Social Work License Requirements in Rhode Island

Social work in Rhode Island can involve helping clients and patients as a therapist, family advocate, case manager, clinician, or other types of community advocate. Social workers in the state are able to make a difference when it comes to oppression, injustice, and discrimination within the state’s social system and legal framework. Rhode Island offers two different paths for social workers to become licensed: a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) or Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). The LCSW is similar to a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) in other states, while the LICSW represents a more advanced career. The first step in learning how to become a social worker starts with obtaining relevant educational credentials. Aspiring social work practitioners should have at least a master's degree in social work in order to qualify for licensure.

Social Work Licensure Requirements in Rhode Island

There are two types of social work license in Rhode Island. The first is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). This is roughly equivalent to becoming an LMSW in another state and requires applicants to have earned a master’s degree or higher from a university accredited by the Council of Social Work Education. Qualified applicants can then apply to take the master’s-level exam and become licensed. Upon passing the exam, LCSW-level social workers can apply for careers as behavioral health clinicians, mental health professionals, counselors, and other social work occupations.

The second option for Rhode Island social work is to become a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). To qualify for this license, individuals must already be an LCSW and have accumulated a minimum of 3,000 hours in clinical practice. Social Workers should then take a clinical exam and attain licensure. With a passing score on this exam, a LICSW can perform job duties that are similar to those of an LCSW, but a LICSW can practice autonomously in any clinical or non-clinical setting.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

To become an LCSW in Rhode Island, applicants should first ensure that they meet the minimum educational requirements, and applicants are required to possess at least a master’s degree in social work. This degree must also have been conferred by a university which holds accreditation from the Council of Social Work Education. There are no experience requirements for this type of licensure, so individuals who want to know how to become a social worker with this level of education need only to apply online with the Rhode Island Board. Part of the application process involves a non-refundable $70 fee. Applicants are also expected to submit official copies of their transcripts directly to the Board. When these requirements are met and an applicant passes the exam, they will be awarded LCSW licensure and be permitted to practice clinical Rhode Island social work.

Independent Social Worker

Learning how to become a social worker with an independent license is a more complicated process than qualifying as an LCSW or an LMSW in another state. However, the LICSW social work license does have some similar initial requirements. For example, applicants must have graduated with at least a master’s degree in social work from an accredited university. A doctoral degree is also considered to be qualifying. Applicants must also have their university transcripts submitted directly to the Rhode Island Board, and they must pay the same $70 non-refundable application fee. However, becoming an LICSW does require applicants to meet some additional benchmarks.

LICSW candidates must complete at least 3,000 hours of supervised clinical practice. This practice must take place after the completion of their education, and most of it should be in direct clinical work with clients. To prove that this requirement has been met, the Board requires applicants to send in a completed Supervised Practice Form along with their licensure application. Once their application has been accepted, candidates will be allowed to sit for the clinical exam. Only when they have passed this exam will they be awarded LICSW licensure and be authorized to perform independent social work in Rhode Island.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Rhode Island

Professionals from another state who want to know how to become a social worker in Rhode Island may be pleased to learn that licensure is not actually required to perform generalist social work in the state. However, to practice at the clinical or independent level, social workers will need to have their licenses authenticated by the Rhode Island Board. There are multiple fields on the social work license application in which applicants must indicate their current level and origin of licensure (i.e., LMSW from another state).

Applicants with prior licensure moving to Rhode Island should also provide a completed Interstate Verification Form along with their applications. This is a separate form that must be completed by the social work board of the state in which the license was originally issued, and applicants are expected to produce one form per state. When this information has been received, the Rhode Island Board will determine whether it will grant the credentials necessary for the applicant to practice social work in a licensed capacity.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Individuals practicing Rhode Island social work are granted licensure that expires on May 1st of the odd-numbered year following initial licensure. After their first renewal, this effectively means that each period of licensure lasts for two years. The Board sends a renewal notice to registered social workers, generally 60 days before their social work license expires. The last step in how to become a social worker with renewed licensure is to pay the requisite fee and attest that one has met certain continuing education requirements. Both the LMSW-equivalent LCSW and more advanced LICSW can be renewed in this way.