Social Work Licensure in Arizona

All 50 states require clinical social workers to hold a license, and most require nonclinical social workers to hold a license. Requirements for licensing vary from state to state, and regulations change often. Professionals seeking a social work license in another state must reapply for a license from that state's regulatory board.

The licensure process for Arizona is relatively straightforward. The state offers three licenses: baccalaureate, master, and clinical. The baccalaureate and master license both permit social workers to conduct supervised nonclinical work. The clinical license authorizes social workers to conduct clinical activities such as psychotherapy and diagnosis.

Candidates must have a bachelor's or master's degree from a properly accredited program. The baccalaureate degree requires a bachelor's in social work, while the other two licenses require a master's degree at minimum. All applicants must also pass the relevant licensing exam. To take this exam, candidates must first apply to the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners for permission. While going through the testing process, applicants can also apply for a temporary license.

The baccalaureate and master licenses do not require prior work experience. However, applicants for the clinical license must complete 3,200 hours of supervised work hours.

The following guide describes the in-depth steps for earning Arizona social work licensure.

Types of Social Work Degrees in Arizona

Individuals can earn a social work degree in Arizona at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. The biggest differences between these programs are the career options available to graduates. With a bachelor's in social work, candidates can find jobs with community mental health agencies or schools. Professionals with a master's degree have more job opportunities than those with only a bachelor's degree. During a master's program, individuals can choose to pursue either clinical or nonclinical social work. Candidates with a master's may find work in specialized, advanced fields such as mental health social work or addiction counseling. Those with a doctoral degree can work in administration or teach at the college level.

Bachelor's Degree in Social Work

A bachelor's degree in social work opens many career opportunities. This is the minimum degree required for licensure. Professionals with a bachelor's degree can pursue work in areas such as case management or program management. Those who have a bachelor's in social work may also be able to offer counseling in situations relating to large life decisions or adjustments.

Bachelor's degrees are available both on campus and online. Full-time students can earn the degree in four years. Individuals interested in counseling or clinical work should continue to a master's program.

Master's in Social Work

A master's in social work opens career opportunities in specialized fields such as addiction, mental illness, and clinical work. Students choose to pursue either a clinical or nonclinical route. Clinical programs prepare students to diagnose, assess, and treat illnesses, disorders, and disabilities. Nonclinical programs focus more on community services. Both routes require at least 900 hours of field experience.

While students can take coursework entirely online, they must complete field experiences in person at a pre-approved site. Many online schools allow distance learners to complete these requirements at a location in their community. Some online programs offer a more affordable rate than on-campus programs. Full-time students can complete a master's program in two to three years.

Doctorate Degree in Social Work

For those interested in research and education, a doctoral degree in social work can open opportunities in academia, federal agencies, professional counseling, and upper-level administration. Graduates can find jobs as psychologists, physical therapists, or professors. Students can pursue two different types of social work doctorate. The doctor of social work is practice-based instead of research-based. In contrast, the Ph.D. in social work focuses heavily on research.

Students can complete coursework for a doctorate entirely online, in a hybrid format, or on campus. Depending on the specific program, students may complete a lengthy dissertation, a professional project, or clinical hours. It typically takes three to five years to earn a doctorate.

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker in Arizona

The Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners (AzBBHE) issues three social work licenses: licensed baccalaureate social worker, licensed master social worker, and licensed clinical social worker. The board also offers licenses for professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, and substance abuse counselors.

Licensed baccalaureate social workers must work under direct supervision. They cannot conduct clinical work like diagnosing illness or providing psychotherapy. Licensed master social workers may perform more advanced work and take on specialized roles. However, they are ineligible for clinical positions.

Licensed clinical social workers are authorized to provide therapy, perform psychological assessments, and prescribe treatment. They work with individuals with mental illness, behavioral disorders, chronic illness, physical impairments, or other challenges.

To earn one of these licenses, social workers must first earn a bachelor's or master's degree at minimum. Candidates should then pass the relevant Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam. While going through the testing process, applicants can also apply for a temporary license.

Applicants for the licensed baccalaureate social worker credential and the licensed master social worker credential do not need any prior supervised work experience. Applicants for the licensed clinical social worker credential need at least 3,200 of supervised work experience and 100 hours of supervised clinical work experience.

Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker

  1. CSWE-Accredited Degree: Candidates for a baccalaureate license must have a degree from a CSWE-accredited school. Students may attend either an in-state or out-of-state program, as long as the school holds regional accreditation.
  2. Licensing Exam: Before taking the exam, applicants must submit fingerprints and apply for permission through the AzBBHE. Candidates may take the bachelor's, master's, advanced generalist, or clinical ASWB exam. The AzBBHE allows candidates to attempt the exam twice over a one year period.

Licensed Master Social Worker

  1. CSWE-Accredited Degree: As the title implies, a master social worker license requires a master's degree. Candidates must attend a school that holds both CSWE accreditation and regional accreditation.
  2. Licensing Exam: Applicants must first apply to the AzBBHE for permission to take the exam. Candidates should pass the master's, advanced generalist, or clinical exam. The AzBBHE allows candidates to attempt the test twice during a one year period.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

  1. CSWE-Accredited Degree: To work in a clinical setting, applicants must have a master's or doctoral degree from a CSWE-accredited school. Candidates must also graduate from a regionally accredited institution.
  2. Licensing Exam: To earn a clinical social worker license, applicants must take and pass the clinical licensing exam. Individuals can attempt the licensing test twice over a one year period.
  3. Supervised Hours: Applicants must complete least 3,200 hours of supervised work over the course of two years, including a minimum of 1,600 hours of direct client interaction. Candidates also undergo 100 hours of supervised clinical work. At least 50 of these hours must be supervised by a social worker, while the other 50 may be supervised by another qualified professional.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Licensed Social Worker in Arizona?

Education is the most time-consuming step in the licensure process. Full-time students can complete a bachelor's degree in four years and a master's degree in two additional years. Candidates who decide to complete a doctoral degree can complete a Ph.D. in three to five years.

Standard baccalaureate and master licenses do not require any prior work experience. Individuals pursuing a clinical license must earn at least 3,200 hours of supervised experience over the course of two years.

Once they apply to the AzBBHE, candidates have one year to pass the relevant ASWB exam. After passing the exam, it takes a few weeks or months to receive the license.

Out of State Licensing Reciprocity in Arizona

Reciprocity is the process of transferring a license to a different state. In Arizona, the social work regulatory board does not maintain any formal reciprocity with any other states. However, Arizona does allow out-of-state social workers to become licensed in Arizona without redoing the entire licensing process.

Social workers from other states may be eligible for endorsement if they have maintained licensure for at least three years. Candidates should submit a verification from the state agency that issued the initial license. This verification should include information on whether the applicant has ever been the subject of disciplinary proceedings. Applicants should also submit an affidavit verifying their work experience. The application for endorsement costs $250 for the application and $40 for a criminal history background check.

License Renewal

All licensed social workers must renew their license every two years. To renew a license in Arizona, licensed baccalaureate, master, and clinical social workers must complete 30 hours of continuing education units. Professionals can complete these units through regionally accredited social work schools in Arizona, professional associations, government agencies, or Arizona courts. Professionals may also receive continuing education hours for publishing a book or report in their field.

To renew a license, social workers must complete the renewal form. The renewal fee is $350 for all licensed social workers. A late fee of $100 will be issued to anyone who fails to meet the deadline for renewing their license.

Accredited Social Work Programs in Arizona

Arizona has one of the highest rates of employed social workers in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The state boasts the second-highest nonmetropolitan pay in the country. By earning a social work degree from an accredited program in Arizona, students learn how to address emotional, mental, and behavioral issues in youth, families and the elderly.

All students must ensure their program holds proper accreditation. Learners attending school in Arizona should look for accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. To obtain licensure, all students must attend a school accredited by CSWE. Below is a list of the best accredited social work programs in Arizona.

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

Social work is a versatile field of work that allows for specialization in a wide variety of topics. Core social work areas include child, family and school social work; healthcare social work; and mental health and substance abuse social work. Within each of these categories, professionals can focus on a particular age group, population, or issue. Social workers who earn a master's degree can work in more specialized clinical positions. Professionals with a doctoral degree can explore careers as teachers or high-level administrators.

  • Social Worker: Social workers assist clients and their families with various financial, social, behavioral, mental, and emotional issues. They communicate with clients and help connect patients to social services. Though a master's is not required, it can open new job opportunities.
  • Child and Family Social Workers: These social workers protect children and help families who are in need of assistance. Social workers help families secure housing, apply for benefits, or find childcare services. They also help remove vulnerable children from dangerous or abusive situations.
  • School Social Workers: School social workers collaborate with teachers, parents, and school administration to create a healthy and beneficial school environment for students. They help children deal with behavioral issues, emotional problems, bullying, and other challenges.
  • Clinical Social Workers: Clinical social workers are licensed to diagnose, assess, and treat mental illness and disorders. They may help patients struggling with stress, addiction, lifestyle changes, or disabilities. They also address the mental and emotional strains illnesses have on patients.
  • Medical and Public Health Social Worker: Medical and public health social workers typically work for government agencies. They focus on the well-being of communities such as cities, small towns, or organizations. These social workers spread community health information and help patients manage illnesses.

Salary Expectations for Social Workers in Arizona

Common career paths for individuals with a degree in social work include social worker, school social worker, clinical social worker, child and family social worker, and healthcare social worker. However, social work majors may also pursue jobs as counselors, community service managers, and postsecondary educators.

Salary varies significantly based on position, education level, professional experience, and location. Jobs that only require a bachelor's degree pay significantly less than those that require a graduate degree. Clinical social workers usually make more than their nonclinical peers.

Average Salary for Social Workers in Arizona

Social and Community Service Manager $36,820
Child, Family, and School Social Worker $38,380
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker $37,260
Healthcare Social Worker $48,910
Social Worker, All Other $61,360
Source: BLS

Professional Organizations for Social Workers in Arizona

Professional organizations provide opportunities for networking, professional development, and advocacy. Students can find their first jobs through these associations, while established professionals can earn continuing education credits. Some associations represent all social workers, while others focus on particular areas such as school social work. The list below describes three of the many organizations dedicated to social workers.

  • National Association of Social Workers - Arizona Chapter: NASW is the largest professional association of social workers in the country. Nationally, the association promotes improved standards and beneficial policies. The Arizona chapter allows local professionals to network and share resources with like-minded individuals. Members gain access to monthly journals, professional development resources, and the annual conference.
  • School Social Work Association of America: This nonprofit professional association represents school social workers. SSWAA provides resources, conferences, grants, and newsletters. The association also offers online continuing education units.
  • Social Work Hospice & Palliative Care Network: For social workers focusing on healthcare, this national network provides professional resources, emerging research, and networking events. Members can access training and attend an annual conference.
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