A part of the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, the Michigan Board of Social Work issues three main levels of social work credentials: technician-level, bachelor’s-level, and master’s-level. You can earn training designations to gain the requisite experience you need to move up through each level, and there are two sub-levels of designation within the master’s-level of licensure: clinical and macro.
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Social Services Technician – This level allows you to:
- Administer assessment checklists
- Do case-finding activities within a community
- Interview clients for a basic categorization assessment
- Monitor clients for compliance
- Help clients by directing them to community resources and available services
- Teach life skills training
Within this level there are two types of designations:
- Limited Social Services Technician (SST) Registration – This allows you to gain the requisite experience under supervision for the next type of credential on this level.
- Social Services Technician (SST) Registration – This is the main credential at the Technician level.
Bachelor’s Social Worker – This level allows you to perform all the services of an SST Registration social worker, and additionally:
- Advocate for individuals, groups, and communities
- Engage in case management, including child welfare
- Make determinations about child and adult custody
- Engage in community organization
- Identify presenting problems and impart general information for referral assistance
- Conduct pre-admission general assessments for a mental health facility
- Conduct psycho-social assessments
- Collect data for research
- Engage in client education
Within this level there are two types of designations:
- Limited Licensed Bachelor’s Social Worker (LBSW) – This allows you to gain the requisite experience under supervision for the next type of credential on this level.
- Licensed Bachelor’s Social Worker (LBSW) – This is the main credential at the Bachelor’s level.
Master’s Social Worker – This level of licensure is divided into two sub-levels of designation –Macro and Clinical– and each has unique abilities to engage in social work, in addition to these shared overlapping capabilities:
- Interpret and administer assessments
- Consult on topics about policy development and agency practice
- Direct social work agencies and clinical practices
- Design and analyze research projects
Once you’ve reached the master’s-level you’ll need to choose one of the following sub-designations as your credential:
Licensed Master’s Social Worker (LMSW) Macro – This license is designed for social workers who want to make a difference at the macro-level of society. This includes for those who want to work in education and training, in legislative lobbying, in policy development, in community organizing, or with human service organizations as administrators, managers, or supervisors. As an LMSW Macro you can provide these services
- Evaluate and coordinate service delivery
- Policy development for social welfare
- Direct social work agencies (but not clinical agencies)
- Engage in private practice for macro-level social work
- Provide training to address community problems and needs
- Supervise other aspiring LMSW Macro social workers
Licensed Master’s Social Worker (LMSW) Clinical – This license is designed for clinical social workers, and as such you can provide the following services:
- Provide planning and evaluation for case intervention
- Make assessments and recommendation for child and adult custody
- Provide consultation about clinical issues
- Diagnose substance abuse, mental, and emotional disorders
- Direct clinical programs
- Use specialized intervention methods
- Provide psychotherapy to adults and children
- Provide treatment evaluation and planning
- Supervise other aspiring LMSW Clinical social workers
While you work on gaining the requisite in-state experience to become an LMSW you’ll need to apply for the Limited Licensed Master Social Worker credential.
Steps Towards Social Work Licensure Michigan
To qualify for most social work credentials in Michigan you’ll need the following:
- To graduate from a social work education program that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)
- To pass an exam from the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)
- To gain a certain amount of supervised work experience
For all Michigan social work credentials, as of 2021 you’ll need to complete a course on identifying victims of human trafficking.
All applications for social work credentials are made on this form, which you’ll submit to Michigan’s Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, Bureau of Professional Licensing. The application fee is currently $43.20. When it’s time you can renew your license online.
Becoming Licensed as a Social Worker in Michigan
Applying for Limited SST Registration
You’ll need to meet the following qualifications and submit proof of such along with your application:
- Two years of college study, using this form
- Current employment in the human services field, or an offer of such employment, using this form
Renewal – The Limited SST Registration can only be renewed once.
Applying for SST Registration
You’ll need to meet the following qualifications and submit proof of such along with your application:
- Current employment in human or social services using this form
- One of the following:
- 2,000 hours of social work experience over at least one year, using this form
- Associate’s degree in Social Work that includes an internship, using this form
- Two years of full-time college with courses that are relevant to human services areas, using this form
Renewal – You don’t need to complete any continuing education to renew the SST Registration. After your first renewal the SST Registration expires every three years.
Applying for a Limited LBSW
To qualify for this credential you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from a CSWE-accredited school.
The Limited LBSW credential is issued for one year pending passage of the ASWB Bachelors exam, and allows you to register for and take the ASWB Bachelors exam at any time.
As a Limited LBSW you can earn the requisite amount of supervised work experience to qualify for the full LBSW.
As an in-state applicant, a Limited LBSW is a prerequisite for earning the full LBSW.
Renewal – You can renew the Limited LBSW up to six times.
Applying for an LBSW
- Step One – Earn a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from a CSWE-accredited school
- Step Two – As an in-state applicant, obtain the Limited LBSW credential
- Step Three – Complete 4,000 hours of post-degree supervised work experience accrued over at least two years
- Step Four – Pass the ASWB Bachelors exam
- Step Five – Apply for licensure with the Michigan Board of Social Work, and include this form that shows you’ve completed your supervised work experience
Renewal – The LBSW expires every three years, and during renewal you’ll need to certify that you’ve completed 45 hours of continuing education, including five hours in ethics and two hours in pain and pain symptom management.
Applying for a Limited LMSW
To qualify for this credential you’ll need a master’s degree in Social Work from a CSWE-accredited school.
The Limited LMSW credential is issued for one year pending passage of the ASWB Advanced Generalist or Clinical exams, and allows you to register for and take either of these exams at any time.
As a Limited LMSW you can earn the requisite amount of supervised work experience to qualify for the full LMSW.
Renewal – You can renew the Limited LMSW up to six times.
Applying for an LMSW
The following application process applies for both LMSW Macro and LMSW Clinical licenses:
- Step One – Earn a master’s degree in Social Work from a CSWE-accredited school
- Step Two – Complete 4,000 hours of post-degree supervised work experience. This experience must be in an appropriate area: macro experience (social work administration, management, policy, research, community organizing, etc) for the macro license or clinical experience for the clinical license.
- Step Three – Pass the appropriate ASWB exam: the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam for the LMSW Macro license, and the ASWB Clinical exam for the LMSW Clinical license. If you hold the Limited LMSW credential you’ll be eligible to register with the ASWB for either exam.
- Step Four – Apply for licensure with the Michigan Board of Social Work, and include this form that shows you’ve completed your supervised work experience
You can hold an LMSW license in both Macro and Clinical sub-specialties if you meet the requirements for both.
Renewal – The LMSW for both Macro and Clinical expires every three years. During renewal you’ll need to certify that you’ve completed 45 hours of continuing education, including five hours in ethics and two hours in pain and pain symptom management.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Social Worker in Michigan?
You can start working as an entry-level social worker in as soon as two years, and as soon as eight years for the most advanced-level social work positions. The following time estimates are calculated based on full-time completion of supervised work experience, four years to earn a bachelor’s degree, and two additional years to earn a master’s degree:
- Limited SST – Two years
- SST – Two years
- Limited LBSW – Four years
- LBSW – Six years
- Limited LMSW – Six years
- LMSW – Eight years
Social Work Degrees in Michigan
Michigan allows you to qualify for progressive levels of credentialing as a social worker with associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in Social Work. Michigan hosts 34 CSWE-accredited bachelor’s and master’s programs in Social Work (CSWE doesn’t accredit associate and doctoral programs). You can find social work education programs offered both online and on-campus.
Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW)
There are 22 CSWE-accredited BSW programs in Michigan. Graduating from one of these will fulfill the education requirements to become licensed at the SST and Bachelor’s levels. Your curriculum in these programs will include 400 hours of field education where you witness the valuable first-hand implementation of social work in your local community.
Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW)
Michigan is home to 12 CSWE-accredited MSW programs. As a graduate of one of these you’ll fulfill the education requirements for licensure at all levels of social work in Michigan. These programs include 900 hours of field education where you’ll make connections in the professional world that allow you to potentially jump-start your career while simultaneously seeing didactic knowledge being translated into on-the-ground action.
Doctoral Degree in Social Work
Holding a doctoral degree in Social Work can also fulfill the education requirements for licensure at the Master’s-level in Michigan. Doctoral programs are typically offered as a PhD in Social Work or a Doctor of Social Work (DSW). PhDs can take longer to complete and tend to be more research-focused, which could be advantageous if you’re pursuing an LMSW-Macro credential. DSW programs tend to be more practice-based, which could be an ideal fit if you’re pursuing the LMSW-Clinical credential.
Michigan generally grants reciprocity to equivalent out-of-state licenses. If the credential you’re applying for in Michigan requires verification of supervised work experience you can have your out-of-state supervisor fill out the appropriate form from the application processes outlined above.
You can apply for licensure using the same form in-state applicants use, and you’ll additionally need to have your out-of-state license verified using this form. Also of note:
- Limited SST education can be completed out-of-state
- SST work experience or education requirements can be completed out-of-state
- You can use out-of-state equivalent experience, education, and ASWB exam scores when applying for limited LBSW and LMSW licenses
- LBSW and LMSW licenses can be granted based on out-of-state qualifications that are equivalent to Michigan’s in-state requirements; this includes out-of-state experience
How Much do Social Workers Earn in Michigan?
You can get a sense of how much social workers earn with the following average annual salaries for Michigan within several career categories, reported by the US Department of Labor in 2020:
- Social and Community Service Manager – $74,280
- Healthcare Social Worker – $57,280
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker – $50,440
- Child, Family, and School Social Worker – $51,410
- Social Work Teachers, Post-secondary – $73,540
- Social Worker, All Other – $56,150
The following organizations offer additional career resources and professional information for social workers in Michigan:
Michigan Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-Michigan) – Divided into 12 local organizations, this organization counts over 6,000 members in Michigan and is part of a the wider national NASW. Headquartered in Lansing, this agency works with partner organizations to promote the social work profession and shape legislation.
Michigan Association of School Social Workers (MASSW) – MASSW advocates for school social workers and the delivery of their services to all children. This includes promoting the professional and educational growth of its members to ensure that the highest levels of practice standards are upheld.
Michigan Social Work Continuing Education Collaborative – Using the collaborative model, this organization was created to ensure that all continuing education programs for social workers legally fulfill the requirements of the state’s social work licensing laws. This includes evaluating continuing education applications.
Geriatric Social Workers of Southeast Michigan (GSWSM) – By promoting educational programming and professional development, the GSWSM strives to attain its goal of promoting the niche field of geriatric social work. Its activities include coordinating quarterly meetings for each of its five chapter counties.
Career Opportunities in Michigan
Some of the largest employers for social workers in Michigan include the following:
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) – As the state-level agency for everything related to health and human services, MDHHS runs its own programs and partners with local organizations to address everything from children with special healthcare needs and refugee services to domestic violence, behavioral and mental health, and substance abuse.
Detroit Public Schools Community District – With roots dating back to 1842, DPSCD educates approximately 50,000 students every year from 106 different schools with nearly 2,000 teachers and an extended network of professional staff.
Henry Ford Health System – Founded by its eponymous namesake in 1915, this healthcare system employs over 30,000 employees, including upwards of 1,200 physicians specializing in 40 different areas of practice. It is the fifth-largest employer in the greater Detroit region.
Washtenah County Community Mental Health – As the primary community mental health provider in the county, this agency addresses issues related to serious mental illness, children with serious emotional disturbances, and intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network (DWIHN) – Serving 75,000 children and adults in Detroit and Wayne County, DWIHN focuses on issues like children with emotional disturbances, mental health, autism, substance abuse, and developmental and intellectual disabilities.
McLaren Health Care – This health network system includes 15 hospitals and one of the nation’s relatively few comprehensive cancer centers, the Karmanos Cancer Institute, which is this agency’s flagship of what is Michigan’s largest network of cancer providers and centers.
Grand Rapids Public Schools – Serving almost 15,000 students, GRPS is the third-largest employer in Grand Rapids. Its dedicated staff includes 1,084 teachers who make up a large portion of the district’s 2,800 total staff. GRPS is proud to offer the largest selection of school options in the western portion of Michigan, including Success Centers, theme schools, and a charter school.
Lansing Institute of Behavioral Medicine – This agency was founded on the goal of providing quality mental healthcare to the greater Lansing community. In addition to traditional neuropsychological evaluations and psychotherapy, practitioners offer yoga therapy, Nia, and EMDR.