How to Become a Social Worker in Iowa

Iowa Social Work Licensing Requirements

Social workers provide various services to the community at large. These services can include assessing and treating mental or physical impairment, guiding clients through the process of acquiring public services and providing basic community outreach. In Iowa, there are three social work licenses available to candidates who meet the education, supervised experience and exam requirements established by the Iowa Board of Social Work:

Each license authorizes the licensee to provide specific levels of service to their clients. See below for a summary of the eligibility requirements and board rules for social work service:

License Type
Education Requirement Supervised Experience Exam
Licensed Bachelor’s Social Worker (LBSW) Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from a CSWE-Accredited Program  No Supervised Experience Required ASWB National Bachelor's Level Social Work Exam
Licensed Master’s Social Worker (LMSW) Master’s Degree in Social Work from a CSWE-Accredited Program No Supervised Experience Required ASWB National Master Level Social Work Exam
Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) Master's Degree or Doctoral Degree in Social Work from a CSWE-Accredited Program 4,000 Hours of Supervised Experience ASWB National Clinical Level Social Work Exam

Learn more about social work degrees in Iowa.
Learn more about social work careers.

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LBSW Requirements in Iowa

  1. Education: When seeking to work as a Licensed Bachelor’s Social Worker (LBSW), applicants must have completed a bachelor’s degree in social work from a college or university that has been accredited by the Counsel on Social Work Education (CSWE). Evidence of degree completion must be directly submitted to the Iowa Board of Social Work before a license for bachelor’s level social work will be issued.
  2. Examination: Before an applicant can become a LBSW, they must complete and pass the Association of Social Work Board’s (AWSB) Bachelor's level examination and provide proof of the passing grade.

LMSW Requirements in Iowa

    1. Education: Applicants seeking to become a Licensed Master’s Social Worker (LMSW) have two options to fill the education requirement: A master's degree in social work, or a doctoral degree in social work.

Should the applicant have a master’s degree, they must have completed it at a college or university that has been accredited by CSWE. If the applicant has a doctoral degree in social work, it has to be from a university or college that has been approved by the Iowa Board of Social Work prior to the time of the applicant’s graduation.

  1. Examination: To acquire a license to practice social work at the master’s level, applicants need to have passed the intermediate level of AWSB exam. Proof of a passing grade must be sent directly to the Iowa Board of Social Work to guarantee licensure.

LISW Requirements in Iowa

Due to the increased flexibility and lack of association with an established public agency, licenses for independent social work have stricter requirements than the previous two license types. To become a licensed independent social worker, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  1. Education: To become a LISW, an applicant must have either a master’s level or doctoral degree in social work. The accreditation and/or approval requirements for those seeking licensure in independent social work are the same as those for master’s level social work: the master’s degree must be accredited by the CSWE, and the doctoral degree must have been obtained from a school approved by the Iowa Board of Social Work.
  2. Experience: Unlike a LBSW or LMSW, an applicant seeking to become a LISW must have completed clinical experience prior to licensure. Applicants seeking a license to practice independent social work must have completed either two years or 4,000 hours of clinical practice. This practice must come after completion of a master’s or doctoral degree in social work and should comprise of assessment, diagnosis and treatment of psychosocial issues. At least 110 of the 4,000 hours of clinical work must be under the direct supervision of an already licensed clinician. More information on supervisory requirements to be licensed for independent social work can be obtained from the Iowa Board of Social Work.
  3. Exam: To be approved for independent level social work, the applicant must have completed and passed the AWSB’s clinical level examination with proof of the passing grade sent to the Board.
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The Importance of CSWE Accreditation

The Council on Social Work Education provides an invaluable service in accrediting various colleges and universities across all 50 states. Accreditation by the CSWE means that future social workers of most levels of licensure are being trained with the knowledge, critical thinking skills and ethics to be of service to their communities in whatever capacity is required; it also provides protection for those same communities by ensuring that they will always interact with the most competent, highly trained social workers.

Search Accredited Social Work Programs

Additional Resources for Social Workers in Iowa