If you are dedicated to addressing social issues and helping others, you should consider a career in social work. Social workers are licensed and trained professionals that assist people with a broad range of issues. Social workers may carry caseloads, and provide counseling to people who are struggling with relationship problems, financial hardship, mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness, involvement with criminal activity, or other difficulties. There are a variety of career opportunities available to social workers who have a genuine desire to make a difference.

Social workers are needed all over the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers held 682,100 jobs in 2016. The profession is expected to grow by 16 percent through 2026, which is accelerated compared to the national average. Mississippi currently has over 700 available jobs in social work listed through Indeed.

With a population of 3 million, Mississippi is known for its music, farming, fishing, and low cost of living. This southern state would be a great place to land your dream job as a social worker.

How do I become a social worker in Mississippi?

This article will provide you with the information necessary to pursue a career in social work in the state of Mississippi. It will also provide you with options based on your current educational status, explain how to obtain each licensure type, and detail social work university programs, exam information, and salary possibilities.

Mississippi has three licensure options for social workers:

  • Licensed Social Worker (LSW): bachelor's degree required
  • Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW): master's or doctorate degree required
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): master's or doctorate degree and clinical hours required

If you are interested in practicing social work in the state of Mississippi, you must at a minimum obtain your bachelor's degree. This will allow you to fulfill the first and most basic licensure requirement to be a practicing social worker. Your bachelor's degree must be in the field of social work; if it's not, you will need to consider a master's of social work if you want to become licensed. You also must have attended a university accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

Applying for licensure will include a background check and a passing score on the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) examination. Depending on the license type, you may need other elements, such as character or professional references.

If you are interested in pursuing higher education, obtaining a master's or doctorate degree allows you to secure a slightly higher level intermediate social work license. If you are interested in the title of “clinical social worker,” and would like to independently practice social work, you must achieve a master's or doctoral degree in social work and satisfy certain clinical hour requirements.

Continue reading to learn more about the laws and policies that govern licensing, as laid out by the Mississippi State Board of Examiners for Social Workers.

Path to a Mississippi social work license

If you have a bachelor's degree in social work Having a bachelor's degree in social work is the foundation for becoming a social worker, as it qualifies you to apply for a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) certification in Mississippi. If you are interested in pursuing social work, there are steps you can take to make yourself more competitive in the job market.

Once you’ve finished your bachelor’s degree in social work, applied for licensure, passed the ASWB examination, and received your approved license in the mail, you may consider participating in volunteer work to get some more experience under your belt. Professional experience is not required to obtain an LSW, but volunteering is a great way to expand your knowledge and show employers that you are serious about entering the field of social work.

Volunteer work exposes you to a variety settings that can help you determine which environment is best for you. If you have a positive experience volunteering, you can also ask your supervisor for a letter of recommendation, or, better yet, apply for a full-time position within the organization.

If you have a bachelor's degree in a subject other than social work Unfortunately, if you have a bachelor’s degree in a subject other than social work, your degree alone will not qualify you to become a licensed social worker in Mississippi. Don’t let this deter you, however; you still have options.

Having a bachelor’s degree in a non-social work subject will not preclude you from entering an accredited master’s of social work program, though you may need to complete some prerequisite courses prior to applying. If you have a background in a field similar to social work, it may provide some overlap; you’ll just need to make sure that the courses are transferable. Pay close attention to other admissions requirements for your master’s program, such as acceptable scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), minimum GPA, and relevant work experience.

Once you have completed your master’s degree in social work, you will be able to apply to become a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) in Mississippi. Requirements for this type of licensure still include passing the ASWB exam. After receiving your license, you will be ready for the job market.

If you are a licensed social worker, but do not currently live in Mississippi If you are a licensed social worker but live in another state, there is a clear and easy process for obtaining a license in the state of Mississippi. However, you must first ensure that you are eligible to make the move.

The first step is making sure you have a bachelor's or master's degree in social work from an institution accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. You also must verify that you completed an examination for licensure that is endorsed or prescribed by the ASWB. If you are applying for the LCSW, you will need to provide supervision documentation.

Finally, the Mississippi State Board of Examiners will verify whether you have a comparable license in good standing from another state, and registration that imposes standards equal to those of Mississippi.

The Mississippi State Board of Examiners will provide a reciprocity application checklist to help you navigate this process.

Mississippi social work license options

There are three license options in the state of Mississippi. With a bachelor's degree, you can obtain an LSW. With a master's or doctorate degree, you can obtain an LMSW or LCSW.

All licenses require you to submit a request for a background investigation, which includes a $50 fee for your fingerprints to be scanned. Getting fingerprint results can take some time, so you must complete this portion within 180 days of submitting your application.

You must also be 21 years of age, of good moral character, have no pending disciplinary action, and be in compliance with other similar requirements, as specified by the Mississippi State Board of Examiners.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW) An LSW allows you to practice social work in the state of Mississippi at the baccalaureate level. You must graduate from a CSWE accredited college with a bachelor's degree in social work to be eligible for an LSW, but you are not required to complete supervised clinical work. To submit your application for licensure, you will be required to pay a $25 initial application fee. The application process requires that you fill out various forms and submit a photograph of yourself.

After submitting your application package, you will receive Board authorization to schedule and complete the ASWB examination, which will cost $230. When you receive notification that you have passed the exam, you must pay your initial licence fee of $70 to get your license in the mail.

Once you have received your LSW, you will be required to renew it every two years. Renewing this license is contingent upon completing 40 hours of continuing education and paying a $70 renewal fee.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) An LMSW allows individuals to practice social work in the state of Mississippi at the master’s level. To be eligible for an LMSW, you must possess a master's or doctoral degree in social work from a CSWE accredited institution. Like an LSW, you do not need to have supervised clinical work experience to apply for this type of license.

After submitting your application package, you will receive Board authorization to schedule and complete the ASWB examination, which will cost $230. When you receive notification that you have passed the exam, you will pay your initial licence fee of $100 in order to get your license in the mail.

As with the LSW, the LMSW must be renewed every two years. In order to renew, you must complete 40 hours of continuing education and pay a $100 renewal fee.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) The LCSW is the only license that allows you to work independently and advertise yourself to the public as a "clinical social worker." To be eligible for a LCSW, you must complete a master's or doctoral degree in social work from a CSWE accredited institution. You must also be a current LMSW in good standing.

In addition to holding a LMSW, you are required to complete supervised experience hours to satisfy all licensure requirements. The LCSW requires that you complete a minimum of one hour per week of "face to face" supervision over a minimum of 24 months, for a total of 100 hours. You must also complete 1,000 client contact hours. The period of supervision cannot exceed 36 months. More details on supervision requirements are laid out by the Mississippi Board of Examiners for Social Workers.

You are also required to submit three character/professional references from persons in current professional contact with you. At least one of these references must come from a LCSW who is not your direct supervisor.

After submitting your application package, you will receive Board authorization to schedule and complete the ASWB examination, which will cost $260. When you receive notification that you have passed the exam, you will pay a license fee of $100 to get your license in the mail.

The LCSW must also be renewed every two years. In order to renew, license holders must complete 40 hours of continuing education and pay a $100 renewal fee.

In all cases, once you submit your application package, it can take up to two weeks to receive authorization to take the ASWB examination. Once approved, you have one year from the date of your approval letter to complete the ASWB. The exam is conveniently offered five days per week, except on holidays. After one year, your exam authorization will expire and you will be expected to submit a new application and pay an additional fee. In the event you fail the ASWB examination, you will have the opportunity to retake it after 90 days.

Which states share social work licensure reciprocity with Mississippi?

The Mississippi State Board of Examiners does not provide a specific list of states that have licensure reciprocity, however it is possible to apply for licensure by reciprocity/endorsement. To be eligible, you must hold a valid license from another state and meet the following requirements:

The exam you completed for licensure must be endorsed or prescribed by the ASWB. You must have a bachelor's or master's degree in Social Work from an institution accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. You must have a comparable license in good standing or registration from another state that imposes qualifications equal to or greater than those of Mississippi.

Once you have verified your eligibility, you must fill out an initial application form and pay a $25 processing fee, as well as a license fee ($70 for LSW and $100 for LMSW or LCSW). You will also need to fill out a verification of education form, request for fingerprint form, and reciprocity form, which must include supervision documentation if you are applying for an LCSW.

For more details, take a look at the Mississippi State Board of Examiners' reciprocity checklist.

Types of approved Mississippi social work programs

You must have your bachelor’s degree if you want to become a social worker in Mississippi; if you want a higher level licensure, it will require an advanced education. A bachelor’s degree in social work includes coursework from a variety of subjects, including sociology, psychology, economics, and political science. Students are also required to perform field work to gain real-life, practical experience. A master’s degree in social work focuses on subjects such as human behavior, addiction, and diversity. Master’s degree candidates are also required to complete additional fieldwork.

Whether you currently live in Mississippi or are thinking about relocating, there are several options for earning your bachelor's or master's degree online or in person. The Council on Social Work Education offers a directory of accredited programs, detailing which schools will qualify you for licensure. Below, we highlight a few of the programs offered in Mississippi. If you currently live in another state, note that there are programs available all over the country.

  • Delta State University - Degree Level: Bachelor's
  • Jackson State University - Degree Level: Bachelor's and Master's
  • Mississippi College - Degree Level: Bachelor's
  • Mississippi State University, Meridian or Starkville - Degree Level: Bachelor's
  • Mississippi Valley State University - Degree Level: Bachelor's and Master's
  • University of Southern Mississippi - Degree Level: Master's

Although not exhaustive, the Council on Social Work Education also offers a list of accredited online and distance education programs that have asked to be added to their online program list. So if you had your heart set on a specific school, be sure to check the Council on Social Work Education website to see if distance learning might be a viable option. Additionally, make sure to explore our comprehensive guide of online MSW programs (revised April 2018).

The Council on Social Work Education also provides a list of formerly accredited programs, and the time-frame in which they were accredited. This is especially useful for those who earned a degree in social work in the past but never pursued licensure.

Mississippi State Social Work Board & the ASWB Exam

The Mississippi State Board of Examiners is responsible for enforcing the standards for social workers and marriage & family therapists. The Board's goal is to act as a source of information and provide all necessary information to individuals who want to become licensed or who want to continue their licensure. The Board also organizes information and offers resources, such as continuing education options.

Whether you’re aiming for an LSW, LMSW, or LCSW, you must achieve a passing score on the ASWB (Association of Social Work Boards) examination in order to receive your license. To initiate this process, you must first submit an initial application with the Mississippi State Board of Examiners. Once your application has been approved, you will be notified of your eligibility to register for the examination, which will cost $230 or $260, depending on the license level. You can search for a test center through Pearson VUE. Two weeks after the exam, you will receive the official results.

The examination has five categories, which are all based on education and experience. You can find more information about what to study on ASWB's website and in their exam content outlines.

Associate: This ASWB examination was developed for states that allow applicants to obtain a license without a degree in social work. This is not an option in Mississippi.

Bachelor’s: This examination is intended to be taken after completing a bachelor's in social work from an accredited program. It is designed to measure the skills obtained during completion of the program. The examination covers human development, diversity, and behavior in the environment (25 percent); assessment (29 percent); interventions with clients/client systems (26 percent); and professional relationships, values, and ethics (20 percent). This license requires a bachelor's degree.

Master’s: This examination covers human development, diversity, and behavior in the environment (27 percent); assessment and intervention planning (24 percent); interventions with clients/client systems (24 percent); and professional relationships, values, and ethics (25 percent). The license associated with this exam requires a master's degree.

Advanced Generalist: This examination covers human development, diversity, and behavior in the environment (23 percent); intervention processes and techniques for use across systems (32 percent); intervention processes and techniques for use with larger systems (18 percent); and professional relationships, values, and ethics (27 percent). The license associated with this exam requires a master's or doctorate degree.

Clinical: This examination covers human development, diversity, and behavior in the environment (24 percent); assessment, diagnosis, and treatment planning (30 percent); psychotherapy, clinical interventions, and case management (27 percent); and professional values and ethics (19 percent). The license associated with this exam requires a master's or doctorate degree.

Return on investment: What it takes to earn more as a Mississippi social worker

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 4,860 social workers employed in Mississippi in 2017. As referenced in the chart below, the BLS lists four types of social workers, but does not provide much detail on the job level or license type. As you can see, there is a fairly large wage gap depending on the type of work you choose to do as a social worker. Clinical occupations, such as healthcare and mental health/substance abuse, average much higher salaries than child, family, and school social work. This may be an indication of the higher education and license levels required for those professions.

Mississippi State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, May 2017*

Type of social worker Number employed as of May 2017 Average annual salary
Child, family, and school 2,530 $34,930
Healthcare 1,170 $47,540
Mental health and substance abuse 800 $38,640
Other 360 $53,280
Total 4,860 $39,936

*According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of April 2018.

Glassdoor reports that a person with the title Social Worker makes an average of $49,587, while someone with the title Clinical Social Worker makes an average of $51,797. Furthermore, the Social Worker title offers 182 entry-level job opportunities, while the title Clinical Social Worker offers 72 entry-level job opportunities. So although there is no standard salary for the various social work licenses in the state of Mississippi, we see that a baccalaureate level license is tied to more entry-level opportunities with lower pay, and that positions at the clinical level and in healthcare settings receive higher pay.

However you decide to approach your career in social work, there will be future opportunities to further your education and upgrade your license. No matter your license level, working as a social worker is a great way to make a difference in the state of Mississippi and impact the lives of people in need.

Works cited

  • ETS GRE. Retrieved from https://www.ets.org/gre
  • Mississippi State Board of Examiners, Reciprocity Application Checklist. Retrieved from http://www.swmft.ms.gov/sites/default/files/2017-07/RECIPROCITY%20FORM_0.pdf
  • Mississippi State Board of Examiners, Licensure Requirements. Retrieved from http://www.swmft.ms.gov/sites/default/files/Uploads/SOCIAL%20WORK%20LICENSURE%20INFORMATION_0.pdf
  • Mississippi State Board of Examiners, Supervision Requirements. Retrieved from http://www.swmft.ms.gov/sites/default/files/Uploads/PROFESSIONAL%20SUPERVISION%20REQUIREMENTS%20FOR%20LCSW%20LICENSURE.pdf
  • Mississippi State Board of Examiners, Application package. Retrieved from http://www.swmft.ms.gov/sites/default/files/2017-07/2017SW%20Applicant%20Checklist%20Website%20update2_2.pdf
  • Council on Social Work Education, Directory of Accredited Programs. Retrieved from https://www.cswe.org/Accreditation/Directory-of-Accredited-Programs.aspx
  • Mississippi State Board of Examiners for Social Workers and Marriage & Family Therapists. Retrieved from http://www.swmft.ms.gov/
  • Association of Social Work Boards. Retrieved from https://www.aswb.org/
  • Pearson VUE. Retrieved from http://www.pearsonvue.com/aswb/
  • Association of Social Work Boards. Exam Content Outline. Retrieved from https://www.aswb.org/exam-candidates/about-the-exams/exam-content-outlines/
  • Association of Social Work Boards, Bachelors Social Work Licensing Examination Outline. Retrieved from https://www.aswb.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/2018-Bachelors.pdf
  • Association of Social Work Boards, Masters Social Work Licensing Examination Outline. Retrieved from https://www.aswb.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/2018-Masters.pdf
  • Association of Social Work Boards, Advanced Generalist Social Work Licensing Examination Outline. Retrieved from https://www.aswb.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/2018-AG.pdf
  • Association of Social Work Boards, Clinical Social Work Licensing Examination Outline. Retrieved from https://www.aswb.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/2018-Clinical.pdf
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Mississippi. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ms.htm#21-0000
  • Glassdoor. Retrieved from https://www.glassdoor.com/index.htm
  • Indeed. Retrieved from https://www.indeed.com/
Nedda
Nedda Gilbert

Ms. Gilbert is a certified social worker and 30 year educational consultant with an interest in helping college-bound and graduate school students manage the process and stress of admissions effectively. She is one of the senior founding managers of the Princeton Review Test Preparation Company, and the author of The Princeton Review Guide to the Best Business Schools and another book, Business School Essays that Made a Difference (Random House). She is a guest contributor to Forbes Magazine on college and college life. Ms. Gilbert is also certified as a collaborative family law professional in New Jersey. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and MS from Columbia University.