How to Become a Social Worker in Florida


Florida is facing many issues that can increase the need for social workers: the ongoing opioid crisis, an aging population, and high levels of chronic health problems. If these challenges interest you, you may want to know how to become a social worker in Florida.

Each state has its own social work regulations, so this guide on how to become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) in Florida outlines the required education and licensing. Explore more to see if this is the right career and location for you.

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Steps to Becoming a Social Worker in Florida

While you can work in the social work sector without a license, you must meet the social worker requirements in Florida and earn a license to practice social work with clients. Florida’s Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage & Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling offers three kinds of licenses, each with different requirements.

Registered Clinical Social Worker Intern

The first licensing level is for graduates with a master of social work (MSW) degree. The registered clinical social worker intern (RCSW-I) license allows you to practice under supervision to gain the hours needed to earn a higher-level license. This license is valid for five years and is not renewable.

Applicants must meet these educational requirements:

  • An MSW from an accredited program with 24 semester hours (or equivalent) in theory and practice of human behavior in the context of social work counseling
  • A graduate-level course in psychopathology
  • Clinical fieldwork providing direct social worker services under supervision
  • A letter from a qualified supervisor

Applicants with a history of mental illness, professional disciplinary action, or a criminal record must submit additional information that demonstrates that they can safely and ethically provide services to clients.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

This license lets you perform social work, including counseling clients. You must apply to take the Association of Social Work Board (ASWB) clinical examination with the Florida state board. You can do this after you have completed 18 months of your supervised experience, or you can wait until you have completed both years.

The exam costs $260. The full social work requirements in Florida to become an LCSW include:

  • Successfully passing the ASWB clinical examination
  • At least two years of supervised social work experience
  • Completing coursework from approved providers on Florida-specific laws and rules, domestic violence, and HIV/AIDS

If you have a license from another state that has similar requirements, you may apply for a license by endorsement. You must complete the same required coursework.

Certified Master Social Worker

A certified master social worker (CMSW) license has similar but not identical requirements to the LCSW license. Instead, it is designed to prepare you for a career in social work administration.

You must have an MSW, supervised experience, and pass an examination, but the examination is on general social work rather than specific counseling. The full CMSW social work requirements for Florida include:

  • An MSW from an accredited program
  • Credit hours in specific administrative topic areas, such as agency administration and supervision, staff development, and community services
  • Three years of experience, including two years of supervised social work
  • Passing the ASWB advanced general examination

You may also apply for a license by endorsement if you meet these criteria and have a license from a state with similar requirements.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Social Worker in Florida?

In addition to wanting to know how to become an LCSW in Florida, many aspiring social workers want to know how long it takes. It takes 7-8 years to earn an LCSW license and 8-9 years to earn a CMSW license.

You will need a bachelor’s degree to enter an MSW program. If you have a BSW degree that you earned within the last five years, you are eligible in most programs for advanced standing. This allows you to complete the MSW in about one year. Students with a different undergraduate degree typically earn an MSW in two years.

After these 5-6 years of education, you must complete two years of supervised work to become an LCSW and three years to become a CMSW, minus whatever time from your education counts toward the hours of supervised social work.

How Much Will a Social Work Degree Cost in Florida?

A social work degree’s costs depend on a number of factors, especially on whether you attend a public or a private school and, if you attend a public school, whether you get in-state tuition.

Financial aid can offset much of the cost, but it can be difficult to estimate financial aid offers before applying to a school.

As of 2020-2021, the median tuition at a private, nonprofit school for any graduate degree was $23,507, and $11,666 for a public school. For an undergraduate program, the average cost of both undergraduate tuition and fees was $37,600 at a private nonprofit and $9,400 at a public institution.

In general, you can expect to spend around $60,000 for a BSW and MSW at a public school in Florida and at least twice that for a private school. In addition to tuition and fees, you are likely to have expenses for food and housing, textbooks, transportation, and other academic materials.

Attending an online program may help with transportation and housing costs, especially if you live with your family.

How Much Do Social Workers Make in Florida?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social workers in Florida earned the following wages as of May 2022:

Social Work Jobs & Salaries in Florida
OccupationFlorida Median Hourly WageFlorida Average Annual Wage
Child, Family, and School Social Workers$22.21$49,910
Healthcare Social Workers$26.08$55,270
Mental Health and Substance Misuse Social Workers$22.16$47,520
Social Workers, All Others$25.25$55,990

Source: BLS, 2023

These are slightly lower than the national May 2021 median hourly wage of $24.23, according to BLS data.

However, the answer to questions like “how much do social workers make in Florida?” vary based on the location and cost of living. While Florida has some very wealthy areas with a high cost of living, such as Miami Beach, it has many other areas with a very low cost of living, especially in rural communities.

LCSWs are eligible for loan forgiveness under programs like the National Health Services Corps if they serve in areas with shortages of mental health workers. Florida currently has hundreds of these, some entire counties, others just census tracts within counties. This can make your salary go much further, especially if you are carrying a heavy debt load.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Social Worker in Florida

How long does it take to become a social worker in Florida?

Starting from high school, it can take around 6-8 years to become a licensed clinical social worker in Florida. This includes an undergraduate degree, an MSW, and two years of supervised practice.

If you already have a recent BSW, an MSW takes about one year and some of your experience during your MSW may count toward your two years of supervised practice.

What degree do I need to become a social worker in Florida?

You can work in the social work field with any degree, but to become a licensed social worker, you must have a master of social work degree. You can earn this in one year if you already have a BSW or two years if you have a bachelor’s degree in another field.

How much does it cost to apply for a Florida social work license?

It costs $180 to apply for an LCSW license and $205 to apply for a CMSW license. The LCSW prepares you for work as a social work counselor, and the CMSW prepares you to work in social work administration. An intern license costs $150.

Is it worth it to become a social worker in Florida?

Whether any degree or career preparation is worth it depends on your personal, career, and financial goals.

Despite having a master’s degree, social workers make about $5,000 above the median U.S. income, according to the BLS as of May 2021, while other careers with a master’s degree can pay much more. However, for many social workers, the satisfaction of making a significant difference for individuals and society makes it more than worth it.