Social Work Licensure in Maine

To become a licensed social worker in Maine, you must have at least a bachelor's degree. After completing your undergraduate studies, you must pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) bachelor's-level exam and a criminal background check to receive your license. To obtain supervisory roles in the field and work in private practice, you must have a master's degree in social work and pass the ASWB master's-level exam.

Earning a clinical social worker license in Maine is a two-step process. First, you must apply for a conditional clinical license, which allows you to work under the supervision of a fully licensed clinical social worker. After completing 3,200 to 6,400 hours of supervised clinical experience, depending on the nature of your master's degree, you may take the ASWB clinical exam to become fully licensed yourself.

The State Board of Social Worker Licensure does not have formal reciprocity agreements with any other state. All candidates for social work licensure in Maine must meet the education, exam, and experience requirements established by the board. Out-of-state applicants must also submit a copy of their license and a licensure verification form from their home state.

Types of Social Work Degrees in Maine

Students can find a social work degree in Maine at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. A bachelor's provides an introduction to the profession and qualifies you for many entry-level jobs. Master's programs usually offer specialized training in a particular area, such as working with veterans or members of the military, and qualify you for more advanced positions. Doctoral programs, through rigorous coursework in research and social policy, prepare you for jobs in academia as well as leadership roles in community service organizations and government agencies.

Bachelor's Degree in Social Work

In addition to general education courses in areas like math and the humanities, bachelor's programs in social work help students develop foundational skills and knowledge. These programs may include coursework on subjects such as human behavior, multiculturalism, and working with individuals and families. This degree often includes an internship or field experience requirement. Most full-time students earn their bachelor's from social work schools in Maine in four years, though you may be able to earn an online social work degree even faster.

A bachelor's degree qualifies you for initial social work licensure in Maine, as well as entry-level roles in the field. According to PayScale, social workers with just a bachelor's degree earn an average salary of $43,619 per year.

Master's in Social Work

A master's degree in social work offers more focused training in a particular concentration, such as school social work or clinical practice. Coursework may cover subjects like crisis management, child and adolescent development, or psychopathology. These programs also usually feature more in-depth field or clinical experiences to prepare students for professional practice. Students typically earn their master's in two years.

Earning a master's in social work is a necessary step to obtain advanced licensure in Maine, and it can also significantly improves your earning potential. PayScale estimates that the average salary for a licensed master social worker is $47,106. Clinical social workers earn a median salary of $55,529.

Doctorate Degree in Social Work

If you plan to teach social work at a college or university, you will most likely need a doctoral degree. These programs feature courses on advanced topics like leadership and management in complex social systems and theoretical perspectives on the practice of social work. Because they often require students to complete a research-based dissertation to graduate, these programs also provide training in data collection, analysis, and interpretation.

Students usually take anywhere from four to seven years to earn a doctorate, but their degree often commands higher salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for a postsecondary social work teacher in 2017 was $64,370.

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker in Maine

Maine has five levels of social worker licensure: licensed social worker, conditional (LSX), licensed social worker (LS), licensed master social worker (LM), licensed master social worker, conditional clinical (MC), and licensed clinical social worker (LC).

The LSX license offers entry into the field for individuals who did not earn a bachelor's in social work. The LS license qualifies individuals for entry-level jobs, and the LM license opens up opportunities in supervisory roles and research. The MC license is a bridge to full clinical licensure, and the LC license allows social workers to diagnose and treat mental health conditions.

To apply for any social worker license in Maine, you must pay $116 in fees.

Licensed Social Worker, Conditional

  1. Education: This license provides a pathway into the profession for graduates who did not receive a bachelor's degree in social work. Applicants must have a bachelor's that is related to the field, such as public health or social policy. The Maine State Board of Social Worker Licensure (MSBSWL) makes final decisions on whether a degree qualifies a candidate for conditional licensure.
  2. Exam: Applicants must pass the ASWB bachelor's-level exam. This exam consists of 170 multiple choice questions, covering subjects such as the effect of poverty on individuals and communities, communication theories, methods of conflict resolution, and the principles of documentation. Applicants have four hours to complete the exam and must pay a $230 testing fee.
  3. Background Check: All licensed social workers must submit to a criminal history check. A conviction does not automatically disqualify you, as the state board makes these determinations on a case-by-case basis, depending on the nature of the crime and its relation to an individual's duties as a social worker. Applicants must pay a $21 fee.
  4. Experience: Conditionally licensed social workers must complete a minimum of 3,200 hours of experience in a social service setting in order to apply for a standard social worker license. A fully licensed social worker must oversee this experience and submit a report to the state board recommending the candidate for licensure.

Licensed Social Worker

  1. Education: To become an LS in Maine, you must have a bachelor's degree in social work from an accredited institution. These programs combine introductory coursework in social work theory, practice, and policy with a field experience or internship. Full-time students usually earn their bachelor's degree in about four years.
  2. Exam: All LS applicants must pass the ASWB bachelor's-level exam. This exam consists of 170 multiple choice questions, covering subjects like family therapy models, objective versus subjective data, confidentiality, crisis intervention theories, and governance structures. Applicants have four hours to complete this electronic exam and must pay a $230 testing fee.
  3. Background Check: All licensed social workers must submit to a criminal background check. A conviction does not automatically disqualify you, as the state board makes these determinations on a case-by-case basis, depending on the nature of the crime and its relation to an individual's duties as a social worker. Applicants must pay a $21 fee for this background check.
  4. Experience: There are no experience requirements for social workers licensed at this level in Maine.

Licensed Master Social Worker

  1. Education: To become an LM in Maine, you must have a master's or doctorate in social work from an accredited institution. Master's programs feature specialized coursework and training, as well as field experiences. Doctoral programs help students develop data collection and analysis skills to prepare them for writing a research-based dissertation. Full-time students usually earn their doctorate in four to seven years.
  2. Exam: All LM applicants must pass the ASWB master's-level exam. Students have four hours to complete the exam's 170 multiple choice questions. The exam assesses an applicant's knowledge of subjects like indicators of abuse and neglect, the dynamics of loss and grief, the components of treatment plans, and methods to work with involuntary clients. The exam costs $230.
  3. Background Check: All licensed social workers must submit to a criminal history check. A conviction does not automatically disqualify you, as the state board makes these determinations on a case-by-case basis, depending on the nature of the crime and its relation to an individual's duties as a social worker. Applicants must pay a $21 fee for this background check.
  4. Experience: There are no experience requirements for social workers licensed at this level in Maine.

Licensed Master Social Worker, Conditional Clinical

  1. Education: To become an MC in Maine, you must have a master's or doctoral degree from an accredited institution. Master's programs often consist of coursework in a particular area, along with relevant field experiences. Doctoral programs provide intensive training in data collection and analysis to prepare students to write a research-based dissertation. Full-time students usually complete their doctorate in four to seven years.
  2. Exam: All MC applicants must pass the ASWB master's-level exam. This exam consists of 170 multiple choice questions covering subjects such as criminal justice systems, basic research design and methods, problem-solving models and approaches, and assertiveness training. Applicants have four hours to complete this electronic exam and must pay a $230 testing fee.
  3. Background Check: All social workers must submit to a criminal history check. A conviction does not automatically disqualify you, as the state board makes these determinations on a case-by-case basis, depending on the nature of the crime and its relation to an individual's duties as a social worker. Applicants must pay a $21 fee for this background check.
  4. Experience: Although there are no experience requirements to become a conditionally licensed clinical social worker, these individuals can only work under the direction of a fully licensed supervisor for two to four years. MC applicants must submit the name of the fully licensed clinical social worker who has agreed to oversee their work during this period.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

  1. Education: To become a clinical social worker (LC) in Maine, you must have a master's or doctorate degree from an accredited institution. Master's programs, which usually take full-time students about two years to complete, often feature coursework in a specialized area and field experiences. In doctorate programs, students typically need to write a research-based dissertation. Full-time students usually earn their doctorate in four to seven years.
  2. Exam: All LC applicants must pass the ASWB clinical exam. This exam consists of 170 multiple choice questions covering subjects such as theories of group development, role modeling techniques, gerontology, and the indicators of sexual dysfunction. Applicants have four hours to complete this electronic exam and must pay a $260 testing fee.
  3. Background Check: All licensed social workers must submit to a criminal history check. A conviction does not automatically disqualify you, as the state board makes these determinations on a case-by-case basis, depending on the nature of the crime and its relation to an individual's duties as a social worker. Applicants must pay a $21 fee for this background check.
  4. Experience: Before receiving a full clinical license, social workers in Maine must complete a period of supervised clinical experience. Individuals with a master's degree in a clinical area must complete 3,200 hours of employment experience and 96 hours of consultation from their supervisor. Individuals with a master's degree in a non-clinical area must complete 6,400 hours of employment experience and 192 hours of consultation from their supervisor.

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

You can become a licensed social worker in Maine in about four years, or the time it takes you to earn a bachelor's degree. If you already have a bachelor's in social work, you only need to pass the ASWB exam and a criminal history check. If your bachelor's is not in social work, you will need to work under a conditional license for approximately two years.

Becoming a licensed master social worker in the state requires a master's degree, which usually takes full-time students about two years.

Becoming a licensed clinical social worker requires a master's degree and substantial work experience. If your master's was in a clinical concentration, you must complete 3,200 hours of employment experience, which takes approximately two years. If your master's was in a non-clinical concentration, you must complete 6,400 hours of employment experience. This usually takes three to five years.

Out of State Licensing Reciprocity in Maine

Maine does not hold automatic licensing reciprocity with any state. If you hold an out-of-state license, you will still need to meet all of the education, exam, and experience requirements set out by the Maine State Board on Social Worker Licensure. For example, if you are a licensed master social worker in New Hampshire, but you have not taken the ASWB master's-level exam, Maine will require you to pass it before working in the state.

Out-of-state applicants must also submit a copy of their license and a licensure verification form from their home state.

License Renewal

All licensed social workers in Maine must renew their license every two years. The conditional social work license can be renewed only once, as it is meant to provide graduates without a bachelor's in social work with enough time to meet the experience requirement that they would have already met through a related program's internship. The conditional clinical license can be renewed as many times as needed to meet the experience requirement for full clinical licensure.

To be eligible for renewal, all social workers must complete 25 hours of continuing education courses every two years. Beginning in 2020, all social workers must complete 12 hours of training in family or intimate partner violence. Social workers only need to complete this training once, and it can count towards the 25 hours required biannually.

Renewing a social work license in Maine costs $70.

Accredited Social Work Programs in Maine

To become a licensed social worker in Maine, you must have a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree from an institution that has been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Because Maine recognizes degrees from CSWE-accredited institutions in other states, there is no need to only apply to social work programs in the state. However, it may be easier to find a job locally if you developed a network of professional contacts at a social work school in the state.

The directory below offers a listing of on-campus and online social work programs in Maine and across the country. All of these programs have received CSWE accreditation.

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

Social workers perform a variety of critical functions in society. After earning a bachelor's degree in social work, you can take on entry-level roles at community organizations, health centers, schools, or government agencies. Completing a master's program can prepare you for supervisory and research positions in the public sector, as well as opportunities to work in private practice or as a clinical social worker. Jobs in social work require exceptional communication, interpersonal, emotional, and problem-solving skills.

  • Child, Family, or School Social Worker: Child and family social workers help coordinate a number of social services for their clients, such as helping families find housing or apply for food stamps. School social workers create plans to improve their students' academic performance, as well as their social and emotional development. Many employers prefer to hire candidates with an advanced degree.
  • Healthcare Social Worker: Healthcare social workers help their patients better understand their diagnoses, support their transition from a hospital back to their regular lives, and provide information about ongoing support services. Healthcare social workers in clinical positions need a master's degree in order to be properly licensed in Maine.
  • Marriage and Family Therapist: Marriage and family therapists help people deal with problems in their relationships. They may provide individual counseling or work with couples or groups. Some may be employed by hospitals or health centers, but many work in private practice. Therapists must have a master's degree in a field related to mental health, like clinical social work.
  • Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, or Mental Health Counselor: Counselors working in this area provide individual and group support to people suffering from addiction, depression, eating disorders, or other mental or behavioral problems. Many counselors specialize in working with particular populations, such as teenagers dealing with suicidal thoughts. Most positions in this field require a master's or doctoral degree.
  • Social or Community Service Manager: Social and community service managers coordinate social service programs and lead community organizations. Their responsibilities include hiring staff, managing budgets, and setting the strategic direction of an organization. While there usually are not minimum education requirements for these roles, employers may prefer to hire candidates with a master's degree in a field such as social work.

Salary Expectations for Social Workers in Maine

According to the BLS, the average salary across all occupations in Maine was $45,300 in 2017. Entry-level social workers can expect to earn more than the state average. Individuals in leadership roles, like social or community service managers, can earn significantly more. Many of the more lucrative positions in social work require a master's degree.

Average Salary for Social Workers in Maine

Child, Family, and School Social Workers $51,810
Marriage and Family Therapist $66,360
Healthcare Social Workers $50,530
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, or Mental Health Counselor $49,230
Social or Community Service Manager $29,800
Source: BLS

Professional Organizations for Social Workers in Maine

Joining a professional organization can help you advance your career. These organizations provide networking opportunities through workshops and conferences, offer professional development and continuing education resources, and promote job opportunities in the field. Many also advocate on behalf of their members for better salaries and improved working conditions. Here are three organizations serving social work professionals in Maine.

  • National Association of Social Workers - Maine Chapter: NASW represents more than 132,000 professionals across the country. The Maine chapter lobbies the state government for more effective social work policies and legislation, organizes an annual conference, and offers continuing education courses throughout the state.
  • Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care - Maine Chapter: SSWLHC represents health care social workers. In Maine, the group hosts regular events to help its members network, discuss best practices, and learn about the latest research developments and news in the field.
  • Maine Association of Community Service Providers: MACSP is a network of organizations and companies that provide services to individuals with disabilities in Maine. Membership provides an organization's employees with access to online training resources and the group's annual networking and education conference.
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