The Licensure Unit of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS-NE) is responsible for issuing the following credentials. In Nebraska, services that would traditionally be classified under the profession of clinical social work are provided by licensed mental health practitioners:
Certified Social Worker (CSW) – This license allows you to engage in the professional application of social work, however you cannot practice privately or independently.
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Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW) – This license allows you to apply specialized knowledge to all areas of practice within the field of social work. You can also choose to engage in the private and independent practice of social work.
Licensed Mental Health Practitioner (LMHP) – This license allows you to engage in the assessment and treatment of individuals, families, couples, and groups using psychotherapy and counseling. Treatments are provided for cognitive, social, mental, and emotional disorders.
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner (LIMHP) – This license allows you to diagnose major mental illnesses and disorders using psychotherapy. You can do this with or without consultation from a physician or psychologist.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) – In Nebraska this is only a title. You can legally use this title if you’re a Licensed Mental Health Practitioner (LMHP) and a Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW). You can engage in the scopes of practice allowed by each credential category.
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) – In Nebraska this is only a title. You can legally use this title if you’re a Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner (LIMHP) and a Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW). You can engage in the scopes of practice allowed by each credential category.
Steps Towards Social Work Licensure in Nebraska
Each type of credential issued by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has its own education, supervised experience, and exam requirements. Along with an application for any credential issued by the DHHS you’ll need to include:
- Provide proof of US citizenship or of being lawfully present in the United States
- Detail records of any convictions you’ve had, including misdemeanors and felonies
- Pay an application fee unless you qualify for a waiver
When fulfilling an education requirement with bachelor’s or master’s degrees in Social Work, they must be from a program that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Doctoral degrees in Social Work must be from a school that’s recognized by the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education (GADE) in Social Work.
If you’re fulfilling an education requirement with another type of master’s or doctoral degree, it must be from a program accredited by one of the following:
Have your school send official transcripts to the DHHS once you plan to apply for a credential.
Supervised Experience Requirements:
With the exception of the CSW license, all credentials require you to fulfill a 3,000-hour supervised experience requirement. This is usually done as a provisional credential candidate. Once you’ve fulfilled the supervised experience requirement the DHHS will clear you to take an exam sponsored by a national organization. Once you pass the exam the DHHS will issue your full credential without “provisional” in the title.
The specific exam requirements are detailed for each credential below. You can qualify for credentials by passing national exams sponsored by these organizations:
Certified Social Worker (CSW)
- Complete the education requirement: earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in Social Work.
Submit a CSW application to the DHHS. Include a certification fee of $125. Once the DHHS approves your application it will issue your CSW credential.
Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW)
- Complete the education requirement: earn a master’s or doctoral degree in Social Work.
- Submit an application to become a Provisional Certified Master Social Worker (PCMSW) with the DHHS; $125 fee. You’ll need to locate a CMSW who will be your supervisor, and include a description of your supervision arrangement with your application. Once you’ve become a PCMSW you’re qualified to start accruing hours to fulfill the CMSW’s supervised experience requirement.
- Fulfill the supervised experience requirement. This is 3,000 hours of social work experience under the supervision of a CMSW. You have five years to acquire these hours of supervision and become a full CMSW. After five years your provisional status expires, and you’re allowed to apply for it once more if you need more time to complete the supervised experience requirement. Once you’ve completed this, your supervisor will fill out a Supervised Experience Verification Form that will verify you’ve completed your supervision with the DHHS.
- Submit an application to the DHHS to receive clearance to take the ASWB’s Advanced Generalist or Masters exams. Once the DHHS approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the ASWB for its Advanced Generalist or Masters exams. Once you pass this, the DHHS will issue your full CMSW credential.
Licensed Mental Health Practitioner (LMHP)
- Complete the education requirement. This is a master’s or doctoral degree whose content is focused primarily on therapeutic mental health. It must have a practicum that includes at least 300 hours of direct client contact under supervision.
- Submit an application to become a Provisional Licensed Mental Health Practitioner (PLMHP) to the DHHS; $155 fee. Once you’ve become a PLMHP you’re qualified to start accruing hours to fulfill the LMHP’s supervised experience requirement.
- Fulfill the supervised experience requirement. This is 3,000 hours of mental health practitioner experience, including at least 1,500 hours of face-to-face client contact, under the supervision of an LMHP, LIMHP, psychologist, or physician. You have five years to acquire these hours of supervision and become a full LMHP. After five years your provisional status expires, and you’re allowed to apply for it once more if you need more time to complete the supervised experience requirement. Once you’ve completed this, your supervisor will fill out a Supervised Experience Verification Form that will verify you’ve completed your supervision with the DHHS.
- Submit an application to the DHHS to receive clearance to take one of the following exams: 1.) If you earned an MSW degree from a CSWE-accredited program to fulfill the education requirement, then you’ll apply for clearance to take the ASWB’s Clinical exam. 2.) If you fulfilled the education requirement with another type of degree, then you’ll apply for clearance to take the NBCC’s National Counselor Examination (NCE) or National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE)
- You can apply for both the LMHP license and the CMSW credential at the same time using this application.
- Once the DHHS approves your application it will notify your exam agency that you’re cleared to test. At this point you can register with the ASWB or NBCC for your exam. Once you pass this, the DHHS will issue your full LMHP license.
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner (LIMHP)
- Fulfill the education requirement. This is a master’s degree from a program that’s accredited by the CSWE, CACREP, or COAMFTE.
- Fulfill the supervised experience requirement. This is at least 3,000 hours of mental health practice under the supervision of an LIMHP, physician, or psychologist. This must include at least 1,500 hours of experience with clients diagnosed with major mental illnesses. You complete this as a PLMHP or LMHP. You cannot use hours of supervised experience that you previously used to qualify for other credentials. Your supervisor will submit an Affidavit of Supervised Experience to the DHHS that verifies when you’ve completed this requirement.
- Note – The DHHS has alternate pathways that allow you qualify for the LIMHP without fulfilling Step One and/or Step Two: 1.) You can substitute 10 years of supervised experience and a qualifying master’s degree in place of the requirements in Step One and Step Two. This is verified when your supervisor submits an Affidavit of Supervised Experience to the DHHS. 2.) If you feel your education was equivalent to that from a master’s program accredited by the CSWE, CACREP, or COAMFTE, you can fill out the course equivalency forms contained within the LIMHP application for licensure and the DHHS will evaluate them; this is an alternative to fulfilling Step One.
- Submit an application for LIMHP licensure to the DHHS; $155 fee. If you meet the qualifications for the CMSW credential you can indicate you’d like to apply for the CMSW simultaneously with the LIMHP.
- If you haven’t yet passed the exam required to become an LIMHP, then the DHHS will contact the relevant organization to notify them that you’re cleared to test once it approves your application for licensure. If you have passed a qualifying exam, have its sponsoring agency forward your exam scores to the DHHS. The exam you need to pass to qualify for the LIMHP depends on what type of master’s degree you used to fulfill the education requirement in Step One. You need to take: 1.) The ASWB Clinical exam if your degree is in Social Work. 2.) The AMFTRB exam if your degree is in Marriage and Family Therapy. 3.) The NBCC’s NCE or NCMHCE exam if your degree is Counseling related
- Once the DHHS verifies that you’ve met the education, experience, and exam requirements it will issue your LIMHP license.
Renewing Your Credentials
The CSW, CMSW, LMHP, and LIMHP credentials expire biannually on September 1st of even-numbered years. If licenses and certificates are combined, licenses must be renewed before certificates can be renewed. To be eligible for renewal you must complete 32 hours of continuing education during each renewal period, including at least two hours in ethics. 30 days before your credential is set to expire, the DHHS will mail you a renewal notice in the mail. Completing this and returning it to the DHHS will renew your credential. The renewal fees for each credential are:
- CSW – $125
- CMSW – $50
- LMHP – $155
- LIMPH – $155
How Long Does it Take to Become a Social Worker in Nebraska?
With a high school diploma under your belt, the time it takes to earn your credential in Nebraska depends on its education and supervised experience requirements. Considering it takes approximately four years to earn a bachelor’s degree, an additional two years to earn a master’s degree, and around 1.5 years to complete 3,000 hours of supervised experience, the following are the minimum amounts of time you need to invest per credential:
- Certified Social Worker (CSW) – Four years
- Provisional Certified Master Social Worker (PCMSW) – Six years
- Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW) – 7.5 years
- Provisional Licensed Mental Health Practitioner (PLMHP) – Six years
- Licensed Mental Health Practitioner (LMHP) – 7.5 years
- Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner (LIMHP) – 7.5 years
- LCSW-equivalent (LMHP + CMSW) – Nine years
- LICSW-equivalent (LIMHP + CMSW) – Nine years
Social Work Degrees in Nebraska
Nebraska is unique among states in the nation in that it offers many educational pathways to qualify for a social work credential or its equivalent. These are great options if you’ve already earned your degree in a related field and want to transition to become a social worker. However if you’re just starting down your educational journey, the most straightforward and logical path to fulfilling the educational requirements for credentialing are to graduate from a school that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Nebraska is home to seven CSWE-accredited programs, including one that’s offered online. The CSWE doesn’t accredit programs at the doctoral level.
Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW)
Earning a CSWE-accredited BSW degree fulfills the education requirement for becoming a CSW. It’s also the natural first step towards earning an MSW degree that will qualify you for all higher levels of credentials. Currently there are six CSWE-accredited BSW programs in the state, including one that’s offered online. Being CSWE-accredited means these include a field education experience that’s at least 400 hours.
Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW)
Earning a CSWE-accredited MSW degree fulfills the education requirements for all credentials issued by the DHHS. Right now there is one such program in Nebraska. Any MSW program with CSWE accreditation automatically includes a field education segment that’s at least 900 hours. This experience is a great opportunity to witness didactic social work theory being put into real-world action.
Doctoral Degree in Social Work
A doctoral degree in Social Work can potentially qualify you for CMSW and LMHP credentials. And even if you don’t need it to qualify for a credential in Nebraska, earning a PhD or Doctor of Social Work (DSW) is still a great way of demonstrating your commitment to excellence in this field and of maximizing your career’s potential. DSW programs can focus on clinical aspects of social work, while you may find that PhD programs focus more on research aspects of social work.
The Nebraska DHHS grants credentials based on reciprocity if your out-of-state requirements for credentialing were similar to Nebraska’s. If you’re applying based on reciprocity you need to have been engaged in at least one year of active practice in your field up to the present, or at some point have held a credential in your field for at least five years. Out-of-state supervised experience is accepted in Nebraska as long as it meets Nebraska’s standards. You may be required to pass a Nebraska jurisprudence exam, and you’ll need to submit a copy of your state’s licensing laws and regulations with your application. The Nebraska DHHS needs your ASWB exam scores forwarded to them from the ASWB, and official verification of your out-of-state credential forwarded to them by your state’s credentialing agency. Follow the step-by-step process detailed above for your desired credential, however if you’re applying for either the LMHP or LIMHP licenses use this application instead.
Social Work Salaries in Nebraska
In 2020 the US Department of Labor reports the following average annual salaries for different social work careers, specifically for Nebraska:
- Social and Community Service Manager – $61,660
- Healthcare Social Worker – $49,280
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker – $43,240
- Child, Family, and School Social Worker – $41,650
- Social Work Teachers, Post-secondary – $76,020
- Social Worker, All Other – $62,040
Social Work Resources in Nebraska
Nebraska Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers – This is the local chapter representation of the largest social work organization in the nation. It provides members with the latest legislative updates, opportunities for continuing education, and events where you can network with colleagues and other professionals in the field. Within the NASW, Nebraska is also part of its regional Heartland group with six other states in the Midwest.
School Social Work Association of Nebraska – Ultimately this organization seeks to enhance the educational experience of K-12 students and their families, and it sees the best way to achieve this as being the advancement of the school social work profession. Members enjoy benefits like bi-annual conferences and opportunities for professional support and development.
Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations – Underlining substance abuse resources and the provision of behavioral health services, this organization strives to build strong alliances throughout the mental health community. One of its most important accomplishments has been to develop a database of enthusiastic proactive mental health service providers.
Career Opportunities in Nebraska
Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services – Not only are social workers familiar with the DHHS because it’s the agency that issues social work credentials; it’s also well-known throughout Nebraska as being the state-level agency that works with partner organizations and on its own to address a wide range of vital issues. Its structure includes a Division of Behavioral Health, a Division of Children and Family Services, and a Division of Developmental Disabilities, among others.
Nebraska Division of Behavioral Health – Under the auspices of the DHHS, this division is one of the most important government resources for Nebraskans across the state who face difficult mental health challenges, be it themselves or a family member. This agency provides services that include addiction treatment, those aimed at preventing harmful activities among youths, services for those suffering from domestic violence, and more. It also manages three public psychiatric hospitals.
Omaha Public Schools – The largest district in the state, education for the 53,000 students who call this district home is made possible by a team of 7,000 dedicated staff members. Learning takes place at multiple dozens of elementary schools, 12 middle schools, four alternative schools, and seven high schools.
Nebraska Mental Health – This organization strives to connect those in need of mental health services with those providing them. It additionally emphasizes the importance of public education and public knowledge on the subject. This organization can also be described as a common initiative between more than 30 partner organizations to improve mental health services, particularly for children.
Nebraska Health Network – Proud to call itself an accountable care organization, this network was founded in 2010 when the two leading health systems in the state merged. Today the network includes over 2,000 physicians and advanced practice providers.
Lincoln Public Schools – This district is comprised of more than 60 schools and programs, including 39 elementary, 12 middle, and six high schools. With more than 42,000 students it’s the second-largest district in the state. School social workers will be particularly helpful in assisting this district to meet its goal of a 90% on-time graduation rate.