In Alabama, it is possible be licensed as a social worker with either a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited institution. There are three levels of licensure and an additional certification that can increase employment options. The designation Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW) is granted to social workers with bachelor’s degrees. The designations Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW), Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW), and Private Independent Practice (PIP) all require education at at least the master’s level.
It is important to note that Alabama recognizes different practice areas, including social casework, clinical social work, social work administration, and social work research. A social worker who is qualified in one is not necessarily qualified in all.
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The first step is to enroll in an educational program that has been accredited by CSWE.
You may also want to read the article "Master’s Degree in Social Work: Developing Skills and Competencies" if you have any questions about Master's of Social Work programs.
The next step is to apply to the Alabama State Board of Social Work Examiners for permission to take the social work exam at the applicable level – there are three. A candidate may opt to complete the application online or print it and mail it (Click Here to be directed to the application forms). The application should be sent at least two full weeks prior to the next Board meeting, accompanied by a $75 fee.
Once the application has been approved, a candidate is deemed license eligible. This means the candidate is allowed to accept employment with an organization and begin work. Applicants are expected to pass the required examination within a year. Candidates who do not pass will need to wait 90 days. If a person does not pass within a year, it will be necessary to reapply.
The next step is supervised practice. The candidate and supervisor must enter into a contract and submit it to the Board.
If a social worker begins practicing social work after earning a bachelor’s degree, s/he will need 24 months of post-baccalaureate supervision. Four hours of face-to-face supervision are required each month. The supervisor may be either an LCSW or LGSW. If the supervisor is not employed by the same agency, s/he will need Private Independent Practice (PIP) status.
As long as the baccalaureate social worker keeps working in the same practice area, you s/he will not need to repeat supervision just because s/he changes employers. However, Alabama LBSWs who go into a different practice area or begin serving a different population will need an additional six months of supervision.
To become an LCSW, a prospective social worker will need at least two years of post-master supervised experience. While completing the supervised experience, s/he will be licensed as an LGSW or master's level social worker. A master's level social worker must be supervised by an LCSW. When the master social worker applies for LCSW status, the supervisor will submit an evaluation.
At the LCSW level, social workers are considered ready to exercise independent judgment. However, they still need the basic supervision of an employer-employee relationship. Before a social worker can go into private practice, s/he will need to earn a PIP certification.
It will take at least one additional year after a social worker becomes eligible for the LCSW license before s/he can apply for PIP certification. S/he may be certified in one or more practice areas. A supervisor is responsible for identifying which practice areas s/he has provided supervision in. The PIP application also includes a verification form to be filled out by the LCSW’s current employer.
Licenses and certification must be renewed every two years. Social workers who do not have PIP certification need 30 clock hours of continuing education. An additional 20 is needed for the PIP credential.
Social workers who are already licensed in another state may be granted a reciprocal license if the licensing requirements are similar.
If you are still in High School, hold a High School Diploma/GED, or hold a bachelor's degree, check out suggested steps to take along the path to become a Social Worker in Alabama.