Social Work Licensure in Maryland

Like most other states, Maryland requires its social workers to hold licensure at differing levels, depending on the type of care and service they want to provide. The process follows the same standards that apply nationally.

To earn a license to practice social work in the state, candidates must hold at least a bachelor’s degree from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). More advanced licensing, of course, requires more advanced social work degrees. With a degree in hand, candidates can sit for the licensing exam that corresponds to their educational level. Maryland uses the national standard Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) examinations in the licensing process.

Unlike many states, Maryland does not hold reciprocity agreements with other states. Instead, the state only requires those coming from out of state to use the ASWB exams. Applicants must provide scores from the ASWB exam at the level at which they want to practice. If they pass the exam, they need only apply for licensure and go through a background check.

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Types of Social Work Degrees in Maryland

Students of social work can pursue degrees from the bachelor’s to the doctoral level. Like other disciplines, the bachelor’s-level degree serves as the base level of education. The state requires a bachelor’s for its entry-level license, which allows you to work in many social work settings. Students in social work programs in Maryland can then push on to earn their master’s, which opens still more doors in the profession, especially in clinical settings. The doctorate serves as the terminal degree and typically leads to high-level administrative, teaching, or clinical positions.

Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work

Maryland requires that all licensed social workers hold at least a baccalaureate degree from a CSWE-accredited program. With a bachelor’s in hand, graduates can step into a wide array of positions, including work as probation officers, community outreach workers, rehabilitation case workers, or program coordinators. Potential employers include community service agencies, hospitals, and state human-services agencies.

Master’s in Social Work

The master’s in social work leads to Maryland social work licensure. You must hold a master’s to perform any clinical work in the state. At the master’s level, students often specialize their education. Common areas of focus include clinical social work; healthcare-related social work; community services; children, youth, and families; substance abuse; and leadership.

As with other occupations, the graduate-level degree attracts employers and serves as the next step up the career ladder. It readies you for positions in management and administration at local, state, and nonprofit human-services agencies. These upper-level positions bring higher salaries. Potential jobs include: clinical social worker, psychiatric social worker, public health social worker, and substance abuse social work.

Doctorate Degree in Social Work

The doctorate in social work requires several years of education beyond the bachelor’s and the master’s. Maryland does not require a doctorate for licensure, clinical social work, or most other social work jobs, but the degree allows you to take virtually any job in the field. It serves as an exceptional credential for anyone interested in teaching or serving at the very highest levels of human-service agencies. Doors that may open to doctorate holders include clinical director, nonprofit CEO, human-services administrator, college professor, and community services administrator. These jobs bring with them high salaries and a great deal of responsibility.

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker in Maryland

Maryland licenses social workers at four different levels that correspond with the degree of education held by the applicant. Candidates typically earn their licenses through examination. For example, graduates of bachelor’s social work programs in Maryland can sit for the licensed bachelor social worker (LBSW) exam, which allows them to take entry-level social work jobs.

Those with a master’s can take the licensed graduate social worker (LGSW) test, which the state requires for anyone interested in clinical social work or further licensure. To earn certified licensed social worker (LCSW) or certified licensed social worker-clinical (LCSW-C) credentials, candidates must perform a specified number of supervised hours in the field. The state also grants some licenses, usually to individuals who hold similar licensing in other states. The application consts $100.

Licensed Bachelor Social Worker

  1. Baccalaureate Degree: Every applicant must hold a bachelor’s degree in social work from a program accredited by the CSWE. This ensures that each candidate’s education meets the same standards. Most baccalaureate programs in social work take four years to complete.
  2. Criminal History Records Check (CHRC): To sit for the LBSW exam, applicants must submit proof of a background check. Maryland’s CHRC requires candidates to go to an authorized fingerprinting authority. They must then fill out an application. Exam takers receive results 72 hours after completing the test.
  3. Association of Social Work Boards Exam: Administered by Pearson Professional Centers, the LBSW serves as the standard exam for initial social work licensure across the country. The test consists of 170 multiple-choice questions across four areas of practice. The exam lasts four hours, and the ASWB site offers practice tests and tutorials to help prepare.

Licensed Graduate Social Worker

  1. Master’s Degree: The LGSW license requires a graduate degree from a program accredited by the CSWE. Master’s degrees from social work schools in Maryland generally take two years or more to complete on top of the four years needed for a bachelor’s.
  2. Criminal History Records Check: Before anyone can sit for the LGSW exam, they must first submit their CHRC information. Authorized fingerprinting stations across the state perform this service and submit the results to the state’s licensing board.
  3. LGSW Examination: Like the LBSW exam, applicants visit Pearson Professional Centers to sit for this ASWB exam. The 170-question test takes candidates through four areas of practice, offering four multiple-choice options per item. Pearson administers the exam electronically, and test takers can take up to four hours to finish.

Licensed Certified Social Worker

  1. LGSW License: Candidates for the LCSW credential must already hold a LGSW license, and fulfill the background check and educational requirements for the LGSW exam. Many take several months to study for the LCSW exam.
  2. Supervised Work Experience: Social workers need 104 weeks of at least 3,000 hours of experience working under the supervision of a licensed social worker. Of these hours, at least 100 must include face-to-face supervision under a contractual agreement.
  3. LCSW Examination: Candidates must pass the ASWB exam. The 170-question test is a four-hour, generalist examination delivered electronically.

Private Independent Practice Certification

  1. LGSW License: The LCSW-C credential specifically focuses on clinical work, and it features largely the same requirements as the LCSW license. Applicants must hold a LGSW license and fulfil the background check and educational requirements for the LGSW exam.
  2. Supervised Work Experience: Applicants need at least two years of professional experience, which Maryland defines as 104 weeks of at least 3,000 hours working under the supervision of a licensed social worker. Of these hours, at least half must include face-to-face contact with clients. Candidates must also show proof that they worked under contracted supervision for at least 144 hours. They must boast experience in supervision, assessment, treatment, and some psychotherapy, and they must submit documentation of twelve additional hours of coursework in clinical social work.
  3. LCSW-C Examination: Candidates must pass the Pearson-administered ASWB exam. The 170-question test focuses on the mental health and clinical side of social work. Questions explore four practice areas: human development, diversity, and behavior in the environment; assessment, diagnosis, and treatment; psychotherapy; and professional ethics.

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

It takes most candidates at least four years to earn their Maryland social work licensure. Master’s degrees lead to more opportunity, and they generally add an additional two years of education. Some schools, however, offer a master’s-in-five degree, which combines undergraduate and graduate education. To earn a doctorate usually requires three or four years beyond the master’s, though, again, some programs combine the master’s with the doctorate, which shortens the time it takes.

Out of State Licensing Reciprocity in Maryland

The Maryland Board of Social Work examiners does not hold reciprocity agreements with any other states. Instead, the state offers a license-by-endorsement option. Applicants for licensure from other states can earn endorsement in two ways. Maryland honors the ASWB exams, and candidates from other states can submit their scores toward licensing at the same level they held in their previous state. They can also apply by endorsement if they worked five out of the last ten years at an advanced level.

Applicants from other states must submit a Criminal History Records Check for licensure. They must also provide transcripts from their CSWE-accredited college program. The application costs $100.

License Renewal

Social workers in Maryland need to renew their licenses every two years. To qualify for a renewed license, social workers must show 40 hours of continuing education in a board-approved program. The LBSW license only requires 30 credit hours. The board accepts continuing education from professional social work organizations like the ASWB, the NASW, and the Clinical Social Work Federation. The state provides an online renewal system to help streamline the process.

Renewal costs $100 at the bachelor level, $226 at the graduate level, and $301 at the LCSW and LCSW-C levels. Social workers who let their license lapse must pay an activation fee to renew. This costs an additional $125 for bachelor’s, $225 for graduates, and $300 for the certified and clinical licenses.

Accredited Social Work Programs in Maryland

Students need to ensure that the on-campus or online social work programs in Maryland that interest them boast the proper accreditation. They should earn a diploma from a college or university accredited by one of the six regional accrediting agencies and by the CSWE. The Middle States Association of Colleges and schools serves as the regional accrediting body for Maryland. Additionally, the state requires the CSWE seal of approval for licensure as a social worker.

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

Social work encompasses a wide array of jobs. Social workers might find employment in schools, helping young children cope with bullying or problems at home. They might work in hospitals, counseling patients with life-changing medical events. They can work for state health and human services departments or foster agencies, removing children from abusive or neglectful situations and placing them in loving foster homes. Or they might provide therapy to couples or groups in a clinical setting.

Many social work jobs in Maryland require only a bachelor’s degree, but as a general rule, the more you learn, the higher your salary. Master’s degrees attract more employers and open more doors, especially when it comes to clinical social work.

  • Clinical Social Worker: Clinical social workers offer counseling to people struggling to cope with mental, social, or behavioral issues. They typically hold master’s degrees and work in health centers, hospitals, or other medical settings. Some provide group, couple, or family counseling.
  • School Social Worker: School social workers often work in large districts helping children and their families develop better habits. They counsel students experiencing difficulties establish curricula and strategies with administrators, deal with bullying, and look into repeated or prolonged absences.
  • Healthcare Social Workers: Employed by hospitals and clinics, these professionals help patients deal with life-changing events, such as debilitating injuries, loss of loved ones, or other trauma. They counsel patients, work on life transitions, and often serve as facilitators between patients and the healthcare system.
  • Substance Abuse Social Workers: Mental health and substance abuse social workers counsel individuals struggling with addiction. They might run programs for hospitals or community agencies, provide group therapy, and perform some clinical work. Those who offer clinical services must hold a master’s degree.
  • Child/Family Social Workers: Employed by foster agencies, government departments, or community agencies, these social workers help children in need. They might protect children from abusive situations, place children with new foster families, or provide counsel and therapeutic help to families. They often represent the state in dealing with struggling families, helping them with benefits, jobs, or housing.

Salary Expectations for Social Workers in Maryland

Because social workers find employment in a variety of settings, their salaries tend to vary. As the table below illustrates, however, they do not differ that widely. Most social workers earn roughly the same salary. The only positions that pay considerably more lie in clinical settings and high-level administrative jobs. Some of the best paid clinical social workers in Maryland, for example, bring home far more than the average school social worker.

Remember that the salaries in the tables below reflect the median earnings of social workers. Even within each of these fields, some individuals make much more than others, depending upon where they find employment.

Average Salary for Social Workers in Maryland

Clinical Social Worker$66,500
School Social Worker$54,630
Healthcare Social Workers$58,150
Substance Abuse Social Worker$46,890
Child/Family Social Worker$54,630
Source: BLS

Professional Organizations for Social Workers in Maryland

Graduates of social work schools in Maryland often find professional organizations a great next step in their professional development. These associations offer a wide range of services to members. They serve as information exchanges, providing access to publications and forums. They sponsor conferences, workshops, and continuing education opportunities where you can brush up on skills and learn the latest techniques and trends. They host job boards and other career services, and they provide advocacy on behalf of the profession. Perhaps most importantly, they encourage networking by introducing members to others doing the same work.

  • National Association of Social Workers Maryland Chapter: This national organization advocates on behalf of social workers, provides professional development opportunities, and promotes social justice. Five local Maryland branches meet regularly under the auspices of the state chapter, giving members opportunities to network, socialize, and exchange information about the profession with others from their area.
  • Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work: Based in Washington, D.C., this organization welcomes members from neighboring Maryland. GWSCSW dedicates itself to developing the profession of clinical social work, promoting high standards, advocating on behalf of social workers, and offering workshops, presentations, courses, and symposiums.
  • School Social Workers in Maryland: A small organization, SSWIM promotes the profession of school social work and offers members the opportunity to network and exchange the latest information. Through meetings and workshops, SSWIM connects social workers with continuing education and professional development opportunities.