Wisconsin licenses clinical and nonclinical social workers. The state issues four social work licenses: Social Worker (CSW), Advanced Practice Social Worker (APSW), Independent Social Worker (ISW), and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).
Qualifying social workers at the bachelor’s or master’s level may receive a substance abuse specialization; requirements for the authorization, though, are steeper at the bachelor’s level. Clinical social workers may receive an authorization for psychometric testing.
Basic Social Worker Standards
The CSW credential is available to individuals who have met education standards and passed the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) examination at the bachelor’s level. One may qualify based on a social work program at the bachelor’s or graduate level.
The program is to hold accreditation through the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) or, at minimum, hold CSWE pre-accreditation status.
There is an alternative pathway by which an individual with a bachelor’s degree in a related field can eventually earn social worker status. Psychology, sociology, and criminal justice are noted as related fields. The specific content determines whether another field can be considered related. The individual may qualify by meeting either of two criteria. One pathway involves demonstrating courses in each of five identified content areas (https://dsps.wi.gov/Pages/Professions/SocialWorkerTrainingCertificate/Default.aspx).
The individual will begin by applying for a social work training certificate. The training certificate is issued for just 24 months. Ultimately, the individual will need coursework in each of five content areas to establish equivalency; the licensing agency can credit courses taken as part of the bachelor’s degree program and courses taken while holding a training certificate. The trainee will either demonstrate a year of social work employment under training status or a qualifying human services internship that was supervised by a social worker.
Wisconsin allows CSWs to practice privately if they are acting within their scope of practice (https://dsps.wi.gov/Pages/BoardsCouncils/MPSW/SW/PositionStatements.aspx); this is as of 2018.
Advanced Practice Social Worker and Independent Social Worker Standards
The APSW and ISW licenses both require education at the master’s or doctoral level. Master’s degrees are to come from programs that hold CSWE accreditation or CSWE pre-accreditation status (Master’s in Social Work programs in Wisconsin).
The ISW is the higher credential; it signifies that the individual is qualified for independent practice of non-clinical social work.
In order to become an Independent Social Worker, the individual will need at least two years of supervised experience. The supervisee is expected to have hour-long weekly supervisory sessions in an independent or group format. The required supervision, though, may be averaged over a longer time period.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker Standards
Licensure at the LCSW level is also dependent on having a master’s or doctoral degree. However, there are more specific coursework requirements. The program is to have a clinical focus. The individual will need a course in ‘psychopathology in social work’ and at least two courses drawn from the following topics:
- Case management
- Psychotherapeutic interventions
- Assessment and treatment of particular populations
- Clinical electives such as gender-related issues or family therapy
The prospective LCSW will, in most cases, have a clinical practicum. However, the licensing agency can accept a year of supervised experience that was completed in a primary clinical setting. This requirement is separate from the usual post-degree supervised practice. The licensing agency notes that the dates can’t overlap.
The prospective LCSW, like the ISW candidate, will need 3,000 hours of post-degree practice However, the nature of the practice will be different; it will include DSM diagnosis and treatment.
The supervisor will, in most cases, be an LCSW or a psychiatrist or psychologist. Other supervision may be accepted (as determined at the pre-approval stage).
Supervised practice must include at least 1,000 hours of direct client contact, spent carrying out activities required for clinical licensure.
A social worker who has achieved ISW may work toward LCSW. (The APSW and ISW are the only licenses under which a Wisconsin professional can work toward clinical social work licensure.)
The Application Process
Application materials are available from the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. Application packets for clinical social workers (https://dsps.wi.gov/Pages/Professions/SocialWorkerLicensedClinical/Default.aspx) and other social workers https://dsps.wi.gov/Pages/Professions/SocialWorker/Default.aspx are found on different sections of the website.
The licensing agency can issue temporary licenses to social workers who have met all requirements except national examination.
The applicant will need to provide a certificate of education.
Official transcripts are required for clinical licensing.
Applicants for initial licensing pay a $75 fee, $75 contract fee, and $15 contract testing fee. This testing fee is separate from the actual examination fee which is paid to the ASWB. ASWB fees range from $230 to $260.
Social work applicants are to provide documentation from boards in other states where they have held licensing.
Wisconsin can issue reciprocal licenses based on licensure in other U.S. states and territories; the reciprocity process involves comparing licensing standards and determining if they are substantially equivalent. (Prospective applicants who believe that the standards of the other state are not substantially equivalent are advised that they may instead wish to apply for license by examination.)
Individuals can apply by examination and receive credit for an examination already taken. Applicants who have already passed the examination at the level required for the credential they seek are advised to contact the ASWB.
Clinical applicants who are certified as diplomates of the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work are not required to document ASWB examination (https://dsps.wi.gov/Pages/BoardsCouncils/MPSW/SW/Default.aspx).
Substance Abuse Authorization
A social worker at the master’s level will need 135 contact hours of qualifying education to qualify for substance abuse authorization. The following content will be covered:
- Understanding of addiction
- Knowledge of treatment
- Application to practice
- Professional readiness
The professional will need 200 hours of face-to-face treatment under supervision. This may be accrued as part of the experience used to earn credentialing. It may instead be a separate experience.A professional at the bachelor’s level will need 180 contact hours of substance abuse education. Wisconsin code identifies specific content that is to be covered under each of the major content areas. A professional licensed at this level will need 1,000 hours of practice under supervision.
Psychometric Testing Authorization
Psychometric testing authorization can be granted only to master’s level social workers. In order to be authorized to carry out functions independently, they will need 1) clinical licensing and 2) training in eight content areas identified in state code. It will be necessary to provide a signed statement by a qualified professional.
The training must be offered at the graduate or post-graduate level by an accredited institution. Descriptive statistics, measurement error and reliability, test selection, and testing of individuals with disabilities will be among the concepts covered.
Standards are those of the Social Worker Section of the Marriage and Family Therapy, Professional Counseling and Social Work Examining Board (https://dsps.wi.gov/Pages/BoardsCouncils/MPSW/SW/Default.aspx).