Michigan Social Work Licensing Requirements
Known for its abundance of natural beauty and for being an industrial hub, Michigan offers those interested in a career in social work a wealth of opportunities. Over 23,000 social workers were employed in the state in 2017 and the number of jobs in this field is expected to continue growing over the next decade.1,2 For those interested in becoming employed as social workers in Michigan, it’s important to understand the different tiers of licensure and education. Social work licensure in the state is regulated by the Michigan Board of Social Work, which offers multiple levels of credentialing that you can pursue to achieve a successful career in social work. Read on to learn more about these credentials and their requirements.
How to Become a Social Worker in Michigan
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). However, the state also offers the option of becoming registered as a social work technician, which requires either an accredited associate’s degree or two years of Board-approved supervised experience or training in social work.
Associate of Social Work (ASW)
Earning an associate’s degree in social work from a regionally-accredited program will make you eligible for registration in Michigan as a Social Service Technician (RSST), a credential that allows individuals to provide some services under the supervision of licensed social workers. Associate’s degrees in social work 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 (BSW)
A bachelor’s degree in social work 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 December 2018, Michigan is home to 22 BSW programs that are accredited by the CSWE.
Master of Social Work (MSW)
An MSW, or a master’s degree in social work, can provide even more job opportunities than a BSW. With an MSW in the state of Michigan, you can become licensed as a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) with either a macro or clinical designation (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 has accredited 11 MSW programs in Michigan as of December 2018.
Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Michigan
Based on the career path you choose to target, Michigan offers future social workers multiple points of entry into the industry. Outlined below are the three tiers of social work registration and licensure in the state of Michigan: the Registered Social Service Technician (RSST), Licensed Bachelor’s Social Worker (LBSW), and Licensed Master’s Social Worker (LMSW) credentials. No matter which level best suits your goals, all positions are registered with the Michigan Board of Social Work.
Registered Social Service Technician (RSST)
Registered Social Service Technicians (RSSTs) in Michigan are eligible to provide some basic social work services (e.g., client interviews, administration of some assessment tools) under the supervision of a licensed social worker. To be eligible for this credential, you must have completed two years of college that included coursework in human services or hold an associate’s degree in social work from a regionally accredited school. You must also either be currently employed 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 a Limited Social Service Technician (LSST) before applying to become an RSST. To become an LSST, submit an application to the Board. You will also need to include a form verifying your employment in social work and a form certifying you have met the educational requirements. As of December 2018, the fee for the LSST application is $42.40. The Board will also send instructions for completing a criminal background check after they have received your application.
Once you have been registered with the Board as an LSST, you can begin accruing the 2,000 hours of supervised social work experience that is required to become an RSST. During this time, you must be supervised by either an LBSW or an LMSW. When you apply to become an RSST, your 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 submit an application to the Board. If you are an LSST, you can apply to upgrade to an RSST by submitting a reclassification form and (as of December 2018) a fee of $15.90.
If you are applying to become an RSST but did not need to gain experience as an LSST first, you will apply using the Board’s application form. As of December 2018, the fee for this application is $42.40. You will need to provide supplemental documentation verifying your education and work experience. If the Board has not previously conducted a criminal background check on you, they will send you instructions for completing this after they receive your application.
Wait for the Board to notify you that your application is accepted.
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 notified you that your RSST registration has been issued, you can begin practicing under this credential.
Licensed Bachelor’s Social Worker (LBSW)
To become a Licensed Bachelor’s Social Worker (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. Submit an application for a limited LBSW license (if completing supervised experience in Michigan).
Before you are eligible to receive an LBSW license, you must complete a certain amount of supervised social work experience (see Step 2 below). If you plan to obtain this experience in Michigan, you must first apply for a limited LBSW license (LLBSW). For this, complete the Board’s application form and have your BSW transcript sent to the Board. After the Board has received your application, they will send you instructions for completing a criminal background check if you have not previously completed one. As of December 2018, the fee for applying to become an LLBSW is $42.40.
Note that if you are earning your supervised hours outside of Michigan, you do not need to apply to become an LLBSW in Michigan and can skip this step.
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 be working between 16 and 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. When you are applying for your LBSW license, these supervised hours will need to be documented on a verification form.
3. Pass the ASWB Bachelor’s exam.
After the Board has approved your LLBSW application, they will also give you permission to take the ASWB Bachelor’s exam. You can take this at any time before applying for full LBSW licensure, including while you are still completing your supervised work experience. As of December 2018, 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 you have completed the required 4,000 hours of work experience and passed 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 December 2018, 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 December 2018) an application fee of $42.40. You must also request that your school send the transcript of your BSW to the Board.
If you completed the ASWB Bachelor’s exam with the permission of another state’s board of social work, request that the scores be transferred to the Michigan Board. Note that 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 successfully complete the exam before your LBSW license is issued.
5. Receive your LBSW license from the Board.
The scores from the ASWB Bachelor’s exam will be sent to the Board within about two weeks of your test date. Once the Board has reviewed your application and determined that you have successfully met the requirements for an LBSW license, they notify you that it has been issued. After this, you can begin practicing as an LBSW.
Licensed Master’s Social Worker (LMSW)
In Michigan, Licensed Master’s Social Workers (LMSWs) must hold a master’s degree from a CSWE-accredited program. LMSW licenses in Michigan are split into two specialized fields, Macro and Clinical. These designations indicate the types of services licensees are qualified to perform. An LMSW with a Macro designation is licensed to perform primarily administrative tasks such as program evaluation and training, while an LMSW with a Clinical designation is qualified to provide clinical services such as diagnosis and psychotherapy. Note that once you hold an LMSW with one of these designations, you can apply to earn the other one (after completing an additional year of supervised experience), which will allow you to provide the entire range of LMSW services. Below are the steps for earning an LMSW with either designation.
1. Submit an application for a limited LMSW license (if completing your supervised experience in Michigan).
All Michigan LMSW candidates must complete supervised work experience before becoming licensed (see Step 2 below). If you are planning to earn these hours in Michigan, you must first apply for a limited LMSW license (LLMSW). To do this, submit an application form and request that your school send your MSW transcript to the Board. As of December 2018, the fee for an LLMSW license is $42.40 and 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 and can skip this step.
2. Complete 4,000 hours of supervised social work experience.
After your LLMSW license has been issued (if required), you can begin completing your post-master’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 (Macro or Clinical) that you plan to seek with your full license. During this time, you must be working between 16 and 40 hours per week and must receive at least two hours of in-person individual supervision each month. No more than 2,000 hours of experience can be accrued each calendar year, so it will take a minimum of two years to complete your supervised experience. Your supervisors must document that you have completed 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 give you permission to take the ASWB licensing exam that corresponds with the designation that you are seeking. Macro applicants need to take the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam, while Clinical applicants need to take the Clinical exam. As of December 2018, 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 have passed the ASWB licensing exam, you can submit an application 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. As of December 2018, the fee for this application is $15.90.
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 December 2018, the LMSW application fee is $42.40. In addition to completing this form, you must have your school send your MSW transcript to the Michigan Board. You will also be asked to submit to a criminal background check after your application has been reviewed.
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. If you have not already taken the exam, you will receive permission from the Board after they have reviewed your LMSW application and you must pass the exam before your license can be issued.
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 informed you that your license has been granted, you can begin practicing under the scope of the Macro or Clinical designation that your license carries.
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. The fee for this application is $42.40 (as of December 2018).
Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information
All permanent social work registrations and licenses must be renewed every three years. Additionally, Michigan requires all LBSWs and LMSWs to complete 45 hours of continuing education (CE) during each three-year renewal period. Five of the 45 required CE hours must be in ethics and one hour must be in pain and pain symptom management. At least half of the required CE hours must be earned through in-person activities (i.e., not online or through home study). The Michigan Social Work CE Collaborative is a helpful resource for understanding the Board’s CE requirements and finding qualifying activities.
LSSTs, RSSTs, LLBSWs, and LLMSWs are not required to complete continuing education activities. However, RSST credentials must be renewed every three years. All limited licenses and registrations are intended to be temporary and do not follow the three-year renewal cycle of permanent credentials; however, you can submit a renewal request to the Board if you need a longer period of time to complete the requirements for full licensure or registration.
Michigan Social Work Jobs and Salary Information
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 23,090 social workers employed in the state of Michigan in 2017.1 The majority of social workers in Michigan were employed in the field of child, family, and school social work (13,450).1 In 2017, the average annual salary for social workers in Michigan (across all fields of social work) was $54,395.1
According to Projections Central, Michigan is expecting an increase in all four areas of social work between 2016 and 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).2
|Type||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Child, Family, and School Social Workers||13,450||$49,190|
|Healthcare Social Workers||5,270||$56,500|
|Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers||3,600||$50,650|
|Social Workers, All Other||770||$61,240|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.1
Social Work Associations in Michigan
- The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Michigan Chapter: Offers its members 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 for its members.
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 two years of college. 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 complete a certain amount of continuing education (CE).
Question: Am I required to become licensed as a Limited Social Worker or a Limited Social Service Technician before applying for a full license?
Answer: Most candidates will apply to become an LSST, LLBSW, or LLMSW in order to accumulate the hours of experience needed to become a full RSST, LBSW, or LMSW. However, prospective LBSWs and LMSWs can skip this step if they are completing their supervised work requirements in another state.
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Michigan: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_mi.htm
2. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm