Mississippi issues three social work licenses. All are based on education and examination. The highest is also dependent on supervised practice.
Licensed Social Worker, the lowest credential, is intended for those educated at the bachelor’s level. Licensed Master Social Worker is the entry-level credential for social workers with education at the graduate level. Licensed Certified Social Worker reflects greater expertise. Mississippi’s LCSWs may specialize in clinical or other advanced roles; the latter encompasses macro social work such as program development or evaluation and policy analysis. A social worker who seeks the LCSW will first attain the LMSW and then work under supervision.
Prospective LSWs must earn bachelor’s degrees from programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Licensure is dependent on passing the Bachelors exam administered by the Association of Social Work Boards. A candidate may be approved for examination as early as his or her senior year. LSW licensure may be achieved very soon after graduation.
While there is no pathway to higher licensure without additional formal education, many social workers do opt for further education and advancement. Some pursue advanced standing in master’s social work programs.
LMSW and LCSW Requirements
LMSW and LCSW licenses are dependent on earning a degree at at least the master’s level ( See: Master’s of Social Work Programs in Mississippi). Master’s programs are to be accredited by the CSWE. Doctoral programs are also acceptable. Though the distinction between clinical and macro social work is, technically at least, made at the post-graduate level, educational experiences can have a bearing on post-student opportunity. Students may wish to tailor their educational experiences to their intended role. The CSWE has provided a searchable directory (https://www.cswe.org/Accreditation/Directory-of-Accredited-Programs.aspx).
A social worker will take a licensing examination two times en route to the LCSW. The first examination is the same for all master’s candidates, regardless of whether their path is macro or clinical. The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam is a key step to achieving transitional LMSW licensing.
Supervision is a rigorous process, lasting 24 to 36 months. During this time, the social worker may work for an agency, group practice, or institution. He or she will have a Board-approved supervisor; this will be an LCSW who has met additional experience and training requirements. In some cases, it will be necessary to utilize a supervisor who is not employed at the same agency.
The supervisor will guide the LMSW’s professional development. He or she will make some direct observations and also utilize other methods such as review of case notes.
The LMSW and supervisor will submit a supervision plan at the onset. The candidate will identify whether he or she will be taking the clinical or advanced generalist exam. The supervised experience will need to be appropriate to the role.
The prospective LCSW will have weekly face-to-face supervisory sessions: a minimum of 100 hours of sessions over the course of the work period. Most supervisory sessions will be one-on-one or include, at most, one other supervisee.
The prospective clinical social worker will have a minimum of 1,000 hours of direct client contact. A prospective macro social worker will have a similar requirement except that the client/ client system is defined broadly to encompass contact appropriate to the role.
The LMSW will be evaluated at multiple points along the way.
The second examination, clinical or advanced generalist, is taken after the supervision requirement has been met.
The Mississippi Board permits candidates to make multiple attempts at the examination while continuing to work under LMSW licensure.
Only a social worker who has taken the clinical exam will be able to identify himself or herself as a clinical social worker under LCSW credentialing.
The Application and Examination Process
Application-related materials can be found on the Board website (http://www.swmft.ms.gov/documents).
A person will apply for initial licensure when he or she has met all requirements except examination and background check. The Board will grant examination permission after reviewing the application.
At the LCSW level, the licensing agency will require three references. Some, but not all, may be from professionals in other disciplines that are related to social work.
Applicants are expected to read the applicable regulations and rules.
An approved candidate will receive examination registration directions after application approval. The examination is to be taken within six months. It is computer-delivered and is available by appointment through Pearson VUE. The Board should receive scores directly from the ASWB within a couple weeks of the time the candidate takes the exam.
Mississippi has instituted fingerprint-based background checks. The Board recommends electronic (live scan) fingerprinting. Regulations specify that the check be completed within 180 days of application completion. The current policy is for applicants to wait until they have passed the exam. The licensing agency will also carry out a sex offender registry check.
The application fee is $25. The initial licensing fee, due at the end of the licensing process, is $70 at the BSW level and $100 at the higher levels. A social worker who is licensed at the LSW level pays $30 to upgrade to LMSW.
Out-of-state social workers can be endorsed into Mississippi if they are currently licensed in good standing and have met equivalent requirements. The licensing agency notes that they must have passed the exam that Mississippi requires for social work licensure at that level; state-constructed exams are not accepted as equivalent.
Requirements are subject to change. The Mississippi Board of Examiners for Social Workers and Marriage & Family Therapists is the licensing authority (http://www.swmft.ms.gov). The Board can be reached at (601) 987-6806 or ‘Info at swmft.ms.gov’.