Alabama issues four social work credentials. Some titles have changed in the recent past. Current options include Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW), Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW), Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW), and Private Independent Practice (PIP).
An individual pursuing first-time licensure in Alabama will be licensed at the LMSW level while meeting supervised practice requirements for the LICSW.
Reciprocity can be granted to out-of-state social workers based on equivalency of standards.
Licensing Levels and Requisite Education
The Alabama Board has identified a scope of practice for each level; actual duties will generally be narrower than what is allowable under state code.
LBSW roles include counselor, case manager, client advocate, mediator, and educator, among others. LBSW is considered a generalist. A social worker at this level is qualified to carry out psychosocial assessments and home studies.
An LMSW may have more specialized capabilities. Practice may be macro or micro. The LMSW could be employed in various arenas, including social casework, community organization, social work administration, community social work, and clinical social work. The role could include supervision of LBSWs. Among the allowable duties are assessment of psychosocial functioning and formulation of a plan for improvement.
An LICSW is expected to be able to exercise independent judgment. The LICSW can perform interventions across social units, from the individual level to the community or organizational level. He or she has in-depth knowledge pertaining to at least one type of client group.
PIP is a separate certification. Professionals who hold this also main LCSW licensure. A PIP has additional experience in a particular area of social work. Practice areas include clinical social work, social casework, and community organization. The social worker may qualify on the basis of one year of full-time experience or two years of part-time experience accrued after receipt of the LICSW credential. It is also acceptable to demonstrate three years of full-time post-MSW experience or five years part-time post-MSW experience. The PIP will need to define his or her practice method to the Board. It is possible to qualify in more than one.
Social Work Education
Prospective social workers are to enroll in programs that have been accredited or approved by the Council on Social Work Education (Master’s in Social Work programs in Alabama). Candidacy status awarded by the CSWE is also acceptable.
A bachelor’s degree is the minimum standard for licensure. Master Social Worker and Independent Clinical Social Worker licenses are both dependent on education at the master’s or doctoral level.
The Examination and Application Process
A first-time social work professional will need to make application for examination and licensure. (This is done simultaneously.) Applications are available from the Alabama Board of Social Work Examiners (http://www.socialwork.alabama.gov/apps_forms.aspx).
Examinations are those of the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). The ASWB offers examinations appropriate to multiple levels. Candidates will receive examination registration information after they submit their applications. The Board notes that examinations are available 5 to 6 days per week. Detailed candidate guides are available from the ASWB.
Authorization is for one attempt made during the next year. The candidate is expected to take and pass the exam during the one-year period. A candidate who fails an examination attempt during the initial one-year period may submit an online re-examination application. Fees are due to the testing organization each time. A candidate who has not passed after one year would need to submit another application if still seeking licensure.
A $75 application fee/ re-examination fee is to be remitted to the Alabama Board. This is separate from the examination fee due to the ASWB. The ASWB website currently lists fees as $230 to $260 (depending on examination level).
The Board will require official transcripts; these are to be sent directly from the school.
Reciprocity candidates will submit license verification and ASWB score documentation. Those seeking licensure at the LICSW level will also submit certification of supervision.
Applications are sent to the Alabama State Board in Montgomery.
Applications should be submitted no less than 14 days before a Board meeting in order to receive consideration at that meeting.
A social worker will re-apply for licensure each time a new level is sought, though documents that are still applicable need not be submitted each time.
An LBSW will need regular supervisory sessions with an LMSW or LICSW during his or her first two years on the job. The requirement is for four hours a month. The LBSW will need supervisory sessions again if his or her practice area changes or job responsibilities are not substantially similar. The second time around, though, the supervision period may be shorter: six months.
A social worker who is working toward the LCSW credential will need a supervisor who is an LICSW. If the supervisor is not employed by the agency that employs the supervisee, he or she will need PIP status. The prospective LICSW will need at least 24 months of supervised experience. Again, the requirement is for four hours a month. The experience is to take place within a 36-month period. The supervision will take place as specified in a contract (or other signed document) that is on file with the Alabama Board.
The supervisor will rank the prospective LICSW as satisfactory or unsatisfactory in a number of areas, noting ‘N/A’ if the particular skill is not applicable to his or her practice. Skills include group counseling, individual counseling, insight into client problems, referral making, and recognition of the professional’s own limitations (among others).
Information is available from the Alabama State Board of Social Work Examiners (http://www.socialwork.alabama.gov/default.aspx).
Standards are subject to change. Current laws and rules can be accessed from the Board website (http://www.socialwork.alabama.gov/rules.aspx).