Social Work License Requirements in Illinois

A social work license in Illinois is available in varying degrees to those with a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Ph.D. in social work. Students who want to work in education, at a nonprofit organization, or in a clinical setting should know the exact steps needed to achieve a license. Program graduates can become a licensed social worker or licensed clinical social worker depending on their work experience and level of education. Professionals with licensure in another state can also pursue a career in Illinois social work.

Check out our lists of the best BSW programs and best MSW programs in Illinois.

Social Work Licensure Requirements in Illinois

There are multiple options for becoming a social worker in Illinois. Students can either pursue a Bachelor’s in Social Work (BSW), or a Master’s in Social Work (MSW). Before graduates can become licensed, however, they’ll need to work for three years under a licensed social worker. To avoid that three-year period of professional experience, students can obtain a Master’s in Social Work (MSW). Both pathways allow for individuals to apply to become a licensed social worker.

For students wishing to become a social worker with a clinical focus, a clinical social work license is necessary. This requires either an MSW or Ph.D. in social work, as well as additional work experience under a licensed supervisor. Students’ program of study depends on the license they’re working toward and their goals. While students will likely take general classes such as human behavior, they’ll also be able to select a concentration, such as school social work, direct practice, or program planning and administration. Aspiring social workers can direct their curriculum in order to best suit their professional goals.

Licensed Social Worker

Graduates may receive a social work license in Illinois with a BSW or MSW from a CSWE-accredited program. Those with a BSW must wait until they have accrued three years of supervised experience prior to applying. The direct supervisor must be either a licensed social worker or licensed clinical social worker and must fill out a form indicating how many hours were worked in certain service areas. They’ll also give a rating on job performance of either poor, satisfactory or excellent. Applicants with an MSW do not need to meet this work requirement. The next step for applicants with either a BSW or MSW is to submit an application with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR).

After applicants submit the LMSW application, they must take the Association of Social Work Board’s (ASWB’s) master’s level/intermediate exam. For those holding an MSW, the exam can be taken right after graduation. For those with a BSW, they must wait until they have accrued three years of supervised experience. Once graduates pass the exam and fulfill all the other requirements, the application will be processed by the IDFPR within approximately two weeks.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Becoming a licensed clinical social worker requires postgraduate clinical work experience in addition to many other requirements of an LMSW. With an MSW, graduates need 3,000 hours of supervised clinical professional experience. Those who achieve a Ph.D. in Social Work will need 2,000 hours of such experience. Once the work experience is completed, graduates can submit an application. The IDFPR requires applicants to take the ASWB’s clinical examination. Applicants must pay application and exam fees. Once the IDFPR receives the applicant's passing score, the application can be approved and the license can be issued. A license will then be issued and in order to start practicing as a licensed clinical social worker.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Illinois

Professionals holding a license in another state can become an LSW, LMSW or licensed clinical social worker in Illinois. Applicants must complete the appropriate exam for each social work license and can contact ASWB directly to have them transfer scores to the IDFPR. Additionally, applicants need to submit verification of their current license from the relevant state and fill out an application. Applicants holding a BSW must show completion of three years of supervised work experience.When all application materials are submitted, an endorsement fee must be paid. Once all materials are reviewed, successful applicants will receive a license.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Licensed social workers in Illinois must also remain in good standing and renew their licenses periodically. Professionals must apply for license renewal by November 30 of each odd-numbered year. Social workers can apply for renewal starting in the preceding October, and there is a fee associated with the application.

Both LMSWs and licensed clinical social workers must also complete 30 hours of relevant continuing education in order to be eligible for license renewal. At least 50 percent of the total continuing education hours must come from in-person instruction or experience. Licensees can also complete continuing education course work through online classes, postgraduate training programs or university courses. They may earn credit for teaching in an approved college or authoring papers, publications or books.