Rhode Island Social Work License Requirements

Learn About Social Work Licensure in Rhode Island. See Requirements for the LCSW and LICSW Licenses

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The Rhode Island Department of Health, Board of Examiners in Social Workers (BESW) issues two types of social work licenses:

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) – This license allows you to engage in clinical social work under supervision. This includes the diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of behavioral, cognitive, and affective disorders. It also includes counseling and psychotherapy for couples, families, individuals, and groups.

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) – This license allows you to engage in the practice of clinical social work independently without supervision, including the option to work in private practice. You can also supervise LCSWs.

Steps Towards Social Work Licensure in Rhode Island

To qualify for either license from the Rhode Island Board of Examiners in Social Workers (BESW) you need to meet these requirements:

  • Pass an exam that’s administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)
  • Include documentation that shows you’re a US citizen or have the right to live and work in the country with your application
  • Include a $70 application fee with your application

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)


    1. Earn a master’s degree in Social Work from a program that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), or a doctoral degree in Social Work; have your school send official transcripts to the BESW when you’re ready to apply.
    2. Submit an application for LCSW licensure with the BESW. Once the BESW approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
    3. Register with the ASWB for its Masters exam. Once you pass this the BESW will issue your LCSW license.

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)


    1. Be an LCSW.
    2. Fulfill the supervised experience requirement. This is 3,000 hours of post-master’s clinical social work experience completed in at least 24 months but not more than 72 months, finished immediately prior to applying for the LICSW. 1,500 of these hours must include the provision of clinical social work services directly to clients. You must complete the 3,000 hours under supervision from an LICSW.
    3. Submit an application for LICSW licensure with the BDSW. Have your supervisor verify you’ve completed your supervised experience by filling out the Supervised Practice Certification of Experience Form contained within the application. Once the BESW approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
    4. Register with the ASWB for its Clinical exam. Once you pass this the BESW will issue your LICSW license.
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Renewing Your Social Work License

Both types of social work licenses issued by the BESW expire every two years on May 1st of odd-numbered years. You can renew them online. To be eligible for renewal you need to complete 30 hours of continuing education every renewal cycle. This must include three hours in cross-cultural practice and three hours in professional ethics.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Social Worker in Rhode Island?

From the time you graduate from high school, you could be working as an LCSW in as soon as six years. That’s the amount of time it typically takes to earn a master’s degree in Social Work. By earning two years of supervised experience beyond that, for a total of eight years, you could qualify to be licensed as an LICSW.

Social Work Degrees in Rhode Island

If you want to become a licensed social worker in Rhode Island, your quickest path is to earn an MSW degree from a program that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Gaining entry into an MSW program typically requires a bachelor’s degree, and earning a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program is a logical first step towards an MSW. Right now in total there are four CSWE degree programs available in Rhode Island. You can also qualify for licensure with a doctoral degree in Social Work, although the CSWE doesn’t accredit programs at this level. Social work degree programs can be offered on-campus as well as online.

    Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW)

    Rhode Island is home to three BSW programs. These total at least 120 semester credits and take around four years to complete. Part of being CSWE-accredited means they include a field education segment that’s at least 400 hours in length. You’ll find there’s a lot of natural supplementary overlap between a BSW program and an MSW program, and that transitioning between the two can be seamless.

    Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW)

    Rhode Island is currently home to one CSWE-accredited MSW program. These programs take around two years to complete and total at least 30 semester credits. The MSW program in Rhode Island is 62 semester credits. Being CSWE-accredited means an MSW program automatically includes a field education experience such as a practicum or internship that’s at least 900 hours. Earning an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program fulfills the academic requirements for the LCSW and LICSW licenses in Rhode Island.

    Doctoral Degree in Social Work

    Earning a doctoral degree in Social Work shows that you’re committed to educational expertise and attaining the most advanced knowledge within the field of social work. This will also fulfill the education requirements for the LCSW and LICSW licenses. You can find degrees at this level offered as PhD programs and as Doctor of Social Work (DSW) programs.


You can apply to be licensed with the Rhode Island BESW if you’ve been licensed as a social worker in another state. Have your state’s board of social work verify your out-of-state licensure by completing the Interstate Verification Form that’s contained with the application for licensure. If this doesn’t include your ASWB exam scores, request the ASWB to send those directly to the BESW. Follow the application procedure outlined above for the appropriate level of licensure.

Social Work Salaries in Rhode Island

Of all states, Rhode Island offers some of the highest average annual salaries for social workers in the nation. It offers the number-one highest salary for social and community service managers, and the third-highest salary for child, family, and school social workers. The following numbers are reported by the US Department of Labor in 2020:

  • Social and Community Service Manager – $94,860
  • Healthcare Social Worker – $59,090
  • Child, Family, and School Social Worker – $63,310
  • Social Work Teachers, Post-secondary – $74,900
  • Social Worker, All Other – $74,520

Social Work Resources in Rhode Island

Rhode Island Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers – As the state chapter of the nation’s largest professional social work association, this agency strives to make a difference at the local level, ensuring standards that emphasize the worth of each person and the importance of human relationships, social justice, and dignity. This local chapter hosts four local committees that specifically focus on the issues of addiction, healthcare settings, school social work, and aging.

Career Opportunities in Rhode Island

Rhode Island Department of Human Services – This state-level agency provides many essential services that residents need to function in their daily lives. It operates its own programs and works with local partners to address issues like homelessness, refugee resettlement, long term care and support, healthcare coverage, and disabilities experienced by children, adults, and the elderly.

Rhode Island Department of Health – This state agency literally manages hundreds of programs, centers, and divisions geared towards keeping members of the public safe and healthy. Social workers are familiar with many of these, which provide resources for topics like behavioral risk factors, care for chronic diseases, promotion of health equity, minority health, tobacco control, and violence prevention.

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Providence Public School District – The largest school district in the state, PPSD is home to 2,000 educators plus another 1,200 support staff who provide the foundational education for 24,000 students. Learning takes place in one of the district’s 41 schools, which include 22 elementary, seven middle, and 10 high schools.

Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals – Perhaps the most important state organization for services related to mental health, this agency provides programs that address substance use addictions, developmental disabilities, mental health through the Division of Behavioral Healthcare Services, and it provides community living support services.

Care New England – This non-profit healthcare system has six hospital members and includes more than 8,000 employees. Founded in 1996, one of its proud members is the Woman and Infants Hospital, host of the ninth-largest stand alone obstetrical service in the country and making 8,500 deliveries every year.

BH Link – This organization serves clients in crisis and connects people to resources and care. It makes a point of reducing unnecessary use of hospital-based services. Walk-in services, assistance with housing and basic needs, and help with substance abuse disorders are some of the areas it focuses on.

Cranston Public School District – One of the largest school districts in Rhode Island, each day over 11,000 students walk through the doors of one of this district’s 24 schools. Nearly 800 full-time teachers make sure students get an education that will last them a lifetime.