Social Work License Requirements in Tennessee

Tennessee social work is overseen by the Board of Social Work Licensure, which allows four different types of licenses. A bachelor’s degree is required to become a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW), while a master’s degree is required to practice as a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW). Individuals with either type of social work license can find employment in a variety of settings, such as educational institutions, counseling centers, community initiatives, and other settings. A master’s degree in social work is also necessary to become a Licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker (LAPSW) or Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in the state. A LAPSW can practice independently, and an LCSW can work independently in a clinical setting.

Check out our list of the best BSW programs in Tennessee.

Social Work Licensure Requirements in Tennessee

At a minimum, prospective social workers should have a bachelor’s degree in social work. This credential allows them to apply for LBSW licensure. The other three types of social work license each require applicants to possess a master’s degree. These are the LMSW, LAPSW, and LCSW licenses. Once students have attained the education necessary to become social workers, they will be expected to provide official college or university transcripts to the Board. Each application also requires individuals to pay both application fees and a state regulatory fee. Applicants must disclose any prior criminal history to the Board, and some of the higher levels of licensure require applicants to meet certain experiential standards in order to be eligible. Maintaining a current license to practice Tennessee social work also requires completion of continuing education credits.

Licensed Bachelor of Social Work

Applicants seeking to become Licensed Baccalaureate Social Workers can apply directly on the Board’s website. This application must be accompanied by a number of attachments, which differ slightly from those required with LMSW, LAPSW, and LCSW applications. First, LBSW candidates must pay an application fee which includes payment for application and license processing, as well as a state regulatory fee. The next step in becoming a social worker at the baccalaureate level is to include a recent passport-sized photograph and notarized Declaration of Citizenship form. Another required form is the Mandatory Practitioner Profile Questionnaire.

Finally, applicants must have official transcripts sent to the Board directly from their educational institution. When all of these requirements have been met, approved applicants will be allowed to take an exam administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). Applicants will eventually be required to submit the results of a criminal background check to the Board. However, this is only to be done after a student has already passed the ASWB exam. When approved, Tennessee social work licenses are typically mailed within two weeks.

Licensed Master of Social Work

The process to earn an LMSW social work license is very similar to the process involved with seeking an LBSW license. The main difference lies in the required education. Students seeking to become a social worker at the master’s level must hold a master’s degree in social work from an accredited university. Then they will be permitted to apply for LMSW licensure on the state Board’s website. Applications are to be accompanied by a passport-sized photograph, notarized Declaration of Citizenship form, and Mandatory Practitioner Profile Questionnaire.

The LMSW license for Tennessee social work also involves a slightly different application fee. While the amount is different, the fee is also inclusive of payment for application and license processing, as well as a state regulatory fee. Finally, applicants should ensure that their university sends an official copy of their transcripts directly to the Board. Only when all of these requirements have been satisfied will applicants be authorized to take the ASWB exam for LMSW licensure. There is also a post-exam criminal background check component that must be completed before individuals will receive a license to practice Tennessee social work at a master’s level.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

To practice independent Tennessee social work in a clinical setting, individuals must hold LCSW licensure. This is a more advanced type of licensure than the LBSW or LMSW levels; it allows social workers to practice clinical work of an independent nature. This opens up a greater variety of career paths, including the administration of human services and mental health facilities. Due to the greater responsibility associated with this level of licensure, there are more steps in how to become a social worker in a clinical setting.

Applicants for LCSW licensure must already hold an LMSW social work license. As a result, a master’s level of education is considered one requirement for this clinical license. In order to be considered for LCSW licensure, applicants must enclose a copy of their current LMSW renewal card with their application. Several forms must also be submitted: a notarized Declaration of Citizenship form, Professional Reference form, Verification of Supervision, verification of continuing education, detailed supervision logs, and a Mandatory Practitioner Profile Questionnaire. These forms are meant to show that applicants have completed 3,000 hours of clinical work and 100 hours in clinical supervision.

As with other levels of social work licensure in Tennessee, applicants should provide official university transcripts and must pay an application fee. This fee comprises of an application fee, license fee, and state regulatory fee. When students have passed the ASWB exam, they will also be required to complete a criminal background check.

Licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker

Independent Tennessee social work can be practiced by individuals who hold a LAPSW social work license. Acquiring this type of license shares many of the same requirements of the LBSW, LMSW, and LCSW applications. In fact, LAPSW candidates must already hold LMSW licensure. Applicants must provide a passport-sized photograph, university transcripts, a Declaration of Citizenship form, Mandatory Practitioner Profile Questionnaire form, LMSW renewal card, professional references, and verification of supervision and continuing education. Applicants must also pass a criminal background check after passing the ASWB exam.

In the process of becoming a social worker with LAPSW licensure, candidates are expected to complete 3,000 hours of non-clinical social work, and 100 hours of face-to-face supervision. This being the second-highest type of social work license in the state, its requirements are very stringent.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Tennessee

Formal reciprocity does exist in the field of Tennessee social work. This means that social workers who are already licensed in another state may receive an equivalent license to practice the same level of work in Tennessee. Reciprocity applies to each of the state’s four types of social work license: LBSW, LMSW, LAPSW, and LCSW. However, it is not an automatic process. Candidates must visit the State Board’s website and select the appropriate level of licensure. They are required to complete an application, which generally includes all of the same requirements that they would need to supply if they were applying for licensure by exam. This includes the appropriate application fee.

Additionally, applicants must supply official verification from the state or states in which they were previously licensed. This verification should be mailed directly from the originating state’s board to the Tennessee Board at the time of application.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

When individuals first apply for licensure, they can choose to opt into an automatic renewal notification system. This is an excellent way to receive email reminders when it’s time to renew a Tennessee social work license, which expires every two years. The renewal process is handled through the state’s website. There is a fee associated with LBSW, LMSW, LAPSW, and LCSW licensure renewal, and amounts vary based on which license is being renewed. In addition to the differing cost, each program has different requirements for continuing education. LBSWs must complete nine hours per year, while LMSWs are required to complete 12 hours per year. Both LAPSWs and LCSWs should complete 15 hours per year.