Arkansas social workers use specialized knowledge of human growth and development and of social resources and systems. Discipline-specific skills allow them to provide counseling or engage in activities such as social work planning and administration. Those at the higher levels may engage in diagnosis and treatment planning. Some, though, work in other arenas, including practice at the macro or systems level.
Arkansas recognizes three levels of social work licensing: Licensed Social Worker (LSW), Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW), and Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW).
Arkansas requires licensing but exempts various individuals such as those employed at the state level to act as social services workers or adult protective services workers.
Social Work Education
Education is the foundation for social work. Approved educational programs are those that are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Graduates can achieve the LSW credential with education at the bachelor’s level. The LMSW and LCSW require social work education at the master’s level (See: Master’s of Social Work Programs in Arkansas).
Multiple Arkansas cities boast accredited programs. Students are not limited to in-state options, however. The CSWE has provided a program directory (https://www.cswe.org/Accreditation/Directory-of-Accredited-Programs.aspx). Prospective social workers can search for programs with particular concentrations. There are even dual degree options.
The Application and Examination Process
Arkansas utilizes Association of Social Work (ASWB) examinations. Candidates will take the examination appropriate to the level of licensing sought. A prospective LSW will take the bachelor’s examination; an LMSW, the master’s examination; an LCSW, the clinical examination.
A prospective social worker will submit his or her license application before testing. The Board must grant authorization. An approved candidate will then register with the ASWB (https://www.aswb.org/exam-candidates/). He or she will schedule an examination at a Pearson VUE testing center. The Pearson VUE website currently lists three Arkansas testing centers; this is as of 2018. There are additional testing centers located in the border region of neighboring states.
License applications can be accessed from the Board website (http://www.arkansas.gov/swlb/licensing_info.html).
Applicants will need to arrange for receipt of official transcripts.
The application fee for license by examination is $100. There is a fee of $230 to $260 associated with examination. This is paid to the testing organization.
Candidates seeking the LBSW or LMSW credential may be granted provisional licenses. These allow for practice for up to one year pending successful examination. It is expected that an attempt will be made during the initial six months. Arkansas allows three examination attempts over the course of the year. A three-month wait time is imposed after an unsuccessful attempt. A fee is associated with each attempt. The test takes four hours; the scheduled appointment takes somewhat longer.
Arkansas requires criminal background checks. The background check is completed through the Identification Bureau of the Arkansas State Police. The Board website includes a link to a list of disqualifying crimes (http://www.arkansas.gov/swlb/licensing_info.html). There are provisions for waiver.
Social workers who are licensed in other states that have requirements at least on a par with Arkansas’ may be licensed by reciprocity (without examination). They will have met examination requirements at some point in the past.
Supervised Work Requirements
LSW or LMSW social workers require supervision at the employment level, though their supervision may be provided by professionals with any of multiple credentials. The clinical supervision necessary for LCSW licensure carries a more specific set of requirements.
An LCSW will work under supervision for a period of two years. This is figured at 4,000 hours (a little higher than the standard set by some other states). The prospective LCSW will meet regularly with a clinical supervisor who already holds licensure at the LCSW level; supervisor and supervisee will be guided by a supervision plan. Arkansas requires an average of an hour a week of direct supervisor/ supervisee contact. Up to half of the required supervision may take place in a small group setting.
Social workers who have achieved LCSW status are qualified for private and independent practice. While a professional who has received the LCSW no longer has a supervision requirement, he or she should have access to professional consultation as needed.
Licenses are renewed every two years. Continuing education is mandatory. If a social worker does not meet the CE requirement, his or her license will expire. Exceptions may be granted in some circumstances, for example, when an ongoing illness prevents normal daily activity.
Social workers may select from a wide range of courses that further their professional development. The Board has provided a link to samples (http://www.arkansas.gov/swlb/continuing_ed.html). Topics may be as diverse as dementia, substance abuse treatment, art therapy, social program administration, and contributions of social assistance programs (among others). Certain restrictions apply. There is a professional ethics requirement.
Information about social work licensing is available from the Arkansas Social Work Licensing Board (http://www.arkansas.gov/swlb). The Board can be reached by telephone at (501) 372-5071 or by email at ‘swlb at arkansas.gov’.
The Arkansas Licensing Board notes that laws and regulations are subject to change. A link has been provided to the actual state code (http://www.arkansas.gov/swlb/laws_regs.html).