Illinois Social Work License Requirements and Schools: Learn How to Become a Social Worker in IL

Written by Janice Monti
Last Updated: July 2023

Ready to take the next step toward becoming a licensed social worker in Illinois? Social work is one of the fastest-growing fields in the United States. In fact, Illinois employs the fifth highest number of child, family, and school social workers in the country. With an Illinois social work license, you can experience a rewarding career providing important services to those in need.

Explore this guide to learn how to become a social worker in Illinois, including the requirements for each licensure level recognized by the state.

Illinois Social Work Licensure Requirements

Each state regulates social work licensure differently. Before seeking a license, check with the regulatory board that has jurisdiction over the social work profession in your state. In Illinois, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) administers social work licensure.

Illinois offers two levels of licensure: licensed social worker (LSW) and licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). The LSW designation allows social workers with a bachelor’s or a master’s degree to provide clinical services under supervision. The LCSW designation requires a master’s in social work degree (MSW), which is a prerequisite for conducting direct clinical practice without supervision.

Licensed Social Work (LSW)

Illinois licensure requirements for LSW include:

  • A graduate degree or a bachelor’s degree in social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)
  • Complete application
  • Official transcripts
  • $50 application fee
  • A clean criminal background check
  • Licensure for bachelor of social work (BSW)-holders requires three years of supervised experience
  • As of January 1, 2022, the master’s examination administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) is not required for LSW licensure in Illinois.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

Illinois licensure requirements for LCSW include:

  • A master’s degree in social work or a doctoral degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program
  • Complete application
  • Official transcripts
  • A passing score on the clinical-level exam administered by the ASWB with $50 application fee
  • A clean criminal background check
  • Master’s degree-holders must complete 3,000 hours of supervised clinical professional experience. Those with doctorates must complete 2,000 hours of supervised clinical experience.

Featured Online Social Work Programs

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How Long Does it Take to Become a Licensed Social Worker in Illinois?

Depending on the licensure level, prepare to spend 4-7 years in school to qualify for an Illinois social work license. The first step begins with a bachelor’s degree, which typically takes four years of full-time study. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree may receive an LSW license by completing three years of supervised experience. The LCSW license requires at least a master’s degree, which may take 2-3 years to finish, 3,000 hours of clinical experience, and a passing score on the ASWB clinical exam. Doctoral degree-holders seeking an LCSW license only have to complete 2,000 hours of experience and the ASWB exam.

Out of State Licensing Reciprocity in Illinois

Illinois does not participate in reciprocity agreements with other states for the transfer of social work licenses. However, if you want to transfer your currently valid license from another state to become licensed in Illinois, you may apply for licensure by endorsement to the state board. You must submit an application to the IDFPR that includes verification of your current license and a $200 application fee. You must also arrange for your ASWB exam scores to be sent to the IDFPR.

How to Renew a Social Work License in Illinois

A social work license in Illinois expires every two years on November 30 of each odd-numbered year. You may complete your renewal application on the IDFPR website and submit a $60 fee and proof of 30 continuing education units (CEUs), including three hours in cultural competency and three hours in ethics. The CEU requirement must be completed with coursework offered by the National Association of Social Workers, the ASWB, or an approved Illinois provider. CEUs are not required for your first renewal.

Salary Expectations for Social Workers in Illinois

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers can expect healthy employment prospects through the next decade. The overall job outlook is projected to grow by 9% from 2021 to 2031.

The median annual salary for social workers in all fields across the U.S. is $50,390. In Illinois, salaries for most social workers run well above the national average. Child, family, and school social workers, which generally require a clinical social work license, earn over $60,000 a year. Those in the “all other” category, which include titles, such as forensic or criminal justice social worker, make the highest salaries, earning over $65,000 annually.

IL Social Worker Salaries
OccupationAverage Annual SalaryAverage Hourly Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers$60,740$29.20
Healthcare Social Workers$59,030$28.38
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers$54,870$26.38
Social Workers, All Other$65,630$31.55

Source: BLS, 2022

Accredited Social Work Programs in Illinois

IL Social Work Programs
UniversityLocationAvailable ConcentrationsEnrollment Type2023 Tuition
Aurora UniversityAurora, ILAddictions; Child welfare; School social work; Forensics; Gerontology; Healthcare; Leadership and administration; Military and veteran social workFull time, part time, advanced standing, multiple cohorts per year$618 per credit
Chamberlain UniversityAddison, ILCrisis and response interventions; Trauma; Medical SocialFull time, part time, advanced standing, multiple cohorts per year$695 per credit
Chicago State UniversityChicago, ILDirect practice; Program planning and administration; School social workFull time, part time, advanced standing, weekends/evenings, multiple cohorts per year$332 per credit for Illinois residents; $643 per credit for out-of-state students
DePaul UniversityChicago, ILCommunity practice; Forensic social workFull time, part time$758 per credit
Dominican UniversityRiver Forest, ILAging, adulthood, and gerontology; Children, youth, and family; Global social work practice for immigrants and refugees; Health and well-being; Military; School social workFull time, part time, advanced standing, multiple cohorts per year$850 per credit
Erikson InstituteChicago, ILChildren, adolescents, and adults; Infant and early childhood mental healthFull time, part time, advanced standing$1,030 per credit
Governors State UniversityUniversity Park, ILSocial work practice with children, adolescents, and families; School social work practiceFull time, part time, advanced standing$4,236 per semester
Illinois State UniversityNormal, ILChild and family practice; School social workFull time, part time, advanced standing$423 per credit for Illinois residents; $878 per credit for out-of-state students
Lewis UniversityRomeoville, ILAdvanced clinical social work; Advanced child welfare; Organizational leadership; School social workFull time, part time, advanced standing, weekends/evenings$650 per credit
Loyola University ChicagoChicago, ILAdvanced clinical practice; Certified alcohol and other drugs counselor training; Migration studies; School social work/professional educator licenseFull time, part time, advanced standing, weekends/evenings, multiple cohorts per year$1,045 per credit
Northeastern Illinois UniversityChicago, ILPractice with children, youth, and families; Leadership and changeFull time, part time, advanced standing$8,344 per year
Southern Illinois University CarbondaleCarbondale,ILHealth/mental health; Children, youth, and familiesFull time, part time, advanced standing, multiple cohorts per year$470 per credit
Southern Illinois University EdwardsvilleEdwardsville, ILSchool social workFull time, part time, advanced standing$361 per credit
University of ChicagoChicago, ILClinical concentration; Social administration concentrationFull time, part time, advanced standing, weekends/evenings$16,578 per quarter
University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignChampaign,, ILLeadership and social change; Children, youth, and family services,; Healthcare; Mental health; SchoolsFull time, part time, advanced standing$16,408 per year for Illinois residents; $32,704 per year for out-of-state students
University of Illinois ChicagoChicago, ILMental health; Child and family services; Organization and community practice; School social work practice; Practice within justice systemsFull time, advanced standing$5,935 per semester for Illinois residents; $12,369 for out-of-state students
The University of St. FrancisJoliet, ILAdvanced generalist; School social workFull time, part time, advanced standing$599 per credit

Professional Organizations for Social Workers in Illinois

Whether you are a student pursuing a social work degree in Illinois or already working in the field, joining a professional association offers benefits to enhance your career. These organizations sponsor job banks and internship listings, and they provide information about professional development, licensure, and certification. Members have access to research that helps them stay current about developments in the profession. These organizations promote networking opportunities, connecting social workers with similar interests who can support each other as they advance in the field.

  • National Association of Social Workers – Illinois Chapter: This is the Illinois chapter of one of the most important national social work associations. It provides information on employment requirements, professional development, and policy changes in the field. NASW-IL administers authorized programs for licensure and advanced practice specialty certifications. Members who seek licensing, certifications, and continuing education units in Illinois receive substantial discounts.
  • Illinois Association of School Social Workers: The mission of IASSW is to improve the quality of life and education for children by fostering the professional development of school social workers. Membership benefits include a job bank, professional development workshops, and information about state licensing requirements. IASSW offers mini-grants for the evaluation of best practices in school social work.
  • Illinois Society for Clinical Social Work: ISCSW membership provides clinicians in the field of social work with continuing education, access to research, and updates on policy changes affecting clinical practice. A major benefit of membership is the opportunity to enroll in workshops that offer CEUs for license renewal. ISCSW also provides mentorship and supervision services for new professionals seeking to fulfill licensing requirements.