Social Work Licensure in Utah

As Utah's population grows, the need for licensed social workers also increases. The first step to this rewarding career involves earning a social work degree in Utah from an accredited program. Social workers must pass the appropriate examination, complete any required training hours, and apply for a license.

The Beehive State offers three distinct licenses for social workers: one license is for bachelor's-level social workers, the second is for those with a master's degree, and the third is for those who want to practice clinical social work. Unlike many states, Utah requires applicants with a bachelor's degree to obtain additional supervised experience before applying for licensure.

Social workers from other states can transfer to Utah with the correct documentation. These professionals should provide proof of current licensure, exam scores, and any applicable supervised training. Social workers who relocate but do not meet Utah's set standards must complete the missing requirements before applying. Some states do not require bachelor's-level social workers to complete supervised training, which would need to be completed prior to applying for a license in Utah.

Types of Social Work Degrees in Utah

In social work, the amount of education and training obtained can change what type of work a professional can legally do. A person with a bachelor's degree and no additional training can work in support roles only. However, with some supervised working hours, the same person can become a case manager. When social workers earn a master's degree, they can work in higher-paying positions, such as clinical social work. Although no licensure requirements exist regarding social work teaching or administration, these positions typically mandate a doctorate in social work.

Bachelor's Degree in Social Work

Social work schools in Utah offer online, on-campus, and blended modules for earning a bachelor's degree. These programs give learners a broad understanding of social work ethics, research techniques, and psychological and sociological elements that affect social issues. Some social work programs in Utah offer the cohort model for undergraduate students, which helps learners work as part of a community. Utah graduates can go on to complete training hours and obtain social service worker licensure. These professionals often work as case managers for government agencies, such as the Department of Family Services.

Master's in Social Work

Earning a master's degree in social work can be an affordable way for social workers to become specialized and increase annual salaries in Utah. Students who work while pursuing a graduate degree can apply to the online social work programs in Utah, giving them more scheduling flexibility. Any student who wants to practice in a clinical setting or manage a team must first earn a master's degree. Learners can choose electives that allow them to develop specialties in areas like substance abuse counseling, mental health, diverse populations, and healthcare social work. After the program, graduates can complete the required supervised hours to become clinical social workers.

Doctoral Degree in Social Work

Although Utah does not require social workers to earn a doctorate for licensure, this degree can help students become leaders and affect the future of social work within the state. Upon graduation, these social workers hold the skills and knowledge to become researchers, professors, or agency administrators. While professionals with doctoral degrees often work behind the scenes, they continue to affect change in their communities. These programs benefit current social workers who want to advance their careers or leave direct social work. Online doctoral programs can allow students to earn their degree while they continue working.

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker in Utah

Social work licensure in Utah consists of three levels. The social service worker (SSW) is available to graduates from bachelor's and master's programs, allowing them to work as case managers. The certified social worker (CSW) credential allows social workers to practice independently in non-clinical settings. Those who want to work in clinical social work to treat patients can earn licensed certified social worker (LCSW) licensure.

Social Service Worker (SSW)

  1. Bachelor's or Master's Degree: Applicants for the SSW license must have earned either a bachelor's in social work, a bachelor's degree in any field with some classes in social welfare, or a master's degree in any area. Earning a bachelor's degree in social work takes about four years.
  2. Supervised Experience: Applicants with a bachelor's degree in an unrelated field must complete 2,000 hours of supervised social work experience before applying for the SSW license. This ensures that all social workers obtain a combination of experience and education that allows them to serve the public properly.
  3. Pass the Appropriate Exam: All SSW candidates should take and pass the bachelor's-level exam from the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). This exam covers a broad range of social work topics. It can take students weeks or months to study for this exam, depending on experience and test-taking skills.

Certified Social Worker (CSW)

  1. Master's Degree: The CSW license allows recent master's graduates to practice as social workers without the supervision required for SSWs. The master's program also helps social workers become experts in a given area, which allows them to fill specialized roles. Someone with a bachelor's degree can expect to take about two years to earn a graduate degree.
  2. Pass the Appropriate Exam: A CSW applicant can apply for pre-approval to take the ASWB master's-level exam and practice in the interim. Then, the applicant must pass the exam and submit the official scores to the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing. These exams standardize social work requirements to ensure quality care.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

  1. Master's Degree: LCSWs practice clinical social work, which requires at least a master's degree. This helps ensure that professionals treating patients have received proper education for the job. Candidates should expect to take about two years to complete a master's program.
  2. Practical Experience: Before the state will allow social workers to treat patients independently, they must gain face-to-face clinical experience under the guidance of a licensed mentor. Applicants must take at least two years to complete the 4,000 supervised hours. This training should include some hours in crisis intervention, group therapy, and long-term treatment plans.
  3. Pass the Appropriate Exam: To prove professionals hold the knowledge necessary to treat clinical patients, LCSW candidates must pass the ASWB's clinical exam. Applicants can study for this exam while earning supervised hours and should allow a few weeks for the board to send official scores.

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

It can take varying lengths of time to become a social worker in Utah. For example, someone with a bachelor's degree in a different field may earn a master's social work degree in Utah and then complete the required training hours. This process may take the student three years. On the other hand, a new high school graduate may spend four years earning a bachelor's degree and another year in a master's program as an advanced placement student. A high school graduate who wants to become a clinical social worker can expect to take seven or eight years to reach that goal.

Out of State Licensing Reciprocity in Utah

Newcomers to the state may be social workers looking to transfer their licenses to Utah. While Utah does not maintain any written agreements with other states regarding reciprocity, it will recognize licenses that come from states with similar criteria. All relocation applicants must provide Utah's board with official ASWB exam scores and a copy of current licenses. If the applicant came from California and took the state's exam instead of the ASWB test, Utah will accept the test. Candidates for LCSW licensure must provide documentation of the 4,000 hours of supervised work.

The application process can last a few weeks, depending on how long it takes to receive all official documents. Incomplete applications and inaccurate information can slow down the process. These candidates must also pay the application fee of $85 for SSWs and CSWs, and $120 for LCSWs.

License Renewal

Social work licenses in Utah expire on September 30th of every even-numbered year. To remain licensed, social workers must submit the renewal application, pay the fee, and show proof of the required continuing education courses before the deadline. During the two-year cycle, LCSWs must complete at least 40 continuing education hours. SSWs must complete 20 hours of continuing education within the same timeframe. Both sets of professionals need at least three of those credits to come from ethics or law courses each cycle. Utah currently offers no continuing education requirement for CSWs. However, these social workers must still apply to renew their licenses.

On the renewal application, professionals must answer questions about criminal records, citizenship, and other legal matters. Those who file their applications over 30 days before the expiration pay $20 for renewal. Social workers who apply late must pay an additional $50.

Accredited Social Work Programs in Utah

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) should be the accrediting body for any chosen social work degree in Utah. Failure to choose a properly accredited education may result in a lack of licensure or job prospects. Utah residents can benefit from attending courses in any of the accredited in-state programs. These higher learning institutions may provide in-state tuition discounts and classes that address Utah's unique populations.

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

Social workers have a wide variety of employment opportunities. Some visit families in their homes to determine the best placement for children, while others work in hospitals to help patients with insurance and paperwork. Social workers may find fulfilling careers helping addicts recover or treating patients with mental illness. While some social workers practice with a bachelor's degree, those with a graduate degree have more career opportunities. Social workers of all kinds should possess patience, compassion, and a willingness to work in emotionally charged situations.

  • Substance Abuse Counselors: Because these social workers conduct clinical work, they must hold a master's degree and an LCSW credential. Substance abuse counselors help those who suffer from addiction go through rehabilitation and remain sober. These professionals work with a medical team and can help treat underlying mental health problems.
  • Child and Family Social Workers: Children need a dedicated group of professionals to keep them out of harm's way. Child and family social workers do this by conducting investigations, placing children in foster care, and working to find the best permanent homes for children.
  • Community Health Workers: This profession addresses healthcare at the community level and requires a bachelor's degree at minimum. Community health workers create programs to help inform the public about health topics and encourage healthy habits. These professionals may also lead community health classes and counsel individuals.
  • Healthcare Social Workers: Healthcare social workers help hospital patients and their families fill out complicated paperwork, make important health decisions, and navigate complex insurance systems. They may also work in other medical settings, such as physicians' offices and surgery centers. Although some social workers enter this area of practice with a bachelor's degree, many employers require a graduate degree.
  • Social Service Specialists: These social workers often hold master's degrees with a concentration in their chosen field. Some social workers specialize in working with the aging population, while others may prefer to work with cancer patients.

Salary Expectations for Social Workers in Utah

The average community and social services professional in Utah earns $43,850 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Positions that require a bachelor's degree tend to pay close to that average, while jobs requiring a master's degree pay significantly more. Child and family social workers average $42,320 per year and only require a bachelor's degree. Substance abuse counselors in Utah earn an average of $42,210 and healthcare social workers earn about $58,590 each year. Overall, social workers in Utah make about the same as the national average.

Average Salary for Social Workers in Utah

Substance Abuse Counselors $42,210
Child and Family Social Workers $42,320
Community Health Workers $45,940
Healthcare Social Workers $58,590
Social Service Specialists $47,330
Source: BLS

Professional Organizations for Social Workers in Utah

Social work requires plenty of interaction between people. While most interaction happens with clients and team members, social workers can also benefit from socializing with colleagues outside the workplace. Professional organizations offer networking opportunities, continuing education, news and updates, and resources that social workers can use to help themselves and their clients. Joining such an association costs little and provides great benefits.

  • National Association of Social Workers - Utah Chapter: NASW, the country's primary organization for social workers, gives its members access to job postings, continuing education opportunities, exam preparation, and networking events. Representatives from the Utah Chapter lobby the Utah state government for policies favorable to social workers.
  • The Utah Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care: As one of the fastest growing areas of social work, healthcare requires strong leaders. Since 1987, USSWLHC has helped shape these leaders. Members gain access to the latest relevant news, invitations to networking events, and access to up to 16 hours of continuing education per year.
  • Utah Nonprofits Association: While this organization is not strictly for social workers, they can benefit from membership. UNA helps strengthen the bond between social work and nonprofit organizations. Members gain access to a variety of management, communication, and human resource tools. Private practice social workers can also receive insurance benefits through the association.
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