This guide will provide you with all the resources you need to complete a Florida social work program or acquire a social work license in the state. Master’s in social work (MSWs) are emphasized because of their necessity for social work licensure and their overall popularity — you’ll need one if you want to practice social work in a clinical setting.
CONTENTS OF THIS GUIDE
- Social work in Florida
- MSW programs
- How to become a social worker
- License requirements
- Social worker jobs and salary
- Job outlook
- School listings
Social work in Florida
Florida currently has over 21 million residents, and a majority of these are aging, already retired, or are immigrants from Caribbean or Central American countries. This means that Florida is a state in dire need of significant social work assistance, and this need will become even more pronounced over the next few decades.
For instance, according to the American Immigration Council, more than one in five Florida residents are immigrants. As of 2018, immigrants comprise 21 percent of the population, with top countries of origin including Cuba, Haiti, Colombia, Mexico, and Jamaica.
Both groups – the elderly and immigrants to America – represent different needs in social work contexts. For instance, the elderly or retiree population of Florida will need social work assistance over the next few decades in order to maintain a high quality of life or cope with various aspects of the aging process.
Indeed, healthcare social workers should see plenty of employment opportunities over the foreseeable future just because more people are living longer in America overall. The elderly will need more and more care the older they get, as well.
Meanwhile, Florida’s immigrant population requires help integrating into the broader culture and population throughout the state. This may involve help with translating, assistance with managing cultural expectations or missed indications, finding employment, and more.
To tackle the need for new social workers, Florida has plenty of top-tier social work programs to help educate and prepare aspiring social work professionals.
MSW programs in Florida
Florida, like most states in the US, provides a number of different of master’s in social work (MSW) programs across its state and private universities. This is because individuals need a master’s degree in the field in order to achieve state licensure or to practice clinical social work.
There are bachelor’s degrees in social work as well, although these only allow you to attain a lower level of certification or operate as part of a social work team instead of directing your own practice.
MSW programs in Florida incorporate both coursework and practical or clinical work hours. The latter is required for licensure, as they provide aspiring social workers with the hands-on experience they need to adequately take care of their patients/clients.
The hours and focuses of different MSW programs will vary from school to school. Instead of standardized course offerings, most universities follow the advice of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), which helps oversee various social work programs to ensure that they meet an adequate level of rigor and are up-to-date with modern social work practices.
CSWE-accredited MSW programs will include:
- Generalized social work coursework that goes over tons of in-depth social work topics. These might include clinical setting practices or writings, social work ethics and policies, social work research practices, conflict management and resolution, and more
- Some MSW programs will also include specialized coursework if the program in question allows a student to focus on a particular area in the social work field. These usually pertain to one of the four major types of social workers, like healthcare social workers
- MSW programs also almost always include clinical experience opportunities or requirements. These require students to head to a nearby clinical setting and practice social work under the guidance or observation of a licensed professional. In most cases, these MSW programs also include enough clinical hours so that a graduate automatically qualifies for the licensure test
- Most MSW programs will also include opportunities for students to take electives to round out their education or focus even further on a particular field
Once a student graduates from an accredited MSW program, and once they have enough clinical training hours under his or her belt, they can take the Florida licensure test and become a fully licensed social worker.
It is important to note that MSW programs need to have CSWE accreditation in order for graduates to be eligible for state licensing exams. Some universities may have more than one program; for instance, the University of South Florida’s Miami Campus offers three separate MSW programs due to its proximity to Florida’s major metropolitan areas.
Florida State University also offers an MSW program, featuring flexible class scheduling and even a part-time option if a student is also a busy professional. Students can complete MSW programs either over six years (if they don’t already have a bachelor’s degree), or they can complete the program in two years or less in an “advanced standing” program that takes existing social work experience or completed classes into account.
Online MSW programs in Florida
Aspiring social workers in Florida also have the opportunity to attend online MSW programs. Online MSW programs are functionally identical to their in-person counterparts when it comes to the actual coursework, but the main difference is reflected in how clinical hours are logged.
In most cases, students are still required to complete a certain number of clinical practice hours to attain their degree. Online students will most often be able to log those hours at nearby clinical locations that are easier to reach from their homes. For instance, if you take the online program from Florida State University but live far away from the main campus, you could still log your clinical hours at a nearby hospital or social work clinic and have them count.
Online programs can be beneficial, as many of them are offered in part-time or flexible formats. These can be completed over more years than in-person degrees most of the time, too.
Online Florida social work programs come in two major types:
- Florida universities may offer in-person and online versions of the same program. The Florida State University program is an example of this. The high-quality online program they offer also includes a clinically focused licensure pathway, plus a part-time scheduling option for busy professionals.
- Students can also find online MSW programs offered by universities outside Florida. This may be a great option if you want the best of the best education and don’t think you can find it within Florida itself. You’ll still log your clinical hours at nearby medical centers.
Some additional examples of online Florida MSWs include:
- The University of Central Florida’s program can be pursued in either part-time or part-time advanced standing formats. The latter option is a great fit if you already have some work experience in social work, which may allow you to get your degree in a shorter timeframe
- The University of South Florida provides a full-time online program option, with part-time and advanced standing options as well. It emphasizes the clinical components of social work
How to become a social worker in Florida
There are two main educational pathways you can take to become a social worker in Florida. The majority of jobs require licensing, so most future social workers will take the second path.
Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW)
This social worker has a degree emphasizing clinical practice and administration. However, this type of social worker doesn’t have licensure to provide clinical services. In addition to an MSW, you’ll also need three credits of coursework in eight different social work subject areas. Here are all the steps:
- Finish three years of supervised and nonclinical social work experience, or 4,500 documented hours. Of the required hours, 3,000 must be earned after obtaining your master’s degree
- Submit an application for a CMSW license, complete the form, and return it to the licensing board with a $205 application and license fee
- Complete the ASWB (Association of Social Work Boards) advanced generalist exam; this contains 170 multiple-choice questions and costs and $260
- Receive your CMSW license
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
This career is the de facto choice for most social workers, as it allows you to practice in a clinical setting or run your own social work clinic. It requires 24 additional credits that cover clinically oriented human behavior and social work practicing methods, and the MSW program has to include a clinical practicum section. Follow these steps to become an LCSW:
- Finish two years of supervised medical social work experience. Of the required hours, 1,500 must be direct clinical work with clients, and 100 hours of those have to be under face-to-face supervision
- Finish any required for mental courses. In Florida, these are three supplemental courses on social work rules and laws, HIV and AIDS, and domestic violence
- Submit your application for an LCSW license to the board, and pay the $180 application and licensing fees
- Complete the ASWB clinical exam, which costs $260
You can also pursue a social work PhD either in Florida or beyond. But remember that you don’t need a PhD to become a licensed social worker. Additionally, most PhD programs focus more on the research or policy-setting aspects of social work instead of directly helping individuals.
Social work license requirements in Florida
Social work licensing requirements vary from state to state. These are Florida’s requirements according to the Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage & Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling:
- Have a master’s or doctoral degree from a CSWE-accredited degree program in social work
- Take 24 credit hours with specific classes, along with a class on the theory of human behavior
- The MSW program has to include practical areas for clinically oriented services
- Graduates have to take two years of supervised clinical experience under the direct supervision of a LCSW
- These years must include 1,500 hours of face-to-face psychotherapy or clinical experience with patients
- Graduates must submit to a board examination in state law, social work, and training courses
Note that Florida requires all licensed social workers to take 30 hours of continuing education credits every two years. Six of these might be administrative hours.
Social worker jobs and social worker salary in Florida
Currently, social workers are experiencing an employment boom across the country. This has had ramifications on the average salary that Florida social workers can expect.
The average national salary for social workers is $50,470 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The BLS breaks social work employment in Florida and salary data into four main categories, which are outlined below. The average annual salary for social workers in Florida ranges from $42,260 to $52,700.
- Healthcare social workers are the most numerous of all four major types in Florida, totaling 10,690. Healthcare social workers earn an average annual salary of $52,700 every year and an hourly salary of $25.34.
- Child, family, and school social workers in Florida number 10,650 according to the most recent BLS data. Child, family, and school social workers earn an average annual salary of $42,260 per year in the state, with an hourly wage of $20.32.
- Mental health and substance abuse social workers account for 4380 professionals in the state. They earn an average annual salary of $43,100 in Florida, with an hourly salary of $20.72.
- All other social workers, which is a catchall term for social workers that do not neatly fit in the other categories, account for 3,880 social workers in Florida. This category earns an average yearly salary of $51,980 and an hourly salary of $24.99.
Job outlook for social workers in Florida
Ultimately, the BLS shows predicted growth for social work in Florida. The overall employment of social workers across the country is supposed to grow by 11 percent over the next eight years. This is much higher than the average growth rate of only five percent for other occupations.
All told, this will result in approximately 707,000 new social workers being needed by 2028. As a result, any aspiring social workers in Florida should expect optimistic job opportunities and listings over the next few years. These numbers may be even higher depending on how well the population ages and how many immigrants continue to flow into the state.