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Montana Social Work License Requirements

There are just over 3,000 social workers in Montana, serving the state’s approximately one million residents.1,2 Although Montana does not offer licenses for non-clinical social workers, you will need to become licensed by the Board of Behavioral Health if you want to practice clinical social work. Continue reading to learn about the educational paths to a social work career, the requirements to earn a clinical social work license in Montana, and job and salary data for social workers in the state.

How to Become a Social Worker in Montana

Educational Paths

If you are hoping to practice non-clinical social work in Montana, you do not have to hold a license and state law does not require you to hold a social work degree. However, employers commonly prefer candidates who hold a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW). To work in clinical social work in Montana, you must become licensed, which requires at least a master’s degree in social work (MSW). See the sections below for more information about both of these degrees.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) will signal to potential employers that you have received training in non-clinical social work. Some employers will require you to hold a BSW from a program that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). As of February 2019, there were two CSWE-accredited BSW programs in Montana. BSW programs prepare undergraduates for professional social work practice through classroom lectures and a field practicum. Individuals with BSWs will take courses in human behavior and the social environment, social welfare policy, research, and social work practice. Social workers with BSWs may work as case managers, advocacy specialists, or program administrators. Although Montana does not provide licenses for bachelor’s-level social workers, most other states do. If you are considering working in another state in the future, you will likely need at least a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program to practice social work.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

In Montana, you must have at least a master’s in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited program to become licensed as a clinical social worker. As of February 2019, there was one CSWE-accredited MSW program in Montana; however, an accredited MSW from any state can be used for Montana licensure. CSWE-accredited MSW programs typically have the same core curriculum, but each school may have a specific area of focus or provide different electives. Most MSW programs offer “advanced standing” to students who hold a BSW, allowing them to complete the MSW program in one year instead of the two years it generally takes. An MSW is considered the terminal degree in Montana, meaning you will have the highest level of education necessary to perform most social work jobs in the state.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Montana

Licensure is not required (or offered) for social workers practicing non-clinical social work in Montana. However, if you wish to practice clinical social work in Montana, you must hold a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) credential from the Board. Below are the steps to earning an LCSW license.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

The Board’s Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) credential allows a social worker to diagnose and treat emotional and behavioral disorders. To become an LCSW in Montana, you must hold an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program or a doctorate in social work (DSW). Once you meet the education requirement, you can complete the steps below to become licensed.

1. Submit a Social Worker License Candidate (SWLC) application.

To earn an LCSW license, you will need to earn supervised clinical experience (see Step 2). Before you can begin accruing hours for this experience, you must become a Social Worker License Candidate (SWLC). To earn this license, submit an application through the Board’s online portal or complete the application form and mail it to the Board. You will be required to provide three professional references, fingerprints for a criminal background check, a Supervision Agreement form, a Training and Supervision Plan, and an official transcript. As of February 2019, there is a $200 fee for this application that will also cover your later LCSW application. You must pay an additional $30 for the background check.

2. Gain the required experience.

After the Board has granted your SWLC license, you can begin accruing clinical experience under the supervision of a licensed behavioral health provider such as an LCSW, marriage and family therapist, professional counselor, or psychologist. Your supervisor must have been licensed for at least three years or have completed training in clinical supervision. You will need to complete a total of 3,000 supervised hours (at least 1,500 of which must be in direct contact with clients) in a period of no fewer than two and no more than five years. You must receive at least 100 total hours of supervision during this time, with at least 10 of these hours consisting of your supervisor’s direct observation of your practice.

3. Submit an LCSW application.

After you have completed the required supervised experience, you must apply for an LCSW license. This can be done through the Board’s online portal or by mailing in the application form. As part of this application, your supervisor(s) must provide verification of your supervised experience. You do not need to pay another application fee at this stage.

4. Pass the ASWB Clinical exam.

LCSW applicants must pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Clinical exam to become licensed. The exam costs $260 (as of February 2019) and includes 170 multiple-choice questions about the clinical practice of social work. You must wait to receive permission from the Board before registering for the exam. The ASWB will send your scores to the Board shortly after your test date.

5. Receive your LCSW license.

After the ASWB notifies the Board that you have passed the clinical exam, you will be eligible to receive your license. Once your license has been issued, you can begin practicing clinical social work in Montana without supervision. After three years or completion of Board-approved training in supervision, you can also supervise SWLCs and other behavioral health candidate licensees.

Social Work Licensure by Endorsement in Montana

The Board offers licensure by endorsement to candidates who are licensed as clinical social workers in other states under qualifications equivalent to Montana’s and have been practicing for at least two years. To apply, complete an application through the online portal or mail an application form to the Board. In addition to the information required from all applicants, you will need to provide verification of your current license, past ASWB Clinical exam scores, and documentation of having completed 3,000 hours of supervised experience. The LCSW application fee is $200 (as of February 2019) and there is an additional $30 fee for the required criminal background check. The Board may issue a temporary license to an endorsement applicant after an initial review of their application that allows them to practice until the application has been fully processed and a license has been issued.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Montana SWLCs and LCSWs must renew their licenses every year by December 31. SWLCs are not required to complete any continuing education (CE) for renewal, but LCSWs must complete 20 hours during each renewal period. Up to 10 CE hours can be earned from activities such as preparing manuscripts or presentations. Renewals can be completed through the online portal or by submitting the renewal form for your license. As of February 2019, renewal fees are $100 for SWLCs and $175 for LCSWs.

Montana Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

As of May 2017, there were 3,070 social workers in Montana; the majority (1,430) worked in child, family, and school social work.2 The average social work salary in Montana is $40,905, and healthcare social workers in the state earn the highest average income ($48,620).2 Montana also has the highest concentration in the country of social work jobs in the “all other” category.3 Social work jobs in Montana are projected to increase by a total of 15.5% between 2016 and 2026, with the highest growth expected in the subfield of healthcare social work (20.3%).4

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 1,430 $35,940
Healthcare Social Workers 550 $48,620
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 430 $36,720
Social Workers, All Other 660 $42,340

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2

Social Work Associations in Montana

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can I begin practicing independently once I become registered as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker?

Answer: Yes, once you are issued an LCSW license, you may begin practicing clinical social work independently.

Question: For the 3,000 hours of work experience required, can I count experience I gained years ago?

Answer: It depends when you completed the experience. The 3,000 hours must have been earned in the five years before your LCSW application.

Question: What kinds of qualifications are required of the person supervising my experience?

Answer: Your supervisor must be an LCSW or other licensed and independent mental health provider such as a marriage and family therapist, licensed professional counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. They must have at least three years of post-licensure work experience or have completed Board-approved training in clinical supervision.

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

Answer: Because a license is not required for the practice of non-clinical social work in Montana, there is no minimum educational requirement; however, a bachelor of social work (BSW) may be required by some employers. You need a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited program to become licensed as an LCSW and practice clinical social work in the state.

References:
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Montana: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/mt
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Montana: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_mt.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Social Workers, All Other: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211029.htm
4. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm