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Texas Social Work Licensing Requirements

By SocialWorkGuide.org Staff



As the second-largest state in area and population, it is no surprise that employment for social workers is on the rise in Texas. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social work employment is projected to grow by 11% between 2018 and 2028.

Each state maintains slightly different standards and regulations for social workers. In Texas, social workers are governed by the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners (TSBSWE), a subgroup of the Texas Department of State Health Services. Keep reading for detailed instructions on how to become a social worker in Texas, including licensing information and guidelines.

In This Article

How to Become a Social Worker in Texas

Educational Paths

Those interested in pursuing social work in Texas can pursue one of two educational paths. The state requires all prospective social workers to hold either a bachelor's degree or master's degree in social work and obtain a social work license. Each path leads to a different type of license and qualifies candidates for different types of jobs. Typically, those with a terminal degree in the field, such as a master of social work (MSW) for nonclinical and clinical social work, out-earn candidates with lower-level degrees.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

Individuals with a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) can apply to practice in Texas. A Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)-accredited BSW prepares candidates to become a licensed baccalaureate social worker (LBSW) in Texas, or to pursue a master's in social work. Combining classroom study with fieldwork, a BSW program typically takes four years to complete. Students learn to work with clients, families, and communities one-on-one and in groups.

Texas LBSWs may take positions as general social workers, case managers, or family and youth specialists, among other job titles. LBSWs may also apply to the Board for independent practice recognition in a nonclinical setting.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Many Texas social workers obtain a master's degree in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited college or university. Candidates must hold a bachelor's degree in any field before applying to a master's-level social work program. However, individuals with a bachelor's degree in social work may be eligible for advanced standing status, potentially shortening the amount of time spent earning an MSW. While an MSW typically takes two years to complete, advanced standing candidates may graduate in as little as one year.

Individuals with a master's degree in social work in Texas can apply to be a licensed master social worker (LMSW). After completing the required supervised experience, an LMSW may go on to become a licensed master social worker with an advanced practitioner specialty (LMSW-AP), which is a nonclinical position, or a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). LMSW-APs may apply to the Board for independent practice recognition (IPR) in a nonclinical setting.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Texas

Texas requires all practicing social workers to be licensed as such, or risk incurring hefty fines and penalties for misrepresenting the profession. In addition, the Texas Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-TX) urges professionals to seek licensure and employers to hire licensed social workers. Texas offers different levels of licensure at the BSW and the MSW levels: the licensed baccalaureate social worker (LBSW), the licensed master social worker, the licensed master social worker with an advanced practitioner specialty (LMSW-AP), and the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). The paths to these different levels of licensure are detailed below.

Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)

Once you have received a BSW, you may apply to become an LBSW in Texas. Candidates who wish to become an LBSW must:

  1. Request official college transcripts verifying a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program *
  2. Complete the online jurisprudence exam
  3. Complete the TSBSWE's application for licensure
  4. Complete the Verification of Licensure in Other Jurisdiction
  5. Complete the Examination Security Information Acknowledgement
  6. Complete the Social Work Employment History
  7. Include a copy of a photo ID that has your full name
  8. Upon Board approval, take and pass the ASWB bachelor's exam

* Students in their final semester of a BSW program may include a letter from the Dean in lieu of official transcripts.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

The steps for becoming an LMSW are similar to the LBSW process. However, an LMSW holds a master's degree in social work, while an LBSW holds a bachelor's degree in social work. Prospective LMSWs need to:

  1. Request official college transcripts verifying an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program *
  2. Complete the online jurisprudence exam
  3. Complete the TSBSWE's application for licensure (Form A)
  4. Complete the Verification of Licensure in Other Jurisdiction (Form II; only if previously licensed in another jurisdiction)
  5. Complete the Examination Security Information Acknowledgement (Form VII)
  6. Complete the Social Work Employment History (Form I)
  7. Include a copy of a photo ID that has your full name
  8. Submit to a criminal history evaluation, if requested
  9. Upon Board approval, take and pass the ASWB master's exam

* Students in their final semester of an MSW program may include a letter from the Dean in lieu of official transcripts.

Licensed Master Social Worker - Advanced Practitioner (LMSW-AP)

Texas LMSWs and those currently licensed at the master's level in another jurisdiction through the ASWB master's exam may apply to become an LMSW-AP. An LMSW-AP is Texas' highest level of licensure for nonclinical social workers. Prospective LMSW-APs must complete the following steps:

  • 1. Accrue the supervised nonclinical experience needed to gain licensure as an LMSW-AP

    Candidates who wish to become an LMSW-AP in Texas must first gain the necessary experience. An LMSW must spend at least 30 hours per week in a master's-level social work position at a qualifying agency. Then, he or she should submit a supervision plan with a Board-approved LCSW or LMSW-AP supervisor within 30 days of beginning work. Candidates must complete a minimum of 3,000 hours of supervised work and 100 hours of supervision.

    Should your supervisor change, you must submit a nonclinical supervision verification form documenting all work completed under the previous supervisor, along with a new supervision plan with your new supervisor.

  • 2. Submit the application for upgrade of licensure (Form A)

    After completing their supervised employment, applicants can submit a form for licensure/upgrade/specialty recognition (Form A), along with a $20 fee, to the TSBSWE. Other application materials include:

    ● Social work employment history form (Form I)
    ● Nonclinical supervision verification (Form VI)
    ● Examination security information acknowledgement (Form VII)
    ● Proof of completing the online jurisprudence exam

  • 3. Complete the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam

    Once approved, the applicant may register for and complete the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam. Test-takers must achieve a minimum score of 70. Applicants who fail the exam must write a petition to the Board and wait 90 days to apply to retake the exam. Three attempts are allowed, after which there is a one-year waiting period to reapply for licensure. As of March 2020, the cost of the exam is $260.

  • 4. Receive LMSW-AP license from the Board

    The Board receives test scores within two weeks of the exam date. LMSW-AP licenses are mailed to applicants who pass the exam within seven days of the Board's receipt of the test scores.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

Prospective social workers in Texas may also pursue the licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) designation, which is the field's highest credential. LCSW candidates must hold an MSW from an institution accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). LCSWs in Texas can practice independently and do not need to apply for IPR. Below are the steps for becoming an LCSW in Texas.

  • 1. Accrue the supervised clinical experience needed to gain licensure as an LCSW

    Before becoming an LCSW in Texas, candidates must gain relevant professional experience by working in a clinical setting with a supervisor who is a Board-approved LCSW. Prospective LCSWs must submit a supervision plan within 30 days of beginning their jobs. In accordance with TSBSWE regulations, this position must include key clinical duties ,such as assessment, diagnosis, and treatment, including clinical therapy or psychotherapy. Candidates must complete at least 3,000 hours of clinical work and 100 supervised hours over 24-40 months.

    If your supervisor changes during this period, you should submit a clinical supervision verification form documenting any work completed under the previous supervisor. You must also provide the board with a new supervision plan.

  • 2. Submit an application for upgrade of licensure (Form A)

    After completing the required supervised experience, applicants must submit the Application Form for Licensure/Upgrade/Specialty Recognition (Form A), along with a fee *, to the TSBSWE. Other application materials include:

    ● Official transcripts from the school where you earned your MSW
    ● Social work employment history (Form I)
    ● Verification of qualifying supervision/experience (Form VI)
    ● Examination security information acknowledgement (Form VII)
    ● Proof of completion of the online jurisprudence exam
    ● Verification of licensure in other jurisdiction (Form II; only if you are already licensed in another state)
    ● A copy of a photo ID with your full name

    * As of March 2020, the LCSW application fee is $20 for applicants upgrading from an LMSW license and $110 for new license applications.

  • 3. Take and pass the ASWB Clinical exam

    Once the Board approves an applicant's clinical supervision documentation, the candidate may sit for the ASWB Clinical exam. Test-takers may make up to three attempts at achieving a minimum passing score of 70. A 90-day waiting period is enforced between each attempt and applicants must make a written petition to the Board to retake the exam. After three failed attempts, applicants must wait one year to reapply for licensure. As of March 2020, the exam fee is $260.

  • 4. Receive LCSW license from the Board

    The TSBSWE receives test scores within two weeks of the exam date. Individuals who pass the exam receive their LCSW licenses by mail within seven days of the Board receiving the test scores.

Independent Practice Recognition (IPR)

Individuals with an LBSW, LMSW, or LMSW-AP who would like to provide independent nonclinical social work must apply for IPR and assume complete responsibility for their services. Independent practitioner recognition allows professionals to provide clients directly with social work services pro bono and in exchange for direct payment or third-party reimbursement. Social workers must obtain IPR status if they or their employer plan to bill clients or third parties directly for services.

It is important to note that only LCSWs can provide clinical social work services independently. An LBSW, LMSW, or LMSW-AP recognized for independent practice may provide nonclinical services without the supervision of an agency or organization. Social workers with IPR status may work independently or within an agency. Social workers without IPR status must work under direct supervision within an agency.

The steps to obtaining an LBSW-IPR or LMSW-IPR are listed below.

  • 1. Gain the required experience

    Social workers must gain a certain amount of professional experience to become an LBSW-IPR or LMSW-IPR in Texas. An LBSW or LMSW should seek out a social work position at the appropriate educational level with a qualifying agency. He or she must then develop and submit a supervision plan with a board-approved LCSW, LMSW-AP, LMSW, or LBSW with IPR within 30 days of beginning the supervised work. Candidates must complete 3,000 hours of work and 100 hours of supervision in a minimum of 24 months.

    Keep in mind that should your supervisor change, you must submit a nonclinical supervision verification form documenting work completed under your previous supervisor and develop a new supervision plan with the new supervisor.

  • 2. Submit required application and documents

    After completing their supervised experience, candidates can submit an application for licensure/upgrade/specialty recognition (Form A) to the Board, along with the following supplemental materials:

    ● Application fee ($20 as of March 2020)
    ● Verification of qualifying supervision experience (Form VI)
    ● Social work employment history (Form I)
    ● Proof of completing the online jurisprudence exam, which costs $39 as of March 2020

  • 3. Receive LMSW-IPR or LBSW-IPR from the Board

    The board notifies candidates after receiving all IPR application materials. Applicants may begin working as independent practitioners after receiving the IPR designation.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Texas

While Texas does not maintain formal reciprocity agreements with other states, social workers who obtained out-of-state licensure through the ASWB exam may be eligible to waive the Texas licensing exam. To do so, applicants must complete the verification of licensure in another jurisdiction (Form II) and meet all criteria for their particular social work category.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Texas social workers must renew their license every two years. Renewal fees are $86 for LBSWs and LMSWs and $106 for LMSW-APs and LCSWs. Professionals who let their licenses expire may be required to pay penalty fees.

In addition, social workers must complete a total of 30 hours of continuing education every 24 months during each renewal period. At least six of the required 24 continuing education hours must address ethics and values in social work.

Texas Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

Social work is expanding across the U.S., and Texas is no exception. The state employed over 37,000 social workers in 2018, and that number is projected to increase through 2028. The greatest number of Texas social workers work in the child, family, and school social work field, with a total of 19,510 employed. According to 2018 BLS data, Texas also boasts the nation's fifth-largest concentration of mental health and substance abuse workers.

The greatest increases are expected in the subfield of healthcare social work, with a 25.3% increase in employment in Texas projected through 2026, and mental health and substance abuse social work, which is projected to experience a 20.9% job growth rate. Both figures are much higher than rates across the U.S. during the same time, which are projected to increase by 20.1% and 19.4%, respectively. A total of 4,350 social work jobs are expected to open up in Texas between 2016 and 2026, with the greatest number of job openings expected in the child, family, and school social work field.

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 19,510 $48,920
Healthcare Social Workers 9,830 $59,090
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 6,090 $40,470
Social Workers, All Other 1,720 $69,070

Source: BLS

Social Work Associations in Texas

  • The National Association of Social Workers The NASW's Texas chapter supports almost 6,000 members. The organization promotes and advances the social work profession across the state.
  • The Texas Society for Clinical Social Work This organization advocates for Texas graduate-level clinical social workers and addresses concerns regarding ethics, insurance, and legislature in the state. TSCSW also provides members with information about continuing education, networking opportunities, and news.
  • The Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners The Board offers a wealth of licensing information, resources, and assistance for both current professionals and individuals interested in becoming social workers in Texas.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I begin practicing independently once I become registered as an LBSW or LMSW?

LBSWs and LMSWs may apply for IPR with the TSBSWE. Eligible LBSWs and LMSWs must accrue qualifying supervised social work hours under the guidance of a board-approved LCSW, LMSW-AP, or LMSW or LBSW with IPR. For more information, you can review the full guidelines.

Do I have to be licensed to practice social work in Texas?

Yes. In Texas, you may not represent yourself as a social worker unless you are licensed by the TSBSWE. Individuals who directly or indirectly falsely represent themselves to the public are subject to fines.

Do I have to use my licensure title or initials?

Yes, it is required that you use your licensure title or initials to create public awareness of the licensure program. The title or initials must be used in all professional uses of your name, including business cards, letters, and advertising.

What kind of degree do I need to practice social work in Texas?

Texas social workers need either a BSW or an MSW to apply for licensure in the state. Which degree you pursue depends on the type of social work you ultimately want to practice.

I keep failing the examination. Am I still able to become a social worker in Texas?

If you have failed the exam two times, with a score of 65-69, you may be eligible for the alternative method of examining competency (AMEC). The AMEC consists of a professional portfolio that is evaluated by the board.