Social Work Licensure in Texas

By Staff Writer

Graduates of social work programs in Texas enter the workforce ready to help families and improve their communities. Texas social work licensure opens the door to many employment opportunities, including youth and family counseling, clinical care, and community social work. Social work graduates enter into a stable career track with a promising career outlook. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 11% job growth rate in the field from 2018-2028.

Students can choose from several tracks for social work licensure in Texas. A bachelor's degree is the entry-level requirement, and a master's is considered the terminal degree for licensure. After earning a degree from an accredited school, each aspiring social worker in Texas has to pass a jurisprudence exam, apply, and pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) examination.

Master's and doctoral degrees require continuing education and professional experience. Our guide covers four distinct licenses. Texas does not maintain reciprocity for social work licensure with other states, but the Lone Star State does allow for license reapplication if the applicant meets certain requirements.

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Types of Social Work Degrees in Texas

Licensure level determines a social worker's career opportunities. A bachelor of social work (BSW) degree prepares learners to apply for entry-level licensure in Texas. This non-clinical career track prepares students for positions as case managers and family specialists. A master of social work (MSW) degree opens clinical and non-clinical career opportunities.

Clinical social workers may work in substance abuse counseling, school social work, and mental healthcare. A doctorate in social work does not prepare graduates for further licensure, but it increases research opportunities and prepares graduates for postsecondary teaching. Read on for further details on these degree tracks and their impact on employment.

Bachelor's Degree in Social Work

A student seeking a career in general social work must earn a bachelor's degree as the minimum educational requirement. Learners must study at schools accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), which ensures program quality. On-campus and online BSW programs typically take four years to complete and include field experience requirements. After receiving licensure, social workers can practice in entry-level, non-clinical human services jobs. For those looking to specialize their social work, a BSW paves the way to a master's program.

Master's in Social Work

An MSW prepares students for the highest levels of social work licensure in Texas. Graduate programs accredited by the CSWE emphasize advanced practice and specialized studies, such as clinical work and community planning. MSW degrees take about two years to complete, although a student with a BSW may become eligible for advanced standing, allowing them to complete the program more quickly.

Social workers who want to work in a specialized area typically pursue MSWs. After becoming licensed at the master's level and obtaining the proper experience, graduates can earn additional licensure in clinical care or advanced practice. Higher licensure usually leads to higher salaries.

Doctoral Degree in Social Work

While students cannot pursue doctorate-level licensure, social work learners looking to become educators, scholars, or researchers benefit from earning this advanced degree. Degree-seekers can pursue the Ph.D., which is more research-focused, and the doctor of social work (DSW), which concentrates on more practical applications.

Coursework varies significantly between the two degrees. Social workers who specialize in clinical work generally earn higher salaries. Doctoral degrees require original research and an extensive dissertation, with programs typically taking between 3-6 years. Each student should select a doctoral program that aligns with their desired career.

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker in Texas

Texas schools offer four social work licenses: one at the baccalaureate level and three at the graduate level. Licensed bachelor social workers (LBSWs) perform entry-level work in non-clinical settings. Aspiring professionals commonly pursue MSWs.

A master's degree prepares students for three license options: licensed master social worker (LMSW), licensed master social worker- advanced practitioner (LMSW-AP), and licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). LMSWs are eligible to become LMSW-APs or LCSWs after completing supervised employment in an appropriate setting and passing advanced examinations. These licenses prepare professionals for specialized employment and higher salaries.

Licensed Bachelor Social Worker

  • Bachelor's in Social Work: LBSWs must earn their BSWs from CSWE-accredited programs. BSW degrees generally take four years to complete and provide a general overview of the profession, human services, and community organization.
  • Pass the Online Jurisprudence Exam: This Texas-specific exam tests applicants on their knowledge of state laws and regulations to protect citizens from potential ethical or legal violations. Students can submit their licensure applications after passing the exam.
  • Complete an Application: Prospective social workers must submit official BSW transcripts, fill out the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners (TSBSWE) licensure application, complete forms on security information and employment history, and submit to background checks. The application costs $91 as of March 2020.
  • Pass the ASWB Bachelor's Exam: After earning board approval, applicants must pass the ASWB bachelor's exam, which is a four-hour, $230 national test. The exam ensures that students are familiar with key content areas and have a competent skill set. After passing, social workers become officially licensed and ready for employment.

Licensed Master Social Worker

  • Master's Degree in Social Work: Students must earn their MSWs from CSWE-accredited schools. An MSW typically takes two years to complete for a student with a BA or BS. Learners with BSWs may apply for advanced standing and a shorter curriculum timeline. An MSW takes a more specialized look at the social work field and requires an internship or practicum component.
  • Complete the Online Jurisprudence Exam: After earning their MSWs, graduates can take the online jurisprudence examination. This general exam tests students on their understanding of state-specific laws and regulations to ensure their professional knowledge.
  • Submit an Application: The application to be an LMSW requires official transcripts, a TSBSWE application ($91), security information, professional experience, and a criminal background check ($50). This TSBSWE then reviews this application through the Texas Department of State Health Services.
  • Pass the ASWB Master's Exam: The ASWB master's exam ensures that students possess an intermediate level of social work expertise. The exam tests general competencies, along with crucial professional abilities for social workers. Each candidate pays $230 for this four-hour exam and can only complete the test after receiving board approval.

Licensed Master Social Worker - Advanced Practitioner

  • Accrue and Document the Necessary Experience: LMSWs hoping to progress to advanced practitioner status must complete the required 24 months of professional, master's-level social work experience in a non-clinical field, with 100 LMSW-AP or LCSW- supervised hours. Applicants must submit a non-clinical supervision verification form to the board that documents the supervised work.
  • Submit Application: LMSWs must apply to upgrade their licenses to advanced practitioner status. This application costs $111 as of March 2020 and consists of an employment history, verification of experience, a security form, and documentation of the completed jurisprudence examination.
  • Complete the ASWB Advanced Generalist Exam: After submitting their application and being approved by the board, applicants sit for the ASWB Advanced Generalist Exam. This four-hour exam tests for advanced competency in non-clinical settings and costs $260. Candidates must earn at least a 70 to pass.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

  • Accrue and Document the Necessary Experience: Master's-level social workers looking to upgrade their licenses to the clinical level must complete 24 months of master's-level clinical experience after being licensed as LMSWs or LMSW-APs. This must include 100 hours of supervised work with a board-approved LCSW. Applicants have to submit their hours and a verification form before applying for licensure.
  • Submit Application: After completing the required experience, each social worker may apply for a licensure upgrade, along with a $111 fee to the TSBSWE. The application must include the clinical supervision verification form, employment history, examination security information form, and proof of a jurisprudence exam completion.
  • Pass the ASWB Clinical Examination: Once the board has verified the application and clinical supervision hours, applicants take the clinical exam. The exam, which takes four hours and costs $260, confirms that social workers possess advanced knowledge of the profession and the key techniques used in clinical settings.

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

Committing to a social work degree in Texas requires a significant time investment. A bachelor's degree typically requires four years of full-time study. A master's degree generally takes two years to complete, although students with BSWs can sometimes complete their degrees in a year through advanced standing tracks. LBSW and LMSW candidates can take their ASWB exam after graduation to receive their licenses in a few weeks. LMSW-AP and LCSW licenses require an additional two years of employment after certification as an LMSW to apply for advanced standing.

Out of State Licensing Reciprocity in Texas

Texas maintains no formal reciprocity agreements with other states. Previously licensed social workers hoping to relocate to the Lone Star State have to reapply for their licensure. To do so, they have to meet all of the application requirements of first-time licensure candidates, including an accredited degree, a jurisprudence exam, an application, and an ASWB exam. Candidates will also have to complete any additional experience hours.

The state may allow for some application requirements from other states to transfer on a case-by-case basis. If applicants previously passed the national ASWB exam, they can waive the examination component for Texas social work licenses. The state grants this endorsement under certain circumstances. When an applicant meets all requirements, the $91 application and $50 background check (as of March 2020) take a few weeks to process before the recipient receives their license.

License Renewal

Social workers in Texas must renew their licenses every two years during their birthday month. Renewal can now take place online, and applicants must have completed 30 hours of continuing education -- including six hours focused on social work ethics and values -- in the two years leading up to reapplication. Candidates must track their hours and take courses at board-approved institutions or accredited schools.

This regulation ensures that social workers maintain up-to-date skillsets and prove their dedication to the field. Renewal cost varies among license types, with LBSW and LMSW fees at $86 and LMSW-APs and LCSWs paying $106. Those who fail to renew must pay penalty fees, which increase over time.

Accredited Social Work Programs in Texas

Social workers in Texas must earn degrees from CSWE-accredited schools. Many accredited on-campus and online programs offer social work degrees in Texas. Due to the increasing population and poverty rates in Texas, many organizations need licensed professionals. These agencies may also provide opportunities for social workers seeking experience before pursuing advanced licensing.

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

Social workers dedicate themselves to improving other people's lives. Those with bachelor's-level licensure often focus on generalist social work positions as case managers. These entry-level workers remain in high demand in rural areas. Many BSW graduates also choose to earn their MSWs or doctorates. LMSW-APs focus in a specific area and earn higher salaries with more career opportunities. They find employment in clinical or psychiatric work, program management, addiction counseling, or school social work.

The median salary for social workers in the U.S. reached $49,470 in 2018. Each distinct specialization within social work receives different salaries based on educational qualifications, professional experience, level of licensure, and job responsibilities. A social work career that requires a graduate degree and specialized licensure will typically result in a higher salary and increased career prospects.

Healthcare Social Worker

Healthcare social workers find employment in hospitals and outpatient care facilities. They help patients and their families cope with the social, emotional, and financial impacts of disease, and often work as therapists, case managers, or admissions managers. This role typically requires an MSW, but those with BSWs may apply for positions with more limited duties.

Median Salary: $56,200

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker

These social workers help clients struggling with mental disorders and addiction. All social workers must possess an MSW and licensure, which allows them to provide psychotherapy, work as complex case managers, and implement integrated treatment plans. They work in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, and social services agencies.

Median Salary: $44,840

Child, Family, and School Social Worker

These social workers practice in schools, adoption centers, and social services agencies. In schools, they specialize in behavioral issues and crisis management. In all settings, they promote child welfare and help families cope with issues of abuse, addiction, and trauma. A BSW prepares social workers for generalist casework, while an MSW sets them up for advanced practice specialization.

Median Salary: $42,405

Social and Human Services Assistant

These professionals provide client services in nonprofits, government agencies, and social services organizations. Human services assistants often work with other social workers to connect clients to resources. In some states, an associate degree suffices for entry-level employment, but professionals must obtain BSWs for career advancement and social work licensure in Texas.

Median Salary: $33,750

Geriatric Social Worker

Geriatric social workers promote the welfare of the elderly and ensure them a high quality of life. They may work in nursing homes or hospices. Professionals who specialize in geriatrics must have taken appropriate coursework and earned MSWs with an emphasis on gerontology.

Median Salary: $50,909

Professional Organizations for Social Workers in Texas

Professional social work organizations promote the occupation and its mission to ensure basic human rights. These organizations help members network and provide opportunities for continuing education and professional development resources. They may also give social workers an active voice in public policymaking. Some organizations offer liability insurance and legal advice for their members. The following section details three professional organizations for social workers in Texas.

  • National Association of Social Workers-Texas The NASW Texas chapter counts nearly 6,000 members and remains committed to advancing the social work profession. The organization offers networking opportunities, helps lobby for related social policy and legislative issues, and sponsors conferences. The organization also provides continuing education opportunities, journal access, legal and ethical consultations, and discounted liability insurance.
  • Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care-Texas Chapter This organization promotes leadership in healthcare and supplies a network for professional development, education, and advocacy. Its members aim to ensure that patients have access to social workers who can enhance their care and connect them to the necessary resources. They provide a statewide network and present an annual educational conference for members.
  • Texas Society for Clinical Social Work This society focuses on clinician advocacy and active lobbying of the Texas legislature. Members must possess graduate-level social work training and professional experience in the field. This organization provides forums for professional growth, networking, mentoring, and continuing education, along with opportunities for clinical supervision for LMSWs looking to obtain LCSW licensure.