Social Work Licensure in Florida
The governing body for social work licensure in Florida is the Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling. Encompassing fields beyond social work, the Board offers unique licensing options that reflect a holistic approach to social services. In addition to the standard licensed clinical social worker and certified master social worker credentials, Florida professionals may pursue renewable licensure to practice marriage and family therapy or mental health counseling services. Candidates must hold a master's degree to qualify for all forms of licensure.
Florida also offers a registered clinical social worker intern credential. Registered interns are required to hold a master's degree and complete a practicum or period of fieldwork. Since fieldwork is a mandatory curriculum component of a social work degree in Florida, this requirement is usually fulfilled prior to graduation. Intern registration prepares candidates for advanced licensure by allowing them to practice under the supervision of a qualified professional. With the exception of the certified master social worker credential, all forms of licensure include a registered intern designation.
In addition, licensed clinical social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, and advanced registered nurse practitioners may apply for dual licensure as marriage and family therapists. Retired social workers, or those planning to retire, may obtain limited licensure, which permits them to practice in public or nonprofit settings.
Types of Social Work Degrees in Florida
Both traditional and online social work programs in Florida are offered at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Each degree varies in the time needed to complete them and the depth of knowledge they provide. While a bachelor's degree combines introductory social work concepts with general education coursework, a master's degree allows for greater exploration of specialized topics. Higher degrees may also lead to additional career opportunities, as multiple types of Florida social work licensure require a master's degree. Those wishing to teach at the postsecondary level may go even further, earning a doctoral degree in social work.
Bachelor's Degree in Social Work
A bachelor's degree typically requires about four years of study, or around 120 credit hours. While all social work schools in Florida offer slightly different curricula, undergraduate coursework often includes an introduction to social work practices, sociological concepts, and policy analysis, along with an internship or fieldwork component. Required coursework and field practice ensure that candidates master both core social work concepts and the skills needed to apply their knowledge in a real-world setting. Earning a bachelor's degree qualifies graduates for entry-level social work positions, and may lead to higher lifetime earnings than those with a high school diploma.
Master's in Social Work
A social work master's degree allows graduate students to explore advanced topics in depth. Usually requiring around 60 credits of coursework and field study, most full-time students earn their master's in about two years. Graduates may then apply for clinical and specialized licensure. Licensed clinical workers, licensed marriage and family therapists, and certified master social workers must hold a master's. An advanced degree is also associated with higher salaries; even in professions that do not require a master's. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual median difference in pay between social workers with a bachelor's degree and those with a master's was $10,000.
Doctorate Degree in Social Work
A doctorate is the terminal degree in the field, and a requirement for individuals pursuing jobs in academia or research. Because doctoral curricula typically center upon original research and dissertation development, completion times vary according to the subject and scope of a candidate's proposal. Many students take five or more years to earn a Ph.D. or doctor of social work (DSW). However, these degrees are highly valuable: According to Current Population Survey, only 12% of the U.S. population holds an advanced degree in any field, and social workers with a doctorate are particularly rare. Most are employed as professors, researchers, or hold executive roles.
How to Become a Licensed Social Worker in Florida
While the Board grants multiple licenses and certifications, only four are standalone credentials that are not limited or connected to dual standing. Each of these four licenses lead to distinct career paths. Licensed clinical social workers may diagnose and treat clients, while certified master social workers hold administrative positions. Professionals who receive LMFT licensure may practice as marriage and family therapists, and the LMCH credential is intended for mental health counseling specialists. Candidates for all four licenses must have a master's degree, at least two years of professional experience, HIV/AIDS and domestic violence training, and must also pass the appropriate exams.
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
- Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)
- Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW)
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
- Master's Degree: Candidates must earn a social work master's from an CSWE-accredited program that includes 24 credits of clinical coursework in human behavior, practice strategies, and psychopathology. Qualifying programs must also include an internship or practicum.
- Supervised Experience: After obtaining a master's, applicants must undergo two years of supervised work experience with a licensed clinical social worker. Over a 100-week period, candidates must complete 1,500 supervised hours in a psychotherapeutic setting.
- Application: Along with a $100 application fee and $105 licensure fee, applicants must provide college transcripts and a practicum verification, and may need to submit a list of completed courses. Fieldwork supervisors should submit an attestation form.
- ASWB Exam: This assessment measures understanding of advanced social work concepts and practices. After paying a $260 testing fee, candidates have four hours to complete the exam.
- Further Education: Newly licensed LCSWs have six months to take a Board-approved HIV/AIDS course and a two-credit domestic violence class. They must also complete a course on Florida laws and rules.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
- Master's Degree: Qualifying candidates should hold a master's degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field. They must have completed three credits in each of nine focus areas, including theory, diagnostics, psychopathology, and substance abuse.
- Clinical Practice: This requirement may be fulfilled through a practicum, fieldwork, or internship that includes 180 hours of direct client contact in a marriage and family therapy setting.
- Supervised Experience: Graduates must complete an additional two years of experience supervised by a licensed marriage and family therapist. Candidates have 100 weeks to fulfill the 1,500-hour requirement.
- Application: Along with an application, candidates must provide college transcripts and course descriptions, a letter verifying practicum completion, a Supervised Attestation Form, and proof of any previous licensure. Applicants must also pay a $100 application fee and a $105 initial licensure fee.
- AMFTRB Exam: Based on Association of Marital and Family Therapist Regulatory Boards guidelines, this four-hour exam costs $355. Applicants must schedule a testing appointment at a nearby location.
- Further Education: In addition to the state-mandated HIV/AIDS course and domestic violence class, candidates must complete a laws and rules course from a Board-approved organization during their first six months of licensure.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
- Master's Degree: Applicants may hold a master's degree from a CACREP-accredited mental health counseling program, or a master's in a similar field. All candidates must have completed 1,000 hours of clinical fieldwork and 60 credits of area-specific coursework in fields such as substance abuse or developmental psychology.
- Supervised Experience: Under the guidance of a licensed mental health counselor, graduates complete two years, or 1,500 hours, of contact-based fieldwork in a therapeutic clinical setting. Candidates have 100 weeks to fulfill the requirement.
- Application: Applicants must present transcripts, proof of licensure, a practicum letter from their school, and pay a $205 fee. Fieldwork supervisors should provide a Supervised Experience Attestation Form, and the Board may request course descriptions under some circumstances.
- NCMHCE Exam: Provided by the National Board for Certified Counselors, this three-hour exam assesses competence in patient diagnosis, psychotherapy, and administration. The exam is administered in April and October, and requires a $275 fee.
- Further Education: Within six months of becoming licensed, professionals must complete Board-approved courses on HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, and Florida laws and rules.
Certified Master Social Worker
- Master's Degree: Applicants must hold a master's in social work from an CSWE-accredited program. The curriculum should include a focus in administration or clinical practice, and address concepts such as community organization, research, planning, and advocacy.
- Supervised Experience: While candidates must complete three years of experience, only two of those must be supervised and take place after graduation. Qualifying supervisors should be certified master social workers or clinical social workers.
- Application: Applications may be requested and submitted through the Board's website. Candidates should also submit a $50 application fee, a $150 initial licensure fee, and a $5 unlicensed activity fee along with their transcripts and licensure verifications.
- ASWB Exam: Applicants are required to pass the advanced generalist ASWB exam, which costs $260. This four-hour test assesses candidates' mastery of major concepts and current issues related to social work, policy, and administration.
- Further Education: Like other candidates, prospective certified master social workers are required to complete courses covering Florida laws and rules, HIV and AIDS, and domestic violence. These classes should be taken at Board-approved institutions within six months of receiving licensure.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Licensed Social Worker in Florida?
Because all four advanced social work licenses require a master's degree, most candidates spend around six years completing both a bachelor's degree and a master's. After graduation, licensed clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, and mental health counselors must perform at least two years of supervised work experience in a relevant setting. Certified master social workers must have three years of experience, but only two of those are required to be supervised. Applicants must also schedule an appointment to take the necessary exams. Some assessments, such as the NCMHCE exam, are only administered on certain dates, which may affect the overall time it takes to gain social work licensure.
Out of State Licensing Reciprocity in Florida
While Florida does not participate in reciprocity agreements with any state, out-of-state candidates may apply for Florida social work licensure by endorsement. Qualifying applicants must have spent three of the previous five years employed in their state of licensure, and must hold a degree from an CSWE-accredited program. Individuals seeking endorsement should submit official transcripts, verification of licensure, and course descriptions. Like other candidates, out-of-state social workers are required to complete courses on state laws and rules, HIV/AIDS, and domestic violence. The cost of LCSW, LMFT, and LMHC endorsements include a $100 application fee, a $105 initial licensure fee, and a $100 provisional licensure fee. Certified master social worker endorsement fees total $305.
LCSW, LMFT, LMHC, and CMSW licensures and certification should be renewed every two years by the March 31st deadline. Missing this date can lead to delinquent standing, and failure to renew licensure during the designated period may result in the license being annulled. Social workers may renew their credentials online or by mail. While renewal fees are identical for each credential, they vary by licensure status. An active professional renewing an active license, for example, must pay $130, while it costs $180 to restore an inactive license to active status. Late payment fees may run as high as $440.
Before renewing a license, professionals must fulfill Board-mandated continuing education (CE) requirements. With every third renewal, the 25-hour general CE requirement must include three hours of laws and rules coursework, two hours studying domestic violence and medical errors, respectively; and three hours of CE coursework in ethics and boundaries. CE requirements are the same among licensures and certifications, and all must be earned at a Board-approved institution.
Accredited Social Work Programs in Florida
Accredited social work programs in Florida hold an advantage over out-of-state programs in that their curricula reflect state licensing standards. Coursework instills the concepts and competencies needed to pass the required exams and gain Florida licensure. Many faculty members have undergone the state licensing process themselves, and are able to provide valuable insight into gaining employment, building a local professional network, and obtaining a social work degree in Florida.
What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?
The field of social work encompasses a wide spectrum of occupations and specialties, and individuals who earn a social work degree in Florida have a variety of career paths from which to choose. While some graduates pursue occupations in educational, healthcare, or legal settings, others take on roles in community services, family and child welfare, and mental health counseling. Whatever career you intend to pursue, elective coursework and program concentrations present great opportunities to gain specialized knowledge. Many schools offer concentrations in areas such as gerontology, substance abuse, and child psychology that prepare students to take on positions like the examples below.
- Social and Community Service Managers: Charged with developing, overseeing, and delivering social service programs, these managers commonly work in government or nonprofit settings. Along with performing supervisory duties, they must analyze data to determine what services are needed in their communities and monitor the results. Most hold advanced degrees and a significant amount of experience in the field.
- School Social Workers: Working in conjunction with school administration, these social workers assess student behavior for signs of problems, provide counseling and resources, and serve as child welfare advocates. They address issues such as bullying, poor attendance, learning difficulties, and child abuse by building dialogue between families, schools, and students.
- Licensed Clinical Social Workers: These social workers are employed in numerous mental health settings, including hospitals, private practices, and clinics. They assess patients, develop appropriate treatment plans, and help clients access resources like employment and housing. Because licensed clinical social workers are qualified to diagnose and treat patients, they must hold a master's degree at minimum.
- Project Coordinators for Nonprofit Organizations: Project coordinators develop initiatives, events, and programs for charities and nonprofit organizations. Along with performing a variety of administrative duties, they create budgets and supervise staff. Project coordinators must also develop a rapport between their organization and its target population while promoting the services available and developing a positive company image.
- Medical Social Workers: Working in hospitals, private practices, and other facilities, medical social workers connect patients with caregivers and specialists. They help clients with chronic or terminal illnesses track progress, make healthy lifestyle changes, and set and keep doctor's appointments. Many hold advanced degrees, along with specialized credentials and certifications.
Salary Expectations for Social Workers in Florida
There are a variety of factors that may potentially influence earnings, including professional experience, geographic location, individual workplace policies, and educational level. In addition, some positions are more lucrative than others. While higher education is associated with higher pay in most professions, and many employers prefer to hire candidates with a master's degree, licensed clinical social workers are required to hold a master's. Some advanced roles, such as service management, call for a great deal of professional experience. As the table below demonstrates, professionals employed in clinical or high-level positions earn significantly more than others in the field.
Average Salary for Social Workers in Florida
|Social and Community Service Managers||$40,420|
|School Social Workers||$49,300|
|Licensed Clinical Social Workers||$67,270|
|Project Coordinators for Non-Profit Organizations||$40,420|
|Medical Social Workers||$50,470|
Professional Organizations for Social Workers in Florida
There are a multitude of benefits to joining a professional organization, particularly local groups. Whether you're a student or recent graduate, professional organizations offer everything from educational materials and certification programs to career assistance. While most groups host events such as conferences and seminars, joining local associations like the ones below is a great way to develop a statewide professional network and learn about job openings nearby. members foster professional relationships among for career advancement.
- National Association of Social Workers - Florida Chapter: Members of the NASW's Florida chapter gain access to resources that are both broadly applicable and state-specific. The chapter's annual conference provides an opportunity for members to widen their local professional network and acquire new skills. The organization's website also hosts an exclusive job board, as well as discounted services and continuing education programs.
- Florida Association of School Social Workers: Founded in 1942, this association provides a space for school social workers to share experiences, learn from one another, and harness their knowledge to exact policy development. Conferences and forums encourage dialogue regarding issues such as suicide prevention, bullying, and autism. The organization sponsors two scholarships and numerous awards.
- Florida Society of Oncology Social Workers: FSOSW strives to promote professionalism by providing specialists with educational resources and programs. Along with hosting an annual conference, FSOSW connects members to external resources, such as the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship's Cancer Survival Toolbox. All members receive full access to a continuing education tracking tool that provides renewal reminders.