Online Social Work Programs in Oklahoma
Social workers in Oklahoma account for over 40% of all community and social service jobs in the state. Comparatively, the U.S. employs 662,550 social workers, according to May of 2018 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which equals roughly 30% of all community and social service occupations.
The state currently faces a shortage of qualified healthcare professionals, including social workers. A recent report shows 76 counties in Oklahoma are designated as healthcare professional shortage areas (HPSAs) in need of more practitioners skilled in primary care and mental health care.
BLS projects the number of social workers in the nation to grow by 16% between 2016 and 2026, with the social work specialization determining the actual growth rate. For example, BLS projects jobs for healthcare social workers to grow by 20%, but employment for social work professionals who fall under the category of "all other" to increase by only 8%. Similarly, social work jobs in Oklahoma should also align with specialization and efforts to reduce HPSAs across the state.
Education and Licensure Requirements for Social Workers in Oklahoma
The Oklahoma State Board of Licensed Social Workers issues five levels of social work licenses, including three for non-clinical social workers and one for clinical professionals, which authorizes them to diagnose disorders and provide psychotherapy services.
The licenses include licensed social work associate (LSWA), licensed master's social worker (LMSW), licensed social worker (LSW), licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), and licensed social worker with a specialty of administration (LSW-ADM).
The path to an Oklahoma social work license begins with a degree from an educational program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). For LSWA licensure, each candidate must hold at least a bachelor's degree in social work. The other four licenses (LMSW, LSW, LCSW, LSW-ADM) all require that the candidate possesses a master of social work (MSN). The LSWA and LMSW licenses do not require any experience hours; the LSW, LCSW, and LSW-ADM all require 4,000 hours of full-time postgraduate, supervised clinical social work experience.
Exam Application Process and Requirements
Candidates must take a national exam administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) as the final step to obtaining their Oklahoma social work license. To take the test, each candidate must first gain approval from the Oklahoma State Board of Licensed Social Workers. An applicant must ensure that their application and affidavit of legal status reach the board at least three weeks before the next scheduled board meeting. It costs $150 to apply.
Candidates can register to take their exam after the board verifies their eligibility:
- LSWA: Bachelor's-level exam, $230
- LMSA: Master's-level exam, $230
- LSW: Advanced generalist exam, $260
- LCSW: Clinical exam, $260
- LSW-ADM: Clinical exam, $260
The exam includes 170 multiple choice questions, of which 150 count toward a final score. ASWB distributes 20 practice questions throughout the test. Each candidate can take up to four hours to answer all questions. ASWB administers the exams through Pearson Professional Centers. Oklahoma maintains three such test centers in the cities of Norman, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa.
Continuing Education and Licensure Renewal
An Oklahoma social work license requires annual renewal. All licenses, regardless of issuance date, expire on December 31. To renew a social worker license, a social worker must provide proof of 16 continuing education credits earned during the previous year, with at least three credits in ethics. The fee for renewal costs $100. Licensees who apply after the December 31 deadline must pay an additional $50 late fee. Social work professionals who fail to renew before March 31 must apply for new licenses.
Oklahoma issues one-year provisional licenses for all social work licenses. This license allows holders to practice social work under supervision for one year, as they wait to take the national ASWB exam and complete all license requirements. Provisional licenses do not renew.
Why Choose an Online Social Work Program?
Though Oklahoma currently does not offer online social work programs, students can still pursue their education locally. Through the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education's (WICHE) tuition programs, Oklahoma students can enroll in online classes in neighboring states at a lower price.
The Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) and the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP) ensure that out-of-state students who enroll at participating colleges and universities pay no more than 150% of resident tuition. This deal can yield savings of up to $15,000 a year.
The benefits of learning online extend beyond affordability. Online programs provide students with convenience, schedule flexibility, and wider program options. WUE, for example, features over 160 network schools, and WRGP includes more than 700 programs.