Social Work License Requirements in Wisconsin

To practice social work in the state of Wisconsin, candidates must register their social work license with the state's Marriage and Family Therapy, Professional Counseling and Social Work Examining Board; an entity which is overseen by Wisconsin's Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS). Social workers in Wisconsin are given credentials and are licensed to work with different kinds of people in a variety of communities and settings. They provide critical social services to communities in need and will find themselves working in schools, hospitals, community centers, municipal buildings private homes.

Wisconsin social work can be practiced with one of four licenses: Certified Social Worker (CSW), Certified Advanced Practice Social Worker (CAPSW), Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) or Certified Independent Social Worker (CISW).

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

Social Work Licensure Requirements in Wisconsin

The minimum education required to earn a social work license in the state of Wisconsin is a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) from a college or university whose program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Some levels of licensure require students to complete a Master of Social Work (MSW). Wisconsin social work students should expect their classes to cover topics like human behavior, social policy, addiction, psychology, and research. Most programs will require practical work or internship experience as well. Those who hold a CSW credential can practice general, non-clinical social work at the bachelor's level, like case management and community organization.

All candidates are required to complete the state law exam, and applicants can pay an additional fee to extend their license application while they prepare to take the exam. CAPSWs are able to practice advanced, non-clinical social services, as well as clinical social work services under the supervision of an LCSW. LCSWs are the only licensed professionals in Wisconsin who can provide the full range of social work services, including clinical practice, like the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. CISWs can work independently, offering non-clinical social services.

Certified Social Worker

In order to obtain CSW licensure in Wisconsin, candidates must first earn a BSW or MSW from a CSWE-accredited school. Candidates who earn a Doctor of Social Work from a school that is not accredited by the CSWE are also eligible for this level of social work license. The next step is to submit the social worker application form to the state's Marriage and Family Therapy, Professional Counseling and Social Work Examining Board. The application should include verification of education directly from the candidate’s college or university and the associated application fee. Once the Examining Board approves the initial application, candidates are required to sit for the state's online, open-book law exam, which tests knowledge on state statutes and administrative code chapters that are relevant to Wisconsin social work. Applicants must score 85 percent or higher on this exam to pass.

Next, candidates must sit for the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Bachelors Exam. There is a fee associated with exam registration, and the exam tests candidates on their knowledge of general social work practice. Applicants who pass both exams and complete all application requirements will be issued their CSW license and can begin practicing social work in Wisconsin immediately.

Certified Advanced Practice Social Worker

Becoming a CAPSW begins with candidates completing an MSW from a college or university that is CSWE-accredited. The next step in obtaining this level of Wisconsin social work licensure is to apply for it using the social worker application form available on the state's Marriage and Family Therapy, Professional Counseling and Social Work Examining Board website. The application needs to include verification from the school where the candidate completed their MSW, which should be provided by the school filling out the Certificate of Professional Education. There is a fee associated with the application, which includes registration for the state law exam.

Once students score 85 percent or higher on the state exam and their application is approved by the Examining Board, they are eligible to sit for the ASWB Masters Exam, which requires a registration fee. Applicants who pass both exams and complete all application requirements will be issued a CAPSW license and can begin practicing social work in Wisconsin immediately. They may also provide clinical social work services under supervision.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

To obtain LCSW licensure in Wisconsin, candidates must hold an MSW from a college or university that is accredited by the CSWE. The master’s program must have included a supervised, clinical experience component, or accrual of 1,500 hours of supervised clinical social work practice. The next step for obtaining this social work license is for candidates to complete 3,000 hours of supervised clinical social work experience in no less than two years. Candidates must complete one hour of individual supervision from an LCSW, a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist per week, and at least 1,000 hours need to include face-to-face contact with clients. The next step in obtaining this level of licensure is to apply for the license using the LCSW application form. The application must include formal documentation of supervised work experience as well as a clinical coursework form to verify that the course of study completed meets the clinical requirements. Transcripts from the candidate’s school must also be submitted to the state's Marriage and Family Therapy, Professional Counseling and Social Work Examining Board. There is an application fee associated with this process, which includes registration for the state law exam.

Next, candidates must sit for the state law exam and pass with a score of 85 percent or higher. They are then eligible to sit for the ASWB Clinical Exam. Applicants who pass both exams and complete all application requirements will be issued an LCSW license and can begin practicing Wisconsin social work immediately.

Certified Independent Social Worker

CISWs can practice non-clinical social work independently in the state of Wisconsin. After completing an MSW from a CSWE-accredited school, candidates must complete 3,000 hours of supervised social work experience as a CAPSW in no less than two years. Supervision must include at least an hour of one-on-one training from a CISW or LCSW. Next, candidates must submit a social worker application form to the state's Marriage and Family Therapy, Professional Counseling and Social Work Examining Board. The application for the social work license must include information on the candidate’s supervisor as well as verification from the college or university where the MSW was earned. Verification must be submitted directly to the Examining Board in the form of the Certificate of Professional Education form. There is an application fee for candidates who are already licensed in Wisconsin social work and who have already sat for and passed the state law exam. Applicants who took the exam more than five years ago will need to retake the test, and an additional fee is required for those who need to register for the exam.

After a candidate scores 85 percent or higher on the state exam, they will require approval from the Examining Board to take the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam, which requires a fee. After the Examining Board approves the application and the candidate passes the ASWB exam, their licensure will be issued and they will be eligible to begin practicing Wisconsin social work immediately.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Wisconsin

Candidates who already hold a social work license in another state and want to practice social work in Wisconsin can receive licensure by reciprocity. Candidates can apply for licensure by reciprocity on the state's Marriage and Family Therapy, Professional Counseling and Social Work Examining Board website, and should fill out the application that corresponds to the level of licensure they are seeking. They will need to provide proof of current credentials and pass the state law exam to be eligible. Applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, with the criteria mainly focusing on whether the requirements in the state where the candidate had been previously licensed to practice social work are similar or go beyond the requirements to practice in Wisconsin. There is a fee associated with applying for licensure by reciprocity in Wisconsin.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Wisconsin social work practitioners must renew their social work license every two years. All licenses expire at the end of February on odd-numbered years. In order to be eligible for license renewal, all current license holders are required to complete at least 30 hours of continuing education. Those renewing their licensure for the first time who have not practiced for a full year are exempt from this requirement. Of the required 30 hours of continuing education, four must be in the area of ethics and professional boundaries. All levels of licensure can be renewed online; and there is a fee assocated with renewal.