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Nebraska Social Work License Requirements

1.9 million people live in Nebraska, and the social work field in the state is projected to see continued growth between 2016 and 2026.1,2 In Nebraska, social work licenses are overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services. Although anyone in Nebraska can provide non-clinical social work services without being certified by the Department, holding a credential allows you to use the title “social worker” and may strengthen your social work job applications. Additionally, you must be licensed to practice clinical social work in the state. Continue reading to learn more about the social work certificates and licenses offered by the Department, how to obtain them, and job data for social workers in Nebraska.

How to Become a Social Worker in Nebraska

Educational Paths

To become certified or licensed as a social worker in Nebraska, you must have either a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) or a master’s degree in social work (MSW). Although there are many services a bachelor’s-level social worker can provide, earning an MSW can broaden the range of services you are permitted to offer and allow for more independent practice. The sections below provide more information about both of these degrees.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

If becoming a credentialed social worker in Nebraska is in your plans, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)-accredited program (or one that provides equivalent training). As of February 2019, there are six CSWE-accredited BSW programs in Nebraska. BSW programs prepare undergraduates for professional social work practice through classroom lectures and field practica. Individuals with BSWs will take courses in human behavior and the social environment, social welfare policy, research, and social work practice. Many social workers with BSWs work in positions such as case management or client advocacy.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

In Nebraska, a candidate must have a master’s in social work (MSW) for some levels of credentialing and to practice clinical social work. The MSW program must be accredited by the CSWE (or provide equivalent training). As of February 2019, there is one school in Nebraska that offers a CSWE-accredited MSW program; a degree from a CSWE-accredited program in another state will also be accepted by the Department for licensure. CSWE-accredited MSW programs typically share the same core curriculum, but schools may have specialty areas or varying electives. Most MSW programs offer “advanced standing” for students who hold a BSW, which can allow them to complete the MSW program in one year instead of the two years it generally takes. An MSW is the terminal social work degree in Nebraska, meaning you will have the level of education necessary to perform most social work jobs in the state.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Nebraska

The Department issues four credentials that can be earned by individuals with social work degrees. Two of these, the Certified Social Worker (CSW) and the Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW), are specific to the practice of social work. The other two, the Licensed Mental Health Practitioner (LMHP) and the Licensed Independent Mental Health Provider, are issued to a variety of mental health providers, including clinical social workers. Each credential has different educational and experience requirements. Continue reading to learn more about each of these options to help determine which will be the best fit for your career goals.

Certified Social Worker (CSW)

An individual with the Certified Social Worker (CSW) credential can practice general, non-clinical social work. This certification requires the least amount of education and experience and provides new social workers the opportunity to gain entry-level social work experience. A CSW is not required for the practice of non-clinical social work in Nebraska but can be attractive to potential employers. To apply for a CSW credential, you must possess a bachelor’s in social work from a CSWE-accredited program (or its equivalent) and must be at least 19 years old. After meeting these requirements, follow the steps below to become a CSW.

1. Submit a CSW application to the Department.

To begin the process of becoming certified, submit a CSW application to the Department. For this application, you must provide a photocopy of a document, such as a passport, showing either US citizenship or eligibility for employment in the US. You will also need to include a sealed BSW transcript or ask your university to send one to the Department. As of February 2019, the CSW application fee is $125 (reduced to $31.25 during certain months due to the certificate’s renewal schedule).

2. Receive your CSW certificate from the Department.

Becoming a CSW in Nebraska does not require an exam. Therefore, you will be eligible to receive your CSW certificate from the Department as soon as they have reviewed your application and determined that you qualify for certification. Although your scope of practice does not change upon receiving your CSW certificate, it does allow you to use the title “social worker.”

Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW)

The Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW) credential allows a social worker to practice advanced or specialized non-clinical social work. Although you cannot practice clinical social work under this certificate alone, it is a required component to licensure for clinical social work as an LMHP or LIMHP in Nebraska. CMSWs must have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program (or one providing equivalent training) or a doctoral degree in social work. The steps below describe how to earn a CMSW certificate once you have completed your degree.

1. Apply for a provisional CMSW certificate.

To become a CMSW, you will need to obtain supervised experience (see Step 2). If you are completing this experience in Nebraska, you will first need to hold a provisional CMSW certificate. To apply for this, complete the Department’s Provisional Application. You will need to provide an official transcript and proof of US citizenship or employment eligibility. As of February 2019, you must pay a $125 fee for the provisional license. Once issued, your provisional CMSW license is valid for up to five years.

Becoming an LMHP or LIMHP also requires that you complete supervised experience under a provisional permit. If you plan to practice clinical social work in the future, you can also request a provisional LMHP license during this step. This will allow you to count your supervised experience towards both the CMSW and LMHP/LIMHP credentials.

2. Gain the required experience.

CMSW candidates must acquire 3,000 hours of supervised social work experience under their provisional CMSW certificates. Your supervisor must have an active CMSW license and no disciplinary actions against them over the past five years. If you are also planning to apply this experience towards LMHP licensure, check the supervised experience requirements for that license to ensure that you are also meeting those criteria. When you have finished your supervised experience, your supervisor(s) must document it using the Department’s Supervised Experience Verification form.

3. Pass the ASWB exam.

After you have received your provisional certificate, you can also register to take the ASWB licensing exam required to become a LMSW. If you are only planning to practice non-clinical social work as a CMSW, you can choose to take either the Master’s or the Advanced Generalist exam. If you are also planning to obtain an LMHP or LIMHP license, you will need to take the Clinical exam. Before registering, you must request permission from the Department by completing the Application to Take the Examination form. As of February 2019, the Master’s exam costs $230, while the Advanced Generalist and Clinical exams cost $260 each. Once you have completed the test, the ASWB will send your score to the Department.

4. Complete the application.

After you have completed your supervised experience and passed the required exam, you can submit an application form to the Department. You must include verification of your supervised hours if the Department does not already have this form. The application fee you will need to pay depends on the date your application is submitted and whether you are also applying for an LMHP license at the same time.

5. Receive your CMSW certificate.

Once you have completed your supervised experience and passed the licensing exam and the Department has approved your application, you will be granted a CMSW certificate. After this is issued, you can begin practicing advanced, non-clinical social work without supervision. If you would like to practice clinical social work, you must also obtain an LMHP or LIMHP license; see the sections below on how to earn these.

Licensed Mental Health Practitioner (LMHP)

Nebraska does not issue a specific clinical social work license. Instead, the Department offers Licensed Mental Health Practitioner (LMHP) and Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner (LIMHP) credentials to qualifying providers including social workers, counselors, and marriage and family therapists. LMHPs in Nebraska are able to assess and treat mental health disorders but must consult with an independent mental health practitioner such as an LIMHP or a psychologist to provide services related to major mental health conditions.

If you would like to provide clinical services and use the title “clinical social worker,” you must hold both an LMHP license and a CMSW certificate. For these, you need a CSWE-accredited MSW (or its equivalent) or a doctoral degree in social work. The steps below describe the process to LMHP licensure alone, but you can apply for both the CMSW and LMHP credentials at the same time.

1. Apply for a provisional LMHP license.

Before beginning the supervised experience required for LMHP licensure, you must submit an application for a provisional license. With this application, be sure to include the $125 fee (as of February 2019), documentation of a pre-degree practicum including 300 hours of client contact, and evidence of US citizenship or employment eligibility. You must also include a sealed transcript or ask your school to send one to the Department. After the Department reviews your application and issues your provisional license, it is valid for up to five years.

2. Gain the required experience.

To become an LMHP, you must acquire 3,000 hours of supervised mental health experience under your provisional license, 1,500 hours of which must be in direct contact with clients. During this experience, you must receive at least one hour of supervision per week from a mental health provider such as an LMHP, LIMHP, or psychologist who has been licensed in good standing for at least one year. When you have completed these hours, your supervisor(s) must document them using the Department’s Supervised Experience Verification form.

3. Pass the ASWB Clinical exam.

LMHP candidates must pass the ASWB Clinical exam to become licensed. Before you can register for the test, you must request permission from the Department by submitting the Application to Take the Examination form. Once approved, you can pay the $260 fee (as of February 2019) and sign up for the exam. There are 170 items on the test and scores are sent to the Department shortly after your test date.

4. Complete the LMHP application.

After completing your supervised experience and passing the ASWB Clinical exam, the final step is to submit the licensure application to the Department. Fees for this application vary based on the time of year you are applying as well as whether you are applying concurrently for a CMSW certificate. Note that if at least half of your supervised experience included diagnosis and treatment of major mental illnesses, you may want to consider applying for an LIMHP license instead of an LMHP.

5. Receive your LMHP license.

After you complete the steps above, the Department will issue your LMHP license. After this, you can begin independently practicing clinical social work in Nebraska. Remember that you will need to consult with an LIMHP or another independent behavioral health provider to provide services related to major mental illnesses.

Licensed Independent Mental Health Provider (LIMHP)

The Licensed Independent Mental Health Provider (LIMHP) license allows a social worker to independently provide a full range of clinical social work services. Unlike LMHPs, LIMHPs are not required to consult with another provider before diagnosing or treating major mental illnesses. Before applying for an LIMHP license, you must hold a provisional or full LMHP license. Following are the steps to becoming an LIMHP once you hold one of these licenses.

1. Gain the required experience.

LIMHPs are required to gain 3,000 hours of supervised mental health experience, at least half of which must be spent in direct contact with clients who have been diagnosed with major mental health disorders. This must be completed in a period of no fewer than two years and no more than five years. For these hours, you must be supervised by an independent provider (an LIMHP, psychologist, or physician) who has been licensed and in good standing for at least one year. If you have already completed supervised experience that meets these criteria (such as for an LMHP license), you do not need to repeat your supervised experience and can apply that to the LIMHP application.

2. Pass the ASWB Clinical exam.

To become licensed as an LIMHP, you will need to pass the ASWB Clinical exam, which costs $260 as of February 2019. If you already completed this exam for an LMHP license or CMSW certificate, you do not need to repeat it. If you hold a provisional LMHP license and have not yet taken the exam, request permission using the Department’s Application to Take the Examination form.

3. Submit an LIMHP application.

After you have completed the required supervised experience, you will need to submit an LIMHP application to the Department. In addition to the application form, your clinical supervisor must submit the Affadavit of Supervised Experience form. The fees you need to pay will depend on the time of year you are applying and what other credentials you currently hold.

4. Receive your LIMHP license.

Once the Department reviews your application and determines that you meet the requirements to become an LIMHP, they will issue your license. When you receive it, you can begin providing clinical social work services in Nebraska, including the assessment and treatment of major mental disorders, without supervision or consultation. You can also use the title “clinical independent social worker.”

Social Work License Reciprocity in Nebraska

The state of Nebraska does not have formal reciprocity with any other state, but the Department will issue social work credentials to out-of-state social workers who meet Nebraska’s credentialing standards and have been practicing under their current licenses for at least one year. To apply for a social work credential by reciprocity, complete the application form corresponding with the level of certification or licensure you are seeking. The fee for a social work credential by reciprocity will vary based on the time of year that you are submitting your application as well as which credential you are seeking. Along with your application, you will need to submit verification of your current license and your past ASWB exam scores.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

All social work credentials in Nebraska need to be renewed every two years by September 1. The Department will mail you renewal instructions in the weeks leading up to the renewal date. All credentialed social workers are required to complete 32 hours of continuing education during each renewal period; if you hold an LMHP or LIMHP license, at least two of these hours must be in ethics. As of February 2019, renewal fees depend on the combination of credentials you hold and can be found on the Department’s fee schedule.

Nebraska Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

In May 2017, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that 4,060 social workers were employed in Nebraska, the majority of whom (2,490) were employed in child, family, and school social work.2 The average annual salary for social workers in Nebraska was $47,735, with the highest average salaries ($62,070) in the “all other” category of social work positions.2 Jobs for social workers in Nebraska are projected to increase by 14.6% between 2016 and 2026; the largest gains are expected in the subfield of mental health and substance abuse social work (16.7%).3 With the range of salaries for social workers and credentialing options for social workers in all phases of their career, Nebraska could make a great place to start a social work career.

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 2,490 $42,030
Healthcare Social Workers 1,040 $47,200
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 380 $39,640
Social Workers, All Other 150 $62,070

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2

Social Work Associations in Nebraska

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can I begin practicing independently once I become registered as a Licensed Mental Health Practitioner (LMHP)?

Answer: Yes, once you hold a Nebraska LMHP license and a CMSW certificate, you are generally able to practice clinical social work independently in the state. However, if you want to work with individuals who have major mental illnesses, you must either consult with an independent provider or hold an LIMHP license.

Question: For the 3,000 hours of work experience required, can I count experience I gained years ago to become a CMSW, LMHP, or LIMHP?

Answer: Yes, though all 3,000 hours must have been earned after your master’s or doctoral degree was awarded and you were issued a provisional license.

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

Answer: Your supervisor must be a licensed mental health provider such as an LMHP, LIMHP, psychologist, or physician. If you are planning to apply the same supervised experience to a CMSW application, your supervisor must also hold a CMSW certificate.

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

Answer: Social workers need a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) or a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited school (or one that provides equivalent training) to practice social work in the state. To practice clinical social work in Nebraska, you need a CSWE-accredited (or equivalent) master’s degree or a doctoral degree in social work..

References:
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Nebraska: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/ne
2. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Nebraska: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ne.htm