Social Work License Requirements in Oklahoma

Oklahoma defines social work as “enhancing or restoring” a community’s “physical, social and economic” functions. It is a practice that is people-centric, focused not just on clinical social work but in administration, planning and research. Social workers at all levels are charged with improving community well-being and helping patients find the services that they need. Social work is built on fundamental knowledge of human development and social interactions. It takes into account a patient’s socioeconomic status and cultural institutions for a holistic outlook of patient health. Additionally, social workers must teach and study the discipline to grow alongside it.

Social Work Licensure Requirements in Oklahoma

An Oklahoma social worker must first determine the level at which he or she will practice. This determination will guide the prospective social worker through levels of education and important career decisions. There are three levels of Oklahoma social work available: Licensed Social Work Associate (LSWA), Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW) and a Licensed Clinical Social Work (LCSW).

The state requires that social workers hold a degree in the social work field from a college or university that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Higher levels of social work may require post-graduate degrees, as well as social work hours completed under supervision. Additionally, candidates must pass all necessary exams and pay an application fee.

Generally, candidates at all levels must earn at least a Bachelor's degree, complete any required social work hours, and receive a passing grade on the social work exam. Candidates are required to submit information for a national criminal background and records check, which carries an additional fee. Applicants must also submit two sets of fingerprints on file with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

Licensed Social Worker Associate

The first step to becoming an LSWA in Oklahoma is to obtain a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. This degree qualifies those seeking licensure to practice general social work with the condition of supervision by a licensed independent social worker. At this time, the candidate may participate in a social work program under direct supervision if the plan is approved by the state licensing board. Applicants find this path useful in preparing for the exam because they are gaining real-world, social work experience.

The next step is to submit an application for the LSWA credential. Candidates must pay an application fee of $150 and submit fingerprints as outlined above. The Oklahoma state licensing board must grant candidates permission to sit for the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Bachelors Exam, but candidates may register at any time once eligible. The 170-question, multiple-choice exam requires a fee and may be taken at any Pearson VUE testing center. The Board will receive the results automatically, at which point the social worker would receive their LSWA licensure. This licensure requires social workers to remain under the supervision of an independent social worker.

Licensed Master of Social Work

To practice Oklahoma social work as an LMSW, candidates must hold, at a minimum, a Master of Social Work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited institution. Although this license is nonclinical, it allows those with an MSW to practice at a master’s level. Once a degree is obtained and the application process has begun, the candidate can expect to pay a fee and undergo a criminal background check. This check requires fingerprint submissions as well. Candidates also need to forward MSW transcript information to the Oklahoma state licensing board before a provisional license is granted.

Provisional license holders may practice at the LMSW level for up to one year to gain experience and prepare for the master’s level exam. The state licensing board will notify prospective candidates once the application phase has completed. At this point, the applicant is allowed to register for the ASWB Masters Exam. The exam can be taken at any Pearson VUE testing center, and there is a fee associated with the exam. The Oklahoma state licensing board should receive the results within a few weeks of the test.

Once all documentation has been received, the state licensing board will replace provisional licenses with a permanent document. Oklahoma requires that all license holders display their licenses in a prominent place at their place of business.

LSW and LSW-ADM Licensure

Licensed Social Worker (LSW) licensure is essentially the same as an LMSW, but this role is able to practice independently in a nonclinical setting. Licensed Social Worker – Administration (LSW-ADM) licensure allows for a supervisory role in a nonclinical setting as well. Prospective candidates must have the following requirements met: a master’s or doctoral degree in social work and 4,000 hours of supervised work under a supervisor, with five years of post-graduate work, and a minimum of two years in a supervisory role.

It is important to note that the state licensing board must approve any supervision plans or contracts before these hours begin. Supervisors are also required to issue routine work reports to verify hours and to report on progress.

Once these hours are complete, individuals can apply for LSW licensure. After the associated fee is paid and the background check performed, the individual typically receives a provisional license to practice. The Board will inform the applicant upon approval to take the ASWB Advanced Generalist Exam, a process that typically requires five years of work experience. The exam may be taken at any Pearson VUE testing center, and licensure is granted upon a passing grade. There is a fee associated with the exam.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Clinical Oklahoma social work involves diagnosing and assessing disorders in patients and conducting psychotherapy sessions. This path is available to MSW degree holders who have accumulated 4,000 supervised work hours. This five-year process must include a minimum of 3,000 hours spent in direct contact with clients. At least 100 of those hours must be under supervision, with the supervisor periodically updating the state licensing board on the candidate’s progress via work report.

Applicants can submit an application once the work requirement is complete. The Oklahoma state licensing board will typically grant candidates a provisional license before approving eligibility to take the ASWB Clinical Exam. The provisional license allows candidates to earn additional experience at the LCSW level under supervision and aids in test preparation. Upon passage of the ASWB Clinical Exam, this provisional license will be replaced with a permanent document. This path is a common step in supervisory work.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Oklahoma

Reciprocity is available to license holders from outside Oklahoma depending on whether the state has an agreement with the applicant’s state. Without a reciprocity agreement, candidates must apply for endorsement, where the Oklahoma state licensing board reviews all materials and determines if the eligibility requirements meet or exceed what is outlined by the state guidelines. Candidates are invited to apply for licensure at the desired level, submitting all transcripts and relevant documents. Retesting is not necessary unless the state licensing board does not receive the applicant’s exam scores from ASWB.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Each license level has a two-year renewal period in Oklahoma. Regardless of level, continuing education is meant to provide up-to-date information and techniques for social workers to use in their careers. Social workers can renew their licenses while still working. Social workers are also required to have a minimum of 16 hours of continuing education that focus on their specialty. Additionally, three of those 16 hours must focus on ethics. There is a renewal fee for each license, as well as a late fee for untimely submissions.