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Texas Social Work Licensing Requirements

As the second-largest state in area and population, it is no surprise that Texas is a top employer of social workers in the United States.1 In fact, according to May 2017 data, Texas employs the fourth-highest number of healthcare social workers and child, family, and school social workers in the United States.3,4

Becoming a social worker in each state is unique, as each state has its own set of standards and regulations. 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. Below you will find detailed instructions on how to become a social worker in the state of Texas, including information and requirements on the licensure process.

How to Become a Social Worker in Texas

Educational Paths

There are two educational options for people interested in pursuing social work in Texas. In order to identify as a “social worker” in Texas, you must obtain either a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in social work and obtain a social work license. The types of license you can receive with each of the educational paths are different, as are the types of jobs for which you will be qualified. Typically, those with a terminal degree in social work (considered a Master of Social Work (MSW) for non-clinical and clinical social work) will earn more money than those with a lower-level degree.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

With a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW), you can apply to practice in the state of Texas. A Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)-accredited BSW will prepare you to become a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW) in Texas, or to go on to pursue a master’s in social work to continue your education. In a BSW program, which typically takes four years to complete, you will study both in the classroom and in the field. Students will learn to work with clients one-on-one and in groups, including families and communities. Texas LBSWs might work as general social workers, case managers, or family and youth specialists, among many other job titles. As an LBSW, you are also eligible to apply for Independent Practice Recognition (IPR) in a non-clinical setting from the Board.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Another common educational goal to become a social worker in the state is to obtain a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited college or university. Before beginning a master’s degree in the field, you must hold a bachelor’s degree in any field, but if you have a bachelor’s degree in social work, you may be eligible for “advanced standing,” which could shorten the amount of time it will take to obtain an MSW. An MSW typically takes two years to complete, but with advanced standing, it could take as little as one year. With a master’s degree in social work in Texas, you can apply to be a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW). After the required supervised experience, an LMSW can go on to become a Licensed Master Social Worker with an Advanced Practitioner specialty (LMSW-AP), which is non-clinical, or a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). LMSW-APs are eligible to apply for Independent Practice Recognition (IPR) in a non-clinical setting from the Board.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Texas

In order to identify as a “social worker” in Texas, you must be licensed as such, or risk incurring hefty fines and penalties for misrepresenting the profession. Further, the Texas Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-TX) urges social workers to seek licensure and employers to hire licensed social workers. The state of Texas offers different levels of licensure, both 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 the state of Texas. To become an LBSW, you will need to:

  1. Request official college transcripts verifying a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program*
  2. Complete the online Jurisprudence Exam, which has a $39 fee as of December 2018
  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. Upon approval by the Board, take and pass the ASWB Bachelor’s exam***

*If a student is in his or her final semester of a BSW program, a letter from the Dean may also be included in lieu of official transcripts.
**The fee to submit TSBSWE’s application for licensure (Form A) as of December 2018 is $91.00.
***The fee for the ASWB exam as of December 2018 is $230.00.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

The steps for becoming an LMSW are similar to the LBSW process. The only difference between the two is that an LMSW has a master’s degree in social work while an LBSW has a bachelor’s degree in social work. To become an LMSW, you will need to:

  1. Request official college transcripts verifying an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program*
  2. Complete the online Jurisprudence Exam, which has a fee of $39 as of December 2018
  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 approval by the Board, take and pass the ASWB Master’s exam***

*If a student is in his or her final semester of an MSW program, a letter from the Dean may also be included in lieu of official transcripts.
**The fee as of December 2018 is $91.00.
***The fee for the ASWB exam as of December 2018 is $230.00.

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

Once a person is an LMSW in the state of Texas (or currently licensed at the master’s level in another jurisdiction via the ASWB Master’s exam), he or she can apply to become an LMSW-AP. An LMSW-AP is the highest level of licensure for a Texas non-clinical social worker. The steps for becoming an LMSW-AP are listed below.

1. Accrue the supervised non-clinical experience needed to gain licensure as an LMSW-AP.

If you are looking to become an LMSW-AP in Texas, the first thing you will need to do is gain the necessary experience. An LMSW must obtain a full-time (at least 30 hours per week) master’s-level social work position with a qualifying agency. Then, he or she will submit a Supervision Plan alongside a Board-approved LCSW or LMSW-AP supervisor within 30 days of beginning the supervised work. A minimum of 3,000 hours of supervised work and 100 hours of supervision are required. Keep in mind that should your supervisor change, you will need to submit a Non-clinical Supervision Verification Form documenting the work completed under the previous supervisor, as well as a new Supervision Plan with the new supervisor.

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

Once the supervised employment has been completed, applicants can submit the Application Form for Licensure/Upgrade/Specialty Recognition (Form A), along with a fee*, to the TSBSWE. The items you must include with your application are:

  • Social Work Employment History form (Form I)
  • Non-clinical Supervision Verification (Form VI)
  • Examination Security Information Acknowledgement (Form VII)
  • Proof of completion of the online jurisprudence exam, which costs $39 as of December 2018

*The fee for an upgrade of licensure as of December 2018 is $20.00.

3. Complete the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam.

Once approved, the applicant can then register for and complete the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam. A minimum score of 70 is required to pass. If the exam is failed, applicants must wait 90 days to apply to retake the exam (with a written petition to the Board). Three attempts are allowed, and there is a one-year waiting period to reapply for licensure at that point. As of December 2018, the cost of the exam is $260.00.

4. Receive LMSW-AP license from the Board.

Within two weeks of the exam date, the Board will receive the test scores. LMSW-AP licenses will be mailed to applicants who pass the exam within seven days of the Board’s receipt of the test scores.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

Another option for potential social workers in Texas is to pursue an LCSW. To become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, you must first have received an MSW from an institution accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Licensed Clinical Social Worker is considered the highest level of licensure in the field. LCSWs in Texas can practice independently. Application for Independent Practice Recognition (IPR) is unnecessary for LCSWs. Below are the steps for becoming an LCSW in the state:

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

Before becoming an LCSW in Texas, applicants must gain experience in the field. The first step you need to take to accomplish this is to find a master’s-level job in a clinical setting with a supervisor who is a Board-approved LCSW. Together with this supervisor, you will submit a Supervision Plan within 30 days of beginning work. In accordance with TSBSWE regulations, the work must include key clinical duties such as assessment, diagnosis, and treatment (including clinical therapy or psychotherapy). A minimum of 3,000 hours of clinical and work and 100 hours of supervision in a period of 24 to 40 months will need to be completed in this position. Should your supervisor change during this period, you will need to submit a Clinical Supervision Verification form documenting the work completed under the previous supervisor, as well as a new supervision plan with the new supervisor to the Board.

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

Once the required supervised experience has been completed, applicants will submit the Application Form for Licensure/Upgrade/Specialty Recognition (Form A), along with the fee*, to the TSBSWE. Items that should be submitted along with your application 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, which costs $39 as of December 2018
  • 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 December 2018, the fee for an LCSW application is $20 if you are upgrading from an LMSW license and $110 if you are submitting a new application for licensure..

3. Take and pass the ASWB Clinical exam.

Once the clinical supervision has been approved by the Board, applicants are eligible to apply for the ASWB Clinical exam. A minimum passing score of 70 is required. A total of three attempts are permitted, but a 90-day waiting period is enforced between each attempt and a written petition to the Board is required to retake the exam. After three failed attempts, applicants must wait one year to reapply for licensure. As of December 2018, the cost of the exam is $260.00.

4. Receive LCSW license from the Board.

The TSBSWE will receive your test scores within two weeks of the exam date. If you passed the exam, your LCSW license will be mailed to you within seven days of their receipt of the test scores.

Independent Practice Recognition (IPR)

If you hold an LBSW, LMSW, or LMSW-AP and would like to provide independent non-clinical social work (for which you must assume complete responsibility for your services), then you must apply for Independent Practice Recognition (IPR). Recognition as an independent practitioner allows you to provide social work services directly for clients pro bono, in exchange for direct payment or third-party reimbursement. You will need to obtain IPR status if you (or your employer) plan to bill clients or third parties directly for your services. Remember, only LCSWs can provide clinical social work services independently. An LBSW, LMSW, or LMSW-AP recognized for independent practice may provide non-clinical 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.

To become an LBSW-IPR or LMSW-IPR in Texas, you must first gain the necessary experience. An LBSW or LMSW will seek out a social work position at the appropriate level (bachelor’s or master’s) with a qualifying agency. Then, he or she will submit a Supervision Plan alongside a Board-approved LCSW, LMSW-AP, LMSW, or LBSW with independent practice recognition supervisor (as appropriate) within 30 days of beginning the supervised work. 3,000 hours of work and 100 hours of supervision must be completed in a minimum of 24 months. Keep in mind that should your supervisor change, you will need to submit a Non-clinical Supervision Verification form documenting the work completed under the previous supervisor, as well as a new supervision plan with the new supervisor.

2. Submit required application and documents.

After completing your supervised experience, you 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 December 2018)
  • Verification of Qualifying Supervision Experience (Form VI)
  • Social Work Employment History (Form I)
  • Proof that you have completed the online jurisprudence exam, which costs $39 as of December 2018

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

After the Board has received all of the materials required for your IPR application, they will notify you when your IPR designation has been granted and you can begin working as an independent practitioner.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Texas

While Texas has no formal reciprocity with other states, if you have been licensed in another state via the ASWB Exam, you may be eligible to waive the exam to become licensed in Texas. You will need to complete the Verification of Licensure in Another Jurisdiction (Form II) and meet all criteria for the category of social work for which you are applying.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Every two years, you will need to renew your license in the state of Texas. Renewal fees as of December 2018 are $86.00 for LBSWs and LMSWs and $106.00 for LMSW-APs and LCSWs. Keep in mind that penalty fees may apply if you let your license expire. Continuing education is also required to keep your license up-to-date. A total of 30 hours of continuing education must be completed every 24 months leading up to the renewal. During each renewal period, six of the required 24 continuing education hours must be completed in the topics of ethics and values related to the practice of social work.

Texas Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

The field of social work is expanding across the United States, and the state of Texas is no exception.5 Over 32,000 social workers were employed in the state in 2017, and that number is expected to increase through 2026.5 The greatest number of social workers in Texas are employed in the field of child, family, and school social workers, with a total of 17,560 employed, the fourth-highest concentration in the nation.3 Texas also has the fourth-highest number of healthcare social workers employed in the nation, with 9,980 employed as of 2017.4

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 (with a 20.7% increase in employment in Texas projected through 2026)5 These projections are higher than the expected growth for these two specialties in the United States as a whole during this time period, which are projected to increase by 20.1% and 19.4%, respectively.5 A total of 6,490 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 (2,900 jobs).5

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers17,560$43,980
Healthcare Social Workers9,980$57,980
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers5,110$41,740
Social Workers, All Other1,650$69,860

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2

Social Work Associations in Texas

Frequently Asked Questions

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

Answer: LBSWs and LMSWs may apply for Independent Practice Recognition (IPR) with the TSBSWE. To be 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 .

Question: Do I have to be licensed to practice social work in the state of Texas?

Answer: Yes. In Texas, you are prohibited from representing yourself as a social worker unless you are licensed by the TSBSWE. If you do falsely represent yourself, either directly or indirectly, to the public, you will be subject to fines.

Question: Do I have to use my licensure title or initials?

Answer: 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.

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

Answer: Texas social workers need either a bachelor’s in social work (BSW) or a master’s in social work (MSW) to apply for licensure in the state. The choice of which degree you pursue should be based on the type of social work you ultimately want to practice.

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

Answer: 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), consisting of a professional portfolio that will be evaluated by the Board. Find out more information about the AMEC on the Texas Department of State Health Services website.

References:
1. US Census Bureau State Population Totals and Components of Change, 2010-2017: https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2017/demo/popest/state-total.html
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Texas: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_tx.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2017, Child, Family, and School Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211021.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2017, Healthcare Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211022.htm
5. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm