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Become a Licensed Master Social Worker

Thursday, March 16, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Are you interested in advancing your career as a social worker? With a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW), you can acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for competence in the field. But an undergraduate degree is just the first step. Whether your aspirations involve clinical social work, community organization, or high-level administrative and organizational work, studying social work in a master’s program can give you the degree and experience needed to become a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW). The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) offers one such program — an online Master of Science in Social Work (MSW) — Administration and Community Practice.

Social work licensure varies by state, with each state’s licensing board governing all requirements. The requirements typically include the following steps:

  • Earning a master’s degree in social work through an accredited school.
  • Completing a specific number of supervised clinical or non-clinical experience hours.
  • Passing all associated examinations and professional evaluations.

So, if you want to get licensed and expand your horizons in the social work field, you need to identify the required steps as well as an accredited program that will help you complete them.

The following information is specific to Texas’ social work licensure regulations:

What Are the Different Levels of Licenses Available for Social Workers in Texas?

The Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners (TSBSWE) governs the requirements for obtaining a license as well as the rules and regulations for practicing social workers. Under TSBSWE regulations, Texas has four different levels of social work licenses. All require appropriate degrees obtained through a higher education program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

The most basic social work license in Texas is the bachelor’s-level Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW). Bachelor’s degree programs include foundational coursework on all aspects of social work as well as the fieldwork and experience required for licensure.

If you’re interested in higher-level (and usually better-paying) social work jobs such as those in administration or clinical social work, an advanced degree is generally necessary. These are the three designations for master’s degree level licenses available in Texas:

  • Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)
  • Licensed Master Social Worker — Advanced Practitioner (LMSW-AP)
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

How Can I Get Licensed as a Master’s Degree Level Social Worker in Texas?

Texas’ three master’s-level social work licenses all have similar requirements and steps to follow, each bridging off the other.

  • LMSW (Licensed Master Social Worker)
    To become an LMSW, you must first obtain a master’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program. These programs generally take two years to complete, but if you have already taken approved courses and logged sufficient field hours while obtaining your BSW degree, you may be eligible for an Advanced Standing degree, such as that offered by UTRGV’s online MSW. You can complete these degree programs in as little as one year. After completing your master’s degree in social work, you progress through a series of pre-examinations, the TSBSWE licensure application, degree verification, forms on social work job history and security information, criminal record check, and eventually the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) master’s exam. When you pass the exam and receive board approval, you become an LMSW.
  • LMSW-AP (Licensed Master Social Worker — Advanced Practitioner)
    This is the next master’s level social work license. As “Advanced Practitioner” implies, this license demonstrates your documented, advanced experience in the field. Once you become a regular LMSW and have worked full-time in the non-clinical setting for 24 months with at least 100 hours of supervision by an approved LCSW or LMSW-AP professional, you can apply for your status as an LMSW-AP. After your supervised non-clinical experience is verified and you pass the ASWB advanced generalist exam, you receive your LMSW-AP license.
  • LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker)
    The final master’s-level social work license is the LCSW. The initial requirements are the same as those for LMSW licensure, but to apply for this license, you must already have a Master Social Worker or Master Social Worker — Advanced Practitioner license. And, similar to LMSW licensure, those seeking an LCSW must complete 24 months of full-time, supervised work in the clinical setting. Following passage of the ASWB clinical exam and verification of your supervised experience in the field, you can apply for and receive the upgraded licensure.

What Sort of Work Does UTRGV’s MSW Program Prepare Degree Candidates For?

For those interested in administration, community organization, and positive social change within at-risk communities, UTRGV’s online MSW Administration and Community Practice degree program is a good option. This program satisfies Texas’ master’s-level licensure requirements while combining traditional social work skill and knowledge sets with administrative skills and community leadership.

UTRGV’s MSW is further tailored specifically to serving the disadvantaged Latino communities in Texas, making it very applicable to master’s-level social work positions in Texas. Yet the scope of UTRGV’s curriculum prepares degree candidates for meaningful work in all types of disadvantaged communities anywhere.

If you are looking to pursue a career as an LMSW, knowing the path toward licensure in your state is the first step. And, beyond being a licensure requirement, master’s degree programs such as UTRGV’s MSW can help you navigate the licensing process and give you the localized field experience and knowledge necessary to advance in your profession.

Learn about UTRGV online MS in Social Work — Administration an Community Practice program


Texas Department of State Health Services: Apply for a New License from the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners Becoming a Social Worker in Texas

Social Work Guide: Texas Social Work Licensing Requirements

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