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Professional Licensing and Exam Preparation

Understanding Credentials

According to the National Association of Social Worker website:

When social work was developing as a profession, licensure was not established in all states in the U.S. Credentialing for the field of social work grew out of the need to regulate practice and provide social workers with a means to identify their level of expertise. Now all 50 states regulate licensure, however, many social workers still take advantage of the NASW credentials as a means of professional identification.

The National Association of Social Workers (the largest professional organization of social workers) has provided social workers with credentialing services for over 40 years. Some of the credentials that you will see their members obtain are Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW), Qualified Clinical Social Worker (QCSW), and Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW).


What is Licensure?

According to the Association of Social Work Board:

All 50 states regulate social work practice. Whatever state you decide to work as a social worker, you should obtain licensure. It is the law and it identifies your level of education and social work experience for the public. The application process often involves submitting an application, school transcripts, passing a state background check, and passing an exam.

The majority of states have several different levels of licensure that correlates with your level of education (BSW, MSW or DSW) and experience (no years of experience to several years of post Master's experience).

The Association of Social Work Boards is the organization that produces the required licensure examinations for 49 states. California contracts with a different vendor. Click here to review California's specific licensing requirements.

The process of applying for licensure involves:

  1. Identifying what state you wish to work as every state has a different licensing board and application process. The Association of Social Work Boards has a searchable database that identifies all 50 states licensing levels and licensing board websites. This database is located on the ASWB website as a link under Laws and regulations.
  2. Review the state's licensure requirements and application materials.
  3. Identify if an exam is required and which exam you must pass.
  4. Determine if you can start the application process while still in school. Approval for licensure takes time and some employers will not hire you if you are not licensed so any early preparation that you can complete helps to make your transition into employment an easier process.


Social Work Licensure in the State of Michigan

According to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Community Affairs:

The State of Michigan has two different levels of licensure for MSW graduates - the limited license (LLMSW) and full license (LMSW). The State also identifies social workers by area of practice- clinical or macro practice. The Limited License is the first level of licensure for MSW graduates. It is valid for one year and renewable up to six times. It may take up to 4-6 weeks for the State to approve your application so start the process several weeks prior to graduation.

The requirements to obtain a Limited License in Michigan are:

  • Application
  • Select Distinction (macro or clinical)
  • School Transcripts with MSW degree granted
  • Criminal Check including a Fingerprint Background Check

The requirements to obtain Full Licensure in Michigan (which occurs after several years of post MSW experience) are:

  • Application
  • Criminal Check including a Fingerprint Background Check If you received your limited license prior to October 2008, you will need to complete this step if you did not complete a FBI fingerprint check.
  • 4000 hours of post master's social work experience in your area of practice (macro or clinical). Work at least 16 hrs/week no more than 40 hrs/week.
  • 100 hours of supervised work under a fully licensed social worker (LMSW) who has their license in the same area of practice you are seeking
  • Supervision must be at least 4 hrs/month and at least 1 hour of individual review
  • Pass the required licensing exam administered by the Association of Social Work Boards. The Clinical Exam is required for those seeking the Clinical distinction and the Advanced Generalist is required for those seeking the Macro distinction.

To obtain more information about licensure in the State of Michigan, visit the Department of Licensing and Community Affairs website.

Licensing Resources

Association of Social Work Boards

The ASWB creates the social work licensing exams, provides information about each of the state requirements for licensing and Continuing Education, has resources regarding legal practices, and offers preparation materials for the licensing exam.

Social Work Examination Services

The SWES is the most popular resource for licensing exam preparation. It offers courses and books to study for the exam.

American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work

This board offers clinical social workers certification in areas, such as children and families, psychoanalysis, clinical supervision, and advanced generalist practice.

Continuing Education Online Examination Preparation Course Information

This online review course is designed to help you prepare for either the Masters, Advanced Generalist, or Clinical licensure examination.

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