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Missouri Social Work Licensing Requirements

By SocialWorkGuide.org Staff

As of 2019, Missouri boasts a population of 6.1 million people. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 2.8 million residents work in the state, many employed in office and administrative support jobs. While the state's economic growth rate ranks below the national average, careers for social workers in the state continue to thrive. The BLS projects a positive outlook for social work professionals between 2016 and 2028. Projected growth for child, family, and school social workers, for example, is more than twice the national average, or 14%.

In this guide, we provide detailed information on education and licensure requirements for social workers in Missouri. Degree-seekers and prospective social workers can use this information to find the most economical and practical route to a career in the field. All information included in this guide comes from the Committee for Social Workers, the governing body for social workers in Missouri.

In This Article

How to Become a Social Worker in Missouri

Educational Paths

The Missouri Committee for Social Workers offers four different licenses for social workers. The minimum education requirement to become a licensed social worker is a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW), while advanced licenses require a master's degree in social work (MSW). The following guide details the different education options for individuals seeking licensure as social workers.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

To receive a licensed baccalaureate social worker (LBSW) license in Missouri, you must hold a BSW from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). In Missouri, 22 BSW programs currently hold CSWE accreditation. BSW programs introduce students to the social work profession by exposing them to human behavior, social work theory, and research courses. Most BSW programs also require field practice, which allows students to gain hands-on social work experience.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

To practice advanced social work under a licensed master social worker, licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), or licensed advanced master social worker license in Missouri, you must possess an MSW from a CSWE-accredited college or university. Twelve universities and colleges in Missouri offer CSWE-accredited MSW programs. Most MSW programs offer advanced standing to students who already possess a BSW, enabling them to complete the graduate program in one year as opposed to the two years it normally takes.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Missouri

The Missouri Committee for Social Workers issues four licenses: the licensed baccalaureate social worker (LBSW), licensed master social worker (LMSW), licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), and licensed advanced macro social worker (LAMSW). Each license carries its own set of requirements, as described below. In Missouri, you must hold one of these licenses to use the title "social worker."

Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)

To become an LBSW in Missouri, you must possess a bachelor's degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program. An LBSW license initially allows a social worker to practice general, non-clinical social work under the supervision of a more advanced social worker. After a certain amount of experience, however, an LBSW can request permission from the committee to practice independently. After meeting the educational requirement for an LBSW license, you can pursue licensure by following the steps below.

  • 1. Submit an LBSW Application to the Committee.

    As the first step in the licensure process, you must complete the Application for Licensure-LBSW/LMSW and submit it to the committee. As part of the application process, you must request that your college or university send an official transcript to the committee to verify your BSW. The application forms include instructions for completing the required background check. You must also provide a letter from your program indicating that you are on track to graduate in time, a passing score from the ASWB examination (see step two), and proof that you have completed two hours of suicide prevention training. The fee for the LBSW application varies based on the time of year it is submitted.

  • 2. Pass the ASWB Bachelor's Exam.

    LBSW candidates must pass the 170-question ASWB bachelor's exam before becoming licensed. You can register for this test once the committee processes your LBSW application and notifies the ASWB that you can take the exam. As of July 2020, the registration fee for the exam is $230.

  • 3. Receive your LBSW License from the Committee.

    After satisfying the requirements outlined above, you can receive your LBSW license and begin working under supervision. After completing 3,000 hours of supervised experience within a period of 24-48 months, an LBSW may request permission from the committee to engage in independent practice.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

To become an LMSW, you must possess an MSW from a program accredited by the CSWE. An LMSW license allows a social worker to practice general, master's-level social work independently. It also allows a social worker to earn the supervised experience needed for an LCSW license. The following steps outline the procedure for earning an LMSW license in Missouri.

  • 1. Submit an LMSW Application to the Committee.

    Up to 60 days before your MSW graduation, you can submit the Application for Licensure-LBSW/LMSW to the committee. The application includes instructions for completing the criminal background check required for licensure, and you must also arrange for your program to send the committee a copy of your MSW transcript. The fee for the LMSW application varies depending on the time of year.

  • 2. Pass the ASWB Master's Exam.

    To receive an LMSW license, you must pass the ASWB Master's Exam, a 170-item test on the master's-level practice of social work. The fee for this exam is $230 as of July 2020. You cannot register for the master's exam until the board reviews your LMSW application and notifies you that you are eligible for the test.

  • 3. Receive your LMSW License from the Committee.

    After you have submitted all the required application materials and passed the ASWB master's exam, the committee grants your LMSW license. After this point, you can begin independently providing general social work services and more advanced practice under supervision if working towards an LCSW or LAMSW license.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

LCSWs in Missouri may independently provide clinical social work services. To be eligible, you must hold an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program or a doctorate in social work. To begin the process of becoming an LCSW, you must already possess an LMSW license. Once you hold an LMSW license, follow the steps below to become licensed as an LCSW.

  • 1. Register for Supervision.

    To become an LCSW, you must complete a certain amount of clinical experience under a committee-approved supervisor. Supervisors must be LCSWs who have been practicing for at least five years and hold at least 16 hours of completed training in supervision. Prior to obtaining the required experience, LCSW candidates must complete the Registration of Supervision form and pay a fee. The committee provides a listing of qualified supervisors who have already been approved.

  • 2. Gain the Required Experience.

    Aspiring LCSWs must complete 3,000 hours of supervised clinical social work experience as an LMSW. This experience must take place in no less than two but no more than four years to count towards licensure. During this time, you must receive at least two hours of individual supervision every two weeks. If you change supervisors, you must register a new plan with the committee and receive approval before working under your new supervisor.

  • 3. Submit an LCSW Application to the Committee.

    LCSW candidates must complete the Application for Licensure-LCSW/LMASW and submit it to the committee. This form contains instructions for completing the required background check and also includes a form for your supervisor to fill out. If you would like to take the required licensure exam before finishing your supervised hours, you can submit this application once you have completed 2,250 hours in an 18-month period.

  • 4. Take and Pass the ASWB Clinical exam.

    Missouri requires the ASWB clinical exam to become an LCSW. You can register for the test after the committee reviews your LCSW application and grants you approval. As of July 2020, the exam fee is $260. The exam contains 170 multiple-choice questions, 150 of which are scored. Your results will be sent to the committee approximately two weeks after your test date.

  • 5. Receive your LCSW License from the Committee.

    After completing the above requirements, you receive your Missouri LCSW license. LCSWs may practice clinical social work independently immediately after becoming approved by the committee.

Licensed Advanced Macro Social Worker (LAMSW)

The process for becoming an LAMSW is similar to the LCSW licensure process. All LAMSW candidates must first obtain an LMSW license and complete a certain amount of supervised experience under this license. A social worker with an LAMSW license may practice advanced, macro-level social work (e.g., policy development, community organization) independently. LAMSWs cannot provide clinical social work services unless supervised by an LCSW. Below are the steps to obtaining an LAMSW license once you are an LMSW.

  • 1. Register for Supervision.

    Supervised work experience is required to become licensed as an LAMSW. Before beginning to accrue this experience, however, you must register your supervision with the committee. Supervisors may be either LAMSWs or LCSWs who have been licensed and practicing for at least five years and who hold at least 16 hours of approved supervisor training.

  • 2. Gain the Required Experience.

    After registering your supervision with the committee, you can begin accruing the 3,000 hours of supervised macro social work experience required for licensure. You must complete this experience in no less than two but no more than four years. During this time, you must receive two hours of individual supervision every two weeks from your committee-approved supervisor.

  • 3. Submit an LAMSW Application to the Committee.

    After completing your supervised experience, you can submit the Application for Licensure-LCSW/LAMSW to the committee. You must provide fingerprints for a background check and your supervisor must provide documentation that you have completed your supervised hours.

  • 4. Pass the ASWB Advanced Generalist Exam.

    Missouri requires a passing score on the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam to become an LAMSW. You may register for the exam after the committee reviews your LAMSW application and grants you permission to test. The exam, which consists of 170 multiple-choice questions, costs $260 as of July 2020.

  • 5. Receive your LAMSW License from the Committee.

    After completing the above requirements, you receive your LAMSW license. LAMSWs may practice non-clinical social work independently after becoming licensed, but can only practice clinical social work under the supervision of a committee-approved LCSW.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Missouri

Missouri offers licensure by reciprocity for social workers licensed in other states who meet the criteria for one of the Missouri social work licenses. To be eligible, you must have been licensed in your current state for at least five years with no disciplinary actions against you. To apply, complete the Application for Licensure by Reciprocity and provide the required supplemental documentation (e.g, ASWB exam scores, verification of current license). As of July 2020, the fee for applying for licensure by reciprocity is $60.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Missouri social workers must renew their licenses every two years. During each renewal period, licensed social workers must complete 30 hours of continuing education (CE) activities. Three of these hours must be in professional ethics and two must be in suicide prevention. In addition to organized CE activities, social workers can also earn hours through self-directed activities, such as publishing academic works or giving presentations. For more information about the committee's CE requirements, see their continuing education guidelines document.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Missouri Chapter provides a listing of continuing education opportunities available in different areas of the state, along with opportunities at national conferences.

Missouri Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

The BLS reports that as of May 2019, social workers in Missouri make an annual mean wage of $46,843, which is $7,033 more than the annual mean wage for all other occupations in the United States. Salaries for social workers in Missouri vary among locations, with Kansas City's professionals earning the most per year at $66,780. On the lower end, social workers in the North Missouri nonmetropolitan area make $36,970.

Those social workers earning the most across the state fall under the "social workers, all other" category, with an average annual salary of $60,770. The highest earners in this category typically work in local and state government positions.

Missouri's cost of living ranks as the sixth lowest in the U.S., based on 2020 statistics. With an annual mean wage of $47,820 for all occupations in Missouri, social workers can expect to live comfortably in the state.

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 8,090 $38,170
Healthcare Social Workers 6,230 $47,380
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 6,230 $41,050
Social Workers, All Other 620 $60,770

Data from the BLS as of May 2019

Social Work Associations in Missouri

The National Association of Social Workers, Missouri Chapter

The NASW provides continuing education opportunities and works on issues of workplace safety, compensation, and education debt relief in Missouri.

School Social Workers Association of Missouri

SSWAM provides professional development and networking opportunities for social workers in education.

The Missouri Society for Clinical Social Work

The MSCSW promotes the development of Missouri clinical social workers by offering professional development opportunities, advocating for the field, and connecting members.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I begin practicing independently once I become registered as an Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)?

Yes, once you complete the process outlined above to become an LCSW in Missouri and the committee issues your license, you qualify to practice social work without any supervision.

For the 3,000 hours of work experience required for licensure as an LAMSW or LCSW, can I count experience I gained years ago?

Yes, as long as the supervision was registered with the board and completed in a period of 2-4 years.

What kinds of qualifications are required of the person supervising my experience for LAMSW or LCSW licensure?

Supervisors may be either LAMSWs or LCSWs who have practiced at that level for at least five years and completed at least 16 hours of approved supervisor training. Only LCSWs may supervise social workers applying for their LCSW license.

What kind of degree do I need to practice social work in Missouri?

To practice social work in Missouri, you need either a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) or a master's degree in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited school.