The following guide provides information about how to become a licensed social worker in the state of Georgia. The guide includes information about education requirements, degree programs, and the process for obtaining social work licensure in the state.
CONTENTS OF THIS GUIDE
- How to become a licensed social worker in Georgia
- Online MSW programs in Georgia
- Master’s in social work (MSW) programs in Georgia
- Social work license requirements in Georgia
- Social work jobs in Georgia
- Social worker salary in Georgia
- Social work job outlook in Georgia
Social work in Georgia
Georgia has experienced rapid growth in the last 10 years with the population increasing over nine percent to more than 10 million people. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 13,000 social workers provide services to Georgia’s growing population.
Social workers provide services in a wide variety of settings, serving people in the large urban and expansive rural areas of Georgia.
According to the Census Bureau, Georgia has the eighth highest poverty rate in the United states at over sixteen percent. Fifty-nine counties in Georgia have poverty rates above 25 percent.
Master’s level social workers that work with federal programs such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, local social service agencies, housing advocacy organizations, and other agencies that support low-income families.
Georgia’s population of healthcare uninsured is fifteen percent, higher than the national rate, which is around 8 percent, according to the Census Bureau. Social workers often work with local health organizations, agencies, and hospitals to provide care to people who may arrive with acute health care needs due to lack of insurance. Social workers can play a big role in assessment, service referrals, case management and direct practice treatment in the clinical mental health setting.
These are just a couple of examples of issues that are unique to the state of Georgia where social workers are key practitioners with the agencies that service the population. Georgia is extremely diverse, from rural farms to urban areas, to cultural background, to socioeconomic resources. Social workers provide services across Georgia providing specialized services based on the needs expressed.
How long does an MSW take?
The required number of credits for an MSW degree is 60 hours. Most traditional masters programs have students complete their 60 hours over 4 semesters, typically over 2 years. The University of Georgia has 3-year and 4-year extended programs for working professionals seeking their master’s degree and for people who want an extended field experience.
Some applicants to schools of social work have a bachelor’s of social work (BSW) degree. BSW programs provide students with basic generalist skills to be applied in entry level positions. Students who have a BSW can complete their program in 12 months in an “advanced standing” program. Both the University of Georgia and Valdosta State University offer advanced standing programs.
Online MSW programs in Georgia
There are a number of CSWE accredited MSW programs that offer online course work including University of Georgia, Valdosta State University, and Kennesaw State University, to name a few. Online programs can be a great option for students needing specific accommodations or flexibility when completing coursework.
Some of these programs can be completed entirely remotely while others may require students to attend in person classes or events. Check out our online MSW degree page to learn more.
Master’s in social work programs in Georgia
Most traditional social work jobs in Georgia require a master’s of social work (MSW) degree. The MSW program trains future social workers in important assessment case management and service provision skills in the context of a “person-in-environment model” which takes into account cultural factors that may impact needs.
The licensure process requires social workers to obtain degrees from schools that are accredited by the Council of Social Work Boards (CSWE). THe CSWE had basic academic standards that schools must meet to be accredited including number of internship hours, and specific content that must be covered in coursework. The basic curriculum includes the following:
- Exploration of basic service provision with individuals, families, groups and organizations.
- Use of research methods and understanding of the impact of policy, regulations, and laws on the practice of social work.
- Further course work specific specialization such as clinical work, school social work, organizational or administrative social work, or community organizing.
- Practicing cultural humility and providing culturally responsive practice.
- Electives are often offered in MSW programs to allow students to explore more specific types of social work such as working with families and couples, social work in sports, or grant writing.
- Engaging in hands on social work experience, also called field placement, under the supervision of a professional social worker. The CSWE requires that master’s level social workers complete 900 hours of field work throughout their social work education career.
Social work license requirements in Georgia
There are two licensure options for Georgia social workers: Licensed Masters Social Worker and Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Both options are managed by the Georgia Board of Professional Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage and Family Therapists. Upon application, social workers will need to decide which license is appropriate based on the roles and responsibilities of their job or intended career path. The following describe the licensure requirements:
A Licensed Master’s Social Worker (LMSW) is permitted to provide generalist services that are guided by knowledge of “social resources, social systems, and human behavior.” Generalist services includes “evaluation, prevention and intervention” services such as community organizing, administration, consultation, and supervision of bachelor’s level social workers.
Licensing process for Licensed Master’s Social Workers (LMSW)
- Complete a master’s of social work (MSW) from a CSWE accredited program.
- Within one year of graduating from an MSW program, social workers must apply to take the ABSW Master Social Work licensing examination. If the social worker fails the exam, they must take it again during the next scheduled exam date. Postponement is possible under some circumstances. Social workers can attempt the exam up to three times. If the social worker is unable to pass after three attempts, they are no longer eligible for licensure in the state of Georgia. The Social workers may practice for up to one year following the granting of the MSW degree before taking the LMSW exam.
Licensing process for Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW)
Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW’s) may practice in all of the ways the LMSW are authorized to plus the ability to engage in counseling and psychotherapy. This includes the ability to engage in the evaluation to ascertain mental, cognitive, emotional, behavioral and interpersonal issues or conditions. LCSW’s can also engage in the treatment of such issues or conditions. To obtain a LCSW licenses, social workers must complete the following process:
- Complete a master’s of social work (MSW) from a CSWE accredited program.
- Social workers must complete a minimum three years (a minimum of 3,000 hours) of post-degree supervised social work practice. Supervised hours must be completed in no less than three years time but not more than nine years. The social worker must engage in at least 120 hours of supervising meetings with a supervisor. Up to 60 hours of group supervision is permissible. If the social worker has a doctoral degree in social work or a related program, such as psychology, counseling or medicine, they have to complete 2,000 hours of supervise social work practice with supervision provided by a licensed clinical social worker.
- After completing the previous tasks, the social worker must submit appropriate documentation to the Board. Upon acceptance of that documentation by the Board, they will be eligible to take the ASWB Clinical exam. Upon passing the exam, the social worker is eligible to apply for a license. If the social worker fails the exam, they must take it again during the next scheduled exam date. Postponement is possible under some circumstances. Social workers can attempt the exam up to three times. If the social worker is unable to pass after three attempts, they are no longer eligible for a social work license in the state of Georgia.
Social work jobs in Georgia
Georgia continues to experience consistent population growth and with this growth, demand of social workers in all sectors will continue to expand. Social workers provide services in healthcare facilities, community organizations, advocacy groups, nonprofits and government. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, social work roles in many of these settings will expand.
Social workers will continue to be in high demand in community organizations and are a part of the fabric of our social services system, such as housing rights, affordable housing, food benefits, or public health care may see an uptick in participation and need as job loss continues throughout the pandemic. Other organizations like child protective services and domestic violence centers are needing to come up with new and innovative ways to access patients. Healthcare social workers are essential workers alongside nurses, physicians, and other healthcare staff. While COVID has impacted non-emergency care, emergency services and psychiatric services, where licensed social workers often engage in practice, are still operational and in some ways, continuing to grow.
Social work salary in Georgia
The average salary for all social workers in Georgia is $49,347 according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Social workers in the state of Georgia have salaries that vary widely. The range of average salaries for social work job categories ranges from $42,760 to $73,830.
Key factors that affect social work salaries include:
- Education level As mentioned above, most social workers practicing direct case management have a master’s of social work degree (MSW).
- Licensure level While some organizations that hire social workers may not require a license, most master’s level social work jobs require either a LMSW or an LCSW if it’s a clinical role.
- Years of experience Like many other professional fields, social workers with more experience generally make more. According to the Indeed data, the average salary for a social worker with one year of experience in Georgia is $58,196 while the social workers with 10 years of experience make an average of $74,595 according to the employment website, Indeed.
- Location Social workers near major urban areas such as Atlanta, higher average salaries than social workers in more rural areas of Georgia.
- Area of practice Social workers are paid differently depending on the specialty. Here is a breakdown of average wage estimates in Georgia by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- $44,680: Child, family, and school social workers
- $54,400: Healthcare social workers
- $42,760: Mental health and substance abuse social workers
- $73,830: All other social workers
Social work job outlook in Georgia
Georgia’s Department of Labor (GDOL) anticipates that the employment of social workers will increase by 16 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is much faster than other professions.
Specifically, child, family and school social workers have a 14 percent growth expectation by 2026 as services related to parenting, school supports, and child protective services are expected to respond to the growth in the state.
Mental health and substance abuse is another service area that is projected to require more licensed social workers. Even prior to COVID, a 19 percent growth rate was predicted for mental health and substance use disorder treatment services by 2026. In the age of COVID, it’s quite possible that this growth will increase.