Social Work Licensure in Texas

Graduates with a social work degree in Texas are prepared to help families and improve their community. 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 (BLS) projects that social work positions will increase by 15% between 2016 and 2026.

Students have several tracks available 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 their degree at an accredited school, learners in Texas have to pass a jurisprudence exam, submit an application, and pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) examination. Master's and doctoral degrees require continuing education and professional experience. There are four distinct licenses available that are discussed in detail below. There is no reciprocity for social work licensure between states, but Texas does allow for license reapplication if the applicant meets certain requirements.

Types of Social Work Degrees in Texas

Social work careers are determined by level of licensure. A bachelor's in social work degree (BSW) prepares students to apply for entry-level licensure in Texas. This non-clinical career track prepares students for positions such as case manager and family specialist. A master's in social work (MSW) opens both clinical and non-clinical career opportunities. A clinical social worker may work in substance abuse counseling, school social work, or mental healthcare. A doctorate in social work does not prepare graduates for further licensure, but it may increase research opportunities and will prepare them for post-secondary teaching. Read on for further details on these degree tracks and their impact on employment.

Bachelor's Degree in Social Work

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

Master's in Social Work

A master's in social work 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. Online and on-campus MSW degrees take about two years to complete, although students with a BSW may be eligible for advanced standing, which allows learners to complete the program quicker. An MSW is ideal for social workers who want to work in a specialized area. After becoming licensed at the master's level and obtaining the proper experience, graduates have the option to earn additional licensure in clinical care or advanced practice. Higher licensure usually leads to higher salaries.

Doctorate Degree in Social Work

Though there is no doctorate-level licensure, social work students wishing to become educators, scholars, or researchers benefit from earning this advanced degree. There are two options for social work doctorate degrees: the Ph.D., which is more research-focused, and the Doctor of Social Work (DSW), which focuses on more practical applications. Coursework varies significantly between the two degrees. Social workers who specialize in clinical work generally earn higher salaries. As a doctoral degree requires original research and an extensive dissertation, programs usually take between three and six years. Students should select a doctoral program that is specific to their desired career.

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker in Texas

There are four types of social work licenses in Texas, one at the baccalaureate level and three at the graduate level. A Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW) is an entry-level professional who is employed in a non-clinical settings. The more common educational path is to complete an MSW. 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

  1. Bachelor's in Social Work: LBSWs are required to have earned their bachelor's in social work from a program accredited by the CSWE. BSW degrees generally take four years to complete and provide a general overview of the social work profession, human services, and community organization.
  2. Pass the Online Jurisprudence Exam: This online examination is specific to Texas. The exam tests applicants on their knowledge of the laws and regulations of the state, and is meant to protect citizens from potential ethical or legal violations. Only after achieving a successful passing score can students submit their licensure application.
  3. 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 a background check. The total application cost is just under $150.
  4. Pass the ASWB Bachelors Exam: After earning board approval, applicants must pass the ASWB bachelors 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 are officially licensed and ready for employment.

Licensed Master Social Worker

  1. Master's Degree in Social Work: Students must earn their MSW from a CSWE-accredited school. An MSW typically takes two years to complete for students who have a BA or BS; students with a BSW may be eligible 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.
  2. Complete the Online Jurisprudence Exam: After earning their MSW, graduates are eligible to take the online jurisprudence examination. This general exam tests students on their understanding of state-specific laws and regulations to ensure their professional knowledge.
  3. Submit an Application: The application to be an LMSW requires official transcripts, the TSBSWE's application, security information, professional experience, and criminal history evaluation. The fee for the TSBSWE application is $91, and the background check costs $50. This application is then reviewed by the TSBSWE through the Texas Department of State Health Services.
  4. Pass the ASWB Masters Exam: The ASWB masters exam ensures that students have an intermediate level of social work expertise. The exam tests general competencies as well as professional abilities that are crucial to employment as a social worker. The four-hour exam costs $230, and can only be completed after approval by the board.

Licensed Master Social Worker - Advanced Practitioner

  1. 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. During this time, 100 hours must be supervised by an LMSW-AP or LCSW. Applicants must submit a non-clinical supervision verification form to the board that documents the supervised work.
  2. Submit Application: LMSWs must submit an application to upgrade their license to advanced practitioner status. This application costs $20 and consists of an employment history, a verification of experience, a security form, and documentation of the completed jurisprudence examination.
  3. 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, $260 exam tests for advanced competency in non-clinical settings. A minimum score of 70 is required.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

  1. Accrue and Document the Necessary Experience: Master's-level social workers who want to upgrade their license 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.
  2. Submit Application: After completing the required experience, social workers may submit an application for licensure upgrade along with a $20 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.
  3. Pass the ASWB Clinical Examination: Once the application and clinical supervision hours have been verified by the board, applicants take the clinical exam. The exam, which takes four hours and costs $260, confirms that social workers have advanced knowledge of the profession and the key techniques that will be utilized 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 a BSW may be able to complete their degree in a year if they are eligible for advanced standing. Both LBSW and LMSW candidates can take their ASWB exam after graduation and will receive their license in a few weeks. LMSW-AP and LCSW licenses require an additional two years of employment after certification as an LMSW in order to apply for advanced standing.

Out of State Licensing Reciprocity in Texas

Texas has 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. If the license requires any further experience hours, these will also need to be completed. On a case-by-case basis, the state may allow transfer of some application requirements that were completed in other states. If applicants had previously passed the national ASWB exam, they may be able to waive the examination component for Texan licensure. This endorsement is granted under certain circumstances. When all requirements have been met, the $91 application and $50 background check take a few weeks to process before the license is mailed to the recipient.

License Renewal

Social workers in Texas must renew their license every two years during their birthday month. This can now be done online. Renewal 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. Courses must be taken at a board-approved institution or an accredited college or university, and applicants are responsible for tracking their own hours. This regulation ensures that social workers maintain an up-to-date skill set and prove their dedication to the field. The cost of renewal varies between license types: renewal for LBSWs and LMSWs costs $86. License renewal for LMSW-APs and LCSWs costs $106. There are penalty fees for late renewal that increase over time.

Accredited Social Work Programs in Texas

Social workers in Texas must have a degree from a CSWE-accredited school. There are many accredited on-campus and online social work programs 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 are dedicated to improving the lives of others. Those with bachelor's-level licensure often focus on generalist social work positions, such as case manager. These entry-level workers are in high demand in rural areas. Many BSW graduates also choose to earn their MSW or doctorate. Advanced-practice social workers specialize in a specific area, and they earn a higher salary and have more career opportunities. They may be employed in clinical or psychiatric work, program management, addiction counseling, or school social work. They also practice with the population they are passionate about helping, such as kids, families, veterans, or geriatric clients.

  • Healthcare Social Worker: Healthcare social workers are employed 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. An MSW is typically required, though positions with more limited duties may be available for those with only a BSW.
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker: Social workers specializing in mental health and substance abuse help clients struggling with mental disorders and addiction. Social workers must have a master's degree 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.
  • 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; an MSW prepares them for advanced practice specialization.
  • 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 is sufficient for entry-level employment, but a BSW is necessary for career advancement and is required for social work licensure in Texas.
  • 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 typically need to have a earned a master's degree with an emphasis on gerontology.

Salary Expectations for Social Workers in Texas

Graduates with a social work degree in Texas can expect to enter a field that is growing faster than the national average, with a projected growth rate of 16% between 2016 and 2026. The median salary for social workers in the U.S. is $47,980. However, there are many distinct specializations within social work, and each will have an associated salary 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 traditionally result in a higher salary and increased career prospects. The following table summarizes the average salaries in Texas for five common social work occupations.

Average Salary for Social Workers in Texas

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker $41,740
Child and Family Social Workers $43,980
Social and Human Services Assistant $34,330
Healthcare Social Workers $57,980
Social Worker, All Other $69,860
Source: BLS

Professional Organizations for Social Workers in Texas

Professional social work organizations promote the occupation and its mission to ensure basic human rights. As such, there are many benefits of joining one in Texas. Not only do these organizations provide networking opportunities, but they also supply continuing education and professional development resources. They may also give social workers an active voice in public policy making. Some organizations offer liability insurance and legal advice for their members. The following section details three professional organizations that are available for social workers in Texas.

  • National Association of Social Workers-Texas: The NASW Texas chapter has nearly 6,000 members and is 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, 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 a supplies a network for professional development, education, and advocacy. Their mission is to ensure that patients have access to social workers who can enhance their care and connect them to 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 legislature in Texas. Members must have graduate-level social work training and professional experience in the field. This organization provides forums for professional growth, networking, mentoring, and continuing education. They also provide opportunities for clinical supervision for LMSWs who are hoping to obtain LCSW licensure.
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