This detailed guide will break down all that you need to know about becoming a social worker in Iowa and what social work programs you can pursue, both in person and through the online format. The guide will also focus on MSWs or master’s in social work since these advanced degrees are required to obtain a clinical social work license.
CONTENTS OF THIS GUIDE
- Social work in Iowa
- MSW programs
- How to become a social worker
- License requirements
- Social worker jobs and salary
- Job outlook
- Expert advice
Social work in Iowa
As a state with some of the richest farmland in North America, Iowa is largely a rural area with few metropolitan hubs: traditionally the largest source of social worker employment. Iowa also has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country on average (not accounting for recent COVID-19-related job loss).
mastersinsocialworkonline.org is an advertising-supported site. Clicking in this box will show you programs related to your search from schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other information published on this site.
Featured Online MSW Programs
|School Name||Program||More Info|
|University of Southern California (USC)||Accredited Online MSW from Top-Ranked USC||website|
|Aurora University||Online MSW With 7 Track Options||website|
|Saint Mary's University of Minnesota||Full or Part-Time Online MSW||website|
|University of Kentucky||CSWE Accredited Online MSW Program||website|
|Case Western Reserve University||Earn a CSWE-Accredited MSW Online||website|
|Syracuse University||Online MSW Program—CSWE Accredited||website|
This does suggest that it’s an excellent environment for social workers that are licensed in the state, as they’re more likely to enjoy full-time employment compared to social workers in some other states.
More specifically, social workers in Iowa will be mostly asked to focus on the same kinds of social ills that plague other rural states, like drug abuse, child abuse, and family therapy. Social workers who focus on these aspects of the profession will find multiple opportunities.
Furthermore, social workers will be in perfect positions to facilitate community outreach programs and bind disparate people and families together across larger geographic distances.
MSW programs in Iowa
MSWs, or master’s in social work degrees, are the credentials required for obtaining a clinical license. These are advanced degrees and normally require either a bachelor’s degree in social work or a few staple or cornerstone classes under a student’s belts before they may be pursued.
Furthermore, MSW degrees accredited by the Council on Social Work Education are particularly valuable and are almost always necessary to meet the requirements to become a licensed clinical social worker. So these programs are prioritized by all serious social work students.
CSWE-accredited MSW programs include:
- Focused and modern classes that cover core social work concepts. These classes are periodically updated so that new social workers practice the discipline correctly and with modern attitudes and sensibilities
- Certain classes will also be offered that allow you to specialize your social work efforts. Examples include healthcare or mental health
- All MSW programs will require that a certain number of clinical or practical hours be completed at a physical clinic or medical center to graduate
- Most programs also offer the opportunity to complete electives if you want to round out your education or earn a secondary degree
Despite its rural characteristics, Iowa has more MSW degree options that many other states, with six options available overall. Four of these are available for on-campus students only. Examples include Clarke University, which offers a hybrid weekend program and an advanced standing program for students that already have some social work credits under their belts.
Saint Ambrose University is another option. Located in Davenport, Iowa, it offers full-time, part-time, and advanced standing program options for its students. Additionally, students can pursue dual degrees and acquire either a master’s in business administration or a master’s of public health.
Online MSW programs in Iowa
Many more students will choose to take online MSW programs. Online programs are advantageous because they allow you to complete your degree requirements at a part-time or relaxed schedule, especially compared to on-campus programs. These online programs also allow you to complete work or focus on your family life without stopping degree progress entirely.
Furthermore, online MSW programs don’t ignore academic rigor or practical/clinical hours. Instead of attending the clinical hours at a medical center partnered with a university, online MSW students will complete their clinical hours at local medical centers or clinics relative to their location. This grants students additional flexibility as they complete the degree requirements.
Iowa has two online MSW programs to choose from. The first of these is from the University of Iowa, and it offers the MSW credential in a variety of scheduling formats, and in both regular and advanced standing varieties.
The University of Northern Iowa is another example, and it also offers traditional and advanced standing options depending on your experience level.
How to become a social worker in Iowa
Social workers in Iowa can practice under three levels of certification. Unlike some other states, you can acquire social work jobs with only a bachelor’s degree in the subject as you further your education up to the MSW level.
Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW)
This earliest form of social work licensure allows you to practice under the supervision of other licensed social workers. However, you can’t practice by yourself and it’s most often used as a temporary license on the path to MSW degree completion.
- Submit your LBSW application to the Association of Social Work Board (ASWB). This can be done either with an online form or by mailing a physical copy into the Board. Either way, it costs $120
- Pass the ASWB Bachelor’s Exam, which costs $230 and which has 170 multiple-choice questions
- Receive your license if you pass the exam
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)
This is an advanced type of licensure that allows social workers to perform advanced treatments and procedures for clients. Such social workers can also offer assistance with diagnosis and treatment planning. You must have an MSW, but don’t have to have all of your clinical practice hours completed for this credential.
- Submit your LMSW application to the Board and pay the $120 fee
- Pass the ASWB Master’s Exam, which costs $230 and which has 170 questions
- Receive your license if you pass the exam
Licensed Independent Social Worker
This credential is equivalent to the LCSW commonly found in other states. It allows social workers who hold it to practice clinically and independently all across Iowa.
- Submit your application to the Board and pay the $120 fee
- Earn all of the required experience and clinical practice hours
- Pass the ASWB Clinical Exam, which costs $260 and which has 170 questions
- Receive your license if you pass the exam
Social work license requirements in Iowa
The Iowa Board of Social Work is responsible for outlining social work credential requirements in this state. According to them, LISWs must accumulate 4,000 hours of social work experience after their master’s degree is completed. These 4,000 hours must be finished within six years and no earlier than two years.
All social workers must also have 110 hours supervised by an LISW who has been licensed for three years already and who has completed supervision training.
Furthermore, all Iowa social workers have to renew their licenses every two years. Fees are $72, $120, and $144 for each level of licensure. Additionally, social workers must complete 27 hours of continuing education credits every two years.
Social worker jobs and social worker salary in Iowa
The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides detailed salary information for Iowa social workers and salaries at the national level. They break down social workers into four major types:
- Child, family, and school social workers should expect an annual salary of $46,400 and an hourly wage of $22.31. These social workers number 2,620 at the moment.
- Healthcare social workers can expect an annual salary of $53,800 and an hourly wage of $25.86. There are 1,230 healthcare social workers practicing in Iowa as of last count.
- Mental health and substance abuse social workers can expect an annual salary of $47,720 and an hourly wage of $22.94. There are only 720 of these social workers in Iowa.
- All other social workers should expect an annual salary of $60,070 and an hourly wage of $28.88. There are 530 social workers that fit in this category in Iowa.
These salaries are quite competitive given that the national average salary for social workers is around $50,000.
Job outlook for social workers in Iowa
It’s difficult to determine the outlook for social workers in Iowa specifically, but social workers should expect a national increase in available positions of about 90,700 by 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many of these may open up in Iowa over the next few years.
Remember, Iowa has a very low unemployment rate relative to the rest of the country. This means that open social worker positions will fill up quickly and won’t be vacated anytime soon. Thus, Iowa may be a good state for social workers looking for long-term employment or an opportunity to climb up the experience ladder without having to jump from position to position.
Ultimately, social workers in Iowa can expect a great salary and solid employment prospects across the board.
Social Work Programs in Iowa
1. What are the most important factors for students deciding on an MSW program in Iowa?
2. What are the challenges or opportunities for becoming a social worker in Iowa?
3. What does the future of social work look like in Iowa?
What are the most important factors for students deciding on an MSW program in Iowa?
Students need to think about what they are interested in (i.e. populations, specialized coursework, field placement opportunities, etc.) and what they ultimately want to do with their degree. Programs have different specializations and strengths that will appeal to students with different educational and practice goals. Students should also spend some time thinking about what is most important to them, like opportunities to be mentored or involvement in research projects, as well as considering personal factors, like cost, location, class times, face-to-face vs. virtual courses, etc. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the graduate program admissions person to ask questions and determine if the program is a good fit for you.
What are the challenges or opportunities for becoming a social worker in Iowa?
Iowa is currently experiencing a mental health crisis with a shortage of qualified mental health practitioners, particularly in rural areas. There are strong opportunities for employment in these areas. That being said, Iowa privatized Medicaid in 2016. The difficulties in providers being paid by the private companies for services rendered has led to numerous providers no longer offering services to Medicaid clients and has resulted in many agencies having to close. The privatization of Medicaid affects clients across the scope of social work practice, including mental health, disability services, gerontological care, substance treatment, child welfare, and the justice system.
What does the future of social work look like in Iowa?
The current governor, Kim Reynolds, has said that she is committed to addressing the mental health crisis in the state and the lack of accessible, qualified providers. While she has made some small steps in the right direction, the Republican controlled state legislature struggles to recognize and respond to the needs of the state. Over the past few years, the legislature has repeatedly considered ending licensure for social workers and similar professions in the state. In the most recent legislative session, the state struggled to understand the importance of providers receiving equal insurance rates for doing tele-health as in-person therapy and also tried to make providers, including social workers, liable to lawsuits and punishment for treating children identifying as transgender.
Do you have advice or guidance for MSW graduates pursuing a license in Iowa?
There are a number of issues with the licensure exam and whether or not it actually measures competency to practice. That being said, I would suggest taking the LMSW exam either in the last few months of your MSW program or immediately after graduation. Additionally, it is very hard to study for, because the ASWB closely guards its questions and as designed, every test-taker receives a different set of questions.