work.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

A bachelor’s degree in social work is usually the first step for becoming a social worker, and it is the minimum degree required to be considered a licensed social worker in the state of Michigan. BSWs are typically four-year degrees that 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 are also typical for students pursuing their BSW. Most BSW programs will also include a field placement component so that students can get an idea of what it is like to work in a real-world social work position. As of October 2015, Michigan has 22 BSW programs that are currently accredited by the CSWE.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

An MSW, or a master’s degree in social work, is considered the terminal degree for the field. With an MSW in the state of Michigan, you can become a licensed master social worker, either macro or clinical (read below to find out more about these levels). MSW programs usually take two years of full-time study to complete, but with a BSW you may be eligible for advanced standing, which can shorten the duration of study to one year. MSW programs involve a deeper dive into the field and involve a combination of academic study and fieldwork. The CSWE had accredited nine master’s in social work degrees in Michigan as of October 2015.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Michigan

Based on the career path you choose to target, Michigan offers its future social workers multiple points of entry into the industry. Outlined below are the four tiers of social work in the state of Michigan. The types of social worker license in Michigan are limited social service technician (LSST), registered social service technician, licensed bachelor’s social worker (LBSW), and licensed master’s social worker. No matter what level best suits your goals, all positions are registered with the Michigan State Board.

Limited Social Service Technician (LSST)

Michigan offers various methods for an individual to build his or her way through the social work profession. With at least two years of college in any subject and current employment in the field of human or social services, you can apply to become registered as a Limited Social Service Technician (LSST). As an LSST, you will practice under the supervision of an advanced social worker (BSW or MSW). The license will last for the duration of one year and can be renewed one time for a three-year period. Earning LSST credentials is the qualifying agent for becoming a registered social services technician, discussed below. To become an LSST, you must:

  1. Complete an application along with the fee ($40 as of October 2015).
  2. Pass a criminal background check and fingerprint processing from an authorized agency.
  3. Submit an official transcript proving the completion of two years of college coursework.
  4. Submit a supervisor’s verification of social work experience form.
  5. Receive your LSST license from the Board.

Registered Social Service Technician (RSST)

To become registered as a registered social services technician (RSST) in Michigan, you must first meet the educational requirement of either:

  • Completion of a minimum of 2,000 hours of supervised work experience and current employment in human services or social services, OR
  • Completion of an associate’s degree in social work that includes at least 18 semester or 27 quarter hours of social work courses and supervised fieldwork of at least 350 hours, OR
  • Completion of at least two years of college with a minimum of 60 semester or 90 quarter hours of college-level courses, a GPA of 2.0, and the completion of at least four courses related to human services, along with current employment in human services or social services.

Since registered social service technicians have had either prior supervised experience in the field or an education including coursework in social work, they do not have to be supervised. Once you have met the above qualifications, you will need to follow the following steps to become an RSST.

  1. Complete an application along with the fee ($40 as of October 2015).
  2. Pass a criminal background check and fingerprint processing from an authorized agency.
  3. Submit the certification of education (included in the application packet) to your accredited educational institution, which will be sent by them, along with your official transcripts, to the Board.
  4. Submit a supervisor’s verification of social work experience form.
  5. If you have ever been registered in another state, submit a verification of registration/licensure form to that state’s licensing agency and returned to the Board.
  6. Receive your RSST license from the Board.

Licensed Bachelor’s Social Worker (LBSW)

If you wish to pursue a career on the bachelor level, you can apply for a limited license while working your way to a fully licensed bachelor’s social worker, considered limited licensed bachelor’s social worker (LLBSW) and LBSW respectively. A limited license is required for applicants while they earn qualifying credentials under the supervision of a licensed master’s social worker, unless they are currently endorsed in another state and are planning to apply to become an LBSW by endorsement. As of 2005, Michigan requires that all experience earned towards the LBSW must be done so under the limited license.

Applicants can expect to allocate no less than a two-year time frame to complete 4,000 hours in a supervised social work environment. If a licensed master’s social worker (LMSW) is not available in your area to supervise you, the Board is capable of approving an otherwise qualified individual. Generally, a bachelor’s social worker can expect to perform duties in the realms of social casework including case assessment, development, management, and enhancement of a client’s or community’s health and human services, as well as the building and referral of client resources. Licensed applicants must have a BSW from a CSWE accredited program. After meeting the educational requirement, prospective LLBSWs and LBSWs must:

  1. Complete an application for licensure, along with the fee ($40 as of October 2015).
  2. Pass a criminal background check and fingerprint processing from an authorized agency.
  3. Submit an official transcript proving the completion of your BSW from an accredited program.
  4. If you have ever been registered in another state, a verification of registration/licensure form must be submitted to that state’s licensing agency and returned to the Board.
  5. Submit the supervisor’s verification of social work experience form to your licensed MSW to verify the completion of the 4,000 hours of supervised experience.**
  6. Take and pass the ASWB bachelors exam given by the Association of Social Work Boards. The fee was $230 as of October 2015.
  7. Acquire the necessary experience to become a full LBSW (4,000 hours of supervised experience).*
  8. Receive LLBSW or LBSW license from the Board.

*Only LLBSW candidates
**Only LBSW candidates

Licensed Master’s Social Worker (LMSW)

Master’s social workers are individuals who have a master’s degree from a CSWE-accredited program. Master’s social workers are split into two specialized fields: macro or clinical. These designations determine which exam is needed and what type of work they will be able to perform with their license and are described in further detail below.

Like BSWs, prospective master’s social workers must first work under a limited license (limited licensed master’s social worker–LLMSW) as they gain 4,000 hours of supervised training within two years (or part-time equivalent) in a social work environment, unless they are currently endorsed in another state and are planning to apply to become an LMSW by endorsement. It is possible, after the first initial license is earned, for an MLSW to earn both macro and clinical designations. Moreover, the supervising MSW must be fully licensed (LMSW) and in good standing. Besides having an accredited MSW in social work, prospective LLMSWs and LMSWs must:

  1. Complete an application for licensure, along with the fee ($40 as of October 2015). Be sure to indicate your intended area of practice on the application, macro or clinical.
  2. Pass a criminal background check and fingerprint processing from an authorized agency.
  3. Submit final official transcripts proving the completion of your MSW from an accredited program.
  4. If you have ever been registered in another state, a verification of registration/licensure form must be submitted to that state’s licensing agency and returned to the Board.
  5. Submit the supervisor’s verification of social work experience form to your licensed MSW to verify the completion of the 4,000 hours of supervised experience.**
  6. Take and pass either the ASWB masters exam or the ASWB advanced generalist exam given by the Association of Social Work Boards. To become an LLMSW, take the master’s exam. To become a full LMSW, take the advanced generalist exam for the -macro designation or the clinical exam for the -clinical designation. The fee was $230 as of October 2015.
  7. Acquire the necessary experience to become a full LBSW (4,000 hours of supervised experience).*
  8. Receive LLMSW or LMSW license from the Board.

*Only LLMSW candidates
**Only LMSW candidates

Licensed Master’s Social Worker-Macro

An LMSW-macro can expect to perform a broad variety of community based duties including:

  • Conducting program organizing and development
  • Coordinating and evaluates programs
  • Assessing needs within the community program
  • Evaluating and develops social welfare policies
  • Promoting social justice and advocacy within the legislative system

Licensed Master’s Social Worker-Clinical

An LMSW-clinical will work in the field and provide services directly to clients. Duties may include:

  • Advocating for care
  • Providing protection and case management for high risk cases
  • Providing direction and supervision for high risk cases
  • Being a resource for psychotherapy
  • Providing education and improves client social well being

Social Work License Reciprocity in Michigan

Michigan does offer prospective LBSWs and LMSWs the opportunity to apply by endorsement if they are currently registered or endorsed and in good standing in another state. The fee as of October 2015 was $40 to apply by endorsement to be an LBSW or an LMSW. The processes to apply by endorsement are similar to the processes above. More details can be found on Michigan’s LARA website.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Under the Public Health code and State Board, Michigan requires all its LBSWs and LMSWs to undergo 45 hours of continuing education (CE) during each three-year renewal period. LSSTs, RSSTs, LLBSWs, and LLMSWs are not required to have continuing education to keep their registration or license. For LBSWs and LMSWs, however, continuing education is mandatory for license renewal, and applicable every three years for active or inactive professionals to maintain their credentials. Without continuing education, you cannot renew your license until you can provide evidence, usually in the form of certification, that you’ve undergone the standard requirements. Five of the 45 required hours must be in ethics and one hour must be in pain and pain symptom management. Students are encouraged to explore various methods of education, all of which must be approved by at least one of the following institutions:

Currently, the Michigan State Licensing Board is reviewing the method of home study and if this source of education is applicable per the law’s guidelines. Throughout all coursework, professionals are expected to cover a variety of topics. Further information on continuing education criteria can be found on the Michigan Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers website.

Michigan Social Work Jobs and Salary Information

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state of Michigan currently employs 23,570 social workers, with most of those being in the area of child, family, and school social work.4 For healthcare social workers, Michigan ranks fourth in the country for location quotient, or the highest concentration of jobs and location quotients, in the country.5

According to Projections Central, Michigan is expecting an increase in all four areas of social work through 2022, with the most notable job growth projected for healthcare social workers (16.6% increase) and mental health and substance abuse social workers (12.8% increase).6

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers12,260$46,730
Healthcare Social Workers5,890$52,640
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers4,430$44,490
Social Workers, All Other990$55,080

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.4

Social Work Associations in Michigan

Frequently Asked Questions

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

Answer: Yes, the state of Michigan offers registration as a registered social service technician (RSST) with as little as a high school degree. To become a licensed social worker, however, a BSW or MSW is required.

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

Answer: Michigan requires social work licenses and registrations to be renewed every three years. Along with renewal, LBSWs and LMSWs are required to take certain continuing education (CE) courses.

Question: Am I required to become a limited social worker or a limited social service technician before becoming a full one?

Answer: Most candidates will apply to become an LSST, LLBSW, or LLMSW in order accumulate the hours of experience needed to become a full RSST, LBSW, or LMSW. Prospective LBSWs and LMSWs can skip this step if they are transferring a license from another state and applying by endorsement.

References:
1. Association of Social Work Boards: https://www.aswb.org
2. National Association of Social Worker, Michigan Chapter: http://www.nasw-michigan.org/
3. Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs: http://www.michigan.gov/lara
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Michigan: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_mi.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014, Healthcare Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211022.htm
6. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm