Social Work Licensure in Louisiana

To work as a licensed social worker anywhere in the U.S., individuals must earn and maintain state-specific licensure. Louisiana operates a three-tier licensing system, with each tier possessing distinct educational, exam, and professional experience criteria. The initial registered social worker (RSW) license requires a bachelor of social work (BSW), while the second-tier licensed master social worker (LMSW) credential requires a master of social work (MSW). Neither of these licenses mandate specific work experience requirements.

The third and final state credential is the licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) license. In addition to holding an MSW, LCSW candidates in Louisiana need to accumulate 5,760 hours of supervised work experience, which generally takes a little under three years of working 40-hour weeks. Additionally, Louisiana social workers must renew their license annually. To do this, they need to complete at least 20 hours of state-approved continuing education each year. Renewal fees can be as little as $25 or as high as $150, depending on the licensure level.

From neglected children to elderly persons struggling to lead independent lives, social workers help individuals in need by providing counseling services and community-oriented resources. With the proper preparation, an individual can become an LCSW in 8-9 years. However, those who pursue an accelerated online social work degree program may be able to obtain licensure in less time.

Types of Social Work Degrees in Louisiana

Like many fields of study, social work programs in Louisiana become increasingly research- and practicum-intensive as students pursue more advanced degrees. Undergraduate tracks provide general education and training in fundamental social work topics. Associate and bachelor's curricula prepare learners for entry-level jobs in supporting and non-clinical roles, such as community health organizers and crisis intervention case assistants.

To become an LCSW or obtain mid-level administrative positions in Louisiana, professionals need to earn a master's degree. Graduate programs emphasize hands-on training in real work settings. Experienced social workers can also go on to pursue a doctoral degree, which prepares them for high-ranking positions as service managers and program directors. Colleges and universities must hold specialized accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) in order to confer valid social work degrees in Louisiana.

Bachelor's Degree in Social Work

Through BSW programs, students gain the core social services and healthcare knowledge required to pursue supervised, non-clinical careers. PayScale reports that entry-level social workers in the U.S. earn an average of about $41,000 per year. Additionally, because a BSW represents a core requirement that social workers need in order to eventually apply for initial Louisiana social work licensure, all workers in the field benefit from this degree.

Course topics at the undergraduate level include diverse identities, human behavior theory, and foundations of social work practice. Some schools also provide optional specializations in areas such as substance abuse and child and family studies. While bachelor's programs generally take four years to complete, some online social work programs in Louisiana provide accelerated options.

Master's in Social Work

As mentioned above, to become an LCSW in Louisiana, individuals need to obtain an MSW. According to PayScale, U.S. professionals at this level enjoy an annual salary of approximately $56,000 -- a big jump from the pay entry-level social workers earn. In addition to providing the opportunity to conduct independent research, graduate programs connect social workers with organizations that facilitate supervised training, which is a requirement of the state licensure process. MSW degree candidates may take coursework that covers health planning, dementia care for adults, and case management practice. Students interested in distance education options can also enroll in online MSW programs, which may offer less expensive alternatives to brick-and-mortar institutions.

Doctorate Degree in Social Work

Although professionals can apply for the top social work licensure in Louisiana with a master's degree, some learners opt to pursue doctoral-level work as a way to gain advanced leadership skills and field experience. Degree candidates can earn a doctor of social work (DSW) degree or a Ph.D. in social work. The DSW highlights practice-based skills, ideal for social workers who want to continue working in clinical fields.

Alternatively, Ph.D. programs tend to focus more on social policy, program assessment, and analytics, which suits professionals who want to teach in colleges and universities or occupy positions as researchers and consultants. In either case, the demand for doctorate-level social work careers is high. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that health services managers and postsecondary teachers will experience 20% and 15% job growth, respectively, over the next several years.

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker in Louisiana

The Louisiana State Board of Social Work Examiners (LABSWE) confers three tiers of professional licensure and one add-on designation. Regardless of what license a student plans on applying for, they should be sure to enroll in programs accredited by CSWE. Although the first two levels of licensure do not require additional work or field experience once an individual earns their degree (a BSW or MSW, respectively), obtaining the most advanced license and becoming an LCSW requires a professional to undergo extensive supervised training, which usually takes three years. Since clinical licensure represents the gold standard in the social work field, obtaining this credential is crucial to career advancement. Additionally, Louisiana social workers can apply to become a Board Approved Clinical Supervisor (BACS) after three years of full-time employment at the LCSW level.

Registered Social Worker

  1. Bachelor of Social Work: Candidates need to earn a bachelor's degree from a college or university accredited by CSWE, which usually takes four years. BSW programs provide study on fundamental topics such as social welfare and human behavior and the environment. Although undergraduate degree programs tend to center on generalist training, some schools offer specializations in areas like clinical social work and child welfare.
  2. Application: LABSWE facilitates online applications. RSW candidates must submit their academic transcripts, a criminal background check, a passport-style photograph, and a $50 processing fee. RSWs must renew their license every year, and to qualify for renewal, they must complete 20 hours of continuing education annually.

Licensed Master Social Worker

  1. Master of Social Work: Students typically earn an MSW in two years, although enrolling in an accelerated online program can shorten this timeline. Graduate-level academics emphasize independent research and hands-on learning, including internships and field/service experiences. Advanced course topics include counseling modalities and multicultural theory and practice. Universities generally provide specialization opportunities through options such as international social work, elder care, and program management.
  2. Master's Exam: Facilitated by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), the master's-level exam costs $230. Candidates can take up to four hours to answer 170 four-option, multiple-choice questions electronically. Broad topics include ethical conduct and human diversity. ASWB creates test questions by surveying social workers in the U.S. and Canada in order to pinpoint relevant skills and other common standards.
  3. Application: Candidates fill out an electronic application through LABSWE's website, which includes a $75 fee. Individuals must also submit to a background check and turn in a passport-style photo and official academic transcripts. Like the RSW license, the LMSW credential must be renewed annually, also necessitating 20+ hours of continuing education.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

  1. Master of Social Work: Like most U.S. states, Louisiana recognizes the MSW as the terminal degree in the social work field when it comes to licensing. Master's programs usually take two years and include coursework in topics like program evaluation, adult mental health and wellness, and substance use in social contexts. MSW programs alo uniformly require field experience and training.
  2. Clinical Exam: ASWB offers exams in a proctored, online format. The clinical-level exam lasts four hours and contains 170 multiple-choice questions with four answer options per question. Topics center on advanced clinical diagnosis, treatment planning, and professional conduct and ethics. Candidates must pay $260 to sit for the exam.
  3. Field Experience: After earning their MSW, social workers need to accumulate 5,760 hours of post-graduate work experience in the field. These hours must be completed through an employer approved by the state. Additionally, 3,840 of these hours must be overseen by a BACS. LCSW candidates also need to receive at least 96 hours of face-to-face supervision.
  4. Application: LCSW candidates can submit applications and the $100 fee online through LABSWE's website. They must also furnish a criminal records check, a passport-style photo, academic records, proof of post-degree employment, and a record of supervision form. Like all other social work licenses in Louisiana, the LCSW credential requires yearly renewal.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker - Board Approved Clinical Supervisor

  1. Fulfillment of Licensed Clinical Social Worker Requirements
  2. Supervision Training: To apply for the BACS designation, LCSWs need to complete a board orientation workshop. They must also go through a state-approved training session, which lasts 6.5 hours. Covered topics include supervision theory, best practices, and procedures toward licensure. In addition to helping ensure the quality of the profession in Louisiana, BACSs earn extra income for their services.
  3. Application: LABSWE allows BACS candidates to submit applications online. They must provide documentation of at least three years of LCSW-level work experience and complete an approved supervision training course. Candidates also need to furnish two letters of recommendation, but there is a no application fee.

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

Louisiana social work licensure comes in three levels. The initial RSW license, which requires a BSW but no work experience, can be earned in four years. The LMSW license necessitates a master's degree and a passing score on the related exam; however, there is no required work experience, so social workers can earn this license in approximately six years. In order to obtain the highest level of state licensure -- the LCSW credential -- professionals need an MSW, passing scores on the corresponding exam, and at least 5,760 hours (or about three years) of post-graduate field experience. In total, becoming an LCSW in Louisiana requires about nine years of education and training.

Out of State Licensing Reciprocity in Louisiana

LABSWE does not conduct formal license reciprocity with any state. However, through an endorsement process, social workers can convert their out-of-state licenses into valid Louisiana credentials. Like professionals who earned their social work degree in Louisiana, those from outside the state must hold a master's and/or bachelor's degree from a higher education institution accredited by CSWE. Professionals must also possess a certain number of hours of experience, depending on what Louisiana license they hope to obtain.

To gain license endorsement in Louisiana, out-of-state social workers must submit a verification form along with official academic transcripts, scores from relevant ASWB exams, a criminal background check, and a passport-style photo. If necessary, applicants must also send in proof of supervised work or field experience and a copy of licensing standards from their former state. Endorsement fees vary based on the level of licensure: RSWs pay $50, LMSWs pay $75, and LCSWs pay $100.

License Renewal

Social workers must renew their licenses annually by August 31 or the license will lapse, meaning they no longer possess state authority to work in the field. Professionals may apply for late renewal by paying additional fees, which vary depending on how long they let their license lapse. LABSWE facilitates license renewals through an online system. The process includes a fee, ranging from $25 to $150 depending on the level of licensure and the date of application.

To maintain social work licensure in Louisiana, professionals must accumulate at least 20 hours of approved continuing education each year. Additionally, all social workers must acquire three hours of ethics training and education every two years. LCSWs need to coordinate their continuing education so that 10 hours consist of diagnosis and treatment-related activities. Furthermore, LCSWs who hold the BACS title need to participate in three hours of clinical supervision duties every two years to maintain the designation.

Accredited Social Work Programs in Louisiana

Social work schools in Louisiana offer accessible degrees at all levels and specializations in fields that include rural health, child welfare, gerontology, and substance abuse. Colleges and universities in the Bayou State also offer some of the lowest tuition rates in the U.S. College Board reports that, in the 2017-2018 academic year, students who attended public universities paid an annual tuition of $9,000, while those enrolled at private institutions paid approximately $23,000.

Affordable education, expanding job prospects in the field, and low living costs combine to make Louisiana an appealing place to study and work. According to PayScale the cost of living in Louisiana ranks below the national average, even in urban centers like New Orleans. To find more information, consult the directory of accredited social work programs below.

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

By earning a Louisiana social work license, graduates gain access to growing careers at settings like community health organizations, hospitals, government agencies, and schools. Because social workers dedicate themselves to helping diverse groups of people they must possess sensitivity and empathy, often dealing with individuals in fraught situations that require thoughtful communication. Although workers can obtain a limited number of social work positions (e.g., case assistants and community health workers) with an associate degree, most social workers go on to earn their bachelor's and master's degrees, the latter representing a core requirement for state clinical social work licensure.

  • Rehabilitation Social Worker: These specialists assess client conditions, including any physical limitations, and help them live independently. Many work the elderly in nursing or residential care facilities. Because rehabilitation social workers generally provide clinical services, they must possess a master's degree and proper state licensure. The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification also offers voluntary certificates.
  • Healthcare Social Worker: These social workers engage with doctors, patients, and other health professionals to help involved parties understand how disease and illness affect an individual's emotional and mental health. These professionals also help patients develop plans for healthy living. The position includes substantial clinical tasks involving diagnosis; therefore, it requires a master's degree and advanced licensure.
  • School Social Worker: Through counseling and health services, these professionals help students develop the tools needed to succeed academically and socially. School social workers may also assist schools, students, and families with bullying, aggressive behavior, and learning disabilities. Individuals can access these jobs with a bachelor's degree, although most professionals go on to earn a graduate degree related to clinical and leadership training.
  • Health Educator: Providing a link between the community and healthcare professionals, these educators promote wellness and disease awareness through outreach programs and group training sessions. Professionals in this field can gain entry-level positions as community health advocates with an associate degree; however, most workers go on to obtain a bachelor's or master's degree to advance into administrative and management roles.
  • Social Service Manager: Working with teams, these leaders ensure the efficient implementation of community programs, including health services and family welfare initiatives. They also oversee administrative duties related to finance and employee coordination. As an advanced leadership position, social service managers require substantial work experience in community and nonprofit settings as well as a relevant master's or doctoral degree.

Salary Expectations for Social Workers in Louisiana

According to the BLS, the average salaries of the five aforementioned social work careers range from about $44,000-$67,000. However, these earnings may vary widely based on location, employer type, and the specific credentials held by a professional, including their education level, work experience, and license and voluntary certification. For example, health educators who work in large cities tend to earn higher wages than their rural counterparts due to the allocation of national/state resources and the economic power of urban areas.

Relatedly, professionals who possess clinical social work licensure in Louisiana enjoy a higher salary than entry-level and non-clinical social workers. Based on national data from PayScale, the median annual salary difference between these positions is more than $10,000.

Average Salary for Social Workers in Louisiana

Rehabilitation Social Worker $44,360
Healthcare Social Worker $52,010
School Social Worker $52,390
Health Educator $52,730
Social Service Manager $38,130
Source: BLS

Professional Organizations for Social Workers in Louisiana

Students who enroll in traditional or online social work programs in Louisiana benefit from rigorous academics and career-relevant professional training. They can bolster these opportunities by joining a professional organization in the field, including the three detailed below. These organizations usually charge an annual fee, but members gain access to scholarships, research grants, and opportunities to engage and collaborate with colleagues at nationwide conferences. Professional entities also offer continuing education programs, including specialist training and certification pathways.

  • Louisiana Group Psychotherapy Society: As part of the American Group Psychotherapy Association, LGPS acts as a referral network for members, connecting them to professional training, career consultation, and clinical supervision. Members can also attend local and national conferences and access e-learning resources such as asynchronous, topic-based seminars. The association and its affiliates advance the social work field through ethical research initiatives and policy advocacy.
  • National Association of Social Workers - Louisiana Chapter: NASW stands as the top professional organization in the field. Its 120,000+ members enjoy continuing education opportunities, including certification programs and specialty practice information sessions. NASW also operates advocacy initiatives and a career center, the latter of which hosts student-specific resources. Furthermore, Louisiana members can access financial support, such as leadership awards and scholarships.
  • National Association of Black Social Workers: With a history that dates back to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, NABSW supports black social workers and advocates for accessible and culturally specific health services for African American communities. Members gain access to regional committee assistance, online publications and research, a rewards program, and a career center.
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