Social Work Licensure in Mississippi

To become a social worker in Mississippi applicants must meet educational, experience, and exam requirements. Students need a minimum of a bachelor's in social work (BSW) to become a social worker in the state. A BSW allows you to apply for a non-clinical license, and a master of social work (MSW) qualifies you to work as a master's-level clinical or non-clinical social worker.

Additional requirements for social work licenses in Mississippi vary depending on which which license you apply for: the licensed social worker (LSW), licensed master social worker (LMSW), or licensed certified social worker (LCSW). Mississippi requires licensure of all social workers, including those at the bachelor's level. The state takes the profession seriously through its commitment to providing highly educated social workers to its citizens.

Licensed social workers who move to Mississippi from out of state need to apply for the appropriate Mississippi social work license, but they will benefit from the state's reciprocity process. Mississippi does not require applicants to retake exams or earn another degree; they must, however, fill out an application, provide documentation of education and exam scores, and pass a background check.

Types of Social Work Degrees in Mississippi

Prospective students can earn social work degrees in Mississippi at the bachelor's, master's, or doctorate level. A bachelor's in social work serves as the minimum educational requirement to work as a licensed social worker in the state. With a BSW you can apply to earn the LSW credential and find entry-level, generalized social work positions.

A master's in social work qualifies you to apply for the LMSW or the LCSW. You can practice either non-clinical social work with the LMSW or clinical social work with the LCSW. Master's-level social workers practice in specialized areas, including as school social workers, mental health social workers, and healthcare social workers.

Earning a doctorate in social work leads to careers in education, research, administration, and policy. You can pursue an online social work degree at any of these levels.

Bachelor's Degree in Social Work

A bachelor's degree in social work provides students with a broad overview of social work. Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)-accredited BSW programs also require students to complete a social work internship. Graduates boast the skills necessary to begin entry-level, generalist social work and find jobs in case management and program management. Bachelor's-level social workers cannot practice clinical social work. A BSW works best for individuals hoping to find employment upon graduation and who do not plan to pursue clinical social work.

Master's in Social Work

To practice clinical social work, Mississippi requires a MSW. MSW programs explore social work theories and practice at an advanced level and allow students to choose a specialization. Increasingly, even employers looking for non-clinical social work positions beyond those at the entry level prefer or require candidates who hold a master's. Additionally, master's-level social workers tend to make higher salaries than those who hold only a bachelor's. Job titles for MSW holders include clinical social worker, substance abuse social worker, child and family social worker, and hospice social worker.

Doctorate Degree in Social Work

A doctorate in social work caters to individuals interested in alternative social work career paths, such as in education, research, policy, or administration. Job titles of social work Ph.D. holders include professor, lecturer, researcher, social work supervisor, and policy analyst. Individuals who hold a doctorate degree in social work can expect higher salaries than those with a BSW or MSW. Social work Ph.D. programs explore advanced social work concepts and include a dissertation process that allows students to explore a specific area of interest at an expert level.

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker in Mississippi

Prospective social workers can earn three different social work licenses in Mississippi: the LSW, LMSW, and LCSW. Individuals who hold a bachelor's in social work may earn the LSW credential, which permits non-clinical social work. LSWs typically practice generalist work. Candidates with a master's in social work can apply for either the LMSW or the LCSW. Individuals hoping to practice non-clinical social work can earn the LMSW, and individuals who want to practice clinical social work can earn the LCSW. While the most difficult to earn, the LCSW offers social workers the most freedom and career opportunities.

Licensed Social Worker

  1. Earn a BSW: You must hold a bachelor's in social work from a CSWE-accredited college or university. Applicants can fill out their LSW application through the Mississippi Board of Examiners as early as their senior year. It typically takes four years to complete a bachelor's in social work. This educational requirement prepares graduates for entry-level professional social work employment.
  2. Pass the ASWB Bachelor's Exam: To get your LSW you must pass the ASWB bachelor's exam. Candidates complete the 170-question, four-hour exam at a local Pearson Professional Center. You can register for the test online and must submit a $230 exam fee.
  3. Pass a Background Check: You must successfully pass a state of Mississippi criminal background check by submitting your fingerprints to local law enforcement. You must pay a $50 fee for this process.

Licensed Master Social Worker

  1. Earn a MSW: You must hold a master's in social work from a CSWE-accredited college or university. It usually takes about two years to earn a MSW -- although if you already hold a BSW it typically takes only one year. This educational requirement prepares graduates to work as professional non-clinical social workers.
  2. Pass the ASWB Master's Exam: You must schedule, take, and pass the ASWB master's exam. You register for the test online, submit a $230 fee to the ASWB, and take the test at a local Pearson Professional Center. You must complete the 170-question, multiple-choice exam within four hours.
  3. Pass a Background Check: You must successfully pass a state of Mississippi criminal background check by submitting your fingerprints to local law enforcement. You must pay a $50 fee for this process.

Licensed Certified Social Worker

  1. Earn a MSW: You must hold a master's in social work from a CSWE-accredited college or university. It usually takes about two years to earn a MSW, although if you already hold a BSW it typically only takes one year. This educational requirement prepares graduates to work as professional clinical social workers.
  2. Pass the ASWB Clinical or Advanced Exam: You must schedule, take, and pass the ASWB clinical or advanced exam. You register for the test online, submit a $260 fee to the ASWB, and then take the test at a local Pearson Professional Center. You must complete the 170-question, multiple-choice exam within four hours.
  3. Pass a Background Check: You must successfully pass a state of Mississippi criminal background check by submitting your fingerprints to local law enforcement. You must pay a $50 fee for this process.
  4. Accumulate Required Professional Experience: To receive your LCSW, you must provide documentation of two years of professional experience at the LCSW level. This must include 1,000 hours of face-to-face contact and 100 hours of direct supervision. Documentation of this experience must include three professional letters of reference.

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

The time it takes to complete the Mississippi social work licensure process depends on which level of license you want. The LSW only requires a bachelor's in social work, which takes about four years to earn. The LMSW and LCSW both require an MSW, which adds an additional one-to-two years of school. In addition to the education requirements, LCSW applicants must also accumulate two years of professional work experience at the licensed clinical social worker level. If you enroll in one of the online social work programs in Mississippi, you may finish your degree and receive your license faster.

Out of State Licensing Reciprocity in Mississippi

Professional social workers who hold a social work license in a state other than Mississippi enjoy the state's licensed social worker reciprocity agreement. The agreement allows you to become licensed in Mississippi by applying for an initial application for reciprocity through the Mississippi State Board of Examiners. Applicants need a comparable license from a state that requires the equivalent or greater qualifications for its licensing process, including passing the applicable ASWB test. You do not need to retake your ASWB exam or earn a new social work degree. Applicants need to submit their fingerprints, $50 for Mississippi's criminal background check, and a $70 application fee. The Board can take two-to-six months to review applications on file.

License Renewal

Mississippi requires professional social workers to renew their license every two years. Social workers must earn 40 continuing education credits every two years to qualify for renewal. Of the 40 required hours, four must focus on ethics and two must focus on cultural diversity. You can take up 20 of the 40 continuing education credits in an online program. Social workers may carry over up to 10 continuing education hours from the previous renewal period. Mississippi charges renewal fees of $70 for the LSW and $100 for the LMSW or LCSW.

Accredited Social Work Programs in Mississippi

Prospective students can choose from several social work schools in Mississippi. Earning a degree from an accredited program in the state provides several advantages, including the opportunity for local networking, local internship opportunities, and the ability to familiarize yourself with the local social work field. Students in Mississippi must earn their degree from an accredited program, specifically programs the CSWE.

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

Most graduates of social work programs find employment as social workers. If you earn a BSW, you qualify for entry-level, generalized social work positions. Completing a master's in social work opens up the entire field and allows you to pursue more specialized positions, such as school social worker, mental health social worker, or hospice social worker. Clinical social worker positions throughout the country require an MSW. Not only does holding a master's increase the number of jobs for which you qualify, it also means you earn a higher salary. Some social work graduates find work in research, education, and administration positions.

  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker: LCSWs need at least a master's in social work. They diagnose and treat individuals with mental, emotional, behavioral, and substance abuse issues and provide counseling and therapy to patients and their families. They also help people find employment and housing and connect them with resources.
  • Child, Family, and School Social Worker: These social workers help identify at-risk children in schools and find ways to protect them. In extreme cases, they arrange foster care and adoptions. They almost always need at least a BSW, but oftentimes employers prefer applicants hold an MSW.
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker: Mental health and substance abuse social workers need a master's in social work in order to practice. They provide counseling to patients and families dealing with addiction and mental health disorders. They also provide referrals and connect patients with resources to help them succeed.
  • Medical Social Worker: Medical social workers practice in healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, and residential treatment centers. They help patients and their families understand diagnoses and treatment plans. Sometimes they provide group therapy and help patients with insurance forms.
  • Social Worker (MSW): Master's-level social workers can practice in a variety of specialized areas or work in general practice. Typical daily duties change based on concentration area and job title and include helping people deal with social, behavioral, and mental problems.

Salary Expectations for Social Workers in Mississippi

Salary expectations for social workers in Mississippi vary substantially based on the type of social work you practice and the level of degree you hold. Individuals with a master's in social work tend to make much higher salaries than those who hold only a bachelor's. The highest paid social workers in the state -- licensed clinical social workers -- make $20,000 more each year than the lowest paid social workers -- child, family, and school social workers. Earning a MSW takes an additional year or two of school but can significantly increase your salary.

Average Salary for Social Workers in Mississippi

Child, Family, and School Social Workers $34,930
Medical Social Workers $47,540
Licensed Clinical Social Worker $56,336
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers $38,640
Social Worker (MSW) $37,000
Source: BLS and PayScale

Professional Organizations for Social Workers in Mississippi

Joining a professional organization in Mississippi offers numerous benefits, including access to networking opportunities and discounts on conferences and continuing education credits. Many organizations also offer scholarships, funding opportunities, job boards, and industry publications. Becoming a member of these types of organizations helps you stay up-to-date on new developments in the field. It also helps you get to know social work professionals in your local community.

  • National Association of Social Workers, Mississippi Chapter: The Mississippi chapter of NASW is the largest professional organization for social workers in the state. Benefits of membership include licensing information, continuing education credits, an annual conference, a newsletter, and a job board. The group offers a discounted membership rate to students.
  • Mississippi Public Health Association: The MPHA boasts public health professionals from across Mississippi, including social workers who practice in public health settings. It aims to strengthen the public health of Mississippi residents and to promote the profession of public health. The group offers professional development opportunities, public health resources and reports, and a newsletter.
  • North American Association of Christians in Social Work: The NACSW includes Christian social workers of all denominations. It helps its members integrate their faith with social work practice. Membership benefits include networking events, a job board, a subscription to its quarterly journal, a membership directory, free access to podcasts, and discounted materials. The organization also offers discounted continuing education hours.
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