The Mississippi State Board of Examiners for Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists (SWMFT) issues social work licenses at three levels:
Licensed Social Worker (LSW) – This license allows you to engage in the basic generalist practice of social work. Social work practice is defined as a professional activity that enhances, protects, and restores peoples’ capacity for social functioning, including when that capacity is impaired by emotional, environmental, and physical factors.
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) – This license allows you to use advanced practice skills and specialized knowledge to engage in social work, providing activities like:
- Case management
- Education and research
- Administration of, and policy development for, social work programs
- Client assessment and treatment planning
- Can practice clinical social work under supervision
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) – This license allows you to engage in clinical social work, which includes the diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of behavioral, emotional, and mental disorders. With an LCSW you can additionally choose to engage in private independent practice. If you gain supervisor status as an LCSW you can also supervise LMSWs.
Steps Towards Social Work Licensure in Mississippi
To be eligible for any licensure level from the State Board of Examiners for Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists (SWMFT) you must do the following:
- Earn a degree in Social Work from a school that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE); when you apply for licensure have your school complete this form and send it to the SWMFT to verify your education
- Pass an exam from the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); you can apply early to take this exam if you’re about to graduate from the CSWE-approved Social Work program by filling out this form
- Fill out an application and send it to the SWMFT with a $27 application fee; there’s an initial licensure fee for each license that you can pay at any time throughout the application process, but if you’re upgrading your license to the next level the fee is only $32
- Pass a background check – fill out this form to request a fingerprint card; the fee is $50 and you must do this before your application can be processed
Licensed Social Worker (LSW)
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in Social Work.
- Send an application for LSW licensure to the SWMFT. Once the SWMFT approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the ASWB for its Bachelors exam. Your scores will be forwarded to the SWMFT and once you pass this and have paid the initial licensure fee of $75, the SWMFT will issue your LSW license.
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)
- Earn a master’s degree in Social Work.
- Send an application for LMSW licensure to the SWMFT. Once the SWMFT approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the ASWB for its Masters exam. Your scores will be forwarded to the SWMFT and once you pass this and have paid the initial licensure fee of $110, the SWMFT will issue your LMSW license.
- Once you’ve earned your LMSW license and MSW degree you’re qualified to start accruing hours to fulfill the supervised experience requirement to become an LCSW. Before your hours can count you need to file a Contract for Supervision toward LCSW Status with the SWMFT for approval; the cost for this is $80. You can find a list of approved supervisors here; check the SWMFT’s website for the most up-to-date Board Approved LCSW Supervisors list.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
- Earn a master’s degree in Social Work.
- Fulfill the LCSW supervised experience requirement. This is at least 24 months of post-MSW-degree work experience, including 1,000 hours of face-to-face client contact hours, and 100 hours of face-to-face supervision by an LCSW. Your supervisor will fill out this form to confirm your 1,000 hours, and this form to confirm your 100 hours and evaluate you in general, submitting both to the SWMFT.
- Have three professional references send this form to the SWMFT.
- Send an application for LCSW licensure to the SWMFT. Once the SWMFT approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the ASWB for either its Advanced Generalist or Clinical exams. Your scores will be forwarded to the SWMFT and once you pass this and have paid the initial licensure fee of $110, the SWMFT will issue your LCSW license.
Becoming a Supervisor:
- As an LCSW you have the option of applying with the SWMFT to become a supervisor for LMSWs who are fulfilling the supervised experience requirement to become an LCSW. The first step in obtaining this status is to earn two years of practice as an LCSW.
- Take a supervision course that’s at least 16 hours.
- Submit an application to receive LCSW Supervisor status with the SWMFT; $55 fee. This includes a section where you can verify your two years of practice as an LCSW.
- Note – One of the most common pathways for fulfilling Step Seven is to take this supervision course, and pass this supervision exam ($25 fee).
Renewing Your Social Work License
All SWMFT licenses expire two years after they’re issued. LSWs can be renewed by September 30th for a $75 fee, and LMSWs and LCSWs can be renewed by April 30th for a $110 fee. For every two-year renewal period you need 40 hours of continuing education, including four hours in ethics and two hours in cultural diversity. You can keep track of your continuing education on this form, and include it with your renewal application. Additionally, LCSW Supervisors need to complete two hours of supervision continuing education.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Social Worker in Mississippi?
You can become an LSW in as soon as four years. That’s the amount of time it typically takes to earn a BSW degree. Investing two additional years to earn an MSW degree will fulfill the education requirements for becoming and LMSW and LCSW. With two years of additional supervised experience you can meet all the requirements for becoming an LCSW, for a total of eight years. Finally it takes two additional years of LCSW work experience to become an LCSW Supervisor.
Social Work Degrees in Mississippi
To be eligible for any social work license in Mississippi you need to earn a degree in Social Work from a program that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Currently Mississippi hosts 15 of these programs, including one that’s offered online. While the CSWE doesn’t accredit programs at the doctoral level, you can also earn a doctoral degree in Social Work, the highest level of education that’s available in this field.
Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW)
Mississippi is home to 11 CSWE-accredited BSW degree programs. Earning one of these will qualify you for the LSW license, and is also the first step in a natural progression towards earning an MSW degree and qualifying for more advanced levels of licensure. BSW programs are at least 120 semester credits and being CSWE-accredited means they include a 400-hour field education experience.
Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW)
Right now there are four CSWE-accredited MSW programs in Mississippi, including one that’s offered online. Earning one of these fulfills the educational requirements for both the LMSW and LCSW licenses. These programs are typically at least 30 semester credits, and CSWE accreditation means they include a field education segment that’s at least 900 hours.
Doctoral Degree in Social Work
While this type of degree won’t qualify you for licensure in Mississippi, earning a PhD or Doctor of Social Work (DSW) demonstrates you’ve made a commitment to maximizing your education and expertise in this field. DSW programs can focus on clinical aspects of social work and possibly take a shorter time to complete than PhD programs, which can be more focused on research aspects of social work.
If you hold a valid social work license in another state that’s equivalent to Mississippi’s levels, can meet Mississippi’s education requirements, and have passed the appropriate ASWB exam, you can apply for licensure in Mississippi via reciprocity/endorsement. Follow the application process above for your specific level of licensure. Have the ASWB forward your exam scores to the SWMFT. Complete this form, send it to your state’s social work licensing board, and have them send it to the SWMFT.
Social Work Salaries in Mississippi
The US Department of Labor reports the following Mississippi average annual salaries for different career focuses within this field in 2020:
- Social and Community Service Manager – $56,120
- Healthcare Social Worker – $47,460
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker – $42,140
- Child, Family, and School Social Worker – $37,190
- Social Work Teachers, Post-secondary – $66,870
- Social Worker, All Other – $53,520
Social Work Resources in Mississippi
Mississippi Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers – Part of the largest social work organization in the nation, this local chapter was founded in 1976 and counts over 700 members. It hosts an annual conference and offers its members advocacy, networking opportunities, continuing education programs, and more.
Mississippi Conference on Social Welfare – This educational organization for social welfare traces its roots back nearly 100 years to 1925. For social work students it can be a source of merit awards and scholarships. It works to promote coordination between social service agencies, to raise the level of public education about social work, and to promote social welfare throughout the state.
Career Opportunities in Mississippi
Mississippi Department of Mental Health – The state-level agency that’s on the forefront of behavioral and mental health throughout Mississippi, social workers are very familiar with the services provided through the DMH, which include those for children and adults with mental illnesses, services for those with intellectual disabilities, services for alcohol and drug addiction, and crisis services. This agency also operates 14 community mental health centers serving residents from all locations throughout the state.
DeSoto County Schools – Home to over a dozen elementary schools, eight middle schools, and eight high schools, this is the largest school district in the state. Every day thousands of dedicated staff members provide around 30,000 students with their foundational education.
Mississippi State Department of Health – The state’s public health agency provides important resources that social workers throughout Mississippi are familiar with. This includes chronic disease prevention and management, and resources for combating addictive behaviors including smoking.
University of Mississippi Medical Center – The state’s only academic medical center, the history of this hospital stretches back to 1955. Today it has a capacity of 722 beds, is the state’s only Level 1 trauma center, hosts a children’s hospital, and is affiliated with dozens of clinics and centers. More than 10,000 full and part-time employees, including 500 doctors, make sure each patient gets the best quality of care.
Mississippi Department of Human Services – This is the state agency responsible for delivering a wide range of social services that make a vital difference to many of Mississippi’s most vulnerable populations. Issues it addresses include adult and child protective services, aging and senior services, youth services, early childhood development services, and more.
Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare – The largest facility of its kind in the state with a 105-bed capacity, this organization serves adults, children, and youths with an array of psychiatric treatment options with in-patient and outpatient programs. Its ultimate goal is for clients to achieve their optimal mental health.
Jackson Public Schools – The second-largest school district in the state, this is also Mississippi’s only urban school district. It’s home to 32 elementary schools, 10 middle schools, seven high schools, and four special schools. This district has been educating tomorrow’s future since 1888, and today that task falls to approximately 5,000 staff for 24,000 students.