Florida Social Work Licensing Requirements

By SocialWorkGuide.org Staff

Home to more than 21 million residents, Florida offers many opportunities for aspiring social workers. To become a social worker, you must meet several state-mandated requirements. Florida's Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling licenses the state's social workers and sets educational requirements. Keep reading to learn how to become a social worker in Florida.

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How to Become a Social Worker in Florida

Educational Paths

To become a social worker in Florida you can choose between two educational paths. To determine the best path, consider your ideal career. Note that many social work jobs require licensing. These jobs typically offer better pay and more opportunities.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

In Florida, you can begin working as a social worker with a bachelor's degree. A bachelor of social work (BSW) is a four-year degree that prepares you to earn a master of social work (MSW) or to work in entry-level, generalist positions. Look for a program that has been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). These programs include a general, liberal arts series of coursework as well as courses in social work theory and practice. Course topics may include human behavior, social welfare policy, social work data management, and multicultural and diversity studies.

BSW programs also include hands-on experience and field training. With a BSW you can work as a generalist social worker in Florida. You may work at nursing homes, crisis centers, or substance abuse facilities. Other jobs include working as a case manager or for child welfare programs.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

A BSW not only prepares you to work as a generalist social worker, but also to continue your education with an MSW. You may enter an MSW program with a bachelor's degree in another field, but a BSW may allow you to complete the program sooner. MSW programs include both academic study and fieldwork experience. With an MSW, you can become a licensed social worker (LSW) in Florida and be eligible for many jobs in the field.

Jobs for master's-level social workers include medical or school social worker, therapist, or social work supervisor or administrator. These professionals work in hospitals, private practice, and elder care facilities. With an MSW and the appropriate license, you can work in clinical or non-clinical settings. Eligibility for clinical jobs depends on the license you pursue. If you want to conduct research or teach social work courses in a university setting, consider pursuing a Ph.D.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Florida

You can work as a social worker in Florida with a BSW, but to find more opportunities and to work in clinical settings, you need an MSW. Florida offers two levels of licensing, both which require an MSW: certified master social worker (CMSW) and licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).

Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW)

A CMSW in Florida is a social worker who has completed graduate-level coursework with an emphasis on administration and clinical practice. These professionals are not licensed to provide clinical services. To be licensed as a CMSW, you need a doctorate or an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program with at least three credits of coursework in eight different subject areas. For details, you can review the board's requirements for CMSW licensure. After earning this MSW, you can complete the following steps for licensure:

  • 1. Complete three years of supervised non-clinical social work experience.

    CMSW candidates must complete three years (4,500 hours) of non-clinical social work experience under the supervision of a CMSW or LCSW before becoming licensed. Although you can complete one year (1,500 hours) before earning your MSW, you must complete at least two years (3,000 hours) after earning your master's. During your two years of post-master's work, you need at least 100 hours of face-to-face supervision per year.

  • 2. Submit an application for a CMSW license to the board.

    After completing your supervised experience, the next step is completing a CMSW application from the board. Your supervisors must complete some portions of this form to verify your work experience. After completing the form, return it to the board with $205 for application and license fees. You must also request for your MSW transcripts to be sent directly to the board.

  • 3. Complete the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) advanced generalist exam.

    After the board has approved your application, you can take the ASWB advanced generalist exam, which takes four hours to complete and contains 170 multiple-choice questions. The exam costs $260.

  • 4. Receive your CMSW license from the board.

    The board will receive your exam scores approximately two weeks after you complete the test. Upon determining that your application is complete, the board will issue your CMSW license.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

To become an LCSW in Florida, you need a doctoral or master's degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program. Applicants must demonstrate that 24 credits covered clinically oriented human behavior and practice methods, including one course in psychopathology. This program must also have included a clinical practicum. Once you have earned this degree, you can follow the steps below to become an LCSW:

  • 1. Complete two years of supervised clinical social work experience.

    Before submitting any application materials to the board, you first need two years (at least 100 weeks) of clinical social work experience under the supervision of an LCSW. During these two years, you must complete at least 1,500 hours of direct clinical work with clients and receive at least 100 hours of face-to-face supervision.

  • 2. Complete the required supplemental courses for licensure.

    In addition to the graduate coursework, you must also complete three supplemental courses for LCSW licensure in Florida. The first of these is an eight-hour course on social work laws and rules, which you must complete before applying for your license. You must also complete a three-hour course on HIV/AIDS and a two-hour course on domestic violence. If you do not complete these two courses by the time you apply for your license, you must submit additional paperwork stating that you will take them within six months of receiving your license. You can complete all required coursework through CE Broker.

  • 3. Submit an application for an LCSW license to the board.

    After you have completed your supervised clinical work and the supplemental coursework, you can submit an application to the board for an LCSW license. You can complete the application online or by mail. In addition to the application form, you must include the following materials:

    ● The verification of clinical experience form
    ● Transcripts from your doctoral or master's degree (your school should send these directly to the board)
    ● A letter from your graduate school verifying that you have completed the practicum requirements
    ● An advanced standing letter (if necessary to document any courses you completed during your bachelor's degree)
    HIV/AIDS affidavit (if you have not already completed the required HIV/AIDS course)
    ● $180 for application and license fees

  • 4. Complete the ASWB clinical exam.

    After the board reviews your application, you must take the ASWB clinical exam. This is a four-hour, 170-item multiple choice exam. The clinical exam costs $260 as of April 2020.

  • 5. Receive your LCSW license from the board.

    Once you have completed this exam, the ASWB reports your scores to the board in approximately two weeks. After the board receives your passing score, you will receive your LCSW license. If you have not already taken the HIV/AIDS and domestic violence courses, you must complete these within six months of receiving your license.

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Social Work License Reciprocity in Florida

If you hold a social work license in another state, you can apply for a license in Florida through the "Applying by Endorsement" process. Applicants must provide the board with verification of their current license and documentation that they have met the requirements for a CMSW or LCSW license, including official school transcripts, ASWB exam scores, and certification of completion of the Florida laws and rules and HIV/AIDS courses (if applying for LCSW license).

Applicants for LCSW licensure by endorsement must complete the domestic violence course within six months of achieving Florida state licensing. Licensure by endorsement costs $305 for CMSW applicants and $180 for LCSW applicants.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Florida social workers (both CMSWs and LCSWs) must renew their licenses by the end of March during each odd-numbered year. The board requires 30 hours of continuing education (CE) for each renewal period. The board also requires certain courses for each renewal period. You must take other courses every six years or third biennium. You can take board-approved courses online or by home-study. New licensees are exempt from the CE requirement. No classes are required until after the first two years of licensure.

Florida Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

Florida contains thousands of social workers who work in a variety of settings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for social workers are projected to grow in Florida and across the nation, with a projected 11% growth in social worker jobs from 2018-28.

In Florida, all areas of social work are seeing high growth. According to Projections Central, careers in mental health and substance abuse social work will expand by 24.3% between 2016 and 2026, while careers in healthcare social work will grow by 25.6%. Careers in child, family, and school social work will grow by 22.9%, while all other social work positions will grow by 11.2%.

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 10,650 $42,260
Healthcare Social Workers 10,690 $52,700
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 4,380 $43,100
Social Workers, All Other 3,880 $51,980

Source: BLS

Social Work Associations in Florida

National Association of Social Workers

NASW's Florida chapter provides members with useful resources about employment, licensing, conferences, and networking opportunities.

Florida Association of School Social Workers

FASSW advocates for children and their social workers. The group provides networking, a statewide conference, and resources for finding jobs and CE opportunities.

Florida Society of Oncology Social Workers

FSOSW gathers resources and supports social workers providing psychosocial care for cancer patients and their families.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I work as a social worker without going to graduate school?

Yes. In Florida, you can pursue entry-level positions with a BSW. However, with an MSW and licensing through the state, either as an LCSW or a CMSW, you can explore many additional opportunities.

Does a social work license have to be renewed periodically?

Yes. Florida requires social workers to renew their licenses every two years. Renewal requirements include 30 CE hours, including three hours of social work ethics and two hours of prevention of medical errors. You are exempt from the 30 CE hours for the first two years of being licensed. The requirement begins in the second two-year period after you renew your first license.

What kind of coursework is acceptable for the 30 CE hours?

You can explore many options for obtaining 30 CE hours, including graduate-level courses in psychology, human behavior, counseling, therapy, and clinical practice. You can earn hours by attending programs for non-clinical skills, such as office management or by providing pro bono services in areas of Florida with critical need. You can also earn hours by teaching courses.

During the two years of required post-master's degree field experience needed to apply for a clinical social work license, how many hours are required?

Candidates for licensure must complete 1,500 hours of practical experience. An LSW must supervise 100 hours. Supervised time must include at least one hour per two weeks or one hour per 15 hours of practice time.