The following guide offers an up to date overview of the social work field in Missouri. There is a special focus on MSW programs, as a majority of social work positions require applicants to have a graduate’s degree.
CONTENTS OF THIS GUIDE
- Social work in Missouri
- MSW programs
- Online MSW programs
- How to become a social worker
- License requirements
- Social worker job and salary
- School Listings
- Expert advice
Social work in Missouri
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) there are 16,900 social workers in Missouri. One of the key social issues that these social workers must grapple with is the unusually high incarceration rate in Missouri. In fact, the percentage of people incarcerated in Missouri is higher than the national average for the USA, which is already the country with the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world!
While social workers can engage with prisoners, especially in helping them transition back into society, proactive social workers in Missouri are making a difference by improving the communities that they work in. Drug addiction counseling, connecting community members with public resources and supporting those in need are just some of the ways that social workers can help to keep people out of prison.
For those who would like to have a positive impact on hundreds of people’s lives Missouri is a great place to start. Thanks to a low cost of living and low barrier to entry for social work, Missouri presents itself favorably as a state to begin a social work career in.
MSW programs in Missouri
The most important factor when considering which MSW program to apply to is the The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accreditation. A CSWE accreditation guarantees that a MSW program is teaching an approved curriculum in line with modern social work standards. Furthermore, many social work positions specify that the candidate must have graduated from a CSWE approved institution.
Park University offers one of the most popular CSWE certified MSW programs in Missouri. Students who take the program can specialize in one of three areas.
- Gerontological social work
- Military social work
- Social work with children and families
There is also an advanced standing program for students with an undergraduate degree in social work. Instead of the normal 60 credit hours an advanced standing student can graduate with just 33 credit hours of study. Students in either program should expect an education that includes both classroom study as well as hands on field work.
Social work students in Missouri can also study for an MSW degree at Saint Louis University’s school of social work. The program is ideal for working professionals, as the class schedule is deliberately flexible. Some classes can be taken online, others are available at night or on the weekends.
According to Saint Louis University’s website their MSW program, “prepares social work professionals for work with vulnerable populations facing health, social and economic challenges.”
Online MSW programs in Missouri
For students who would prefer to complete their education online, the Missouri State School of Social Work offers an online CSWE-accredited MSW program that is completely online. The program is designed to meet the needs of a wide variety of students and is available in four different formats.
- Advanced standing full-time
- Advanced standing part-time
- Regular full-time
- Regular part-time
All of the programs place a special emphasis on economic and environmental issues, client advocacy and the eradication of racism in the community. Many students will qualify for financial aid and more information about scholarships and grants is available here.
The University of Missouri also offers a 100 percent online MSW program. Similar to other schools there is an advanced standing program that only requires the student to take 39 credit hours to obtain their MSW. The regular program requires 60 credit hours of study.
Besides Missouri this online program is also available to students living in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Illinois. All of these states have the same tuition costs, there is no additional fee for out of state students. According to the University of Missouri the average cost for their online MSW program is $28,185.
For a complete list of online MSW programs in Missouri, as well as other programs throughout the United States, please check our online MSW degree page.
How to become a social worker in Missouri
Although Missouri allows bachelor’s degree holders to become licensed social workers, in this article we’ll focus on the steps that MSW graduates can take to enter into the field of social work.
- Graduate with a MSW degree from a CSWE certified university.
- Pay the $230 testing fee and take the ASWB exam. The exam consists of 170 questions of which only 150 are graded.
- Pass a background check.
- Master’s degree holders can then apply for a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) certification.
- At this point the LMSW license holder can perform unsupervised social work in Missouri.
- Or, a social worker with the LMSW license has the option to perform 3,000 hours of supervised clinical social work. Upon completing those hours they may apply for a Licensed Clinical Social Worker license. Once this is granted the LCSW license holder can practice unsupervised, clinical social work.
Missouri is unique in that social workers with a MSW degree can begin working unsupervised immediately after graduation. That’s different from other states, many of which require a social worker to accrue 3,000 hours of supervised experience before they can work unsupervised.
While a social worker with a MSW degree will have a lot of flexibility in the work that they do, there are certain tasks which require a PhD. For instance, managing a community center or performing statistical analysis. Social workers interested in this kind of work should consider a doctorate degree. More information on a PhD in social work can be found on our doctorate degree page. Also listed are some of the most popular PhD social work programs available in the United States.
Social work license requirements in Missouri
The official state licensing board website is the best place to find out more information about social work licensure in Missouri. That being said, we can also provide a summary of the four types of licenses available to social workers in Missouri.
Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)
Of the four licenses the LBSW is the only one available to bachelor’s degree holders. LBSW license holders can perform a wide variety of social work activities, however, many tasks will need to be supervised. After the license holder has accumulated enough supervised hours they may request to have their license upgraded so that they can work without supervision.
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)
This is the first license that a MSW graduate will apply for. The LMSW permits the license holder to practice unsupervised social work. The LMSW license holder may also practice clinical social work but only under supervision.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
A LMSW license holder may apply for the LCSW license after they have completed 3,000 hours of supervised social work. With a LCSW license a social worker can perform clinical social work without supervision. In order to qualify for a LCSW license a social worker must already have a LMSW license.
Licensed Advanced Macro Social Worker (LAMSW)
LAMSW license holders can engage in policy development and community organization. To apply for this license a social worker should already have a LMSW license and a certain number of supervised, macro social work hours.
License renewal in Missouri
A social work license must be renewed once every two years in Missouri. Before they can renew their license the social worker should complete 30 hours of ongoing education in topics like ethics and suicide prevention. More information about the ongoing education requirement is available here.
Social worker jobs and salary in Missouri
In total there are currently 16,900 social workers employed in Missouri. Thanks to data provided by the BLS we can break down these employment figures to show the type of job and total number of social workers in that field.
According to the BLS the average salary for a social worker in the state of Missouri is $42,728.
There is a salary range of $38,170 for child, family and school social workers to $60,770 for social workers in all other fields. Below is a breakdown of the type of social work and the average salary in Missouri.
- Child, family, and school social worker: This category is the most numerous with 8,090 social workers employed. The average salary for this group is $38,170.
- Mental health and substance abuse social worker: There are 1,960 mental health and substance abuse social workers in Missouri, with an average salary of $41,050
- Healthcare social worker: Also a group of social workers that has a high level of employment in the state, 6,230 healthcare social workers in Missouri, make an average of $47,380.
- Social worker all other: There are 620 social workers in this category, which includes the kinds of social work that doesn’t neatly fit into other categories, such as researchers, administrators, and social workers in private practice. This group makes an average salary of $60,770.
Social Work Programs in Missouri
- What are the most important factors for students deciding on an MSW program in Missouri?
- What are the challenges or opportunities for becoming a social worker in Missouri?
- What does the future of social work look like in Missouri?
- What types of jobs are MSW graduates finding in Missouri?
What are the most important factors for students deciding on an MSW program in Missouri?
In social work education, bigger is not necessarily better. Larger, better known MSW programs may have fancy facilities, media presence, and big budgets, but they often place their priorities on research and scholarship as well as large student enrollments at the expense of quality instruction. It is important that social work develops an evidence-based practice, but if we turn out poorly trained social workers then no amount of research is going to improve the quality of social work services.
Individuals looking for career advancement in social work should attend an MSW program managed by faculty members who not only have practice experience and expertise but who also know how to teach. Beyond this, social work faculty members must walk the talk, consistently demonstrating respect, caring, open-mindedness, and compassion for their students and others.
There is something to be said about small class size and smaller graduate programs. Faculty get to know students on a personal basis, offering support during their educational journey. This can include providing students with customized services such as individualized advising, experiential learning opportunities, mentoring, and licensing test preparation.
Cost is important, but students need to know that many public universities are quickly becoming private institutions because of a significant decrease in public and state fiscal support. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated this process. Moreover, larger social work programs contain hidden fees and other expenses that are not typically found in smaller programs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021), social work employment is projected to grow 13 percent from 2019 to 2029. Because MSWs have flexibility in what they can do, job opportunities tend to be more variable than in other disciplines. For example, a social work graduate specializing in health, mental health, addictions treatment, or behavioral health care will probably have an easier time finding a job compared to someone looking to land a position as a policy analyst or community organizer.
What are the challenges or opportunities for becoming a social worker in Missouri?
There are ample opportunities for social workers in Missouri. The state is anchored on the west by Kansas City and the east by Saint Louis—both are major metropolitan areas. In between is Columbia, Missouri and slightly to the south is Jefferson City, the state capitol. Everything else in Missouri is rural.
The residents of the state need social workers. Missouri ranks fifth in the nation in terms of obesity among high school students (CDC, 2021). The teenage birth rate is 21.6 births per 1,000 females between the ages of 15 and 19 (CDC, 2021). The infant mortality rate is 6.3 infant deaths per 1,000 live births (CDC, 2021). In Missouri, there are 3.0 divorces per 1,000 (CDC, 2021). The leading causes of death include heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, accidents, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, kidney disease, influenza/pneumonia, and suicide (CDC, 2021). The drug overdose death rate is 27.5 per 100,000 (CDC, 2021). The firearm death rate is 21.5 per 100,000, and the homicide rate is 11.4 per 100,000 (CDC, 2021).
One challenge is the fundamental value base of social work, which is liberal and progressive. This puts social work at odds with the political views of many Missourians and the residents of other midwestern states like Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska, who are politically conservative or libertarian. In short, social work ideals and social work as a professional may not be viewed favorably by the public, including the press and politicians. It is a very real challenge that social workers face in today’s economic and political environments.
What does the future of social work look like in Missouri?
Although the workplace in Missouri has been altered by the pandemic, social work graduates who are competent, flexible, adaptive, and open to learning will find jobs. It helps if a social worker knows how to network. Those who are willing to move to a different community within the state will find they have more options. According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (2021), from 2018 to 2028 the demand for social workers in general will increase approximately 10.64 percent. For those in working in the field of addiction treatment and behavioral health, the demand will grow by 21.77 percent.
What types of jobs are MSW graduates finding in Missouri?
Graduates are finding positions in child welfare, health care, public health, mental health, behavioral health, corrections, schools, and the military.
Do you have advice or guidance for MSW graduates pursuing a license in Missouri?
Contact the Missouri Division of Professional Registration and the Committee for Social Workers. Download and complete the application materials for the LMSW license. Assemble all your materials and submit them as a packet with fee payment. Complete the mandatory background check. Arrange for the university where you earned your MSW to send a copy of your transcript to the state. The state will then notify you to contact the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) to schedule the licensing examination. In the interim, you should review your textbooks, class notes, and other materials to prep for the text. The ASWB also provides materials that are helpful. If you can find one to two study partners, you will find the process to be much easier. You also have the option of paying $85 to take an online practice test through ASWB. Find ways to manage your anxiety (e.g., relaxation, mindfulness, focusing, thought-stopping, etc.) Arrive at the test site early. Make sure you have eaten, are well-hydrated, got a good night’s rest, and feel well physically.