Social Work Licensure in Missouri

To become a licensed social worker in Missouri, you must have at least a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's in social work qualifies you to become a licensed baccalaureate social worker (LBSW), which allows you to take on entry-level jobs in the field. A master's degree is required to become a licensed master social worker (LMSW). For both of these licenses, you must also pass a criminal background check and the relevant Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam.

The Missouri Committee for Social Workers (MCSW), the state body charged with overseeing the profession, offers two additional licenses to advanced practitioners. To become a licensed advanced macro social worker (LAMSW), you must already be an LMSW. In addition, you must complete 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience and pass the appropriate ASWB exam. To diagnose and treat mental conditions, you must be a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). LCSW candidates must meet the same requirements as LAMSW candidates, but they take a different ASWB exam.

Individuals with a social work degree and license from another state can practice in Missouri if their home state's licensure requirements are similar. The MCSW offers advice and makes final decisions on license reciprocity.

Types of Social Work Degrees in Missouri

Students looking to earn a social work degree in Missouri have three primary options: a bachelor's, a master's, or a doctoral degree. A bachelor's provides an introduction to the field and qualifies graduates for most entry-level jobs. Master's programs usually offer specialized training in a particular area, such as working with children and families, and qualifies professionals for more advanced and supervisory positions. Doctoral programs, through intensive coursework on research and social policy, prepare individuals for jobs in academia as well as leadership roles in social work.

Bachelor's Degree in Social Work

In addition to general education courses in areas like math and science, bachelor's programs in social work help students develop foundational knowledge and skills. These programs may include coursework on subjects such as human behavior, working with individuals and families, and introductory social work policy. They also often include a field experience or internship requirement. Most full-time students earn their bachelor's degree in about four years.

A bachelor's in social work qualifies you for initial social work licensure in Missouri, as well as entry-level roles at nonprofit organizations and government agencies. According to PayScale, a social worker with just a bachelor's degree earns, on average, $43,619 per year.

Master's in Social Work

A master's degree in social work offers training in a particular concentration, such as healthcare social work or clinical practice. Coursework may cover subjects like crisis management, the treatment of addictions, or psychopathology. These two-year programs also usually feature more in-depth field experiences to prepare students for professional practice.

Students must earn a master's in social work to obtain advanced Missouri social work licensure. This degree can also significantly boost your earnings. PayScale estimates that the average salary for a licensed master social worker is $47,106. Clinical social workers can earn even more, with a median salary of $55,529.

Doctorate Degree in Social Work

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

Students usually take between four and seven years to earn a doctorate at social work schools in Missouri, but they often command 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 Missouri

Becoming an LBSW or LMSW does not require supervised clinical experience, but social workers at these levels generally work only with individuals or families and cannot diagnose or treat mental conditions. An LAMSW is qualified for systems-level work, such as designing healthcare policies or orchestrating a community response to an opioid epidemic. An LCSW is trained and authorized to work with individuals suffering from mental health issues.

Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker

  1. Education: To become an LBSW in Missouri, you must have at least a bachelor's degree in social work from an accredited institution. These programs combine introductory coursework in social work theory with a field experience or internship. Full-time students usually graduate in four years.
  2. Exam: All LBSW applicants must pass the ASWB bachelor's-level exam. This exam consists of 170 multiple choice questions covering subjects such as assessment, intervention; professional ethics; and human behavior, diversity, and development. Applicants have four hours to complete the electronic exam and must pay a $230 testing fee.
  3. Background Check: All licensed social workers in the state must submit to a criminal background check, which is jointly administered by Gemalto Security and the Missouri State Highway Patrol. This process can take up to three weeks. The results of this background check should be submitted with your initial application for licensure.
  4. Supervised Experience: To become licensed to work independently, LBSWs must complete a minimum of 3,000 hours of supervised experience after they earn their bachelor's degree. There are no experience requirements for LBSWs who work for a larger social service organization or under the permanent supervision of an independently licensed social worker.

Licensed Master Social Worker

  1. Education: To become an LMSW, you must have at least a master's degree in social work from an accredited institution. These programs combine advanced coursework in social theory and professional practice with specialized training and more in-depth field experiences. Most full-time students earn their degree in two years.
  2. Exam: All LMSW applicants must pass the ASWB master's-level exam. This exam consists of 170 multiple choice questions that cover subjects including data collection techniques, concepts of abuse and neglect, confidentiality, and professional development. Applicants have four hours to complete this electronic exam and must pay a $230 testing fee.
  3. Background Check: All licensed social workers in the state must submit to a criminal background check, which is jointly administered by Gemalto Security and the Missouri State Highway Patrol. This process can take up to three weeks. The results of this background check should be submitted with your initial application for licensure.
  4. Supervised Experience: There are no experience requirements for LMSWs in Missouri.

Licensed Advanced Macro Social Worker

  1. Prior License: To become an LAMSW, you must already be an LMSW.
  2. Education: Social workers at this level must hold either a master's or doctorate in social work from an accredited institution. Two-year master's programs combine advanced coursework and specialized training with in-depth field experiences. Doctoral programs emphasize data collection and analysis skills, preparing students to complete a research-based dissertation in their area of study. Full-time students usually earn their doctorate in four to seven years.
  3. Exam: All LAMSW applicants must pass the ASWB's advanced generalist exam. The exam consists of 170 multiple choice questions and assesses a student's knowledge on subjects like the indicators of psychosocial stress, the effect of culture and race on human behavior, and techniques used to evaluate social work practice. Applicants have four hours to complete this exam and must pay a $260 testing fee.
  4. Background Check: All licensed social workers in the state must submit to a criminal background check, which is jointly administered by Gemalto Security and the Missouri State Highway Patrol. This process can take up to three weeks. The results of this background check should be submitted with your initial application for licensure.
  5. Supervised Experience: LAMSW applicants must complete a minimum of 3,000 hours of relevant experience during a period of two to four years. A fully licensed LAMSW must supervise this experience. This supervisor must have at least five years of experience and 16 hours of supervisor training. Supervisors must also submit annual progress reports documenting the progress of those under their supervision.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

  1. Prior License: To become an LCSW, you must already be an LMSW.
  2. Education: Social workers at this level must hold either a master's or doctoral degree in social work from an accredited institution. Master's programs combine specialized coursework and training with in-depth field experiences. Doctorate programs emphasize data collection, analysis, and interpretation skills, preparing students to complete a research-based dissertation in their area of study. Full-time students usually earn their doctorate degree in four to seven years.
  3. Exam: All LCSW applicants must pass the ASWB's clinical exam. This electronic exam consists of 170 multiple choice questions, and students have four hours to finish. The test covers subjects such as person-in-environment theory, psychological defense mechanisms, and techniques for mobilizing community participation. Applicants must pay a $260 fee to take this exam.
  4. Background Check: All licensed social workers in the state must submit to a criminal background check, which is jointly administered by Gemalto Security and the Missouri State Highway Patrol. This process can take up to three weeks. The results of this background check should be submitted with your initial application for licensure.
  5. Supervised Experience: LCSW applicants must complete a minimum of 3,000 hours of relevant experience during a period of two to four years. A fully licensed LCSW must supervise this experience. This supervisor must have at least five years of experience and 16 hours of approved supervisor training. They must also submit annual progress reports detailing the progress of those under their supervision.

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

It's possible to become an LBSW in Missouri in just over four years. If you already have a bachelor's in social work, you just need to pass the ASWB exam and a criminal background check.

Becoming an LMSW requires earning a master's degree in social work, which usually takes about two years.

To become an LAMSW or LCSW, you need to earn a master's degree and complete 3,000 hours of supervised experience. The experience requirement takes between two and four years to complete.

Out of State Licensing Reciprocity in Missouri

Individuals with a social work license from another state can apply for reciprocity with the Missouri Committee for Social Workers (MCSW). This process involves requesting proof from your home state that you have an accredited degree, passed the relevant exam, and completed a period of supervised experience. Reciprocity applicants must also provide three references, submit to a background check, and pay a $60 fee.

The MCSW requires reciprocity applicants to meet all of the requirements of their requested licensure level. If a licensed clinical social worker from another state has not passed the ASWB clinical exam, they must do so before they can be authorized to diagnose and treat mental conditions in Missouri.

License Renewal

All social workers in Missouri must renew their license every two years. To qualify for renewal, social workers must complete a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education courses, at least three of which must be in the area of professional ethics.

There are many ways for social workers to complete this requirement. A semester hour of credit at a college of university equates to 15 hours of continuing education. Social workers can earn five hours of continuing education for publishing an article in a peer-reviewed publication and 10 hours for publishing an entire book related to the field of social work. Professionals can earn a maximum of 15 hours of credit for self-study programs, including video recordings or interactive programs.

You can view a full list of acceptable activities and authorized providers on the Missouri Committee for Social Workers website.

Accredited Social Work Programs in Missouri

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

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

Social workers play a variety of roles in society. After earning a bachelor's degree in social work, you are prepared for entry-level jobs at community organizations, schools, hospitals, and government agencies. Completing a master's program can prepare you for more advanced positions in the public sector, as well as opportunities to work in private practice or as a clinical social worker. But regardless of the career path you pursue, social work requires exceptional communication, interpersonal, emotional, and problem-solving skills.

  • Child, Family, or School Social Worker: Child and family social workers help coordinate various 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 and socioemotional development. Many employers may prefer to hire candidates with a master's degree.
  • Healthcare Social Worker: Healthcare social workers help their patients better understand their diagnoses, support their transition from a hospital back to their home, and provide information and access to treatment services. Healthcare social workers in clinical positions must have a master's degree in order to become licensed.
  • Marriage and Family Therapist: Marriage and family therapists help people solve problems in their relationships. They provide individual counseling or work with couples or groups. While some are employed by hospitals or health centers, many work in private practice. Therapists must have a master's degree in a mental health field.
  • Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, or Mental Health Counselor: These counselors provide individual and group support to people suffering from addiction, depression, eating disorders, or other mental or behavioral problems. Many counselors specialize in a particular area, such as working with teenagers dealing with suicidal thoughts. Most positions in this field require a master's degree.
  • Social or Community Service Manager: Social and community service managers oversee social service programs and lead community organizations. They have many responsibilities, including hiring staff, managing budgets, and determining the effectiveness of programs. While there are usually not minimum education requirements for these positions, employers may prefer to hire candidates with an advanced degree.

Salary Expectations for Social Workers in Missouri

According to the BLS, the average salary across all occupations in Missouri was $45,520 in 2017. Entry-level social workers, usually those with only a bachelor's degree in the field, can expect to earn less than the statewide average. However, individuals in clinical roles, like marriage and family therapists, can earn significantly more. Many of the more lucrative positions in social work require a master's degree.

Average Salary for Social Workers in Missouri

Child, Family, and School Social Workers $37,050
Healthcare Social Workers $45,620
Marriage and Family Therapist $49,630
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, or Mental Health Counselor $39,250
Social or Community Service Manager $39,060
Source: BLS

Professional Organizations for Social Workers in Missouri

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

  • National Association of Social Workers - Missouri Chapter: NASW represents more than 132,000 professionals across the country. The Missouri chapter provides detailed information on licensure and renewal in the state, hosts an annual conference, and lobbies the state government for policies that benefit social workers and their clients. Members also receive discounted tuition for continuing education courses.
  • Missouri Society for Clinical Social Work: MSCSW serves clinical social workers in the state. It offers continuing education workshops and trainings, an online forum for collaborating with other clinical professionals, and a mentoring program for new social workers. The society also publishes a quarterly newsletter and maintains a variety of mental health resources on its website.
  • School Social Workers Association of Missouri: SSWAM works exclusively with social workers employed by schools and other educational organizations. The association hosts an annual networking conference and continuing education seminars throughout the state. The group's website features a job board and a listing of social work programs in Missouri.
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