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Oklahoma mandates social work licensing. There are five licensing levels. All are dependent on education and examination. Some carry additional practice requirements.
The Licensed Master’s Social Worker (LMSW) credential is for master’s degree holders who have not yet completed the supervised practice requirement for independent licensure. Licensed Social Worker (LSW), Licensed Social Worker-Administration (LSW-Adm.), and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) are all designations for social workers who have completed post-degree supervision requirements.
Licensed Social Worker Associate is a bachelor’s level license. A professional at this level never becomes independent (as defined in Oklahoma code).
Oklahoma makes a distinction between independent social work practice and private practice. Professionals with LSW and LSW-Adm. are qualified for independent practice but only those with LCSW licensing are qualified for private practice of clinical social work.
Administrative rule describes practice settings and models of practice for the different social work licenses.
Social Work Education and Examination
Social workers at all levels must complete approved degree programs (Master’s of Social Work programs in Oklahoma). Generally, these are programs accredited by the Council of Social Work Education. Oklahoma code states that international programs may be approved in consultation with the CSWE.
Examination is required for full licensure. However, candidates can be granted provisional licensure pending successful examination.
Oklahoma uses Administration of Social Work Boards (ASWB) examinations. There are four levels of examination: bachelors, masters, advanced generalist, and clinical. Candidate guides are available from the ASWB (http://www.aswb.org/).
Oklahoma examination approval is granted for up to one year. Examinations are scheduled through an outside organization, Pearson VUE. Oklahoma permits an examination attempt once every 90 days. A candidate who does not pass the examination in the allotted year may re-apply. The social worker will not, however, practice independently during this stage.
All independent license work licenses are dependent on completion of supervised practice requirements. During this time, they hold licensure at a lower level. Social workers work under supervision for the first two years or, if part-time, until they have accrued 4,000 hours. Prospective clinical licensees will count at least 3,000 clinical contact hours among the total requirement.
The social worker will work under specialty supervision. This is different than the employment-related supervision that routinely takes place in an agency setting. The social worker will need a Board-approved supervisor. It may be necessary for the agency or supervisee to contract with an outside supervisor (being careful to follow dictates of state code).
The supervisee and supervisor will meet at least once every two weeks. If the supervisee is working 20 or more hours a week, there will be two hours of supervision during the two-week period. If the supervisee is working less, there may be as little as an hour of supervision during the two-week period. State code allows some supervision to take place in a small group setting.
A prospective LCSW will work under the supervision of an LCSW. A prospective LSW-Adm. will work under the supervision of an LSW-Adm. Supervision by a social worker who holds any of the independent licenses can be accepted as LSW-qualifying. Supervisors must meet other requirements noted in state rule.
The supervisee and supervisor will establish a supervision contract at the onset. It will establish a focus of supervision. The Board has provided examples. The licensing agency will require a copy of the supervisee’s W-4 and a job description.
A social worker can expect three evaluations along the way to higher licensing. The first will be submitted at some point after the supervisee has accrued 1,000 hours of experience and has had 25 hours of supervision. The second will occur after the supervisee has had 2,000 hours of experience and accrued 50 hours of supervision. The last occurs when supervision and experience hours have been met.
The supervisee will also evaluate the supervisor.
Supervision hours accrued in other states are reviewed by the Board and can be accepted on a case-by-case basis.
Currently licensed out-of-state social workers may request license transfer to Oklahoma. They will need to have the current licensing agency submit verification of status.
The Application Process
Application materials can be downloaded from the Board website (https://www.ok.gov/socialworkers/Forms_&_Applications/index.html). The Board asks that materials be submitted three weeks in advance of a meeting date in order to be scheduled on the agenda. Meeting dates are posted on the Board website.
Under current regulation, applicants provide both a notarized signature and a notarized photograph.
Official transcripts will be required at first application.
The licensing agency carries out fingerprint-based national criminal history checks. As of 2018,Oklahoma is using hard cards. Prospective licensees can use the fingerprint cards provided by their local law enforcement agency or request two cards from the licensing agency.
There is a $150 application fee. The applicant is also responsible for the cost of the criminal history check.
The Oklahoma State Board of Licensed Social Workers is the licensing authority (https://www.ok.gov/socialworkers/). Agency rules are revised periodically; there were some revisions in 2017.
Applicants with questions are directed to contact the Board. They may call (405) 521-3712 or (405) 521-3715.