Social Work Licensure Requirements in Iowa

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Iowa has three levels of licensure for social workers: Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW), Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW), and Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW).

LBSWs have education at the bachelor’s level. They have a more limited scope of practice.

LMSWs and LISWs have education at the master’s level. They have an expanded scope of practice, which includes psychosocial therapy. However, LMSWs may not go into solo private practice in any capacity. Master social workers who wish to practice independently must complete a post-master experience requirement and apply for the LISW license.

The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work offers a CSWE-accredited online Master's in Social Work. This program is top-ranked by US News and World Report. The GRE is not required to apply to the [email protected] program. A Bachelor's degree is required Learn more about this program.

The Simmons College School of Social Work ([email protected]) is the nation’s oldest school of social work and is offering an innovative Online Master of Social Work program. You can complete this CSWE-accredited Master's in Social Work program in as little as 15 months. There is no GRE required for acceptance to this program. Request information.

[email protected] is the online Master of Social Work program from the top-20–ranked University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW). The program is for students who earned a bachelor’s degree in a field other than social work. GRE scores are not required. Request information.

Capella University is now offering an online Master of Social Work that is in CSWE candidacy status. The MSW program helps prepare students to enter the general or clinical practice role (in most states). Capella also offers an online Doctor of Social Work. Click Here to contact Capella University about their Master of Social Work program or Doctor of Social Work program.

LBSW Requirements in Iowa

Those interested in the LBSW credential should seek a baccalaureate social work program that has CSWE accreditation ( After receiving the degree, they will sit for the baccalaureate level exam administered by the ASWB. License applications must be submitted with a $120 fee. Click here to find instructions for the online application process.

LMSW and LISW Requirements

Someone who seeks licensure at the higher practice levels must enroll in an accredited or approved graduate social work program. If a U.S. program is at the master’s level, it needs CSWE accreditation. Doctoral programs will not have this accreditation but need Board approval.

You may also want to read the article "Master’s Degree in Social Work: Developing Skills and Competencies" if you have any questions about Master's of Social Work programs.

The ASWB master’s exam is another requirement. A master’s student in his final semester may be authorized to take the licensing exam; he or she will need a letter that includes his expected graduation date. At this time, he will fill out the LMSW application and remit the $120 fee. He will have a transcript sent to the Board after he graduates – if he has already passed the exam, this will allow his application to be finalized and his LMSW license issued.

Supervision requirements are more stringent for those who are working toward the higher license. To get the independent license, a master social worker will put in two years of full-time work under the supervision of a Licensed Independent Social Worker. He may choose to work part-time and accrue 4,000 hours of work experience over a period of up to six years. Work must include diagnosis and treatment. The clinical supervisor does not necessarily have to be an employee of the agency where the LMSW works. However, a written release will be necessary in order to maintain standards for client confidentiality.

Over the course of the supervised work experience, the master social worker and his supervisor must meet and talk face to face for a total of 110 hours. Up to 60 of the hours may be carried out in a small group setting. Some of the supervision hours may involve electronic communication so long as there is audiovisual interaction in real-time. However, during the first two sessions, supervisor and supervisee must be together in the same location.

Supervisor and supervisee must submit a supervision plan prior to beginning. After requirements are met, a supervision report must be submitted to the Iowa Board. The Board will review this before authorizing the candidate to take the clinical exam. Click here to download the application packet from the Board site. It includes a checklist of required documents. The Board may approve alternate supervision requests if the request is submitted beforehand.

Additional Information

Anyone who has been licensed in another state must have verification sent from the state licensing agency or ASWB Registry. Endorsement candidates should also have the ASWB send their test results to the Iowa Board.

Licenses are renewed every two years. The continuing education requirement is 27 hours. It does not apply to first time licensees.

Professional Organization(s)

If you are still in High School, hold a High School Diploma/GED, or hold a bachelor's degree, check out suggested steps to take along the path to become a Social Worker in Iowa.

NASW – Iowa

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