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Mississippi Social Work Licensing Requirements

The beautiful Deep South “Magnolia State” of Mississippi is a land of farming and fishing (and shrimping) and home to the major waterways of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. The state has a rural atmosphere but also major cities, such as Jackson and Biloxi. Mississippi is home to about three million residents, who enjoy a low cost of living.1 It is also a state where aspiring and current social workers may decide to launch or continue their careers.

How to Become a Social Worker in Mississippi

In Mississippi, the State Board of Examiners for Social Workers and Marriage & Family Therapists (the “Board”) is the agency that licenses all social workers. In considering social worker jobs in Mississippi, there are three different types of social worker licenses, including the licensed social worker (LSW), the licensed master social worker (LMSW), and the licensed certified social worker (LCSW).

Educational Paths

Individuals wishing to become licensed social workers in Mississippi must obtain at least a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW), and some licenses require an advanced education, such as a master’s degree. A bachelor’s degree in social work is required to qualify for the licensed bachelor of social work license (LBSW), and a master’s degree or doctorate in social work is required to be eligible for the licensed master social worker (LMSW) or the licensed certified social worker (LCSW) license.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

Social work candidates in Mississippi for the licensed social worker (LSW) credential must have received a bachelor’s degree in social work from a college accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Social work students working toward their bachelor’s degree take a wide variety of classes in sociology, psychology, economics, and many other courses. In addition, the social work student performs fieldwork to gain practical experience in the social work career field. Eleven colleges in Mississippi that offer a BSW are accredited by the CSWE as of December 2015, including the following: Alcorn State, Belhaven University, Delta State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi College, Mississippi State University-Meridian, Mississippi State University-Starkville, Mississippi Valley State University, Rust College, the University of Mississippi, and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Mississippi candidates for the licensed master social worker (LMSW) or the licensed certified social worker (LCSW) credentials must have received a master’s in social work from a program accredited by the CSWE. Some individuals obtain a doctorate in social work and they are also eligible to apply for licensure in Mississippi. Programs that offer an MSW provide advanced courses in human behavior, substance abuse and addiction, diversity in social work, and many other courses. In addition, MSW candidates receive fieldwork experience in social work. Four universities in Mississippi offer master’s of social work programs that are accredited by the CSWE as of December 2015, including Jackson State University, Mississippi Valley State University, the University of Mississippi, and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Mississippi

There are specific paths leading to becoming a licensed social worker in Mississippi, although the steps may vary somewhat with the license that is sought. However, each licensed social worker candidate in Mississippi must pay an initial application fee and be fingerprinted. All candidates must have a degree in social work, be at least 21 years of age, and they must pass the relevant Association of Social Work Board (ASWB) examination before receiving their license from the Board. To learn more about the ASWB exam, it’s a good idea for candidates to read the ASWB Examination Candidate Handbook. The November 2015 edition is available at this site: https://www.aswb.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Candidate-Handbook.pdf.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

To become a licensed social worker, you must first have graduated from a CSWE accredited college with a bachelor’s degree in social work. The following steps are required by the Board to receive your LSW:

1. Submit your initial application to the Board.

To apply for your LSW, you will need to pay the $25 initial application processing fee, by cashier’s check or money order, along with completing the appropriate forms in the application package. Be sure to review and complete all of these forms. You will also need to include a passport-type photograph of yourself as part of your application package. You must also provide verification that you have received your BSW.

You will also be required to pay a $50 background investigation fee to the Board. The Board will send you a fingerprint card, which you then take to local law enforcement. The local police will fingerprint you and order an FBI check to determine if you have any past criminal record. They will also perform a sex offender check. Fingerprinting must occur within 180 days of your completed application.

2. Take and pass the ASWB bachelors exam.

When the Board receives your application and has verified your education and background, they will send you authorization to take the ASWB exam. The fee for this exam is $230 as of December 2015. Note that after you pass the exam, the next step is to pay your initial license fee of $70 to the Board.

3. Receive your LSW license from the Board.

Once the Board has been forwarded your ASWB exam results and has received your initial license fee, you will be approved to practice as an LSW in the state.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

The licensed master social worker must have obtained an MSW or a doctoral degree in social work from a CSWE accredited institution and also have completed all the licensure requirements of the Board. Prospective LMSWs must take the following steps in order to become licensed:

1. Submit your initial application to the Board.

The same application package is used for all three types of licensure in Mississippi and the initial application processing fee is $25. Prepare your application and submit all supporting documentation, such as verification of your MSW and transcripts. As part of your initial application, as with the individual seeking the licensed social worker credential, you will pay a $50 background investigation fee to the Board, and they will send you the fingerprint card. As soon as you receive this card, you need to take it to local law enforcement so they can process you for a background check.

2. Take and pass the ASWB masters exam.

The Board will notify you when you are cleared to take the intermediate level ASWB exam. When the Board notifies you, you will schedule, take, and pass this exam. Within two weeks, the ASWB will forward your official scores to the Board for review. As of December 2015, the fee for the master’s level exam was $230. After you pass your exam, you will pay the initial license fee of $100 to the Board.

3. Receive your LMSW from the Board.

After the above steps have been completed and verified, your initial license fee has bee received, and your application has been fully vetted, the Board will approve your LMSW license.

Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW)

Licensed certified social workers are the only type of social workers in Mississippi who may practice social work independently. This category of license requires an MSW or a doctoral degree from an institution accredited by the CSWE. In addition, it also requires a favorable background check, a passing score on the ASWB exam, and two years supervised experience in social work. To obtain your LCSW, you need to comply with the following steps:

1. Acquire the mandated two years of experience.

Before becoming licensed, as an LMSW, every candidate will need to complete two years of practice at the LCSW level. You can read more about the supervision requirements here. You must provide verification that you have completed 1,000 hours of face-to-face client contact during this time. In addition, you must receive 100 hours of direct supervision during those two years. Every six months, you must submit a supervision evaluation form signed by the individual(s) who supervised you. Along with the final evaluation forms, three form letters of reference from professionals must also be submitted.

2. Apply for your license.

The next step in applying for your LISW is to apply for your license. You will need to pay the initial application fee of $25, provide the Board with verification of your MSW, and pay the $50 processing fee for a fingerprint card. You will be instructed to take this card to local law enforcement, where you will be fingerprinted and checked to make sure you do not have a criminal record, nor are you on the sex offender registry.

3. Take and pass the ASWB advanced generalist or clinical exam.

You will receive permission from the Board that you are approved to take the ASWB exam after you have completed your two years of clinical experience and submitted all relevant documentation. Once approved, you will register to take your choice of the ASWB advanced generalist or clinical level exam. Your scores will be forwarded to the Board within two weeks of taking it. The fee as of December 2015 was $260. After you pass the exam, you will then pay the $100 initial license fee to the Board.

4. Receive your LCSW license.

Once the Board verifies your eligibility and your completion of all requirements, you will receive your LCSW license.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Mississippi

For licensed individuals from other states who are interested in social worker jobs in Mississippi, the state does have a reciprocity policy. Interested individuals should submit their initial application for reciprocity to the Board with the $25 processing fee (as of December 2015). In addition, they will pay an initial license fee of $70, as well as $50 for the fingerprint card and background check fee. The Board offers a reciprocity checklist here.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Social work licenses are good for two years in Mississippi. License renewals may be applied for online. As of December 2015, renewal fees are $70 for the LSW, and $100 each for the LMSW and the LCSW. The Board also requires all individuals with social work jobs in Mississippi to complete 40 hours of continuing education every two years. This 40 hours must include four hours of ethics and two hours of cultural diversity. Twenty hours may be received in online continuing education programs that are self-study or home-study. All continuing education credits must be pre-approved by the Board. Check the Board’s website for the list of designated providers.

Mississippi Social Work Jobs and Salary Information

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were 5,910 social workers employed in Mississippi in 2014, and the greatest number of social workers (2,720) were child, family, and school social workers.2 The average annual pay rate for social workers in Mississippi was $40,168, although there was a wide disparity in pay rates, depending on the type of social worker.2 The highest paid category was in the “other social workers” category, and these individuals earned $47,700 in 2014. The lowest paid category of social workers fell in the child, family, and school social worker category, or $34,190.2

According to Projections Central in their predictions for social worker jobs in Mississippi in 2022, the greatest projected increase will occur among healthcare social workers: a 20.7% anticipated increase.3 However, job rates for mental health and substance abuse social workers (15.3%) and child, family, and school social workers (14.0%) are anticipated to be lower than the predicted national average of about 19%.3

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers2,720$34,190
Healthcare Social Workers1,900$44,390
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers790$34,350
Social Workers, All Other500$47,700

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.

Social Work Associations in Mississippi

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: May social work students in Mississippi in their last semester of the BSW take the ASWB exam before graduation?

Answer: Yes. Students wishing to take the exam in their last 30-60 days of school may pay $25 to the Board and submit the fee and their application to the Board for approval to sit for the exam. After graduation, verification of graduation is submitted to the Board.

Question: May social workers in Mississippi who receive a licensed master social work (LMSW) license operate independently?

Answer: No. Only licensed certified social workers (LCSWs) may operate independently in Mississippi.

Question: How many hours of clinical experience is required for the licensed certified social worker (LCSW) license?

Answer: One thousand hours of face-to-face clinical experience, as verified by supervisors, is required for this license.

References:
1. The Cheat Sheet, “The 10 Least Expensive States to Live:” http://www.cheatsheet.com/culture/the-least-expensive-states-to-live-in-the-us.html/
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Mississippi: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ms.htm#21-0000
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm