Florida Social Work Licensure Requirements

Learn About Requirements for RCSWI, LCSW, and CMSW Licenses in Florida

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The Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling (visit site here) issues three main credentials for social workers:

  • Registered Clinical Social Worker Intern (RCSWI) – This credential allows you to provide social work services under the supervision of an LCSW while you gain the necessary experience to become an LCSW.
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) – This credential allows you to work as a social worker and provide all services associated with your scope of practice free of supervision.
  • Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW) – This is an administrative-level credential for social workers; with this credential you cannot provide clinical social work services.

Social Work Degrees in Florida

To qualify for licensure at any level you need a master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) from a school that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). One of the best ways of preparing for an MSW program is to earn a BSW. A doctoral degree in Social Work represents the highest education possible in this field. You’ll find social work education programs at all levels offered online for maximum flexibility, as well as on-campus.

Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW)

Florida is home to 14 CSWE-accredited BSW programs. Each MSW program can set its own admission requirements, and while many require a bachelor’s degree in any subject, holding a BSW can fulfill the more stringent admission requirements while also maximizing relevant educational reinforcement. Part of being CSWE-accredited means the BSW program has at least 400 hours of field education that takes place in a real-life setting within the local community.

Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW)

To meet the minimum educational requirement for any social work license in Florida, you need an MSW from a social work program that’s accredited by the CSWE. There are 12 such programs in Florida. Part of being CSWE-accredited means your MSW program will include a field education experience that’s at least 900 hours, giving you an ideal opportunity to make local connections within the profession and see what on-the-ground social work looks like.

Doctoral Degree in Social Work

Holding a doctoral degree in Social Work symbolizes that you’re willing to commit to maximizing your professional understanding of the theory and practice in this field; you’ve earned the highest-possible education. PhD programs can be more research-oriented and take longer to complete than Doctor of Social Work (DSW) program, which can be more clinically focused. However both programs share significant overlap and can be tailored to your professional and academic goals. A doctoral degree in Social Work also fulfills the education requirement for any Florida social work license.

Steps to Become Licensed as a Social Worker in Florida

Social work credentials in Florida are designed to progressively build off increasing levels of experience.

Registered Clinical Social Worker Intern (RCSWI)

Application Process:

    1. You can apply for the RCSWI credential either online or by filling out this application and sending it to the State Board; $150 total fee. Your MSW program must send your official school transcripts to the State Board. As part of your education you need to complete 15 semester credits of courses in clinical social work and psychopathology, plus a supervised field placement, all of which are covered by submitting this form.
    2. You need to find a Qualified Supervisor who will agree to supervise you, and attest as such with a written letter to the State Board. Once your initial application has been approved, you can confirm you’ve been assigned to your Qualified Supervisor in this database.
    3. At this point your RCSWI credential will be issued. It allows you to gain the supervised experience you need to apply for the LCSW credential. The RCSWI credential expires after five years and cannot be renewed.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

Application Process:

    1. You can start the application process either online or by filling out this form and sending it to the State Board. Your MSW program needs to send your official school transcripts to the State Board. As part of your education you need to complete 24 semester credits of courses in clinical social work, psychopathology, and an advanced supervised field placement, all of which are covered by submitting this form. The license application and issuance fee is $180 total.
    2. Along with your application for licensure you’ll need to submit proof of the requisite supervised experience on this form. This is defined as: two years of post-master’s supervised experience under an LCSW that includes 1,500 hours of face-to-face client psychotherapy, 100 hours of supervision in at least 100 weeks, and one hour of supervision every two weeks.
    3. You’ll need to complete three courses through an approved CE Broker on Florida laws and rules, HIV/AIDS, and domestic violence.
    4. Once your application is judged to be complete, the Florida Board will notify the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) that you’re qualified to take the ASWB Clinical exam.
    5. Pass the ASWB Clinical exam; score report is sent to the Florida Board.
    6. The Florida Board will issue your license, which you can print from your online account.
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Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW)

Application Process:

    1. Earn at least an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program. Complete at least three semester hours of graduate coursework in each of the following: human services advocacy, agency administration and supervision, social planning, program planning and evaluation, community services, staff development, community organization, and research.
    2. Gain at least three years of social work experience, including two years at the post-master’s level under the supervision of an LCSW or CMSW.
    3. At this point you can request an application for the CMSW credential from the State Board; $205 fee in total. Once they’ve determined you meet the requirements they’ll notify the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) that you’re qualified to take the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam.
    4. Once you’ve passed the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam the Florida State Board will issue your CMSW credential.

Renewing Your LCSW and CMSW Credentials in Florida

LCSW and CMSW credentials expire every two years, with the next expiration date being March 31, 2021. Currently the renewal fees are $120 for LCSWs and a $155 for CMSWs. You’re exempt from continuing education requirements for the first renewal cycle, but thereafter you’ll need to complete 25 to 30 hours per cycle with slight differences for LCSWs and CMSWs.

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

Considering it takes approximately six years to earn an MSW as a high-school graduate, that’s the minimum amount of time it’d take you to earn an RCSWI credential. Two years of qualifying supervised experience beyond that can earn you an LCSW; eight years total. One year beyond that –nine years total– is enough to potentially qualify for a CMSW credential.

Reciprocity for Out-of-State Licenses in Florida

You can apply for an LCSW credential via endorsement if you’ve held an independent license to practice social work in another state, and you meet Florida’s requirements for licensure. If you can meet Florida’s requirements for supervised experience but not the other requirements, the State Board may issue you a two-year provisional license ($100 fee) to practice under a Florida LCSW while you fulfill the additional requirements to earn an LCSW in Florida.

For out-of-state veteran volunteer clinical social workers, the Florida Board also issues a Limited Licensure in Clinical Social Work. This is available for clinical social workers who have been licensed in another state for at least 10 years, and allows you to practice social work in a limited scope. With this license you must be retired or intending to retire, and you can only work in the employ of public agencies, institutions, or non-profits. Additionally you cannot be compensated with money.

While the Florida State Board recognizes MSWs completed at CSWE-accredited programs throughout the nation, there’s no reciprocity per-se for the RCSWI or CMSW credentials.

How Much do Social Workers Earn in Florida?

The US Department of Labor tracks the statistics for average annual salaries for these social work career trajectories, specifically for Florida as reported in 2020:

  • Social and Community Service Manager – $68,460
  • Healthcare Social Worker – $52,700
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker – $43,100
  • Child, Family, and School Social Worker – $42,260
  • Social Work Teachers, Post-secondary – $78,120
  • Social Worker, All Other – $51,980

Social Work Resources in Florida

You can find additional networking opportunities and career information with organizations like the following:

Florida Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers – Building a following of more than 130,000 since 1955, you can find local resources about Florida social work careers, licensure information, education, and the latest local developments in this field.

Florida Society of Oncology Social Workers – Founded in 1983 for cancer-focused social work clinicians, researchers, educators, and administrator, this agency was created as a joint effort between the Florida Division of the American Cancer Society and a Social Work Advisory Committee.

Florida Association of School Social Workers – Dedicated to enhancing the professional development and growth of school social workers while simultaneously promoting the profession, the FASSW’s roots stretch back to 1942 at a meeting involving truancy officers and home visitors.

Career Opportunities in Florida

Some of the largest employers of social workers in Florida include:

Florida Department of Children and Families – This agency is critical for providing a wide range of services for children, youth, and families with an equally wide range of social work expertise, including in the areas of foster care, domestic violence, protective services, substance abuse, human trafficking and more.

Florida Department of Elder Affairs – A vital resource for issues related to elder abuse, disaster preparedness, caregiver support, nutrition programs and much more, this agency is an important link between the state’s disproportionately large 5.5 million 60-and-over community and the services they need.

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HCA Florida – This system runs 46 hospitals throughout Florida along with the medical and support professionals who make high-quality healthcare possible. Founded in 1968, it’s particularly relevant for health care social workers.

Hillsborough County Public Schools – Headquartered in Tampa, this district is the eighth-largest in the nation, serving over 200,000 students in 250 schools with more than 15,000 teachers and 10,000 additional staff.

Health and Human Services of Miami-Dade County – A program within this agency was one of just 10 in the nation initiated last year to work on ending homelessness for young people of color and LGBTQ youth. This is just one of many initiatives for social workers with HHS in Miami-Dade County.

Pinellas County Schools – This school district is the seventh-largest in the state, serving more than 100,000 students with over 140 schools in the greater Tampa Bay area. It’s proud to offer nearly 80 magnet programs and a graduation rate that ranks at the top of Florida’s top-10 largest school districts.

City of Jacksonville Parks, Recreation, and Human Services – Since 1923 this agency has been providing social services to the residents of the Jacksonville area, addressing needs that relate to aspects like substance abuse, seniors, social services, domestic violence, and mental health, among others.

Orlando Regional Medical Center – This agency traces its roots back to 1918 when, despite having no gas, electricity, or air conditioning, it managed to open with one functioning operating room. It has grown ever since and today is the flagship hospital of the Orlando Health system.