Online Social Work Programs in Rhode Island

Social workers in Rhode Island tend to earn more than their peers across the nation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the U.S. employed 662,550 social workers in May 2018; these workers earned a mean wage of $53,060. However, in Rhode Island, most social workers earned significantly more than this.

Social workers account for one-third of all community and social service employment in Rhode Island, with child, family, and school social workers filling nearly 60% of all social work jobs in the state. Healthcare social workers follow with 20%, while mental health and substance abuse social workers represent about 17% of the field.

Among these specializations, social workers who work with children, families, and school clients earn the most. These social work professionals take home a mean annual wage of $61,440 — about 20% more than what child, family, and school social workers make on average in the U.S.

As for job growth, the BLS projects the social work profession to grow by 16% from 2016-2026 — much faster than the growth of the typical job in the U.S.


Education and Licensure Requirements for Social Workers in Rhode Island

The Board of Examiners in Social Workers issues two types of licenses for clinical social workers in Rhode Island: licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW) credentials.

A worker's setting is the main difference between the two Rhode Island social work license types. While LICSWs can practice independently, LCSWs require supervision. Aspiring LICSWs must first obtain an LCSW license to begin accruing the necessary field hours.

Education Requirements

LCSW and LICSW candidates in Rhode Island must earn at least a master of social work from a program that has been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

The LCSW license does not require an applicant to complete experiential hours. However, the LICSW license requires at least 3,000 hours of supervised work experience, with 1,500 hours coming under the direct supervision of a licensed clinical social worker.

Nonclinical social work jobs in Rhode Island do not require a license or a minimum degree. However, most employers still prefer to hire individuals who hold some formal training, such as knowledge earned through a CSWE-accredited bachelor's program in social work, a two-year degree in pre-social work, or experience in a related major like human services.

Exam Application Process and Requirements

A national social work exam, administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), represents the final requirement for social work licensure in Rhode Island. For the LCSW license, candidates take the master's-level exam, which costs $230. Alternatively, LICSW candidates must pass the clinical-level exam, which is $260.

To register for the exam, LCSW and LICSW candidates must first submit applications to the Board of Examiners in Social Workers, which will then verify each candidate's eligibility. This application fee costs $70.

Each test includes 170 questions, 150 of which count toward a tester's final score; ASWB distributes 20 practice questions throughout the four-hour exam. ASWB administers the exam through worldwide Pearson Professional Centers. Rhode Island maintains one test center in Warwick. Candidates can register to take the test year round. ASWB directly sends the candidate's score to the board.

Note that LICSW candidates must first obtain an LCSW license to begin accruing supervised experience hours. As a result, LICSWs eventually take both the master's-level and clinical-level ASWB examinations.

Continuing Education and Licensure Renewal

Rhode Island requires licensed social workers to apply for license renewal every two years. Licenses expire on May 1, and the state notifies license holders of their upcoming expiration 60 days before April 30. The fee to renew an LCSW or LICSW license costs $70.

If a licensee misses the expiration date, they can still renew their license with a late fee of $40.

Renewal in Rhode Island requires clinical social workers to complete 30 continuing education credit hours within each two-year window. These 30 credits must include three contact hours related to cross-cultural practice and three hours in social work professional ethics.


Why Choose an Online Social Work Program?

Currently, aspiring social workers will not find any online social work programs at schools in Rhode Island. However, through the New England Board of Higher Education's Tuition Break program, they can enroll in online courses in neighboring states at a discounted tuition. Six states participate in the tuition break program: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Eligible New England students can choose from over 800 undergraduate and graduate programs offered through 82 public colleges and universities.

Also, while online programs vary, most that require clinical training or a practicum allow students to complete these experiences at a local site.

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