The Alabama State Board of Social Work Examiners (ABSWE) issues these social work credentials:
Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW) – This license allows you to engage in basic beginner’s-level social work practice, including the provision of generalist services for individuals, families, and groups. This can include case management, counseling, and advocacy. Once you’re initially licensed you’ll need to practice under ABSWE-approved supervision from an LMSW or LICSW for 24 months and a total of 96 hours of supervision (four hours per month), after which time you can practice as an LBSW independently.
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) – This license allows you to provide a wide range of social work services, including:
- Development and implementation of plans to help alleviate clients experiencing difficulties in their psychosocial functioning
- Provision of preventative services and treatments to families, individuals, and groups
- Client relationship development to enable modifications for eliminating or improving select behaviors
- Explanation and interpretation of social evaluation results to clients
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) – This level of licensure allows you to engage in the advanced practice of social work and clinical social work independently without supervision.
Private Independent Practice (PIP) – This is an optional certification for LICSWs who want to be able to engage in private independent practice. To be eligible you must meet specific requirements that include having a period of supervised practice experience. The defined areas in which you can engage in private independent practice are:
- Social casework
- Clinical social work
- Community Organization
- Social work research
- Social work administration
Learn more about:
Steps Towards Social Work Licensure in Alabama
To earn any type of credential from the Alabama State Board of Social Work Examiners (ABSWE) you must:
- Have a degree in social work from a school that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work
Education (CSWE), or a qualifying doctoral degree in Social Work
- Pass an exam from the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)
- Submit an application to the ABSWE either online, or by printing off and mailing the forms detailed below; the application fee is $75
- Submit an Immigration Compliance Form that show’s you’re legally able to work in Alabama
Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW)
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in Social Work.
- Fulfill the LBSW supervision requirement. A condition of being licensed is that you practice under supervision from an LMSW or LICSW for two years and a total of 96 hours. Before you submit your application for an LBSW license you’ll need to find a supervisor and get your supervision arrangement approved by the ABSWE. You can find a list of all LMSWs and LICSWs here, and get your supervision arrangement approved by the ABSWE by including a Contract for Supervision with your application for licensure. You also must include a signed acknowledgment that you understand the supervision requirements.
- Submit an application for licensure to the ABSWE. Once the ABSWE approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the ASWB for its Bachelors exam. Once you pass this the ABSWE will issue your LBSW license.
Learn more about Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW)
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)
- Earn at least a master’s degree in Social Work.
- Submit an application for LMSW licensure with the ABSWE. Once the ABSWE approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the ASWB for its Masters Exam. Once you pass this the ABSWE will issue your LMSW license.
- Once you have an LMSW license you can start accruing hours to fulfill the supervised experience requirement for becoming an LICSW. However for these hours to count you must get your supervision arrangement pre-approved by the ABSWE, which you can do by submitting this Contract for Supervision.
Learn more about the Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)
- Earn at least a master’s degree in Social Work.
- Be currently licensed as an LMSW.
- Fulfill the LICSW supervised experience requirement. You do this in-state as an LMSW. You must be supervised by an LICSW who is practicing clinical social work. Your experience must be gained after you’ve earned your master’s degree. You need to complete 96 hours of supervised experience at a rate of four hours per month for two years. You must get your supervision arrangement pre-approved by the ABSWE by submitting a Contract for Supervision to them. Once you’ve fulfilled the LICSW supervised experience requirement, have your supervisor fill out the Proof of Supervision form contained within the LICSW application packet, and include this with your application.
- Fill out an LICSW application packet and submit this to the ABSWE. Once the ABSWE approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the ASWB for its Clinical exam. Once you pass this the ABSWE will issue your LICSW license.
Private Independent Practice (PIP)
- Earn at least a master’s degree in Social Work.
- – Fulfill the experience requirement: three years of full-time post-graduate-degree practice experience, or one year of full-time post-graduate-degree experience after receiving the LICSW. The experience must be in the area of focus for which you’re applying for private independent practice: clinical social work, social casework, social work administration, community organization, or social work research. During this time you must also be supervised. If you gain experience and supervision in multiple areas of focus you can gain multiple PIP certifications.
- Submit an application for PIP certification with the ABSWE. This includes forms for you to document that you’ve gained the necessary experience and been under supervision.
Renewing Your Social Work License
The social work licenses issued by the ABSWE expire every two years. You can renew online or by mailing in a renewal application. The renewal fee is $100. During each renewal period you must complete 30 hours of continuing education, 10 of which must be from a live classroom event, and three of which must be in ethics.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Social Worker in Alabama?
Investing four years to earn a BSW degree can qualify you for licensure as an LBSW. It takes about two years beyond that to earn an MSW degree, which will fulfill the educational requirements for becoming an LMSW and LICSW. Qualifying for the LICSW takes two additional years of supervised experience, totaling eight years. Finally, gaining PIP certification as an LICSW can be accomplished in another year after further supervision and work experience.
Social Work Degrees in Alabama
The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredits programs at the bachelor’s and master’s levels, and if you’re trying to qualify for any of Alabama’s social work licenses with one of these degrees then it must be from a CSWE-accredited program. Right now there are 23 such programs in Alabama, including three that are offered online. You can also qualify for licenses beyond the LBSW with a doctoral degree in Social Work.
Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW)
Earning a BSW degree from a CSWE-accredited program qualifies you for the LBSW license. Currently Alabama is home to 15 such programs, one of which is offered online. These programs total at least 120 semester credits and, as part of being CSWE accredited, include a field education experience that’s at least 400 hours.
Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW)
Right now Alabama hosts eight CSWE-accredited MSW programs, including two that are offered online. Earning one of these is the fastest way to fulfill the education requirements for LMSW and LICSW licensure. CSWE accreditation means an MSW program automatically includes at least 900 hours of field education experience, and these degrees typically total at least 30 semester credits.
Doctoral Degree in Social Work
You can also qualify for licensure as an LMSW and LICSW by earning a doctoral degree in social work. These are offered in two versions: a PhD that can be more research-focused and a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) that can be more clinically focused. Both qualify you for licensure, and both represent the highest level of education that’s available in this field.
The ABSWE grants social workers from other states a license to practice in Alabama. Follow the step-by-step process detailed above for your desired license but use this form to apply. To qualify for licensure via reciprocity your situation must meet the following conditions:
- Your state’s standards are equivalent to Alabama’s for issuing a license
- You agree to practice social work according to ABSWE rules
- If you’ve already taken the appropriate ASWB social work exam you don’t need to take one to become licensed in Alabama; have the ASWB forward your scores to the ABSWE
- Your out-of-state license must be active and in good standing
- When applying for licensure via reciprocity in Alabama you must submit proof of the requisite hours of supervision, when necessary, and a complete record of any past or pending disciplinary actions
Alabama Social Work Salary Expectations
The US Department of Labor reports the following average annual salaries for these career trajectories in Alabama (2020):
- Social and Community Service Manager – $64,110
- Healthcare Social Worker – $47,190
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker – $38,190
- Child, Family, and School Social Worker – $41,090
- Social Work Teachers, Post-secondary – $67,920
- Social Worker, All Other – $59,140
Social Work Resources in Alabama
Alabama Chapter of the National Association of Social Work – This organization is the local chapter that’s part of the largest social work organization in the nation. It offers members annual meetings that are perfect for networking, opportunities to mentor new social workers, as well as internship and volunteer spots in the state office headquarters.
Alabama Society for Clinical Social Work – This non-profit professional organization has been representing the interests of clinical social workers and their clients in Alabama since 1973. It helps advance this niche profession within the social work field by advocating for high education and training standards and through the mentoring of aspiring clinical social workers.
Career Opportunities in Alabama
Alabama Department of Public Health – This state-level department is in charge of important programs that fulfill critical demands throughout Alabama. These include programs to help prevent addiction to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, programs devoted to promoting women’s and infants’ health, and programs that address rural health demands including those related to mental health.
Alabama Department of Mental Health – Every year more than 200,000 Alabamans rely on this department for critical services related to the treatment and amelioration of issues surrounding substance abuse, intellectual disabilities, and mental illnesses. This agency delivers services from 13 offices spread across six different cities.
Mobile County Public School System – Among the top-75 largest school systems in the nation and the largest in Alabama, this district manages 89 schools including 17 high schools, 19 middle schools, and 53 elementary schools. Nearly 58,000 students depend on almost 8,000 teachers for their education.
UAB Medicine – A recognized leader in quality patient care and one of the nation’s foremost academic medical centers, this healthcare system operates 11 hospitals and health centers, nine specialty clinics, seven primary and urgent care clinics, and eight women’s health clinics. Its roots stretch back to 1945 and every day it adds to its honored legacy.
Crossbridge Behavioral Health – An affiliate of Baptist Medical Center South and located in Montgomery, this organization offers vital mental health services to clients from a range of backgrounds. It has programs specifically designed for adolescents, adults, and geriatric clients. Hosting in-patient programs and out-patient support groups, it also includes a dedicated center for addiction recovery.
Jefferson County Schools – Founded at the turn of the 19th century, this second-largest school district in Alabama relies on a teacher workforce of 2,500 and staff support totaling 2,000 individuals to make the education of 36,000 students possible. The district’s 56 schools include 14 high schools, 11 middle schools, and 26 elementary schools.
Infirmary Health – With roots stretching back to the turn of the 1890s, this healthcare organization has a long and important history of improving the lives of people in the Mobile area. Today it serves 11 counties and is proud to employ 700 active physicians and over 6,000 employees. Its Mobile Infirmary hosts 681 beds and in 2020 its Thomas Hospital received a Women’s Choice award.