Becoming a Social Worker in Arizona
Arizona’s social workers are licensed at the baccalaureate (LBSW), master (LMSW), and clinical (LCSW) level. Both Licensed Master Social Workers and Licensed Clinical Social Workers have graduate degrees. LCSWs have completed post-master supervised practice in clinical social work and are authorized for independent clinical practice.
Master social worker status is often a step en route to becoming a clinical social worker; it is also an end goal for non-clinical social workers. Master social workers are authorized for independent practice in this capacity.
In some circumstances, Arizona LBSWs may be authorized for independent practice in non-clinical social work, but there are additional requirements.
Social Work Licensure Requirements in Arizona
All applicants for social work licensing must have a degree from a program that is accredited by CSWE or from a foreign program that the Foreign Equivalency Determination Service of CSWE judges equivalent (Click Here for the AZ Board of Behavioral Health Examiners website).
The University of Southern California School of Social Work offers one of the only CSWE accredited online Master's of Social Work degrees in the country. Click Here to contact the University of Southern California School of Social Work and request additional information.
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.
A licensing exam is required at each licensing level. All applicants need to apply to the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners for permission to take the exam. The notarized application must include the supplemental forms required at that practice level. There is a general behavioral health application (Click Here for the Behavioral Health Application) and a social work addendum (Click Here for the Social Work Addendum). At first application, the prospective social worker must send fingerprints or a clearance card; s/he has the option, on subsequent application, of noting that the documentation is already on file. The application fee is currently $250.
Candidates may apply to work under a temporary license ($50) while they are going through the testing process. The Arizona Board allows two examination attempts over a twelve month period. Candidates must re-apply if they don’t pass in the allotted time but still desire licensing.
LBSW Requirements in Arizona
Graduates from baccalaureate programs should take the baccalaureate level exam given by the ASWB. Baccalaureate social workers must work under direct supervision (in an employer-employee capacity), but, under most circumstances, do not need to demonstrate that they’ve served a minimum number of hours. Those that wish to practice non-clinical social work independently must demonstrate 3,200 hours of supervised social work experience gained over at least a two year period.
LMSW Requirements in Arizona
Graduates of master’s or doctoral level social work programs should take the master level exam given by the ASWB. Master social workers who desire clinical status must put in 3,200 hours of supervised work experience over at least a two year period. At least 1,600 must involve direct client contact. During the period of supervised work experience, the master social worker must have 100 hours of clinical supervision. Normally, this is provided by an LCSW with Arizona licensing. If this is not feasible, the applicant must submit a request to the Board for an exemption. At least 25 hours of supervision must come from a social worker who holds independent licensing in the state. The remaining 75 may come from another mental health professional at the discretion of the Arizona Board.
If the supervisor is not an employee of the agency where the master social worker works, additional paperwork is required. This includes, in addition to supervision agreements and compliance documentation, copies of the informed consent and records release documents that are provided to clients. A checklist is available on the Board site.
The supervisor will evaluate the social worker’s skills and conduct and submit this as part of the application for clinical level licensing.
Licensed are renewed every other year and require 30 hours of continuing education.
Reciprocal Social Work Licensing in Arizona
A social worker may be eligible for a reciprocal license if he has been licensed at least five years in another state and has put in at least 6,000 hours of work in behavioral health during the preceding five years. The reciprocal license is only granted if there were minimum education and/or experience requirements in place in the state at the time of licensing and the applicant wasn’t grandfathered in without meeting them.
Social workers with reciprocal licensing must work under supervision for at least one year and accumulate at least 1,600 hours of experience before they can be eligible for a license upgrade (and the option of independent practice).
Social Work Professional Organizations in Arizona
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 Arizona.