The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS), Marriage and Family Therapy, Professional Counseling, and Social Work Examining Board, issues the following types of social work credentials:
Social Worker Training Certification (SWTC) – This is for applicants who have earned a bachelor’s degree that’s not in Social Work who are looking for a transitional pathway into the social work field. It allows you to become a CSW if you’ve met specific education requirements and complete a period of supervised work experience. Completing the SWTC transitional pathway fulfills the education requirement for becoming a CSW.
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Social Worker (Certified) (CSW) – This credential allows you to engage in social work services such as:
- Evaluation and assessment of psychosocial functioning
- Development of intervention plans and referral of clients for treatments
- Referral of clients to community resources
- Facilitation of organizational change
- Cannot engage in psychotherapeutic activities
Advanced Practice Social Worker (APSW) – This credential allows you to engage in social work that encompasses the scope of practice of CSWs, and additionally includes:
- Intervening and evaluating complex psychosocial functioning difficulties
- Development of intervention plans that include individual, family, and group counseling
- Provision of psychotherapeutic activities under authorized supervision
Independent Social Worker (ISW) – This credential allows you to engage in the APSW scope of practice as an independent practitioner, however if you provide psychotherapeutic services you must do so under authorized supervision.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) – This license allows you to engage in the ISW scope of practice at an advanced level by applying psychotherapeutic treatments and understanding to the application of social work. You can work independently without supervision while providing psychotherapeutic social work services. These include the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of emotional and mental disorders in individuals, families, and groups.
Substance Abuse Specialty Authorization – You can add this on to any credential except the LCSW. It allows you to engage in social work that’s related to substance abuse once you’ve completed specific education and a period of supervised work experience. This is included within the LCSW scope of practice by default.
Psychometric Testing – A psychometric test is a procedure for evaluating a client’s behavior and measuring their psychological characteristics. These tests are often used in the mental and behavioral health fields, which includes social work. Under certain circumstances an LCSW is authorized to administer psychometric tests.
Social Work Degrees in Wisconsin
You can qualify for a social work credential in Wisconsin with everything from a bachelor’s degree in any field to a doctoral degree in Social Work. Strategically long-term you’d ideally earn your degree from a school that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), which specifically accredits social work programs at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. Wisconsin is home to 21 CSWE-accredited programs.
Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW)
Having a CSWE-accredited BSW fulfills the education requirement for the SWC credential and means you can enter this field having already established seniority over SWTCs. These programs take approximately four years to complete and total at least 120 semester credits. Right now you can find 15 CSWE-accredited BSW programs in Wisconsin.
Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW)
Holding an MSW degree from a CSWE-accredited social work program fulfills the educational requirement for all credential levels in Wisconsin except the SWTC. If you’re using an MSW to qualify for an LCSW it must include a clinical social work concentration, and CSWE-accredited MSW programs automatically include a 900-hour supervised field education experience by default. Wisconsin is currently home to six CSWE-accredited MSW programs.
Doctoral Degree in Social Work
While the CSWE doesn’t accredit programs at this level, you can still qualify for all credentials in Wisconsin with a doctoral degree in Social Work, excluding the SWTC. If you’re using a doctoral degree to qualify for the LCSW it must include a clinical social work concentration and a supervised field training segment. As the most advanced degree in this field, doctoral programs are offered as PhDs and Doctor of Social Work (DSWs).
Steps Towards Social Work Licensure in Wisconsin
With some exceptions for SWTCs, to be eligible for any credential issued by the DSPS you’ll need the following:
- To graduate from a social work degree program that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). To establish this fill out a Certification of Social Worker Education form, send it to the school you graduated from, and have them forward it to DSPS.
- To pass an exam sponsored by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB).
- To pass a Wisconsin Statutes and Rules Examination, based on these regulations. Once you submit your application to DSPS they will contact you with information about how you can take this exam online. The fee for taking this exam is $75.
- To explain any pending criminal convictions or charges using this form, if applicable. You can ask DSPS to evaluate any convictions you have to see if they would be disqualifying by submitting this form. Include them with your application as necessary.
- To pay fees associated with your application amounting to $77.
On your application for your credential you can opt to receive a temporary credential that allows you practice if you’ve met all requirements except having taken and passed the ASWB exam. This costs $10, can be renewed once, and either expires after nine months or once you pass your exam, whichever comes first.
If you’re 180% at or below the federal poverty guideline you can apply to have the fees associated with your application reduced. Include this form with your application.
SWTC applicants are exempt from the CSWE education, ASWB exam, and Wisconsin Statutes and Rules Examination requirements, cannot apply for a temporary credential, and pay an application fee of $10. However before becoming a CSW both exams must be passed.
Social Worker Training Certification (SWTC)
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Criminal Justice, Sociology, or other Human Service program. Master’s degrees are not qualifying. Your school will need to submit this form to DSPS that confirms the courses you took qualify you for the SWTC. If the school where you complete your education has a program that’s CSWE-accredited and it’s in Wisconsin, then it should automatically include approved courses that fulfill this requirement. If not, then make sure to confirm your education qualifies you for the SWTC according to the guidelines on this form. If you’re qualifying for the SWTC based on a degree in a human service program that’s not Psychology, Criminal Justice, or Sociology, then fill out this form and DSPS will evaluate your degree to determine if you’re eligible for the SWTC. Include all necessary forms with your SWTC application.
- To complete the full SWTC transition pathway you’ll need to gain 400 hours of supervised work experience, either through an internship or through employment. Once you’ve located a site to gain this qualifying supervised experience, have your supervisor fill out an Affidavit of Employment/Internship and include this with your SWTC application.
- Fill out an application for the SWTC and submit this to DSPS. Once it approves your application it will issue your SWTC credential.
- In order to use the SWTC pathway to fulfill the education requirements of the CSW, you need to earn a combination of education and work experience. The education you need is at least 15 semester credits in the subjects of: social welfare policies and services (three credits), social work practice methods (nine credits), and human behavior (three credits). If not completed prior to applying for the SWTC, you’ll need to complete this education before you can apply for the CSW.
- Once you’ve completed the required 15 credits of education and 400 hours of qualifying supervised work experience you can apply for the CSW, using these to fulfill the CSW’s education requirement. When applying, included your supervisor’s completed Affidavit of Employment/Internship and your official transcripts.
Renewal – The SWTC is valid for a maximum of two years and cannot be renewed.
Social Worker (Certified) (CSW)
- Fulfill the education requirement: at least a bachelor’s degree in Social Work, or complete the transitional pathway to the CSW as an SWTC.
- Apply for the CSW credential with DSPS using this form. Once DSPS determines your application is complete it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the ASWB for its Bachelors exam. Once you pass this DSPS will issue your CSW credential.
Advanced Practice Social Worker (APSW)
- Earn at least a master’s degree in Social Work.
- Apply for the APSW credential with DSPS using this form. Once DSPS determines your application is complete it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the ASWB for its Masters exam. Once you pass this DSPS will issue your APSW credential.
- You can start gaining supervised social work experience to fulfill the supervised experience requirement for becoming an ISW or LCSW once you receive your APSW credential.
Independent Social Worker (ISW)
- Earn at least a master’s degree in Social Work.
- Complete the supervised experience requirement, which is at least 3,000 hours of post-graduate-degree approved supervised social work practice that includes one hour of face-to-face group or individual sessions each week, over the course of at least two years. Have your supervisor document this on this form, and submit it with your application.
- Apply for the ISW credential with DSPS. Once DSPS determines your application is complete it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the ASWB for its Advanced Generalist exam. Once you pass this DSPS will issue your ISW credential.
- You can start gaining supervised experience to fulfill the LCSW supervised experience requirement once you receive your ISW credential.
- If you’re a member of the National Association of Social Workers’ (NASW) Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW), then you can be exempt from taking the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
Learn More About The Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
- Earn at least a master’s degree in Social Work. The program must include a clinical social work concentration (verification with this form) and a supervised field training segment (verification with this form). Submit the verification forms with your LCSW application. If you’ve completed 1,500 hours of supervised clinical social work experience over at least a year’s span in a primary clinical setting you can be exempt from the supervised field training requirement, however you cannot count these hours towards fulfilling the LCSW’s supervised experience requirement.
- Complete the supervised experience requirement, which is 3,000 hours of supervised clinical social work experience, including 1,000 hours of face-to-face client contact. To qualify in-state you must accrue this as an APSW or ISW. Have your supervisor verify you’ve fulfilled this requirement by submitting this form to DSPS. Make a summary of your supervised experience on this form and include it with your LCSW application.
- Fill out an LCSW application and submit this to DSPS. Once DSPS approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to register for the Clinical exam.
- Register with the ASWB for its Clinical exam. Once you pass this DSPS will issue your LCSW license.
- Note – Unless you work for a government agency you must obtain malpractice insurance to work as an LCSW in Wisconsin, in the amount of $1 million for each occurrence and $3 million for all occurrences in a one-year span. Private employers may provide this for you.
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Substance Abuse Specialty Authorization
- Fulfill the education requirement:
APSWs and ISWs – 135 hours of substance use disorder education; verification with this form
SWTCs and SWCs – 180 hours of substance use disorder education; verification with this form
- Fulfill the supervised face-to-face client treatment experience requirement:
APSWs and ISWs – 200 hours; verification with this form
SWTCs and SWCs – 1,000 hours; verification with this form
- Fill out an application for Substance Abuse Specialty Authorization with DSPS; include the verification forms for your education and supervised experience, and a $75 application fee. If you have convictions and pending charges or malpractice suits or claims include those forms too. Once DSPS approves your application it will issue your authorization.
- Complete graduate or post-graduate academic training that covers the topics relevant to psychometric testing, including descriptive statistics, reliability/measurement error, test score interpretation, test procedures and variables, and demographic variables.
- Be supervised by a licensed psychologist. To be qualified to administer psychometric testing as an LCSW, you must be working under the supervision of a Wisconsin-licensed psychologist. Verify your supervision by submitting this form with your psychometric testing application.
- Submit a psychometric testing application to DSPS using this form, which also includes a section that verifies you’ve completed the necessary education.
Renewing Your Social Work Credential
The CSW, APSW, ISW, and LCSW credentials expire in odd-numbered years on February 28th. To renew them you’ll need to complete 30 hours of continuing education during each renewal period. You can renew online and the renewal fee is $62.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Social Worker in Wisconsin?
Once you graduate from high school you can become a social worker in anywhere from four to eight years, depending on what credential you’re interested in. It takes four years to earn a BSW, about two more years to earn an MSW, and each time you need to fulfill a supervised experience requirement it takes around two years. That translates into roughly, at minimum:
- Four years to become an SWTC or CSW
- Six years to become an APSW
- Eight years to become an ISW
- Eight years to become an LCSW
The Wisconsin DSPS evaluates the out-of-state qualification requirements to become licensed in your state and considers whether they’re substantially equivalent to Wisconsin’s. Follow the application process outlined above for your desired credential, and indicate that you’re applying via reciprocity (temporary credentials are not available via this path). Additionally have the following items sent to the Wisconsin DSPS:
- Verification of your out-of-state credential from your state’s social work board
- Passing exam scores from the ASWB
- Disclosure of any malpractice claims or suits which you’ve been subject to, if applicable, using this form
Social Work Salary Projections in Wisconsin
The US Department of Labor reports the following average yearly salary data for social workers in Wisconsin in 2020:
- Social and Community Service Manager – $69,020
- Healthcare Social Worker – $54,220
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker – $47,980
- Child, Family, and School Social Worker – $47,470
- Social Work Teachers, Post-secondary – $61,600
- Social Worker, All Other – $55,390
Social Work Resources in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers – Comprised of seven sub-branches that form the state-level organization, this chapter is part of the larger NASW organization that represents the interests of social workers across the nation. The Wisconsin branch provides resources for its members like ethical advice, answers to legal questions, and details about the process of earning a Wisconsin credential.
Wisconsin School Social Workers Association – Representing the vital professional niche of school social workers across the state, this organization is made up of 12 regional branches and is proud to offer mini-grants to its members who are interested in trying new and creative ideas within their local school.
Wisconsin Council on Social Work Education – Demonstrating the unique commitment Wisconsin social workers make to their field as one of the only ones of its kind in the nation, WCSWE represents social work faculty and related professionals with an eye toward promoting leadership and advocacy to ensure justice and quality education throughout the state.
Wisconsin Nursing Home Social Workers Association – Adopting its current set of principles back in 2005, this organization is dedicated to providing relevant educational resources for its members. It aims to raise the profile of this niche application of social work and enhance their experience.
Midwest School Social Work Council – Social workers from Wisconsin have a seat on this council that represents the profession across 11 states. Its goals include facilitating a convenient system of communications between its members regarding the social work profession and educational process.
Career Opportunities in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Department of Health Services – As the state-level agency responsible for the health and well-being of all residents, this is one of the best-known government agencies among social workers. It runs its own programs as well as working with local partners throughout Wisconsin. Issues it addresses include substance abuse, trauma care, long-term care, community health, physical and mental disabilities, and mental and behavioral health.
Madison Metropolitan School District – Home to 32 elementary schools, 12 middle schools, and six high schools, each year more than 25,000 students gain the education they’ll rely on for the rest of their lives in the halls of this district’s schools, assisted by over 5,000 staff members.
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Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin – This regional health network is a partnership that supports a shared mission of qualify services for the patients it serves. Most recently 1.3 million outpatient visits, nearly 53,000 inpatient admissions, and over a million visitors to network doctors were supported by almost 2,000 physicians working at more than 40 health centers and five hospitals.
Kenosha County Mental Health and Substance Abuse Resource Center – As a local government initiative, this program provides a wealth of resources on subjects including counseling options, connection with relevant and helpful community resources, addiction specialist services, mental health management and education, and much more.
Milwaukee Public Schools – Serving more than 75,000 students with around 10,000 staff members from 165 schools, MPS is hands-down the largest school district in the state. Home to dozens of K-8 and elementary schools, the district also hosts six middle schools and 20 high schools.
University of Wisconsin Health – This integrated healthcare network serves more than 600,000 patients annually. It employs 21,000 staff members and 1,750 physicians at more than 80 outpatient facilities and seven hospitals. Its behavioral health services are focused on mental health, addiction, pediatrics, geriatrics, inpatient care, and specialized treatments.