The Louisiana State Board of Social Work Examiners (LABSWE) issues the following social work credentials:
Registered Social Worker (RSW) – This credential allows you to engage in the basic practice of social work at an introductory generalist level. Working as an employee, you can help clients with basic things and provide general resources, information, and education.
Certified Social Worker (CSW) – You can engage in the same scope of practice as an RSW with this credential. You can apply to become a CSW when you’ve met all the requirements for becoming an LMSW except having passed a required exam. You can also engage in the practice of clinical social work in an agency under the supervision of an LCSW.
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) – While this license doesn’t allow you to contract directly with clients, you can engage in advanced social work practice with the aim or enhancing or restoring the psychosocial and biopsychosocial functioning of individuals, families, couples, and groups. Examples of activities you can engage in with an LMSW include:
- Prevention and intervention
- Case management
- Treatment planning and evaluation
- Addiction services
- Research and advocacy
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) – This license allows you to practice clinical social work, which includes the provision of psychotherapy to individuals, families, couples, and groups. As an LCSW you can choose to engage in private and independent practice. You can provide services like:
- Treatment for addiction disorders
- Assess and diagnose mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders
- Use specialized clinical knowledge and advanced clinical skills to engage in your practice
Licensed Clinical Social Worker-Board Approved Clinical Supervisor (LCSW-BACS) – This status is given to LCSWs who’ve met specific qualifications. An LCSW-BACS is approved to provide supervision for LMSWs who are gaining experience on their way to becoming an LCSW.
Steps Towards Social Work Licensure in Louisiana
To qualify for a credential at any level from the Louisiana State Board of Social Work Examiners (LABSWE) you’ll need to do the following:
- Earn a degree in Social Work from a school that’s approved by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE); have your school send your official transcripts to the LABSWE
- Have your fingerprints taken for a state and federal criminal background check
- Create an online account with LABSWE; once you’re a registered user you can upload all the relevant information you’ll need to apply for your desired credential
- For the LMSW and LCSW licenses you’ll need to pass an exam from the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)
Registered Social Worker (RSW)
- Earn at least a bachelor’s degree in Social Work.
- Create an online account with the LABSWE and apply online for the RSW. The application fee is $50. Once your application is approved the LABSWE will issue your RSW credential.
Certified Social Worker (CSW)
- Earn a master’s degree in Social Work.
- Create an online account with the LABSWE and apply online for the CSW. Once your application is approved the LABSWE will issue your CSW credential.
- Pass the ASWB Masters exam. Once you’ve become a CSW the LABSWE will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test. At this point you can register with the ASWB for its Masters exam. Once you pass this you’re eligible to apply for the LMSW. As a CSW you have three years to pass the ASWB Masters exam. As a condition for remaining a CSW you must make an attempt to pass the ASWB Masters exam at least once every year, including within the first six months of becoming a CSW. If you don’t pass the exam within three years then your CSW will be recalled by the LABSWE and you can apply to be an RSW.
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)
- Earn a master’s degree in Social Work.
- Become a CSW and pass the ASWB Masters exam.
- Create an online account with the LABSWE and apply online for the LMSW. The application fee is $75. Once your application is approved the LABSWE will issue your LMSW credential.
- Once you receive your LMSW license you’re able to start accruing hours of experience to fulfill the supervised experience requirement for becoming an LCSW. Your supervision must be from an LCSW-BACS, a directory of whom can be found here. Before your supervision can count it must be approved by the LABSWE, which you can establish by submitting a Supervision Contract.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
- Earn a master’s degree in Social Work.
- Complete the supervised experience requirement. This is 5,760 hours of post-graduate social work practice experience, including 3,840 hours that are supervised, 96 of which must be face-to-face. You gain this in-state as an LMSW. Once you’ve completed your hours of supervision your supervisor must confirm this by filling out a Record of Supervision and an Evaluation of Supervision. The agency director where you obtained your supervision must also complete a Professional Experience Verification form. Include these three documents with your application.
- Complete an Employment Verification form for each place you’ve worked after earning your MSW degree, and include these with your LCSW application.
- Create an online account with the LABSWE and apply online for the LCSW. The application fee is $100. You will have a chance to upload all relevant accompanying documents. Once the LABSWE approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared for testing.
- Register with the ASWB for its Clinical exam. Once you pass this the LABSWE will issue your LCSW license.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker-Board Approved Clinical Supervisor (LCSW-BACS)
- Be an LCSW and gain three years of full-time social work experience at this level.
- Complete a board orientation workshop, and participate in a 6.5-hour supervision workshop that covers the techniques of supervision, the theory of supervision, and the procedures used in supervision. You can find a list of upcoming workshops here.
- Have two mental health professionals prepare letters of reference about your work; one of the references must be from another LCSW. Include these with your LCSW-BACS application.
- Submit an application to become an LCSW-BACS to the LABSWE. Once it’s approved you’ll be recognized as an LCSW-BACS.
Renewing Your Credential
All social work credentials issued by the LABSWE expire every year on August 31st. Renewal notices are mailed out on July 1st. To be eligible to renew your credential you need to obtain 20 hours of continuing education before June 30th. You can renew with this form
and this continuing education report, or online through your account with the LABSWE where you can also upload certificates of completion to verify you’ve fulfilled the continuing education requirements. Currently the renewal fees for each credential are:
- $25 for RSWs
- $50 for CSWs and LMSWs
- $75 for LCSWs and LCSW-BACSs
How Long Does it Take to Become a Social Worker in Louisiana?
As a high school graduate, the time you need to invest to become a social worker in Louisiana depends on the education and experience requirements you must fulfill for the credential you’re after. Earning a BSW degree usually takes four years and earning an MSW degree takes at least two years beyond that. Factoring in experience, the following is the minimum amount of time you need to invest for each credential:
- RSW – Four years
- CSW – Six years
- LMSW – Six years
- LCSW – Eight years and 10 months
- LCSW-BACS – 11 years and 10 months
Social Work Degrees in Louisiana
The LABSWE has determined that you must earn a degree from a school that’s accredited by the
Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) to meet the education requirement for any credential. Currently in Louisiana there are 13 such programs, including three that are offered online.
Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW)
Right now you can find eight CSWE-accredited BSW programs in Louisiana, including one that is offered online. Graduating from one of these programs qualifies you to become an RSW, meaning you can be practicing in the field of social work just four years out of high school. Earning a BSW is a natural step towards enrolling in an MSW, which will qualify your for more advanced levels of social work practice.
Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW)
Graduating with an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program fulfills the education requirement for all types of social work credentials in the state. Right now there are five such programs in Louisiana, including two that are offered online. As part of being CSWE-accredited, the MSW program automatically includes a field education experience that’s at least 900 hours.
Doctoral Degree in Social Work
While the CSWE doesn’t accredit programs at the doctoral level, you can still earn a PhD in Social Work or a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) to help advance your career’s prospects and achieve the highest level of education possible in this field. DSW programs can focus on clinical aspects of social work and may take slightly less time to complete than PhD programs, which can be more focused on research.
Louisiana maintains reciprocity agreements with states that have comparable credentialing requirements, and where no agreements exist the board may still grant credentials via endorsement if the out-of-state credential had similar requirements to Louisiana’s. You’ll need to create an online account with the LABSWE and fill out a reciprocity application for your desired credential. Arrange for the following to be sent to the LABSWE:
- Your official transcripts from the school where you completed your qualifying education
- Your ASWB exam scores from the ASWB
- Verification of your out-of-state social work credential sent by your state’s board of social work
Social Work Salaries in Louisiana
In 2020 the US Department of Labor reports the following average annual salaries for these specific career trajectories in Louisiana:
- Social and Community Service Manager – $72,550
- Healthcare Social Worker – $53,360
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker – $41,350
- Child, Family, and School Social Worker – $45,060
- Social Work Teachers, Post-secondary – $78,050
- Social Worker, All Other – $58,330
Social Work Resources in Louisiana
Louisiana Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers – The local chapter of the largest social work association in the country, you can find continuing education and professional networking opportunities through this agency, along with the latest legislative developments in this field.
Louisiana Association of Clinical Social Workers – With members hailing from all nine regions of the state, this organization has been advancing the cause of clinical social work for decades since 1985. It’s the only association in the state that protects the legality of clinical social work vendorship, and it goes without saying that this is an important resource for continuing education.
Career Opportunities in Louisiana
Louisiana Department of Health – This department is in charge of all public health demands throughout the state. It’s a tall order, but it still gets the job done, not least because it has entire sections devoted to issues like behavioral health, adult and aging services, public health, and developmental disabilities.
Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services – This agency’s goal is to ultimately keep children safe. It does this through a variety of strategies including providing support for families, women, and children. It provides nutrition resources and advocates for child support, the foster system, and justice for victims of child abuse.
Recovery School District – There is an education crisis of under-performing schools in Louisiana, especially in the New Orleans area, and RSD is one of several organizations stepping up to meet this challenge. As the local public school system has been steadily replaced by charter schools, RSD has been one of the leaders of this trend, with 52 charter schools under its umbrella by a recent count. School social workers are needed now more than ever to help students navigate the changing education landscape.
Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System – This integrated system of mental health care offers residential options, outpatient services, and 470 in-patient beds. It’s a major provider of mental health services in the Baton Rouge area. Patients are assigned a team to address their needs, including social, rehabilitation, and addiction services.
LCMC Health – Based out of New Orleans, this non-profit health system operates five hospitals and numerous acute care clinics and urgent care centers. Its staff is over 9,000-strong, including more than 2,200 physicians, and they are bolstered by nearly 2,500 volunteers. This organization believes in whole-patient treatment, which means they don’t overlook mental health or emotional well-being.
Adult and Teen Challenge – Filling an important role in addressing drug and alcohol addiction, this organization operates eight residential centers throughout the state where men, women, and women with children can come to get clean and address their underlying issues. It’s proud of its 86 percent success rate and recognizes there is a long road ahead.
Jefferson Parish Public Schools – Serving both banks of the Mississippi with 80 schools where around 50,000 kids attend classes daily, this school district is the largest in the state and ranks among the hundred largest in the nation. Over 6,000 full-time employees help deliver on the district’s education promise, including 3,152 teachers based out of 50 elementary, eight middle, and 10 high schools.