Social Work Licensure in Rhode Island

Social workers serve their communities by offering counseling services and connecting clients to programs such as homeless shelters and food banks. Social workers in Rhode Island can earn either the licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) or the licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW) license.

LCSW applicants can apply for licensure with a master’s degree, while LICSW candidates must complete at least three years of supervised, full-time clinical experience after graduation. Many professionals who aspire to earn an LICSW license first obtain the LCSW credential first. The Rhode Island Board of Social Work Examiners issues social work licensure in Rhode Island. Individuals can practice social work with an associate or bachelor’s degree and certification, but licensure requires a master’s degree.

Out-of-state generalist social workers who move to Rhode Island do not need to obtain a state license. Clinical social workers licensed in another state are not eligible for automatic license reciprocity; out-of-state clinical professionals must pursue Rhode Island social work licensure to practice in the state.

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Types of Social Work Degrees in Rhode Island

Social workers in Rhode Island may obtain a social work degree in Rhode Island at all education levels from a program with accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Both on-campus and online social work degrees qualify graduates to practice.

Associate programs focus on liberal arts classes, such as sociology and psychology, and offer courses in general social work practices. Most graduates of associate programs continue on to a bachelor’s program. Bachelor’s in social work programs include a variety of course topics, and most full-time students graduate in four years.

Master’s in social work programs typically take two years to complete and include coursework in human behavior, research, and analysis. MSW students often specialize in a particular area of social work. Currently, no social work schools in Rhode Island offer doctoral degrees, which are required for college-level teaching positions.

Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work

Most full-time students complete BSW programs in four years, though some are available on an accelerated schedule. Many schools offer programs online or in a hybrid format. Coursework typically covers human behavior, social case management processes, welfare policies, and social work research methods.

Graduates with a bachelor’s in social work often qualify for positions as case management aides, juvenile court liaisons, human services specialists, and rehabilitation coordinators. According to PayScale, social workers with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $40,991 per year. Since undergraduate students rarely specialize, a bachelor’s degree is ideal for students planning to practice generalist social work.

Master’s in Social Work

Most full-time students earn their master’s degree in social work within two years. Students enrolled in accelerated online programs may graduate in one year. Part-time learners often take about four years to complete the degree. Classwork varies widely, since learners usually specialize in a certain area, such as human behavior or clinical research practices. All licensed social workers in Rhode Island must hold at least a master’s degree in the field. An MSW significantly increases career opportunities and earning potential.

Doctoral Degree in Social Work

Learners pursuing a doctoral degree in social work can earn either a Ph.D. or a doctor of social work (DSW) degree. Ph.D. programs focus on the academic aspects of social work, including research. DSW programs are ideal for individuals who want to further their social work practice. Although a doctorate does not qualify holders for higher levels of licensure, a doctorate is required for college teaching positions and some research positions.

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker in Rhode Island

Both types of Rhode Island social work licensure require at least a master’s in social work. This social work degree in Rhode Island prepares graduates to obtain an LCSW license after graduation, with no post-master’s experience. LCSW holders often secure positions as child welfare case managers, school social workers, and human services administrators. The LICSW credential qualifies holders to diagnose and treat medical conditions and is required to open a private practice.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

  1. Master’s Degree in Social Work: LCSW candidates must hold a master’s degree from a CSWE-accredited institution. Candidates can hold degrees from any accredited institution in the U.S. and do not need professional experience. Most learners earn their MSW with four years of full-time study.
  2. Examination: The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) administers social work licensure examinations. LCSW candidates must pass the ASWB masters exam, which covers topics including research processes, behavioral psychology, and the science of addiction.
  3. Application: With their application, candidates must submit official transcripts, proof of U.S. citizenship, and a $170 application fee.

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker

  1. Master’s Degree in Social Work: Candidates for social work licensure in Rhode Island must hold at least an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program.
  2. Prior Licensure: Before seeking LICSW licensure, individuals must first obtain an LCSW. Candidates for the LICSW credential must submit proof of previous licensure.
  3. Examination: Candidates must pass the ASWB clinical exam, which includes questions related to developmental psychology, research practices, and methodology for overcoming addiction.
  4. Application: Candidates must submit an application with official transcripts, proof of U.S. citizenship, and an application fee of $170.
  5. Experience: LICSW candidates must complete at least 3,000 hours of supervised social work experience. Of those hours, at least 150 must be completed under direct supervision of a licensed clinical social worker; at least 75% of directly supervised hours must be one-on-one.

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

To become a licensed social worker in Rhode island, candidates must earn a master’s in social work from a CSWE-accredited program, which full-time students typically complete in two years. The LCSW credential does not require supervised clinical hours; candidates may obtain licensure after graduating and passing the ASWB exam.

LICSW candidates need at least 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience, which increases the time required to earn licensure. Candidates have three attempts to pass the required ASWB exam, and the board issues licenses in approximately eight weeks.

Out-of-State Licensing Reciprocity in Rhode Island

Generalist social workers in Rhode Island do not need licensure. Rhode Island only requires licenses for clinical social workers. Clinical social workers licensed in other states must obtain Rhode Island social work licensure before practicing in the state; out-of-state candidates must meet state requirements for licensure, including submitting an application and passing the ASWB exam. Individuals licensed in other states must disclose their previous licensure during the application process and pay the $170 application fee.

License Renewal

Licensed social workers in Rhode Island must renew their licenses every two years, by April 30. No examination is required for renewal, but social workers must pay the $100 renewal fee. Late renewal applications are subject to an additional $25 reinstatement fee. Rhode Island does not offer temporary, provisional, retired, or inactive practitioner licenses.

Licensed professionals must complete at least 30 hours of continuing education during each renewal period. At least three of these hours must cover cross-cultural practices, alleviation of poverty, and personal ethics. Social workers may complete no more than six of the required hours online. Some employers fund continued education.

Accredited Social Work Programs in Rhode Island

Aspiring social workers in Rhode Island benefit from choosing an in-state school; attending social work schools in Rhode Island ensures that coursework meets state licensure requirements. In-state students often form connections with local employers and professional organizations, which may lead to job opportunities after graduation.

Accreditation means an institution or program meets set standards of quality. Attending an accredited school ensures that other institutions and employers recognize your credits and degree. To obtain social work licensure in Rhode Island, candidates must hold a degree from a CSWE-accredited program.

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

The social work field includes many specializations. Professionals with a bachelor’s in social work do not need licensure in Rhode Island and qualify for many positions in hospitals, community mental health agencies, government agencies, and schools. Some bachelor’s degree holders pursue a master’s in social work to specialize or qualify for licensure.

After earning a master’s degree in social work in Rhode Island, graduates can obtain LCSW or LICSW licensure to treat patients in mental health hospitals and clinics. A DSW or Ph.D. can lead to further specialization and increased earning potential.

  • Community Health Workers/Health Educators: Health educators teach community members about wellness. They create strategies to improve community and individual health. These professionals also collect data and discuss their findings with members of the affected population.
  • Probation Officers/Correctional Treatment Specialists: Correctional treatment specialists assist in the rehabilitation of criminal offenders. Probation officers work with offenders currently in custody and on parole. Probation officers must hold a bachelor’s in social work.
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: Counselors help individuals with mental, physical, emotional, or developmental disabilities live comfortably. Rehabilitation counselors help clients manage disabilities and live independently. To diagnose and treat illnesses, counselors must hold a master’s degree and LCSW licensure.
  • Human Service Assistants: Human service assistants offer client services in fields such as psychology, social work, and rehabilitation. They often work with families and individuals and assist other social workers. These professionals must have a bachelor’s in social work.
  • Psychologists: Psychologists focus on the cognitive, emotional, and social aspects of behavior. They use observation and interpretation to help clients improve their behaviors. Psychologists must have at least a master’s degree.

Salary Expectations for Social Workers in Rhode Island

Salaries for graduates with a degree in social work vary based on position and education level. Generally, professionals with more advanced degrees have higher earning potential. Positions that involve counseling and advising often require a higher level of education and lead to increased job prospects. Professionals with a master’s and an LCSW license qualify for high-paying positions as psychologists. LICSW holders can open their own psychology practice to further increase earning potential.

Average Salary for Social Workers in Rhode Island

Community Health Workers/Health Educators$44,200
Social Workers, All Other$75,710
Rehabilitation Counselors$55,520
Human Service Assistants$34,490
Therapists, All Other$70,530
Source: BLS

Professional Organizations for Social Workers in Rhode Island

Social work professional organizations are nonprofit groups that work to advance the profession and support social workers. Members often receive access to networking events, research, and data related to the field. Many organizations also provide continuing education opportunities to help members meet license renewal requirements.

  • National Association of Social Workers Rhode Island Chapter: NASW-RI emphasizes social justice, dignity, and service. The organization promotes and protects the practice of social work and works to enhance the health and happiness of state residents.
  • Rhode Island Association for Psychoanalytic Psychologies: RIAPP was founded in 1993 to support social workers interested in psychoanalysis. The organization provides continuing education opportunities to mental health professionals, including an annual lecture series.
  • American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy: AAMFT represents the interests of more than 50,000 family and marriage therapists throughout North America. Founded in 1942, AAMFT develops standards for graduate training, education, clinical supervision, and ethics in the field of marriage and family counseling. The organization offers tiered membership based on the individual’s level of training. Master’s students are eligible for membership.