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Missouri Social Work Licensing Requirements

Missouri has a population of over 6 million people and has the second-highest concentration of healthcare social work jobs in the US.1,2 If you are interested in becoming a social worker in Missouri, you will need to understand the requirements for the job and the various licenses offered in Missouri. Continue reading to learn more about the licenses, regulations, and guidelines overseen by the Committee for Social Workers, the governing body for social workers in the state of Missouri.

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 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 have a BSW from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). In Missouri, 16 BSW programs are currently CSWE-accredited. BSW programs introduce students to the social work profession by exposing them to human behavior, social work theory, and research courses. Most BSW programs 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, individuals must have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited college or university. Seven 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 has its own set of requirements which are described below. In Missouri, you must hold one of these licenses to use the title “social worker.”

Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)

To become a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW) in Maryland, you must have 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.

The first step in the licensure process is to 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 can complete this application up to 60 days before graduation if you would like permission to take the licensing exam (see Step 2) before that time, though you will also need to provide a letter from your program indicating your expected graduation date. 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 January 2019, 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 to 48 months, an LBSW may request permission from the Committee to engage in independent practice.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

To become a Licensed Master Social Worker (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 Maryland.

1. Submit an LMSW application to the Committee.

Up to 60 days before your MSW graduation, you can submit an 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 have your program send the Committee a copy of your MSW transcript. The fee for the LMSW application varies depending on the time of year that it is submitted.

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 January 2019. 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 will grant your LMSW license. After this point, you can begin independently providing general social work services and can provide more advanced services under supervision if you are working towards an LCSW or LAMSW license.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

LCSWs in Missouri are able to independently provide clinical social work services. To be eligible, you must have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program or a doctorate in social work. To begin the process of becoming an LCSW, you must already hold an LMSW license. Once you have an LMSW license, following the steps below will allow you 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 have completed at least 16 hours of training in supervision. Prior to obtaining the required experience, LCSW candidates must complete the Registration of Supervision form and pay a $25 fee (as of January 2019). 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 be gained 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 that will need to be filled out by your supervisor. 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.

2. Take and pass the ASWB Clinical exam.

The ASWB Clinical exam is required to become an LCSW in Missouri. You can register for the test after the Committee reviews your LCSW application and grants you approval. As of January 2019, the exam fee is $260. There are 170 multiple-choice questions on the exam, 150 of which are scored. Your results will be sent to the Committee approximately two weeks after your test date.

4. Receive your LCSW license from the Committee.

After completing the above requirements, you will 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. Once an LAMSW license is issued, it allows a social worker to practice advanced, macro-level social work (e.g., policy development, community organization) independently. LAMSWs cannot provide clinical social work services unless they are 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 have completed at least 16 hours of approved supervisor training.

2. Gain the required experience.

Once your supervision has been registered with the Committee, you can begin accruing the 3,000 hours of supervised macro social work experience required for licensure. This experience must be gained 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.

Once you have completed your supervised experience, you can submit the Application for Licensure-LCSW/LMASW to the Committee. You will also need to provide fingerprints for a background check and your supervisor will need to provide documentation that you have completed your supervised hours.

4. Pass the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam.

The ASWB Advanced Generalist exam is required to become an LAMSW in Missouri. You will be able to register for the exam once the Committee has reviewed your LAMSW application and granted you permission to test. The exam, which consists of 170 multiple-choice questions, costs $260 (as of January 2019).

5. Receive your LAMSW license from the Committee.

After completing the above requirements, you will 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 January 2019, 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

In Missouri, social workers earn an average salary of $43,813 per year.3 Over 17,000 social workers are employed in the state, many of whom work in the subfield of child, family, and school social work (8,190).3 The total number of social work jobs in Missouri is projected to increase by 19.7% between 2016 and 2026.4 Mental health and substance abuse social worker positions in Missouri are expected to see the highest rate of growth during that time period (22.0%).4 Missouri’s cost of living is 7% lower than the national average and housing costs are 19% lower; with average social worker salaries ranging from $34,710 to $57,870, Missouri is an affordable state in which to consider a social work career.3,5

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 8,190 $37,050
Healthcare Social Workers 5,350 $45,620
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 3,010 $34,710
Social Workers, All Other 610 $57,8700

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.3

Social Work Associations in Missouri

Frequently Asked Questions

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

Answer: Yes, once you complete the process outlined above to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in Missouri and the Committee issues your license, you are eligible to practice social work without any supervision.

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

Answer: Yes, as long as the supervision was registered with the Board and completed in a period of two to four years.

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

Answer: 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.

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

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

References:
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Missouri: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/mo
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Healthcare Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_tn.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Missouri: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_mo.htm
4. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
5. Sperling’s Best Places, Missouri: https://www.bestplaces.net/cost_of_living/state/missouri