This guide has everything you need to know about social work programs in Texas. We emphasize master’s in social work (MSW) programs because of their popularity and applicability to obtaining a social work license, which is needed if you want to practice social work in a clinical setting.
CONTENTS OF THIS GUIDE
- Social Work in Texas
- MSW programs
- How to become a social worker
- License requirements
- Social worker salary and jobs
- Job outlook
- School listings
- Expert Advice
Social work in Texas
As one of the southernmost states in the US, Texas also shares a vast border with Mexico. At the time of this writing, significant social welfare services are needed to serve immigrants coming from countries like Mexico, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Language barriers, immunization issues, and mental health concerns will all play a role in the tasks social workers tackle within the Lone Star State.
In addition, the population of Texas is growing at about twice the national average. Substance abuse issues play a significant role in the state as well.
Even with all these potential difficulties, Texas can be a rewarding place in which to pursue social work. There are plenty of excellent social work programs within the state, and a generally low cost of living means that social workers can have a high quality of life in almost any position.
Ultimately, Texas is likely going to be the forefront of significant social work developments over the next few decades. It’s a good place for young social work professionals to jump into hard, but rewarding work.
MSW programs in Texas
As is the case with most clinical social work positions across the country, the majority of Texas social work positions also require a master’s of social work (MSW). In a nutshell, an MSW is a professional degree that combines both academic or classwork experience with clinical or fieldwork experience. Upon graduating, aspiring social workers will be eligible for licensing examinations so long as they’ve completed a set number of clinical hours.
The actual classes, hours, and other inclusions within an MSW program can vary from university to university. There are no standardized course offerings, although general curriculums will be relatively similar to one another. This is because all MSW programs need to prepare a student for social work licensure, which carries with it set requirements. Accredited MSW programs will usually include:
- General coursework. These courses cover a variety of social work topics. Topics available include case management, clinical setting writing, ethics, social work policies, social work research practices, etc.
- Specialized coursework. Specialized courses are most often included with MSW programs that allow aspiring social workers to focus on a particular field of social work. For instance, students may take dedicated classes that enable them to become a child, family and school social worker.
- Fieldwork. All MSW programs will include hands-on clinical experience requirements. These generally average anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent of a program’s hours. Some MSW programs require enough hours to fulfill state licensing requirements, meaning graduates can take licensing tests immediately after graduation.
- Electives. All MSW programs will usually include elective credits to let students specialize even further or pursue other subjects for general academic fulfillment.
Regardless of the exact program’s specifications, social workers who complete an MSW degree in Texas can eventually proceed to the next step of obtaining a clinical license, which requires a set number of professional hours of study and that they pass a state-mandated exam.
There are several universities within Texas that offer accredited MSW programs. The University of Texas at Austin, for instance, includes an MSW program that requires 60 credit hours total across two concentrations: clinical social work, or administration and policy practice. It’s a flexible program that can be completed within 1 to 3.5 years depending on background and experience.
The Denton Campus in the the University of North Texas system, meanwhile, offers a comprehensive MSW program. Standard and advanced standing formats are available, the latter of which allows you to graduate ahead of time based on your prior coursework and professional experience.
Online MSW programs in Texas
There are also plenty of online MSW programs that will allow you to get your degree while working a job or managing other obligations. Online MSW programs in Texas still require a fieldwork component, but you’ll be able to log these clinical hours at nearby clinics or social work settings. Many online programs have longer program completion windows — sometimes courses can be taken over five or six years instead of the normal one to two, which also makes the online MSW programs more flexible.
These Texas online MSW programs exist in three general formats or options.
- Traditional Texas-based schools that have an online component. Some of these programs, like the University of Texas, Arlington, are open to Texas residents only. Other schools in Texas, like the University of Houston, or Texas State University, offer online programs with full-time and part-time options.
- Colleges and universities outside of the state that admit students from Texas. There are a number of really good options that fit this category, ranging from top-tier MSW programs to popular state schools. The key part of finding the right fit is to confirm that students from Texas are eligible for out-of-state online programs.
- Hybrid programs are offered at the University of Texas, Arlington and the University of Houston. Hybrid MSW programs in Texas require some on-campus time (usually 30 to 50 percent of the coursework is completed in-person) and some online learning. Increasingly, hybrid programs are offering more flexibility, like Saturday classes, for example, to accommodate busy student schedules.
How to become a licensed social worker in Texas
Texas offers a series of licensed social worker pathways depending on your educational level and your desired career. In general, social work licences with higher requirements lead to better pay and positions with more responsibility. The four levels of social work licences in Texas are licensed baccalaureate social worker (LSBW), licensed master social worker (LMSW), licensed master social worker with an advanced practitioner specialty (LMSW-AP), and licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).
The first three levels of social work do not require clinical supervised experience, but also do not let you practice independently in a clinical setting. Thus, your career options are much more limited.
Licensed baccalaureate social worker
- Obtain a bachelor’s in social work either online or on-campus
- Complete the Texas online jurisprudence exam
- Complete a Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners (TSBSWE) application for social work licensing
- Complete all licensing requirements, including a photo ID with your full name
- Wait for board approval
- If approved, take the AWSB bachelor’s exam and pass it
Licensed master social worker
- Obtain an MSW and obtained transcripts verifying the program’s completion
- Take the online jurisprudence exam
- Complete the application for social work licensing in Texas along with all of the necessary verification
- Submit to a criminal history evaluation
- Take and pass the ASWB master’s exam
Licensed master social worker – advanced practitioner
- Become an LMSW
- Acquire enough supervisory nonclinical experience to be eligible for the advanced practitioner license
- Submit your application for an upgrade to your social work license
- Complete the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam
Licensed clinical social worker
This last social worker pathway is the only path if you want to work as a social worker in a clinical context. You must have an MSW from an institution already accredited by the CSWE or Council on Social Work Education. After obtaining this certification, you can practice independently.
- Acquire an MSW and the requisite supervised clinical experience for licensure as an LCSW
- Submit an application upgrade your licensure
- Take and pass the ASWB Clinical exam
In addition to all these licensed social worker pathways, you’ll also have the opportunity to proceed into a social work PhD program after obtaining a master’s degree. A Texas PhD program in social work is ideal if you want to progress in the academic field of social work and participate in a more research-focused context. A PhD does not authorize you to practice social work in a clinical setting.
Social work license requirements in Texas
To obtain full licensure and become an LCSW, Texas has the following requirements:
- You must have a master’s degree from a CWSE-accredited program, which indicates that the program in question contains enough academic rigor and includes a set number of clinical hours
- Texas requires that all LSCW candidates have at least 3000 hours of clinical work, 100 of which are supervised, over 24-40 months
- You must also pass the ASWB clinical exam: this is the most advanced form of the exam. Students can sign up for exams at set dates in clinical settings or at the university where they completed their degree – in fact, some colleges include test-taking days as part of their curriculums. Regardless, students can take the test multiple times but must wait a 90-day period between each attempt. All candidates must achieve a passing score of 70 to qualify for licensing, and the fee is $260 per attempt as of March 2020.
If you complete all three of the above requirements, you’ll attain licensure and become an LCSW in Texas. Note that you will need to renew your license by taking the exam again and/or fulfilling additional requirements if you want to practice social work in another state. You’ll also need to retest or take up-to-date classes reflecting new social work practices every few years to keep your license over the long term.
Social worker jobs and social worker salary in Texas
Social workers make decent salaries throughout Texas, although their overall earnings depend on the type of social work position they take. There are four broad categories of professional social workers. The following job numbers and salary information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Child, family, and school social workers
According to the BLS, there are currently 21,120 child, family, and school social workers in Texas. This group of social workers makes an annual mean wage of $49,060. This translates to an hourly mean wage of $23.59.
Healthcare social workers
There are 10,250 healthcare social workers in Texas. The BLS reports that this group of social workers earn an annual mean wage of $58,430. This translates to an hourly mean wage of $28.09.
Mental health and substance abuse social workers
Approximately 6,010 social workers work in the mental health field. This group of social workers can expect to earn an annual mean wage of $43,170 and an hourly mean wage of $20.75 according to the BLS.
All other social workers
About 2,530 social workers in Texas work in the “all other social workers” category. This group has a combined annual median wage of $60,240 and a median hourly wage of $28.96.
Ultimately, this data is fairly positive compared to the national median salary for social workers, which is only $50,470 per year or $24.26 per hour. This shows the Texas social workers are paid a little bit better than social workers in other states in the country, and it bodes well when you consider that Texas’ average cost of living is a little lower compared to many other states’. Every dollar earned here will go farther, in effect.
Combined, there are 707,400 social workers across the country within all four major categories. While Texas doesn’t have the most social workers out of any state, this is good news for any aspiring social worker as a means there will be available job opportunities immediately upon graduation or acquiring licensure.
You should not have trouble finding a job if you have good grades and passed the licensing exam.
The social work job outlook in Texas
The current job outlook for social workers across the country is fairly positive. Currently, the profession is set to enjoy an 11 percent growth period from 2018 to 2028, which is significantly faster compared to the growth rate for other occupations. This is likely because of the increased demand for healthcare and social services, especially as the average population across the US is getting older as people live longer.
This relates to Texas because many older people within that state will continue to need social services and other healthcare professionals’ help. Additionally, the influx of immigrants from Central and South America is likely to result in more social work services being needed over the next decade rather than less.
Out of all social worker types, healthcare social workers are projected to grow more than the rest at 17 percent over the next eight years. This is significantly faster than other occupations.
All this is to say that social workers will find a plethora of job opportunities within the Lone Star State if they have the degree and license to take advantage of them.
Social Work Programs in Texas
- What are the most important factors for students deciding on an MSW program in Texas?
- What does the future of social work look like in Texas?
- What types of jobs are MSW graduates finding in Texas?
- Do you have advice or guidance for MSW graduates pursuing a license in Texas?
What are the most important factors for students deciding on an MSW program in Texas?
Students can create an excellent career path in social work. There are many different opportunities to do social work including community practice, clinical social work, rural or urban practice and inter-professional teams. Social workers across the state truly make a difference and they are advocates for change. When students contact me about the MSW program, they are mostly interested in making a difference.
I see a passion in students who are interested in social work. Not only to make a difference, but also to contribute to a better society and a safe place for everyone.
What does the future of social work look like in Texas?
In the future, social workers will continue to play an important role in societal issues including social, economic and environmental justice. The COVID-19 pandemic created many opportunities for social workers. We have the opportunity to advocate for change — for example access to resources for rural residents and effective support services for undocumented individuals and families.
What types of jobs are MSW graduates finding in Texas?
The wide variety of jobs that social workers can choose from still exists. Students can choose from jobs at behavioral health clinics, state departments, schools, hospitals and clinics, and non-profit organizations.
I see more and more social work graduates in Texas working with victims of human trafficking and in community development projects. There are many opportunities to work on inter-professional teams. For example, working on community revitalization projects with geographers, historians, architects and librarians.
Do you have advice or guidance for MSW graduates pursuing a license in Texas?
Stay focused on your goal to be a licensed social worker. It will open many doors for you to live out your dream to be a social worker. Plan to take the licensing exam as soon as you graduate. Use all resources available to you to prepare for the exam.
What are the challenges or opportunities for becoming a social worker in Texas?
I believe the opportunity for social workers in Texas is very positive and social work job trends suggest an increase in jobs for social workers over the next several years. Social workers across the nation are in demand and it has been my experience the vast majority of students find employment shortly after graduating with a degree in social work from an accredited program. Texas is not an exception — social workers are needed in many areas such as gerontology, medical, child welfare, mental health, and substance abuse.
What does the future of social work look like in Texas?
It appears the political landscape of Texas is changing with that social welfare polices may change creating more opportunities for social workers to impact problems such as domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, suicide, poverty, homelessness and other problems. Policy change can allow for increased funding and support to address the issues listed in the previous statement and social workers have the education, skills, and ethical framing to be important agents for change.