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Rhode Island Social Work Licensing Requirements

Rhode Island has a population of over one million and many opportunities for social workers.1 Unlike most other states, Rhode Island does not require non-clinical social workers to become licensed. However, if you are interested in practicing clinical social work, you will need to become familiar with the regulations set forth by the Board of Social Work Examiners, which issues social work licenses in Rhode Island. Continue reading to learn more about Rhode Island social work license requirements and social work employment and salaries in the state.

How to Become a Social Worker in Rhode Island

Educational Paths

To qualify for non-clinical social work jobs in Rhode Island, you do not need a license; therefore, there is no minimum level of education required by law. However, earning a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) or an associate’s degree in social work (ASW) or human services is recommended as most employers prefer candidates who have formal education in social work. If you wish to practice clinical social work, the minimum degree required for a Rhode Island social work license is a master’s degree in social work (MSW). Read the sections below for more information about these degree options.

Associate’s in Social Work (ASW)

If you are hoping to become a social worker in Rhode Island, one educational option is an associate’s degree in social work (ASW). These programs generally take two years to complete and include liberal arts courses such as psychology and sociology as well as general social work courses. This degree will not qualify you for social work licensure in most states, but you may be able to transfer some credits to a BSW program if you enroll in one in the future. In Rhode Island, you may be qualified to apply for certain non-clinical social work positions with an associate’s degree in social work.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) is another option for prospective social workers in Rhode Island. BSW programs are typically designed to be completed in four years. They include a diverse range of courses, typically foundational coursework in social work as well as other subjects such as psychology, biology, politics, and human behavior. Many BSW programs also include a fieldwork component, allowing students to gain real-life social work experience. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) provides accreditation for BSW programs that meet their national standards of training, and potential employers may prefer applicants who have attended an accredited program. As of February 2019, there were three CSWE-accredited BSW programs in Rhode Island. Like the ASW degree, a BSW will not qualify you for social work licensure in Rhode Island but may qualify you to apply for non-clinical social work positions in the state. If you are considering working in another state in the future, a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program is the minimum educational requirement for social work licensure in most states.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

The master of social work (MSW) degree provides the opportunity for students to expand their knowledge of basic social work and begin engaging in more advanced coursework and practice. To become licensed as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) or Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) in Rhode Island, you must hold at least an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program. Some MSW programs are focused on particular specialty areas within social work, though all programs will share a common curriculum. Students also complete fieldwork practica that allow them to gain hands-on experience. An MSW program typically takes two years to complete; however, students who have completed a CSWE-accredited BSW program may receive “advanced standing” and be able to complete the program in one year. As of February 2019, there is one CSWE-accredited MSW program in Rhode Island, but an accredited MSW from any state can be used for licensure.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Rhode Island

There are two types of social work licenses in Rhode Island: Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). If you have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program or a doctoral degree in social work (DSW), you may apply for the LCSW license. After you earn a certain amount of supervised experience under this license, you will be eligible to apply for the LICSW license. Both of these licenses allow for the practice of clinical social work. Individuals practicing non-clinical social work in Rhode Island do not need to hold a license.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

The Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) credential is available to individuals who hold an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program or a DSW. With this license, you can practice clinical social work under supervision. Below are the steps to becoming an LCSW in Rhode Island.

1. Submit an LCSW application to the Board.

The first step to becoming a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) in Rhode Island is to submit an application form to the Board. You must include the $70 fee (as of February 2019), a copy of your photo ID, and two professional references. You must also ensure official transcripts are sent directly to the Board from your school.

2. Pass the ASWB Master’s exam.

Once your application has been reviewed by the Board, you will be given permission to register for the ASWB Master’s exam, which is required for the LCSW license. The registration fee for the exam is $230 as of February 2019. There are 170 multiple-choice items on the test and 150 are scored. Within two weeks of your test date, the ASWB will notify the Board of your score.

3. Receive your LCSW license.

After the Board has received your passing Master’s exam scores, they will issue your LCSW license. After you receive your license, you can begin practicing clinical social work in Rhode Island under the supervision of an LICSW.

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)

To practice clinical social work in Rhode Island without supervision, you must become licensed as a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). This will also allow you to supervise LCSWs. To become an LICSW, you must hold an LCSW license and complete at least two years of supervised clinical social work experience. Once you hold an LCSW license, follow the steps below to upgrade to an LICSW license.

1. Accumulate the required experience.

Once you have been received your LCSW license, you may start accumulating supervised clinical social work experience. For LICSW licensure, you must accumulate at least 3,000 hours of clinical practice in a period of 24 to 72 months. Of these 3,000 hours, at least 1,500 hours must be direct clinical work with clients. You must receive at least one hour of supervision for every 20 hours of client contact and at least two hours of supervision every two weeks. Your supervisor must be an LICSW and at least 75% of your supervision must be one-on-one (not in a group).

2. Submit an LICSW application to the Board.

After you have completed 3,000 hours of supervised experience, you can submit the application form to the Board along with the $70 application fee (as of February 2019), two professional references, and a copy of your photo ID. Your supervisor(s) must complete the Supervised Practice Form in the application to verify that you have met the supervised experience requirement.

3. Pass the ASWB Clinical exam.

After your application has been approved by the Board, you will be required to take the ASWB Clinical exam. As of February 2019, the fee for the Clinical exam is $260. There are 170 multiple-choice items on the test and the Board will receive your score shortly after your test date.

4. Receive your LICSW license.

Once you have completed the steps above, the Board will issue your LICSW license. After this, you can begin independently practicing clinical social work and supervising LICSW candidates in Rhode Island.

Social Work Licensure by Endorsement in Rhode Island

If you are a licensed social worker in another state but considering employment in Rhode Island, you may be interested in transferring your license. If you are seeking non-clinical social work positions, you do not need to pursue licensure in Rhode Island. However, out-of-state social workers interested in clinical positions in Rhode Island must become licensed. The Board offers licensure by endorsement to social workers from other states who hold licenses that have requirements equivalent to Rhode Island’s LCSW or LICSW criteria. Licensure by endorsement allows these candidates to earn a license without having to repeat requirements such as the ASWB exam or supervised experience. To apply, complete the Board’s application form and submit it with the $70 fee (as of February 2019). In addition to the documentation required of all applicants (such as official transcripts and a copy of your photo ID), you must submit verification of your current license and have the ASWB send your past exam scores to the Board.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

LCSWs and LICSWs must renew their licenses every two years for a fee of $70 (as of February 2019). The Board mails renewal reminders to social workers 60 days before the renewal date. Both types of licensed social workers are required to complete 30 hours of continuing education (CE) every renewal period. Of these 30 hours, three hours must address cross-cultural topics and three must address professional ethics. Up to six hours can be earned by supervising BSW or MSW students in CSWE-accredited programs. At least 22 CE hours must be earned in-person, while up to eight hours can be earned through online programs or other types of distance learning.

Rhode Island Social Work Jobs and Salary Information

May 2017 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that there were 2,970 social workers in Rhode Island, the majority of whom (1,520) worked in child, family and school social work.2 The average annual salary for all types of social workers in Rhode Island was $59,278.2 The need for social workers in Rhode Island is expected to grow, with projections suggesting that the number of social work positions will increase by 5.8% overall between 2016 and 2026.3 Specifically, growth is expected in the subfields of mental health and substance abuse social work (6.3%); healthcare social work (6.0%); and child, family, and school social work (5.9%).3

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers1,520$61,530
Healthcare Social Workers690$52,090
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers650$47,780
Social Workers, All Other110$75,710

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2

Social Work Associations in Rhode Island

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can I apply to social work jobs in Rhode Island without a license?

Answer: Yes, as long as you intend on working in a non-clinical position. Licensing is only required for clinical social work positions.

Question: Do I have to pass an ASWB exam to be a social worker in Rhode Island?

Answer: If you wish to practice clinical social work in Rhode Island, you must successfully pass the Master’s exam (for the LCSW license) or the Clinical exam (for the LICSW license). If you do not intend to practice clinical social work, you do not need to pass an ASWB exam.

Question: What type of CE qualifies towards my 30 hours?

Answer: Only eight hours of distance learning may be claimed per renewal cycle; therefore, you must complete at least 26 hours of in-person training to meet the CE requirements of your license. Three hours must be related to cross-cultural practice and three hours must be related to professional ethics. The remainder is at your discretion and can be chosen to correspond with your practice interests. All activities must be affiliated with the NASW, ASWB, the CSWE, or another professional social work organization.

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