Iowa’s licensed social workers have specialized knowledge that allows them to assist people in restoring and enhancing social function. The state issues three levels of social work license: bachelor’s, master’s, and independent. All licenses require education and examination; independent licensing carries additional requirements. State law outlines a scope of practice for each level (https://www.legis.iowa.gov/law/iowaCode/sections?codeChapter=154C). Even licensees at the Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW) level can perform a variety of direct client services.
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The Iowa Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) is a clinical license. Post-graduate experiences and examination will be geared toward clinical practice (mental health practice within a social work framework). An LISW is qualified for private practice. An LMSW may perform similar duties under supervision.
Social workers are required to be licensed unless exempt under state law. The practice act does note some exemptions for social workers with training at the bachelor’s level.
A person who seeks licensure at the Bachelor level will need to graduate from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. A person who seeks licensure at the Master or Clinical level will need to earn a master’s degree through a CSWE-accredited Master’s of Social Work program (See: Master’s of Social Work Programs in Iowa) or a doctoral degree through a program that has Board approval.
There are alternate ways for internationally educated applicants to demonstrate requirements. These applicants are directed to contact the Board; the Board will provide information about having the degree evaluated.
The candidate will pass an exam at the expected level for his or her licensure level. Examinations are administered by a national organization, the Association of Social Work Boards. Expected examination is as follows:
• Bachelor: Bachelors Exam (may be referenced as Basic in older documents)
• Master: Masters Exam (may be referenced as Intermediate in older documents)
• Independent: Clinical Exam
The licensing agency will need to grant the candidate permission to take the exam (unless he or she has already passed it in another state).
An approved candidate can register and pay fees to the ASWB. A candidate at the Master level or below will pay $230; the fee is $260 at the Clinical level. An ATT can typically be issued within days. This allows for self-scheduling through Pearson VUE. Examinations are computer-delivered and are available on an ongoing basis at many testing centers around the nation. Pearson VUE does advise early scheduling for best selection.
A person who is in the final term of a qualifying master’s program may be approved to take the Master examination. He or she will initiate the license application process before graduation.
A prospective LISW will work under supervision for at least two calendar years. The minimum standard is 4,000 hours of supervised practice.
The work period will include experiences designed to develop proficiency in clinical duties. Among them are the following:
• Diagnosis practice using the DSM
• Psychosocial assessment
• Treatment (including differential treatment planning and psychosocial therapy)
The supervisory relationship is also intended to develop other important skills such as practice management and professional identity development.
The social worker will be licensed at the Master level during this time. He or she will need a supervision plan while working toward independent licensing. The Board will seek detailed information, for example, information about how individual cases will be transmitted. Sometimes it is necessary to change supervisors during the course of the supervision. In this instance, the Board will be informed. All supervisors will have a hand in determining that standards have been met.
The prospective LCSW will need 110 hours of direct supervision over the course of the supervisory period. The first meeting will take place face-to-face with supervisor and supervisee in the same physical setting. Some supervision may be carried out electronically utilizing systems that allow for audiovisual communication in real-time. Supervision is to take place over a two to six year period. Up to 60 of the required direct hours could come in the form of small group supervision.
Clinical supervisors must meet standards set down in state code. They will have spent at least a few years licensed at the independent level and will have completed a brief training in supervision.
The supervisor will file a supervision report. He or she will confirm that the experience included required clinical content (for example, psychosocial therapy).
The Application Process
Applications and other required materials are available from the Iowa Board of Social Work (https://idph.iowa.gov/Licensure/Iowa-Board-of-Social-Work/Licensure). Some processes are available through online services.
There is a $120 fee due at the time of application.
The applicant is to request official transcripts. An individual who wishes to test before final requirements have been met will provide documentation from the school. The official transcripts will be sent later.
If transcripts are accepted at Master Social Worker level, they don’t have to be re-submitted when the social worker applies for LISW. There is a separate short application for upgrade.
Applicants who have held credentials in other states are to verify the status of the credential.
The Iowa Board of Social Work operates under the banner of the Iowa Department of Public Health (https://idph.iowa.gov/Licensure/Iowa-Board-of-Social-Work/Licensure).
Social work licenses in Iowa, as in a majority of states, are subject to biennial renewal. Licensees are asked to familiarize themselves with rules for continuing education (https://idph.iowa.gov/Licensure/Iowa-Board-of-Social-Work/Continuing-Education).
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