Montana Social Work License Requirements

Just over 1 million people live in Montana, which has the highest concentration of social worker jobs for social workers in “other” categories.1,2 If you wish to become a clinical social worker in Montana, you must possess a license. The Montana Board of Behavioral Health administers the social work licenses in the state. Continue reading below to learn about the educational paths to becoming a social worker and the requirements to become a licensed clinical social worker.

How to Become a Social Worker in Montana

Educational Paths

Social workers in Montana must have either a bachelor’s degree in social (BSW) or master’s degree in social work (MSW) to practice in the state. An MSW is required to become a licensed clinical social worker.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

If you wish to become a social worker, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW). Most places of employment will require your undergraduate social work degree to be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). 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, social work practice, and field education. Most social workers with a BSW work as case managers, advocacy specialists, and can administer programs and activities.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

In Montana, a candidate must have a master’s in social work (MSW) to practice clinical social work. The master’s level program must be accredited by the CSWE. CSWE-accredited MSW programs typically have the same core curriculum, but each school may have a special area of focus and offer different electives. Most MSW programs offer “advanced standing” for students who hold a BSW, allowing them to complete the MSW program in one year as opposed to 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 all 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 at the bachelor’s or master’s level. If you wish to practice clinical social work, you must be licensed. The Montana Board of Health administers the clinical social work license and ensures that all standards are met for the social work license.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

Clinically licensed social workers help individuals, families, and communities work through mental and behavioral disorders using skills and methods learned through their social work education and experience. To practice clinical social work in Montana, you must possess a master’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited school or a doctorate in social work. Once you meet the education requirement, you can move to the next step in the licensure process.

1. Gain the required experience.

LCSW candidates must acquire 3,000 hours of psychotherapy or clinical social work experience in no less than two but no more than five years. LCSW candidates must have two hours of supervision for every 160 hours of experience attained; 100 hours must be individual or group supervision and 50 hours must be face-to-face supervision. Your supervisor must be an LCSW, a licensed clinical professional counselor, a licensed psychologist, or a psychiatrist and he or she must ensure that you complete 10 hours of direct observation of service delivery.

Your supervisor must submit a social work supervisory report form documenting each session of supervision as well as a social work supervision summary form (both forms are included in the application packet).

2. Submit the application.

Once you complete the required experience, you must apply for licensure from the Montana Board of Behavioral Health. Along with your application, you must submit:

  • An official transcript from your college or university
  • Two letters of professional reference from LCSWs, licensed psychologists, or licensed psychiatrists (sent directly to the Board) and one letter of reference from your current supervisor (reference letter form included in the application packet)
  • Social work supervisory report form
  • Social work supervision summary form
  • The $200 application fee*

*As of January 2016.

All clinical social workers in Montana are required to undergo a criminal background check and be fingerprinted. The Montana Board provides fingerprinting and background check instructions to candidates. In order to get fingerprinted, you must request a fingerprint jacket from the Board, pay $27.25 to the Montana Department of Justice. In order for the Montana Board of Behavioral Health to access the results of your background check, you must complete and return the authorization to release information included in the application packet.

3. Take and pass the ASWB exam.

LCSW candidates must take and pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) advanced OR clinical exam. Both exams cost $260 (as of January 2016) and include 170 multiple-choice questions. The advanced generalist exam focuses on advanced social work practice and methods whereas the clinical exam asks more questions about the clinical practice of social work. The exam may be taken three times per year but candidates must wait 90 days between each attempt. Once the candidate passes, ASWB will send the Montana Board an official score report.

4. Receive your LCSW license.

After submitting your application materials and passing the ASWB exam, it usually takes 10 to 14 days for the Board to review your application and send you a response. Once you satisfy the steps above, you will become a licensed clinical social worker in Montana and may practice social work independently.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Montana

The Montana Board of Behavioral Health does not have reciprocity with any other state, but they do offer licensure by endorsement. To apply, you must complete an application and include the supervisory experience forms or submit documentation of acquiring 3,000 hours of supervised clinical social work experience.

As an alternative, an endorsement candidate may submit proof that he or she has practiced social work continuously for two years prior to applying for licensure in Montana. Applicants using this path to licensure must submit an official transcript, three letters of reference from licensed social workers, psychologists, or psychiatrists, and they must complete a fingerprint and background check. Endorsement candidates must submit the verification of licensure form (included in the application packet) to the Montana Board. The fee for licensure by endorsement is $200 (as of January 2016).

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Clinical social workers in Montana must renew their license each year. Social work licenses expire on December 31. LCSWs must have 20 continuing education hours to renew their social work license. As of January 2016, the fee to renew was $175.

Montana Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

In Montana, 3,050 social workers are employed; most of the jobs are in the child, family, and school social worker category (1,240).2 On average, social workers in Montana earn $39,425 annually but healthcare social workers earn the highest annual average salary ($47,480). Montana has the highest concentration of social work jobs in the country for social workers in “other” categories (730).2 Social work jobs are projected to increase by a total of 15% through the year 2024, with the highest projected increase projected for healthcare social workers (at over 23%).3 Based on the growing job opportunities and the average annual salaries, social workers should consider Montana as a viable place to begin their career.

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers1,240$34,920
Healthcare Social Workers490$47,480
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers590$35,590
Social Workers, All Other730$39,710

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.2

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 meet the requirements for an LCSW, you may begin practicing clinical and nonclinical social work independently.

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

Answer: Yes. As long as the 3,000 hours of work experience was completed within two to five years.

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

Answer: Your supervisor must be an LCSW, a licensed clinical professional counselor, a licensed psychologist, or a psychiatrist.

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

Answer: Social workers need a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited school to practice clinical social work in the state.

1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Montana: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/mt
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Montana: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_mt.htm
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm