Social Work

How to Earn a Louisiana Social Work License

How to Earn a Louisiana Social Work License
Anyone who wishes to practice social work in Louisiana "is required to have a social work credential issued by the Louisiana State Board of Social Work Examiners" (LABSWE). Image from Unsplash
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Seri Roth January 7, 2021

Social work licensure in Louisiana has never been easier now that the Louisiana State Board of Social Work Examiners (LABSWE) website facilitates all licenses, renewals, and endorsements. Learn how to get, or renew, your license in the Pelican State.

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Social workers in Louisiana provide many essential services to their communities, from counseling substance abusers to delivering mental health services to helping individuals access essential resources and social assistance. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 5,000 social workers serve the Pelican State.

While not all social work positions require licensure, many do. There are significant benefits of becoming a licensed social worker, including higher starting salaries and a wider range of available specializations. To practice as a licensed social worker in Louisiana, you must fulfill requirements established by the Louisiana State Board of Social Work Examiners (LABSWE).

In this article, we provide a step-by-step guide to obtaining your social work license in Louisiana and answer the following questions:

  • What is social work licensure?
  • Do you need a license to practice social work in Louisiana?
  • Why should I get a license in social work?
  • How to get your social work license in Louisiana
  • Types of social work licensure in Louisiana
  • Renewing a social work license in Louisiana
  • Master of Social Work CSWE accredited programs in Louisiana
  • Top social work jobs, employers, and salaries in Louisiana
  • Top cities for social workers to find work
  • Resources for social workers in Louisiana

What is social work licensure?

Social work licensure is a credential that guarantees social workers hold the required education and experience to provide social services. To earn licensure, you must meet the standards and regulations set by each state’s regulatory board.

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There are a couple of significant practical considerations:

- A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in social work
- A license to practice or required social work certification

Credentials vary among careers, states, and territories. Licenses include:

- Certified Social Worker (CSW)
- Clinical Social Work Associate (CSWA)
- Licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker (LAPSW)
- Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW)
- Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
- Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)
- Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)
- Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP)
- Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

Most of these licenses require a Master’s or Doctorate, along with additional coursework or clinical internships. (source)

A survey of 2017 social work graduates by the National Social Work Workforce Study found that social workers with Master’s degrees and Doctorates made substantially more than those with no advanced degree. (source)

- People with MSW degrees made $13,000-plus more than those with only BSW degrees
- MSWs make more in large cities or urban clusters
- People with doctorates earned $20,000 to $25,000 more than people with only MSW degrees

University and Program Name Learn More

Do you need a license to practice social work in Louisiana?

Whether you need a license depends on the state where you plan to practice. Employers typically prefer licensed candidates.

In Louisiana, you must obtain licensure to practice social work. The state licensing board website clearly states:

Any individual with a degree in social work either at the undergraduate or graduate level that is practicing social work in Louisiana is required to have a social work credential issued by the Louisiana State Board of Social Work Examiners… The practice of social work includes but is not limited to clinical social work, planning and community organization, policy and administration, research, and social work education.

If you hold a social work license from another state, you can apply to the LABSWE for endorsement of your out-of-state license. You will need to verify all your qualifications for your current license–certification from the licensing board, verification of supervision hours, etc.–but you will not have to sit for an exam (as you would if you were applying for your initial license). Louisiana does not have reciprocity agreements with other states, meaning you cannot simply work in Louisiana using your out-of-state license. You must apply for a Louisiana license.

Why should I get a license in social work?

A social work license allows you to practice social work in most states and sets you apart as a strong candidate who meets the standards and protocols laid out by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). Licensure allows you to focus your career within different specialization areas. Perhaps you want to work as a school social worker. Perhaps a social work career in healthcare is better suited for you. Whatever your career aspirations are, licensure is an essential step in getting there.

How to get a social work license in Louisiana

An individual with a BSW (Bachelor of Social Work) or an MSW (Master of Social Work) from an accredited social work program is eligible for social work licensure. A BSW allows you to provide general social work services, while an MSW grants you the ability to gain higher licensure levels open only to master’s-level social workers.

Types of social wrk licensure in Louisiana

The LABSWE grants four levels of social work licensure:

  • Registered Social Worker (RSW)
  • Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (BACS)

The LABSWE website allows social workers to apply for a license, request reinstatement or endorsement, or renew their license online. You can begin the application process by following the steps below for each level of licensure.

Registered Social Worker (RSW)

  • Complete your bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited social work program
  • Apply for your bachelor’s level credential, along with the application fee
  • It typically takes two weeks for the board to review your application. Once approved, you are granted your RSW credential

Certified Social Worker (CSW)/Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

  • Obtain a Master of Social Work degree from a Council on Social Work Education-accredited (CSWE) graduate school of social work
  • Pass the ASWB master’s exam
  • Upon passing the ASWB exam, you will receive your LMSW license, which allows you to practice non-clinical level social work in Louisiana

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

  • Hold a master’s degree from an accredited social work program
  • Complete 5,760 hours of postgraduate social work practice
  • Complete 3,840 hours of social work experience overseen by a board-approved clinical supervisor
  • Complete 96 face-to-face supervision hours
  • Pass the ASWB clinical or generalist exam
  • Once you pass the exam, you are granted your license as a clinical social worker in Louisiana

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW-BACS)

  • Complete the application for board-approved clinical supervisor
  • Complete a 6.5-hour supervision workshop
  • Provide documentation of completing a board orientation workshop
  • Provide two letters of recommendation
  • Once approved, you will receive the designation required for LCSWs to supervise LMSWs for licensure

Renewing a social work license in Louisiana

Social workers in Louisiana must complete 20 hours of continuing education (CEUs) in social work before renewing their license every year. LCSW’s must complete 10 of those hours in full-time clinical social work. Social workers must also complete three hours of social work ethics training every two years. LCSW-BACS holders must obtain three hours in their area of clinical supervision every two years.

Full renewal instructions are located on labswe.org.

Master of Social Work CSWE-accredited programs in Louisiana

Before obtaining social work licensure, you must complete a bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work. Online programs provide an excellent option for those who seek a flexible and accessible degree path. Here are a few online MSW programs in Louisiana:

  • Tulane University: The Tulane University School of Social Work offers a social work program at the master’s and doctorate level. The online MSW prepares students to work with individuals, communities, families, and organizations while focusing on a relationship-centered approach to service and advocacy. MSW students can pursue certificates in disaster and collective trauma, or mental health, addiction, and the family. Full-time students can complete the degree in 16 months; part-time students typically graduate in 32 months. Admission requirements are straightforward; students with an undergraduate GPA above 3.0 need not submit GRE scores.
  • Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College: The online MSW at Louisiana State University offers a seven-week year-round module format with one- to two-week breaks between. The curriculum consists of a generalist year and an advanced year; students holding a BSW can place out of most first-year courses, enabling them to graduate in one year. Students complete coursework at their own pace with guided dates and deadlines.

A Louisiana social work program will prepare you for Louisiana licensure, but that doesn’t mean you have to pursue your degree in-state. Online study opens opportunities to study practically anywhere. Virginia Commonwealth University offers an online MSW program that accommodates self-paced study in small classes. In 2019, VCU ranked 25th among all social work programs, according to US News & World Report.

Top social work jobs, employers, and salaries in Louisiana

Labor Insight reports that in 2020, the median salary for a licensed social worker in Louisiana was $51,408. Professionals with between zero and two years of experience averaged a salary of $51,900, while those with three to five years of experience averaged at $53,000.

Salary by education

DegreeAverage salary in Louisiana
for a licensed social worker
Bachelor’s degree$44,700
Master’s degree$53,100
source: Labor Insight

Top cities for social workers to find work (median salary)

We’ve listed the top Louisiana cities for social work positions, ranked by average salary.

Metro AreaMedian Salary Job postings in the last 12 months
Baton Rouge$54,000591
New Orleans-Metairie$52,000828
Lake Charles$52,00071
Monroe$50,00056
Alexandria$48,000121
Hammond$47,00051
Houma-Thibodaux$47,00046
Lafayette$47,000135
Shreveport-Bossier City$43,000126
source: Labor Insight

Top occupations for Louisiana social workers

Labor Insight reports the following as top occupations for social workers in Louisiana (job postings in the last 12 months):

  • Family/School/General Social Worker (1,267)
  • Mental Health/Behavioral Counselor (1,228)
  • Medical/Clinical Social Worker (444)
  • Substance Abuse Counselor (151)
  • Clinical Case Manager (1,141)
  • Social/Human Services Manager (375)
  • Family/Behavioral Therapist (203)

Top employers for social workers in Louisiana

Who is posting social work positions in Louisiana? Here are the top employers and the number of social work jobs they’ve posted in the last 12 months:

  • State of Louisiana (164)
  • Louisiana Workforce Commission (107)
  • Ochsner Clinic Foundation (90)
  • Allegheny Valley School (78)
  • Anthem Blue Cross (73)
  • Merakey (68)
  • Betterhelp (51)
  • Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center (38)
  • Humana (32)
  • Baton Rouge General (27)

Resources for social workers in Louisiana

Social workers in Louisiana benefit from two professional associations, both of which provide support, information, and networking opportunities:

Some states allow social workers to work in specific roles without a license. Louisiana isn’t one of those; if you want to practice social work here, you’ll need at least one of the state’s four social work licenses. Fortunately, the state’s licensure process is straightforward and not too challenging. Provided you meet the required qualifications, you should have little trouble procuring your Louisiana social work license.

(Last Updated on February 26, 2024)

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