Social Work Degrees in Texas

Social workers provide an essential service by helping individuals and families access and use resources that improve their well-being. Professionals with a social work degree in Texas often hold jobs in nonprofit organizations, healthcare facilities, and government agencies, such as the Health and Human Services Commission. Graduates of social work schools in Texas serve populations including veterans, students, and seniors.

The number of positions for Texas social workers to increase 16% by 2026

After earning an on-campus or online social work degree, graduates have a variety of career options, depending on education and experience. Many graduates of social work programs in Texas pursue a state license to qualify for clinical or nonclinical professional practice. After earning a bachelor's in social work and the licensed bachelor social worker credential, professionals can apply for a license to practice independently. Candidates with a master's in social work and state licensure can pursue advanced practitioner status in a specialty area.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the number of positions for Texas social workers to increase 16% by 2026, with healthcare specialists and substance abuse and mental health counselors growing the most rapidly. According to the BLS, Texas has one of the nation's greatest concentrations of social workers, and social workers in the state earn an annual mean wage in the highest bracket of national salaries.

To obtain a license to practice social work in Texas, candidates must pass an exam administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). Candidates for most types of licensure must have completed a CSWE-accredited social work program and a certain number of practicum or work hours. Candidates must also pass a security check and a jurisprudence exam. The Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners grants licensure in the state.

Candidates must meet education requirements to qualify for a social work license. Online social work programs in Texas provide convenient, often accelerated, pathways to a bachelor's or master's degree. Bachelor, master, and doctor of social work programs require a field component comprising an internship or other supervised work experience. These field experiences align with state licensure requirements. Several social work licenses in the state require at least two years of supervised work experience.

Candidates for licensure must meet education and experience requirements, must pass required exams, and must meet additional criteria for the particular license. To apply for initial licensure, candidates must submit to a background check, take the online jurisprudence exam, and take and pass the ASWB bachelor's, master's, or clinical exams. Texas social workers must renew their license every two years.

Social workers with advanced degrees and extensive experience generally have more job prospects and higher earning potential. For example, a bachelor's in social work qualifies graduates for jobs as case workers or social work assistants. However, clinical social work positions require at least a master’s degree.

Students planning to pursue administrative roles typically pursue an associate or bachelor's degree; these degrees require two or four years, respectively, and meet minimum requirements for nonclinical roles. Aspiring clinical social workers must earn at least a master's degree and must obtain licensure to practice in Texas. Social work professors and researchers need a doctoral degree, which takes the longest to complete but typically results in the highest earning potential.

Associate Degree
Some community colleges offer an associate degree in social work or human services. These programs provide a foundation in core concepts related to sociology and psychology. Associate degrees do not typically include a practicum requirement. Graduates are eligible for entry-level support positions, including social work assistant and community outreach aide.
Bachelor's Degree
A bachelor's in social work meets minimum education requirements for nonclinical, entry-level positions. Graduates often pursue roles as mental health assistants and caseworkers. Curricula include coursework in sociology, psychology, economics, and political science, along with an internship or practicum. Some programs offer an accelerated dual-degree option that allows BSW graduates to earn a master's in one year.
Master's Degree
As the minimum education requirement for licensure in the field, a master's in social work qualifies graduates for a wide variety of positions as clinical and nonclinical social work practitioners. Master's students choose a specialty area and gain management and professional skills. Master's programs culminate in a supervised field experience, and graduates qualify to pursue state licensure.
Doctoral Degree
Social workers can pursue a Ph.D. in social work or a doctor of social work. The master's is generally regarded as the terminal degree in the field, and a doctoral degree does not qualify graduates for additional licensure. However, aspiring researchers and post-secondary social work teachers may need a doctorate.

Professionals in the field choose from a variety of social work specialities. Clinical social workers may work with a particular group, such as children, families, or those recovering from addiction. Those who want to manage social work cases may work within a school or healthcare facility. Below are a few of the specialties available to Texas social workers.

Child and Family Social Worker

Child and family social workers serve abused and neglected children. They may provide adoption assistance or help place children in foster care. These social workers provide advocacy and connect families with services including food stamps, government housing, and government benefits.

School Social Worker

School social workers often intervene in situations involving student bullying, aggression or outbursts, or excessive absences. These professionals work with parents, school administrators, and teachers to foster students' academic and social potential.

Healthcare Social Worker

These social workers may help patients adjust to major lifestyle changes resulting from injury or illness or help them transition back to their daily routine following a hospital stay. Some healthcare social workers educate healthcare practitioners and professionals on the impact of a condition, treatment, or procedure on a patient's emotional well-being and mental health.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker

Social workers in this specialty provide services to clients suffering from addiction and/or mental health conditions. These professionals may counsel clients as clinical practitioners and often refer clients to support groups and local resources.

While all states require clinical social workers to be licensed, Texas sets specific licensing requirements for different types of social work practitioners. To obtain a social work license in Texas, candidates must hold an accredited social work degree, must complete at least two years of supervised experience in a social work setting, and must pass the appropriate ASWB exam. Candidates aspiring to clinical practice pursue the licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) credential. Those who plan to pursue nonclinical practice typically earn the licensed bachelor social worker (LBSW) credential or the licensed master social worker (LMSW) credential, depending on their education level.

All social workers in Texas must hold a license for clinical or nonclinical practice

Graduates with a bachelor's in social work qualify to apply for the LBSW credential. Though the LBSW license does not qualify holders for as many roles as an LCSW or LMSW license, which require a master's degree, professionals with an LBSW license can add the independent practice recognition credential. Professionals with the IPR credential are eligible to provide nonclinical social work services independently and to assume all responsibility for contracted obligations and billing associated with their practice.

All social workers in Texas must hold a license for clinical or nonclinical practice, but professionals can add voluntary certifications or credentials to demonstrate advanced skills in a specialty area, such as children and family, healthcare, or substance abuse. Multiple agencies in Texas offer specialized certifications; however, the advanced practice specialty credentials listed below are available through NASW.

Candidates for advanced practice credentials must hold a degree from an accredited program and a current state license. However, additional requirements vary by specialty. Most credentials require applicants to have at least two years of paid, supervised work experience in their area of specialty, and some require a passing score on an additional exam.

Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials

When choosing a social work degree in Texas, prospective students should consider several factors, including cost, location, program length, and available specialties. Learners should also ensure any prospective program holds accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Cost is a primary concern for many college applicants. Tuition and fees vary by school, so students should consider their budget when selecting a program. Many learners save money by pursuing an online social work degree, which typically reduces costs associated with campus housing and transportation. Some online social work programs in Texas offer an accelerated format option, which reduces degree completion time and tuition costs.

Social work schools in Texas prepare students to pursue state licensure. Learners complete field placements and specialized training. Healthcare social work is among the most popular specialties, and many Texas institutions offer bachelor's and master's in social work programs in this concentration.

Can You Earn a Social Work Degree Online in Texas?

Most online social work programs in Texas follow the same curricula as on-campus programs and prepare students to pursue state licensure. Online programs are typically designed to meet licensing requirements for education and field experience. Distance learning offers convenient, flexible formats ideal for working professionals and those with personal obligations.

Students pursuing online social work degrees complete program requirements primarily online and complete practicum or clinical hours locally. Some programs assist online students in arranging internship placements near their home. Most online social work degree programs deliver online coursework asynchronously, allowing students to complete assignments at their convenience. To qualify graduates for licensure, both online and on-campus social work programs in Texas should hold accreditation from CSWE.

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

Full-time students typically complete associate programs in two years, bachelor's programs in four years, and master's programs in two years. The time required to complete a doctor of social work varies, though most students require at least three years. Factors impacting degree completion time include enrollment status, course availability, and program format.

Students earning online social work degrees in Texas choose from cohort and individually paced programs. Cohort programs are ideal for learners who need structure and peer support; students progress through the program with a small group of peers. On the other hand, those seeking maximum flexibility often pursue individually paced programs, which allow students to complete coursework at their convenience and provide opportunities to graduate more quickly.

Credit requirements vary by school and affect the time required to earn a social work degree. Bachelor's and master's programs include a field experience, which typically satisfies licensure requirements.

How Much Does a Social Work Program Cost in Texas?

To become a social worker in Texas, individuals must earn a degree, take the CSWE exam, and apply for licensure. Each step of the process incurs costs, which vary based on the candidate's career goals. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition and fees at two- and four-year institutions cost an average of $15,344 in 2016.

Tuition costs vary by school, program length, and residency status. Candidates also pay licensing fees and ASWB exam fees. Applying for an LBSW or LMSW credential in Texas costs $91, and the necessary exam costs $230. The applications for the LMSW-AP and LCSW credentials each cost $111, and the exam costs $260. LBSWs seeking IPR status or upgrading to an LMSW, LMSWs upgrading to AP status, and LMSWs upgrading to an LCSW must submit an upgrade application fee of $20.

Licensed social workers in Texas must renew their license every two years; renewal costs $86 for LBSWs and LMSWs and $106 for LMSW-APs and LCSWs. Licensed professionals must complete 30 hours of continuing education during each period between license renewals.

Directory of Social Work Programs in Texas

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After earning a a social work degree in Texas and obtaining licensure, graduates have a variety of career options. Many social workers focus on a particular demographic, such as children or geriatric clients, and others work in a specialty area, such as healthcare. Professional social workers must obtain the academic and professional credentials to practice in the state, and most professionals in the field are empathetic, communicative, and interested in serving their communities.

Child, Family, or School Social Worker

These professionals advocate for children in at-risk environments. They intervene on children's behalf and work with families to assess the potential for harm. These social workers may also help arrange safe alternatives such as protective services or foster care. These professionals typically have an advanced degree and a license to practice clinical social work or psychology.

Medical Social Worker

Medical social workers provide direct patient care and administrative patient services in healthcare settings. Social workers in this specialty may advocate for patients while they communicate with billing, outreach, insurance, and third-party groups regarding medical care. Bachelor's degree holders may qualify for entry-level positions as social workers in this specialty, though some employers require a master's degree.

Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse counselors treat clients struggling with or recovering from substance abuse. These professionals often work for nonprofit, government, or healthcare agencies and utilize therapeutic techniques to address substance abuse and mental health issues. Most substance abuse counselors have a master's in social work, supervised field experience, a state license, and additional certification.

Hospice Social Worker

Social workers specializing in hospice care treat patients in the last stages of their lives. These professionals often need critical-thinking skills and sensitivity training. They foster the emotional well-being of patients and families while helping them make decisions regarding palliative care. Social workers in this specialty should must have a master's in social work, plus experience and certification in hospice care.

Social Services Case Manager

These professionals manage social services cases and guide clients toward social, financial, and emotional support resources. Social services case managers may engage directly with clients or serve in supervisory roles, directing teams of case managers. Though some employers prefer case managers to hold a master's degree, most positions require a bachelor's degree in social work and advanced communication and leadership skills.

Median Salaries and Employment For Social Work Specialties in Texas

  Employment Annual Mean Wage
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 17,560 $43,980
Healthcare Social Workers 9,980 $57,980
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 5,110 $41,740
Social Workers, All Other 1,650 $69,860
Source: BLS

There are many scholarships available to social work students, including awards reserved for Texas residents. Students should first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine their eligibility for federal scholarships, grants, and work-study programs. Some social work scholarships require recipients to commit to working in an underserved geographic or subject area.

Social Work Scholarships

Ima Hogg Scholarships in Mental Health $5,000

Who Can Apply: The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health awards 17 annual scholarships to students entering the second year of a graduate program or a one-year accelerated program. Applicants must be studying social work at an accredited Texas college or university and must be nominated by the head of their academic program. View Scholarship

Frances Fowler Wallace Memorial for Mental Health Dissertation Award $1,500

Who Can Apply: The Hogg Foundation awards this memorial fund, named for the wife of former Texas state Representative John Forsythe Wallace. Applicants must be doctoral candidates in social work, nursing, psychology, sociology, or a related mental health program at a Texas college or university. View Scholarship

The Melanie Foundation Scholarship $2,500

Who Can Apply: The Melanie Foundation awards this annual scholarship to students enrolled in a doctoral or master's program in mental health. Applicants should demonstrate career-related service or research experience. View Scholarship

Verne Lamarr Lyons Memorial MSW Scholarship $4,150-5,500

Who Can Apply: The NAWS Foundation awards this scholarship to students pursuing a master's in social work. Applicants must demonstrate an interest in providing mental health services to African-American communities. Applicants must have been accepted into an MSW program and must have a minimum 3.0 GPA. View Scholarship
  • National Association of Social Workers Texas The Texas chapter of NASW is the state's premier professional organization for social workers. NASW/TX promotes social work in the state's public policy planning and implementation processes. Members have access to networking opportunities, continuing education, and licensing recommendations and training.
  • Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners This division of the Texas Department of State Health Services oversees the certification of social workers in the state. The division provides resources to help aspiring social workers research the path to licensure in Texas. The board also provides access to state resources, such as Medicaid, and disability services, and family and child protective services.
  • Society for Social Work Leadership in Healthcare Texas Founded in 1973, the Texas chapter of the SSWLH supports programs dedicated to the advocacy, education, and professional development of healthcare social workers in the state. The organization offers memberships at associate, student, and emeritus levels. Membership is ideal for professionals in roles related to healthcare social work, social work educators, and social work students planning to pursue a healthcare specialty.
  • Texas Society for Clinical Social Work TSCSW offers mentoring and networking resources and provides lobbying information to graduate clinical social work students and professionals. Members have opportunities join policy reform and advocacy initiatives and to continue their education through study groups and internships. Members also have access the TSCSW member referral list, which matches clients with qualified social workers.
  • Council on Social Work Education Based in Washington, D.C., CSWE is the authority on national social work programs in the country. The organization accredits more than 750 academic programs through higher education institutions and educational agencies. CSWE offers public resources including industry publications, data and statistics on accredited social work programs, and annual program meetings. Each year, the organization hosts the largest gathering of social work students, educators, and professionals in the country.