Missouri issues licenses to bachelor’s and master’s level social workers. Social workers at either level can be designated or licensed for independent practice after completing a supervised work period. Missouri has three separate independent social work licenses: Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Licensed Advanced Macro Social Worker (LAMSW), and Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW). Each carries its own scope of practice.
Only Licensed Clinical Social Workers, educated at the graduate level, perform psychotherapy. Licensed Advanced Macro Social Workers use advanced practice skills in a variety of domains, including program administration, outcomes evaluation, mediation, expert testimony, nonclinical consultation, and case management. Licensed Baccalaureate Social Workers are permitted a range of duties, including generalist assessment and evaluation, advocacy, crisis planning and intervention, and outreach (http://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneSection.aspx?section=337.653&bid=18030&hl=). They may do some basic counseling that is not considered psychotherapy.
While working toward licensure as an LCSW or LAMSW, a social worker holds licensing as a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW). (A social worker who is working toward independence at the baccalaureate level does so while already licensed as an LBSW.)
Missouri statute limits use of the job title ‘social worker’ to individuals who have completed social work degree programs (https://pr.mo.gov/socialworkers-rules-statutes.asp); programs below the doctoral level must hold programmatic accreditation.
LCSW and LAMSW Requirements
A Clinical Social Worker can be licensed on the basis of a master’s or doctoral degree. Master’s degrees must be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (See: Master’s of Social Work Programs in Missouri). Doctoral degrees will need to be determined acceptable by the Missouri Committee.
A master’s or doctoral level social worker will take two examinations en route to licensure at the independent level. The first is the same regardless of track. A prospective social worker will need to pass the masters examination administered by the Association of Social Work Boards in order to be licensed at the LMSW level. Students can be approved to test before graduation, but will not receive their license until after their final transcripts are available. As of 2018, the examination fee is $230.
After meeting educational requirements and achieving initial licensure, the social worker will complete a 24- to 48-month supervised work period. He or she will accrue at least 3,000 experience hours. (While 3,000 is the standard for licensure in Missouri, a social worker who completes 4,000 in the same timeframe can be given a certificate acknowledging completion of 4,000.)
Supervision is to be registered; this is a separate step from LMSW licensure. The Board will need to be apprised of major changes (work setting, supervisor).
Approved supervisors take professional responsibility and provide oversight. In order to be approved as supervisor for a prospective LCSW, a professional must be an LCSW and must have met additional qualifications specified in state regulation. Sometimes it is necessary to contract with a supervisor; the relationship between contracted supervisor and agency is regulated at the state level. The Committee has made available a list of qualified supervisors (https://pr.mo.gov/socialworkers-supervision-information.asp).
Supervision is to be provided at the rate of an hour a week, but state code allows for some consolidation of hours over a four-week period. Up to half of the required supervision may take place in small group settings with three to six supervisees.
Supervisees are subject to 12-month progress reports. The Missouri State Committee for Social Workers has provided separate evaluation forms for different areas of practice (and of prospective licensing). The clinical social work progress report addresses diagnostic skills and therapeutic delivery skills as well as associated competencies such as policy/ research and written communication. All social workers who are working under approved supervision in Missouri are evaluated on their knowledge and understanding of statutes and rules.
The second exam may be taken after the social worker has completed at least 18 months of supervised experience and accrued at least 2,250 hours. The second examination is more role-specific. A candidate vying for clinical social work licensure will take the ASWB clinical exam. A candidate vying for advanced macro social worker will take the ASWB advanced generalist exam.
The LBSW license can be issued soon after the individual has achieved his or her social work bachelor’s. Bachelor’s degree programs are to be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) or an equivalent out-of-country accrediting body.
In order to be licensed at the LBSW level, a person will need to pass the bachelors examination administered by the Association of Social Work Boards. State approval is necessary for testing authorization; it may be sought before graduation. The testing fee (currently $230) is paid to the ASWB.
In order to be qualified for independent practice, a baccalaureate social worker must complete 3,000 hours of supervised practice. Practice requirements are to be met during a 24- to 48-month timeframe. The supervisee will need a minimum of four hours of supervision per four week period.
Twelve-month evaluations at the baccalaureate level include skills such as service delivery and assessment.
Out-of-State Social Workers
State regulation allows licensed out-of-state social workers to register supervision that will take place in the other state if they will be seeking licensure in Missouri.
The licensing agency may consider social work experience that was lawfully obtained but not registered.
An out-of-state social worker may be licensed by reciprocity if he or she holds a license in good standing from a state with substantially similar requirements.
The Application Process
The LMSW/ LBSW licensing process may be initiated either before or after graduation. An individual who wishes to test before graduation will provide a letter from his or her program. Official transcripts will be required later.
A sworn affidavit will be required of applicants who answer “yes” to potentially disqualifying questions (for example, criminal history).
Missouri requires criminal background checks carried out through the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the FBI. Generally, prospective social workers initiate the process by registering online at the state’s MACHS website; those without internet access may call the approved fingerprint vendor for representative assistance. The approved vendor provides electronic fingerprinting services. Out-of-state applicants may mail their fingerprints to the vendor for processing.
Supervisor attestation is among the requirements for independent licensure. The supervisor will provide information about the experience and make a recommendation for or against licensure.
Application materials can be downloaded from the website of the Missouri Committee for Social Workers (https://pr.mo.gov/socialworkers-forms.asp).
Applicants for first-time licensure pay a modest fee, $30 to $60, depending on the stage of the licensing cycle. Reciprocity candidates pay $60.
Information is available from the Missouri State Committee for Social Workers (https://pr.mo.gov/socialworkers.asp). Standards are revised occasionally. Proposed rules are posted on the Committee website.
Applicants are expected to read applicable state code. They are invited to email ‘lcsw at pr.mo.gov’ or call 573-751-0855 with their questions.