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Social workers provide at-risk populations with the support, resources, and assistance needed to face some of life’s toughest challenges. Employed in schools, government agencies, and many other settings, social workers perform a wide spectrum of duties, from arranging adoptions to staging crisis interventions. Some help students struggling with behavioral issues, while others specialize in managing substance abuse problems, or assisting elderly clients in hospice or palliative care facilities. While social work is an ideal profession for individuals who want to make a difference in the world, it is also emotionally and psychologically challenging. Social workers regularly deal with difficult and distressing situations. However, most professionals find the field extremely rewarding, and enjoy making a positive impact on lives and communities.

jobs in the field are projected to grow by 16% — more than double the average rate for all occupations

The process of becoming a social worker in Missouri involves several steps. First, candidates must earn a social work degree from an accredited school. While individuals with a bachelor’s degree may apply for a state social work license, licensed clinical social workers must hold a master’s degree. Both paths require a significant amount of supervised work experience, study, and examination. Once licensed, however, social workers enjoy a healthy job market and a variety of available employment opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs in the field are projected to grow by 16% — more than double the average rate for all occupations. If you’ve been considering earning a social work degree, there’s no time like the present to get started.

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How to Become a Social Worker in Missouri

All social workers in Missouri must be licensed, and most professionals begin their journey toward licensure by enrolling in a social work school in Missouri. While some institutions offer associate degrees in the field, candidates must earn a bachelor’s degree before taking the licensed bachelor social worker (LBSW) exam. Clinical social workers, who are qualified to diagnose and treat patients, must hold a master’s or doctoral degree. They must also complete at least 3,000 supervised work hours, a background check, a supervisor attestation form, and provide three professional references. The clinical social work certification process may take anywhere from eight to 13 years.

After gaining licensure, some social workers choose to pursue certification through the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). The NASW offers specialized credentials for both clinical and non-clinical social workers, including gerontology, child and family, and substance abuse designations. To earn a certification, candidates must complete continuing coursework, a defined number of contact hours in a particular setting, and additional supervised work hours.

Types of Social Work Degrees in Missouri

Missouri social work students may pursue a degree at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral levels. Although associate degree-holders are not permitted to seek licensure, many learners find that two-year associate programs are a fast, economical way to prepare for advanced study and entry-level jobs. Others begin by enrolling in a bachelor’s program. On average, bachelor’s degree candidates complete around 120 credit hours over the course of four years.

While a bachelor’s degree is the minimum required credential for licensure, clinical social workers must hold a master’s degree. Typically consisting of 60 credits, a master’s curriculum takes approximately two years of study and hands-on fieldwork. Master’s-holders interested in research or academic positions may also choose to earn a doctoral degree, which often adds three to five years to their academic careers.

Associate Degree

Consisting of general education and introductory social work coursework, a two-year associate degree presents basic sociological and psychological concepts. Students typically pursue an associate degree as preparation for further study. While some graduates take on entry-level social service jobs that do not require licensure, most transfer to a four-year undergraduate program.

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree in social work combines psychology and sociology classes with general education coursework and hands-on field study. Students explore vulnerable populations, the challenges they face, and the social services available to them. After earning a bachelor’s degree, graduates may apply for licensure and work in entry-level administrative positions or direct-service positions, including caseworker and mental health assistant jobs.

Master’s Degree

Some bachelor’s degree-holders choose to improve their employment prospects by earning a master’s degree. Required for clinical social work licensure, a master’s degree qualifies holders for other advanced positions and credentials, including roles that necessitate diagnosis and treatment.

Doctoral Degree

As the highest attainable degree in the field, a doctoral degree qualifies holders to pursue positions as professors, researchers, and analysts. While a Ph.D. curriculum is usually research-based, a doctor of social work (DSW) degree focuses on practice. Candidates may spend five or more years researching a chosen topic or problem, and usually complete a dissertation, publish academic papers, and perform extensive original research.

Finding a Social Work Program in Missouri

Finding the best social work degree program in Missouri is serious business, and there are many factors to consider as you explore your options. Variables such as tuition rates, school location, program length, and curriculum content may all potentially impact your educational experience. Before selecting a program, it’s crucial that you define your personal goals, develop a budget, and carefully examine what each school has to offer.

Few factors influence the decision-making process as much as cost. While tuition often differs sharply between public and private institutions, some schools sponsor institutional scholarships, military discounts, and other funding opportunities that can help offset costs. Many social work programs in Missouri offer reduced tuition rates for state residents, and online degrees are frequently more affordable than traditional, on-campus programs.

Location also plays a significant role. Because social work degrees nearly always include a practicum component, a school’s location typically determines where students perform fieldwork. While smaller cities and rural areas may hold fewer placement options, these settings are ideal for learners interested in working with rural populations. Larger, urban schools may also offer a greater number of concentrations and academic resources, as well as more distance learning opportunities. On average, online programs take less time to complete than on-campus degrees, and often include accelerated course options that significantly shorten degree length.

Can You Earn a Social Work Degree Online in Missouri?

Many busy individuals choose to enroll in a social work degree program online. Offering a flexible alternative to costly, time-consuming on-campus programs, online degrees let students balance school, family, and work obligations as they gain new skills and increase their marketability. Most distance education programs are identical in content to their on-campus equivalents, and differ only in delivery method. Online students are held to the same academic standards, engage in required fieldwork, and seek licensure after graduation. The CSWE accredits online social work programs in Missouri, just as they do traditional programs. In addition, many web-based programs offer degree concentrations and specialized academic tracks, which provide opportunities to explore certain subjects in depth.

By studying from the comfort of home, distance learners avoid many of the costs associated with campus life, including facility fees, transportation, and housing. The flexible nature of online curriculums typically allows students to remain employed as they study, and some schools offer college credit for professional experience and training. While tuition rates vary between institutions, many colleges and universities charge significantly less for online degrees, or provide adult learners with additional tuition discounts.

See The Best Online MSW Programs

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

The amount of time it takes to become a social worker in Missouri depends on the degree, license, and career you choose to pursue. All social workers must hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Usually consisting of around 120 credit hours, most bachelor’s degrees require about four years of full-time study. While individuals with a bachelor’s degree may obtain a BSW license, they cannot practice as clinical social workers. Graduates seeking clinical licensure must hold a master’s degree, which requires approximately two additional years of study and around 60 credit hours of coursework. Before sitting for the clinical licensure examination, candidates must also accumulate 3,000 hours of supervised professional experience.

A few social workers go on to pursue doctoral degrees, in anticipation of academic or research careers. The length of a Ph.D. or DSW program depends on the nature of the curriculum and field of study, and candidates may graduate in as little as three years, or as many as five. Many distance education programs are presented in an accelerated format that allows online students to progress more quickly than their on-campus counterparts. Some web-based bachelor’s degrees may be completed in two or three years, while it often takes only one year to earn a master’s degree online.

How Much Does a Social Work Program Cost in Missouri?

The cost of pursuing a social work degree in Missouri depends on several factors, including degree type, school location, and institutional policies. While many schools charge higher tuition rates for out-of-state students, some offer flat rates for online programs, regardless of the student’s state of residence. Because public universities receive government funding, they often charge lower tuition rates than private schools, and are generally regarded as more affordable. However, many private colleges offer generous institutional scholarships and grants that may significantly reduce the cost of attendance. Students may also complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines eligibility for federal financial aid.

In general, advanced degrees are more expensive than undergraduate programs. Prospective graduate students must also take the GRE exam, which costs around $200. After graduation, professional fees can also add up. Depending on the type of license they are pursuing, Missouri applicants usually pay between $230 and $260 in exam and licensing fees.

Types of Social Work Licenses in Missouri

All states require social workers to be licensed, and Missouri is no exception. Missouri offers four levels of social work licensure: licensed bachelor social worker (LBSW), licensed master social worker (LMSW), licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), and licensed advanced macro social worker (LAMSW).

Missouri also requires all licensed social workers to pass an examination conducted by the Association of School Work Boards

Candidates who have completed a bachelor’s degree in social work may acquire the LBSW designation. A master’s degree, however, is required for all other levels of certification. Regardless of degree level, all social work programs must be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Missouri also requires all licensed social workers to pass an examination conducted by the Association of School Work Boards (ASWB). Prospective clinical social workers must pass a specialized ASWB exam and complete 3,000 hours of supervised clinical social work.

After gaining initial licensure, many social workers choose to pursue additional certifications and credentials. While certifications are not mandatory, they demonstrate expertise in certain areas and specialized fields, and increase the holder’s marketability. Many of these credentials are presented by the NASW. The NASW offers certifications in nine different areas, including leadership, addictions, case management, and hospital and palliative care. Most of these designations are restricted to candidates with a master’s degree in social work, although a few certification options are available to those with a bachelor’s degree.


Students interested in becoming a clinical licensed social worker must have a master’s degree or a doctorate in social work. They must have previously earned their LMSW certification, and should have completed 3,000 hours of supervised clinical social work as an LMSW. Missouri also expects LCSWs to take the ASWB clinical exam, which includes 170 questions and costs $260.


Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials


Intended for non-clinical LBSW-level professionals, the NASW presents bestows this credential on social workers who complete a continuing education program centered upon the biopsychosocial model. Candidates should have a bachelor’s degree in social work, LBSW licensure, and at least three years and 4,500 hours of supervised professional experience.


Career and Salary Outlook for Social Work Degree Graduates

Social workers provide assistance to some of society’s most vulnerable populations, including individuals struggling with mental health issues, abused or neglected children, and people with substance abuse disorders. Many professionals take on specialized roles within the field, choosing to work with particular client bases, or in certain settings. The examples below are just a few of the diverse employment opportunities available to graduates.

Child, Family, and School Social Workers

These specialists ensure that children experience healthy, stable home and school environments. They respond to and investigate child abuse allegations, provide struggling families with resources, and collaborate with school staff to address student behavioral issues.

Healthcare Social Workers

Working in conjunction with hospitals, doctors, and government agencies, these social workers offer support for individuals who have been diagnosed with acute, chronic, or terminal illnesses. They also provide assistance and resources for patients’ families, schedule appointments, and present healthcare and treatment options.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

Mental health and substance abuse social workers care for people struggling with addiction, mental illness, or behavioral disorders. They may work as educators to prevent substance abuse, provide group or individual therapy sessions, or serve as client advocates.

Foster Care Worker

Social workers specializing in the foster care system assess at-risk children, remove them from unsafe or unhealthy family situations, and secure placement with temporary foster families. Most are employed with government agencies, such as Child Protective Services.

Crisis Intervention Worker

These professionals provide aid to clients undergoing acute mental health crises, including individuals with PTSD, those threatening to harm themselves or others, and assault or abuse victims. They work in a variety of settings, including clinics, emergency hotlines, and VA hospitals. Many hold advanced degrees and specialty credentials.


 EmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Child, Family, and School Social Workers8,190$37,050
Healthcare Social Workers3,010$45,620
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers3,510$34,710
Social Workers, All Other610$57,870

Source: BLS

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Scholarships for Social Work Majors in Missouri

After adding up the cost of tuition, books, and other fees, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the price of a social work degree in Missouri. Fortunately, many organizations offer scholarships for students majoring in social work and related fields. While some are sponsored by colleges and universities, others are open to students at any institution. You may be interested in applying for one or more of the awards listed below.

Social Work Scholarships


Who Can Apply: The Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund provides financial aid to students who aim to make a difference through social or economic justice. Applicants should provide a personal statement, letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and a student aid report or FAFSA application. View Scholarship


Resources for Social Work Students in Missouri

  • Missouri Committee for Social Workers A branch of Missouri’s Division of Professional Registration, this government organization provides information regarding licensure and renewal. The committee meets several times a year to discuss social issues affecting Missouri residents, such as the opioid crisis, policy changes, and poverty.
  • Missouri Department of Social Services MDSS maintains government-run welfare programs throughout the state. The Department’s site contains numerous helpful resources for new and prospective social workers, including licensing guidelines, a list of current state initiatives, and social work policies and laws specific to Missouri.
  • Missouri Society for Clinical Social Work The MSCSW acts as both a professional association and hub for continuing education. The society offers professional workshops and trainings, an online networking portal, mentoring programs, and opportunities for political involvement at the national, local, and state levels.
  • School Social Workers Association of Missouri This advocacy group is known for hosting regional conferences and mental health awareness events, including the annual Midwest Council School Social Work Conference. SSWAM’s members-only job board provides access to a nationwide professional network, career openings, and employment resources.
  • National Association of Social Workers – Missouri Chapter The NASW’s Missouri Chapter sets professional standards and serves as an advocate for licensed social workers across the state. Along with publications, discounts, and legal services, members receive access to exclusive, state-specific continuing education and certification opportunities.