The Missouri Division of Professional Registration’s Committee for Social Workers (CSW) issues four social work credentials:
Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW) – When you first earn your LBSW license you’re only permitted to practice under CSW-approved supervision. After you’ve accrued 3,000 hours of supervised experience in at least two years you can practice within the LBSW scope of practice independently. As an LBSW you can engage in activities like:
- Providing assessments and evaluations from a generalist perspective, excluding diagnosing and treating mental illnesses
- Gathering and assessing data about social problems of individuals, families, and groups
- Advocating for clients, families, and communities
- Providing support, guidance, and direction for clients
- Performing crisis intervention screenings
- Engaging in disaster relief and crisis planning
- Referring clients to other professional services
- Cannot engage in clinical social work
Licensed Master Level Social Worker (LMSW) – This license allows you to engage in the practice of social work at an advanced specialist level. Your clients can include individuals, families, groups, communities, government agencies, and institutions. You can apply your skills to conducting assessments, counseling, case management, advocacy, research, education, and more. The LMSW also allows you to engage in the scope of practice of an LAMSW or LCSW under supervision for up to 48 months while you gain the requisite amount of supervised experience to apply for either of those credentials.
Licensed Advanced Macro Social Worker (LAMSW) – This license is ideal for researchers, educators, program directors, and program administrators; professionals who work with social work on a macro scale at a systemic level. It takes advanced practice skills in case management and specialized knowledge in counseling and mediation, and applies them to community and organizational systems. As an LAMSW you can also treat mental and emotional disorders and provide psychotherapy under the direct supervision of a LCSW.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) – As an LCSW you can engage in the practice of social work at all levels, and engage independently in clinical social work. You can do things like:
- Provide psychotherapy and counseling
- Diagnose and treat mental and emotional conditions
- Engage in case work, group work, client-centric advocacy, administration, and community organization
Learn more about The Social Work License
Steps Towards Social Work Licensure in Missouri
To qualify for licensure from the Missouri Committee for Social Work (CSW) at any level you’ll need to:
- Graduate from a school that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), or to complete a doctoral degree in Social Work from a school that’s acceptable to the CSW; have your school mail your official transcripts directly to the CSW
- Pass the appropriate exam sponsored by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)
- Pass a fingerprint background check
- Complete two hours of suicide prevention training, which can be done as self-study
- Include a $60 application fee with your application, which can be prorated if you’re applying later in the licensing cycle
- Each license can involve supervised experience, and you can find a list of CSW-approved qualified supervisors here.
Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in Social Work.
- Send an application for the LBSW license to the CSW. Once the CSW approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the ASWB for its Bachelors exam. One you pass this the ASWB will forward your scores to the CSW, and the CSW will issue your LBSW license.
- If you want to practice independently as an LBSW you’ll need to complete 3,000 hours of supervised social work experience over at least 24 months. To start accruing this you first need to get your supervision agreement approved by the CSW by submitting a Registration of Supvervision form to them along with a $25 fee. Once you start your supervision your supervisor will need to regularly submit an Annual Supervision Progress Report to the CSW.
- Once the CSW sees you’ve completed your required supervised experience it will clear you to practice independently as an LBSW.
Licensed Master Level Social Worker (LMSW)
- Earn a master’s or doctoral degree in Social Work.
- Send an application for the LMSW license to the CSW. Once the CSW approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the ASWB for its Master exam. One you pass this the ASWB will forward your scores to the CSW, and the CSW will issue your LMSW license.
- Once you become licensed as an LMSW you can start accruing hours to fulfill the supervised experience requirements for the LAMSW or LCSW. Before you can start you’ll need to get approval from the CSW by submitting the following to them:
- Registration of Supervision plus a $25 fee
- Your contract for supervision
- An employment verification letter, sent by your employer on official letterhead
Licensed Advanced Macro Social Worker (LAMSW)
- Earn a master’s or doctoral degree in Social Work.
- Complete the supervised experience requirement for the LAMSW, which is 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience over at least 24 months. As an in-state applicant you complete this while you’re a licensed LMSW. To verify this, your supervisor needs to submit a completed Attestation of Supervised Social Work Experience form to the CSW. You can apply for the LAMSW early once you’ve accrued at least 2,250 hours of approved supervision over at least 18 months.
- Submit an application for the LAMSW license to the CSW. Once the CSW approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the ASWB for its Advanced Generalist exam. Once you pass this the ASWB will forward your score to the CSW, and the CSW will issue your LAMSW license.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
- Earn a master’s or doctoral degree in Social Work.
- Complete the supervised experience requirement for the LCSW, which is 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience over at least 24 months. As an in-state applicant you complete this while you’re a licensed LMSW. To verify this, your supervisor needs to submit a completed Attestation of Supervised Social Work Experience form to the CSW. You can apply for the LCSW early once you’ve accrued at least 2,250 hours of approved supervision over at least 18 months.
- Submit an application for the LCSW license to the CSW. Once the CSW 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 ASWB will forward your score to the CSW, and the CSW will issue your LCSW license.
Renewing Your Social Work License
Licenses expire every two years, and you can renew them starting on July 1st of each renewal cycle. You can renew online or request a paper renewal form here, and the renewal fee is $65. You need to complete 30 hours of continuing education for each renewal cycle, including three hours in ethics and two hours in suicide prevention. You can find a list of approved continuing education providers here.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Social Worker in Missouri?
Each level of licensure has its own education and experience requirements. As a general rule it takes at least four years to earn a BSW degree and two additional years to earn an MSW degree. If a license has a supervised experience requirement it takes at least two years to complete this. Factoring these in, as a high school graduate the time commitments for each license break down roughly as follows:
- LBSW – Four years until you can practice under supervision, six years to practice independently
- LMSW – Six years
- LAMSW – Eight years
- LCSW – Eight years
Social Work Degrees in Missouri
If you’re qualifying for a social work license with a BSW or MSW degree, your program must be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Right now in Missouri there are 24 such programs, including at least one that is offered online. While the CSWE doesn’t accredit programs at the doctoral level, you can also qualify for the LMSW, LAMSW, and LCSW licenses with a doctoral degree in Social Work from a program that’s acceptable to the Missouri CSW.
Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW)
Missouri is home to 17 CSWE-accredited BSW programs, and graduating from any one of these will qualify you for the LBSW license. These programs are at least 120 semester credits and as part of being CSWE-accredited they automatically include a field education experience totaling at least 400 hours.
Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW)
Currently there are seven CSWE-accredited MSW programs in Missouri, at least one of which is offered online. These programs are typically at least 30 semester credits. Being CSWE-accredited means they also include a field education experience that’s at least 900 hours in length. Once you’ve earned an CSWE-accredited MSW you will fulfill the education requirements for the LMSW, LAMSW, and LCSW licenses.
Doctoral Degree in Social Work
You can also qualify for the LMSW, LAMSW, and LCSW licenses with a doctoral degree in Social Work if your program is acceptable to the Missouri CSW. Doctoral degrees are offered as PhD programs as well as Doctor of Social Work (DSW) programs. Both types will qualify you for licensure, and both represent the highest level of education in this field.
Missouri grants licensure via reciprocity for each of its four social work credentials provided you have a valid out-of-state license whose requirements were similar to Missouri’s. Follow the application process outlined above for your desired licensure level, however if you’re applying for the LAMSW or LCSW use this application instead of the one listed above. Arrange to have the following sent to the CSW:
- Your official education transcripts from your school
- Your out-of-state supervisor’s Attestation of Supervised Social Work Experience as applicable
- Passing ASWB exam scores from the ASWB
- Verification of your out-of-state license from your state’s board of social work
Social Work Salaries Missouri
In 2020 the US Department of Labor reported the following salary information for these social work career trajectories, specifically in Missouri:
- Social and Community Service Manager – $61,950
- Healthcare Social Worker – $47,380
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker – $41,050
- Child, Family, and School Social Worker – $38,170
- Social Work Teachers, Post-secondary – $67,340
- Social Worker, All Other – $60,770
Social Work Resources in Missouri
Missouri Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Heartland – The NASW is proud to say it’s the largest organization of social workers in the nation, let alone the world. Its Heartland district represents social work organizations from seven states including Missouri. Specifically in Missouri this local state chapter boasts over 1,900 members.
School Social Workers Association of Missouri – Started by volunteer professionals in this field back in 1980, this organization is as relevant today as it was 40 years ago as it strives to fulfill its goal of furthering the missions of schools in general, providing kids throughout the state with the best learning options possible.
Missouri Society for Clinical Social Work – Based in Saint Louis, this organization offers a wide range of benefits to its members including professional trainings and workshops, mentorship and supervision, and advocacy in local and state policies.
Career Opportunities in Missouri
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services – As a state-level agency responsible for the well-being of Missourians everywhere, this agency plays an important role in addressing major issues including narcotics and dangerous drugs, women’s health, prevention and wellness topics, teen and adolescent health, school health, rural health, and much more.
Missouri Department of Mental Health – The state’s vital resource for addressing the gamut of mental health issues, this department coordinates its own programs and partners with local agencies to tackle pressing topics including developmental disabilities, alcohol and drug use, mental illnesses, and crisis interventions.
Springfield Public Schools – With more than 25,000 enrolled students who attend over 50 schools, SPS is the state’s largest school district. It includes nine middle schools, 35 elementary schools, and five high schools, the latter of which are designated as Missouri A+ Schools.
Behavioral Health Kansas City – The services offered by this organization are full-spectrum, starting with early intervention programs offered for kids along with educational services to help with integration into school. It also hosts residential services catering to students with intellectual disabilities and behavioral issues. To top it off it provides crisis intervention services for adults, plus consulting services.
Lakeland Behavioral Health System – Based in Springfield, this organization is well known for its comprehensive treatment programs aimed at youths. It includes inpatient and residential programs for children and adolescents that address gender-specific issues as well as those for sexually maladaptive teen males. It also offers inpatient programs for seniors.
MU Health Care – This healthcare system is five hospitals strong. It’s proud to host the highest level of trauma care in the region, provide advanced neonatal care, to include the state’s only hospital that’s designated specifically for cancer care, and to host the only hospital in the region devoted to orthopedic care.
Saint Louis Public Schools – The entity in charge of all public schools in the city of Saint Louis, in the most recent year this district was responsible for the education of nearly 24,000 students based out of 68 different schools. It employs approximately 2,000 teachers and its history stretches back to 1838.