Social Work Licensure in Oklahoma

The five types of Oklahoma social work licensure share common prerequisites, including a social work degree from a program with accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and the completion of an exam. However, specific requirements vary by license.

Candidates for the licensed social work associate (LSWA) credential need only a bachelor's degree, but the remaining licenses require a master's. Certain licenses also require supervised experience, and all candidates for licensure must submit an application and pay fees. Licensed social workers often find positions in healthcare, education, and the legal system.

Social workers in Oklahoma do not need a clinical license to work independently. While professionals must attain clinical licensure for private practice, a licensed social worker (LSC) and the licensed social worker administration (LSW-Adm) credentials also qualify holders for independent social work practice.

The Oklahoma State Board of Licensed Social Workers (OSBLSW) issues provisional licensure after candidates submit their application and fee. Provisionally licensed professionals must pass the exam within a year. Oklahoma does not have a reciprocity agreement with other states, but there is a system in place for out-of-state social workers to gain licensure.

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Types of Social Work Degrees in Oklahoma

Students in social work programs in Oklahoma should consider their chosen career and the necessary type of licensure when determining which level of social work degree to pursue. Bachelor's degree holders in Oklahoma can only obtain LSWA licensure, which qualifies professionals for positions as mental health assistants and caseworkers.

Master's degree holders can pursue advanced social work licensure in Oklahoma, including the licensed master social worker (LMSW) and licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). These credentials increase career opportunities and earning potential. Although a master's degree in social work is considered terminal, experienced social workers may pursue a doctorate to qualify for college teaching positions. No social work licensure in Oklahoma requires a doctoral degree.

Bachelor's Degree in Social Work

A bachelor's in social work (BSW) qualifies graduates for LSWA licensure and positions as caseworkers and assistants. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), median pay for Oklahoma social and human service assistants with a bachelor's degree was $37,000 in 2013, while bachelor's degree holders working as social and community services managers earned a median income of $50,000.

BSW curricula typically cover topics including human behavior, ethics, and policy, and students complete an internship or supervised experience. Most bachelor's programs require about 120 credits, which full-time students typically complete in four years. After earning this social work degree in Oklahoma, graduates can enter the workforce or pursue further education.

Master's in Social Work

A master's degree in social work covers advanced topics, such as clinical practice, and does not include general requirements. Professionals with a master's degree qualify for higher levels of licensure, advanced positions, and higher earning potential. According to the BLS, in 2013, the median income for community service managers with a master's degree was $15,000 higher than the median income of those with a bachelor's degree. After earning a master's in social work degree in Oklahoma, graduates qualify for LMSW, LSW, LSW-Adm, and LCSW credentials, and can work in private or independent practices.

Doctoral Degree in Social Work

A doctorate provides advanced, field-specific education. Doctoral programs generally require a final project or dissertation, and most doctoral students choose a specialization area. A doctoral degree does not qualify graduates for additional licensure, but it does increase career opportunities. Colleges and universities typically require social work professors to hold doctorates. According to the BLS, 0.8% of careers required a doctoral degree in 2016.

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker in Oklahoma

There are five levels of social work licensure in Oklahoma. Four licenses require a master's degree, while the LSWA credential requires only a bachelor's degree. Qualifications for higher levels of licensure are more rigid. All candidates for licensure must pass an exam from the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB).

The LSW, LSW-Adm, and LCSW credentials require supervised experience. These three licenses qualify holders to practice independently, while only LCSW holders are eligible for private practice.

Licensed Social Worker Associate

  1. Bachelor's Degree: Candidates must have a bachelor's in social work, which indicates foundational social work knowledge. BSW programs typically require about 120 credits, including an internship or supervised fieldwork. Most full-time students complete bachelor's programs in four years.
  2. Apply: Candidates must submit an application, a $150 application processing fee, transcripts, and exam scores. Candidates may also need to submit fingerprints or a notarized photograph and must submit to a background check and pay the associated fee.
  3. ASWB Exam: Candidates must pass the ASWB Bachelors exam. To ensure the exam is relevant to current concerns in the field, ASWB bases exam questions on professional social workers' responses to questionnaires. The exam has a four-hour time limit and costs $230.

Licensed Master Social Worker

  1. Master's Degree: Candidates must have a master's degree in social work, which demonstrates graduate-level exploration of the field and completion of a practicum or internship. Most students complete master's programs in two years. No work experience is required.
  2. Apply: Candidates must submit an application, transcripts, and exam results. Candidates must also consent to a background check at their own expense and may need to provide fingerprints, a notarized photograph, and a notarized signature.
  3. ASWB Exam: Candidates must complete the four-hour ASWB masters exam. The OSBLSW should receive copies of the candidate's exam scores within two weeks. The exam costs $230.

Licensed Social Worker

  1. Master's Degree: Candidates must hold a master's degree in social work, which demonstrates an understanding of advanced social work topics and experience in the field. Master's programs typically require about 60 credits, which most students complete in two years.
  2. LSWA/LMSW: Applicants for the LSW credential must hold an LSWA or LMSW license. This prior licensure demonstrates previous state approval and continuing education.
  3. Supervised Experience: Applicants must complete 4,000 hours of experience under the supervision of an LCSW or LSW-Adm. At least 100 of those hours should be face-to-face with the supervisor. Candidates may earn this experience during part-time or full-time roles over at least two years.
  4. Apply: Candidates must apply for licensure before taking the ASWB exam. Candidates must submit transcripts and proof of supervised experience with their application and must pay the application and background check fees.
  5. ASWB Exam: Candidates must pass the ASWB advanced generalist exam, which costs $260. The exam lasts four hours, and delivery of scores may take up to two weeks.

Licensed Social Worker - Administration

  1. Master's Degree: Candidates must hold a master's degree, which students typically complete in two years. Master's programs require an internship or practicum, which demonstrate experience in the field. The master's must be from a CSWE-accredited program, including out-of-state programs and social work programs in Oklahoma.
  2. LSWA/LMSW: Applicants need a current LSWA or LMSW license, which shows that candidates hold a degree, have undergone field experience, and have completed continuing education credits.
  3. Supervised Experience: Candidates must complete at least 4,000 hours of full-time or part-time supervised experience in an administrative position. Candidates must complete these hours over at least two years under the supervision of a professional with LSW-Adm licensure.
  4. Apply: Candidates must submit an application, the application fee, transcripts, evidence of supervised experience, and proof of prior licensure. Candidates must also consent to a background check at their own expense.
  5. ASWB Exam: Candidates must submit passing scores on the relevant ASWB exam. Test-takers have four hours to complete the assessment, and the OSBLSW receives score reports within two weeks of the test date.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

  1. Master's Degree: This degree demonstrates an in-depth understanding of graduate-level topics, including clinical practice. Master's programs typically require about two years and include an internship or practicum. Candidates must have a master's degree from a CSWE-accredited program, including on-campus and online social work degrees.
  2. LSWA/LMSW: Applicants must hold a current LSWA or LMSW license. Prior licensure demonstrates previous state approval, knowledge of the field, and continuing education credits.
  3. Supervised Experience: Candidates must have at least 4,000 hours of post-graduation, supervised clinical practice experience. At least 3,000 of those hours must be in direct client contact, and at least 100 hours must be face-to-face with the supervisor. Supervisors must hold current LCSW licensure. Candidates can complete the hours part time or full time over at least two years.
  4. Apply: Candidates must submit an application, the required fee, proof of supervised experience, evidence of current licensure, and transcripts. Candidates for LCSW licensure must undergo a background check at their expense.
  5. ASWB Exam: Candidates must pass the ASWB clinical exam, which costs $260 and lasts four hours. The OSBLSC receives scores within two weeks of the test date.

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

All social workers in Oklahoma must obtain licensure and pass the relevant ASWB exam. The time required to earn licensure varies based on the license level, as each credential has different requirements. LSWA candidates need a bachelor's degree, which most full-time students complete in four years.

All other types of social work licensure in Oklahoma require a master's degree, which usually requires two additional years. The LSW, LSW-Adm, and LCSW credentials also require two years of supervised experience, which means candidates typically qualify for these licenses after eight years of education and experience.

Out-of-State Licensing Reciprocity in Oklahoma

Oklahoma provides licensure reciprocity to out-of-state social workers who meet certain requirements. To apply for reciprocity, social workers must submit the Verification of Licensure in Other State form, and any associated fees, to the state board from which they currently hold licensure.

The OSBLSC compares the applicant's credentials with Oklahoma's licensure requirements to determine whether the candidate's education and experience meet state prerequisites. If so, the candidate may receive Oklahoma licensure, provided they pass a background check and pay the licensing fee of $150. The OSBLSC offers this reciprocity option to social workers from any U.S. state. Application approvals occur only during board meetings.

License Renewal

Licensed Oklahoma social workers must renew their licenses annually. Licensed social workers must submit a renewal application by December 31. Candidates who apply after the deadline must pay a $50 late fee, and those who do not apply for renewal by March 31 must apply for a new license to continue practicing. Renewal requirements include 16 continuing education credits completed during the previous year, including at least three credits in ethics.

Continuing education credits may require additional fees, such as a $200 provider's application fee and $40 requests for approval. Renewal candidates may undergo an audit on a random or circumstantial basis, during which they must supply proof of continuing education. Applicants can complete the renewal process online, which requires a $100 fee.

Accredited Social Work Programs in Oklahoma

The OSBLSC offers licensure reciprocity with other states, and out-of-state degrees may qualify learners to obtain social work licensure in Oklahoma. However, earning a degree from one of the social work schools in Oklahoma helps students develop professional relationships that may lead to internship and employment opportunities.

Students often volunteer with local social work organizations to form connections that can lead to references, letters of recommendation, career advice, and job opportunities.

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

The social work field comprises a variety of careers in areas including education, healthcare, child welfare, community improvement, and the legal system. When determining which social work degree and specialization to pursue, students should consider their career goals and the necessary license.

Some graduates of social work programs in Oklahoma assist patients in healthcare positions, and others work with children in roles related to child welfare or education. Students who plan to work in private or independent practice should pursue a master's degree, which are available through on-campus and online social work programs in Oklahoma.

  • School Social Workers: These social workers help school-age children succeed academically and socially. Responsibilities often include counseling students and families, mediating communication between families and schools, and connecting students to external assistance. These professionals observe students and identify those who need assistance.
  • Healthcare Social Workers: Healthcare social workers support patients facing illnesses, including fatal ailments. They often counsel patients and their families, advocate for better healthcare, and assist caregivers. Professionals need a master's degree to advance to clinical healthcare positions.
  • Social and Community Service Managers: These professionals oversee community programs and activities. Duties typically include obtaining funding, identifying community issues that need attention, hiring workers, collecting data, and improving existing programs. Advanced positions in the field, along with private or independent practice, may require a master's degree.
  • Case Managers: Case managers help clients improve their lives. These professionals assist clients with issues such as low income, addiction, criminal history, advanced aging, and illness. Case managers communicate with medical professionals and employers to ensure their client's well being. Although some positions do not require college experience, most require a bachelor's degree.
  • Family Advocates: Family advocates create healthy family environments. They commonly provide counseling, assist in foster home placement, and protect children from abuse. These positions commonly require a bachelor's degree, but some employers hire high school graduates. Most positions also require experience, such as a completed practicum or internship.

Salary Expectations for Social Workers in Oklahoma

Average salaries for social workers vary by position and education level. Higher levels of education generally lead to higher earning potential. According to the BLS, healthcare social workers are in especially high demand and earn an annual average salary of $46,690.

Average Salary for Social Workers in Oklahoma

School Social Workers $37,350
Healthcare Social Workers $46,690
Social and Community Service Managers $36,730
Case Managers $54,190
Family Advocates $54,190
Source: BLS

Professional Organizations for Social Workers in Oklahoma

Joining a professional organization provides experience and networking opportunities to improve job prospects. Members stay updated by connecting with professionals in the field. By choosing local organizations, residents build professional connections that may lead to career opportunities. Many professional organizations welcome social work students, and learners should choose an organization aligning with their career goals.

  • Oklahoma City Community Foundation: This organization maintains programs including the Oklahoma City Parks Projects and Get Reading Oklahoma. The foundation encourages donations and offers a community room. The organization connects social work students and professionals interested in community betterment.
  • It's My Community Initiative: IMCI strives to better the community and assist families facing financial issues. The organization unites individuals interested in economics or family social work. IMCI has organized projects, including Work Ready Oklahoma, Safe Families, Reading Explorers, and YouthDecide.
  • Family Builders: This organization assists those suffering from abuse by highlighting possible reasons for aggression and providing methods of dealing with stressors. Many members are social workers specializing in families, addiction, behavioral problems, or mental disorders. Family Builders offers parenting programs, a batterers intervention program, and a co-parenting and divorce class.