LISW | Licensed Independent Social Worker | Career Overview & Licensure Requirements (2023)

Less often, a LISW will be involved in policy formation with various governmental or corporate organizations acting as a consultant who provides expertise based on various social work theories. For example, an LISW might assist in developing a new public health strategy in order to assist the agency they are working with to maximize buy-in by prospective targets of this policy change. This is done by using cutting edge social work theories such as trauma informed care, equity & inclusion and cultural competency.

The third and final career track is to work in a clinical research capacity designing studies and interpreting data so new social work theory and techniques can be developed.

The Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) has a great degree of latitude in the kind of work environment they will work in, as well as what sorts of job functions they will perform as social workers. It’s a great license for those who wish to maximize their job opportunities as well as career flexibility in the social work field.

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Why Become a Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW)?

The Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) designation gives one quite a bit of flexibility to pursue social work practice in a manner that fits your career goals. For some, this will be involved in direct client contact in a clinical setting where the LISW can design and implement case by case therapy plans. There are even several very different clinical environments a LISW can work within, depending on which portion of the population you feel most comfortable, or called to work with. Other LISW’s will want to work in either a policy creation, or clinical research capacity. Those who choose the clinical research route can develop entirely new therapeutic approaches based on advancing social work theory through experimentation and clinical studies. For those who wish to put theory into practice and help impact society on a larger level, the Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) can assist policy makers at an organizational, or governmental level to implement these theories through new procedures and policies informed by social work theory. In every career path an LISW might take there is the opportunity to help individuals and society as a whole, in either a direct, or indirect manner.

Steps to Become a Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW)

The first step towards becoming a Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) is to understand the educational requirements and then to develop a plan for how you want your education to proceed. Different Social Work programs will have different specializations and degree concentrations they offer. That’s why you will want to develop a plan of action in regards to the career path you want to pursue before embarking on your education. You will need to complete the following steps to become a Licensed Independent Social Worker:

    1. You will need to complete your Bachelor’s of Social Work degree. Some Master’s programs will also accept you into their program if you have one of a number of closely related degrees. These include degrees in Counseling, Psychology and Sociology. For many programs, they will show a distinct preference for candidates who have their Bachelor’s of Social Work, especially those that are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
    2. The next step is to find a Master’s of Social Work program that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Unlike the bachelor’s most states require that your Master’s program be accredited by the CSWE. You will also want to find a Master’s program with the degree concentration that matches your career goals.
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    4. You will then need to obtain your state’s requisite Supervised Clinical Hours. This may vary from state to state based on the states’ licensure board. However, most states require a minimum of 3000 supervised clinical hours and 150 of these hours must be in the form of direct contact hours with a client that are supervised by an LISW. Most states cap the number of hours you can be credited with at no more than 1500 in a given calendar year. Due to variation among states, you will want to be sure to check your state’s requirements.
    5. Next you will need to pay the fee and pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Advanced Generalist or Clinical Level Exam.
    6. Apply and pay the fee with your state board to receive your Licensed Independent Social Worker license.
    7. After you have your license you will be required to also complete ongoing continuing education units (CEUs), This may vary from state to state, but most states require between 40 to 50 CEU’s per licensure period which is usually 2 years.

    What is the Difference between an LISW and a LCSW?

    The Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) are more or less interchangeable with one another and have to do more with which title is protected in a given state. For example, the states of Ohio and South Carolina both recognize the title of Licensed Independent Social Worker (LICSW), but do not have an LCSW title designation. The relative job duties, responsibilities, licensure requirements and career paths are roughly equivalent for both the LISW and the LCSW.

    Job Duties Expected from LISWs

    An LISW has many potential working environments and career arcs. Depending on the particular organization, or the choice to open a private practice, the LISW might be expected to be able to function in any of the following capacities:

    • The LISW might work as an advisor or consultant with executives or officials in a policy advisory capacity injecting social work theories into policy creation discussions.
    • When working with decision makers the social worker can assist in ensuring the effective distribution and buy-in of stakeholders by using techniques such as culturally competent messaging to ensure that a given policy will be accepted by the target audience.
    • The first group the LISW will need to educate will be the elected officials or executives that create policy. The LISW will be expected to give informational presentations at a very professional level using multimedia to deliver social work theory in a concise and understandable way.
    • LISW’s working in clinical practice will be expected to work with new clients in a clinical setting to evaluate and develop therapeutic plans on an individual basis.
    • The LISW will be required to take extensive and accurate case notes for their clinical cases that will be understandable to other professionals with whom you will collaborate.
    • You will be expected to provide mental health therapies to clients or to oversee lower licensure tiers of social workers in their therapies ensuring they are following ethical and effective therapeutic practices.
    • You will either devise a treatment plan yourself or assist lower tier social workers in developing their own therapy plans for clinical clients.
    • LISW’s can act as consultants assisting organizations in developing models for how best to create and implement future policies that have yet to be developed so that when the organization develops policies in the future it uses the social work framework you develop
    • The LISW is expected to be able to develop and oversee other social workers in expanding research in clinical settings for those who choose to work in the research branch of the field.

    Role of the LISW in Social Work

    The Role of the Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) in social work is tremendously varied depending on the career arc you choose. The three primary branches are: Mental health therapy in a clinical setting of which there can be many specializations, policy creation within an organization or governmental body, and clinical research to expand and innovate in the realm of social work theory.

    For those working in a clinical therapy setting, the evaluation of new clients to determine what their personal needs are in therapy will be your first role. After determining the specifics of a case, you will be expected to perform the role of developing a tailored therapy based on social work theory around mental health and how to assist your client through a culturally competent, trauma informed and strengths based approach.

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    Policy creation as a Licensed Independent Social Worker will involve two main tiers. Educating the policy makers and stakeholders themselves on social work theory. The second tier is the creation of policy itself acting in an advisory capacity to assist community or organizational leaders in tailoring messaging to the segment of society or their organization whose behavior you wish to modify. By having a firm grasp of the concepts of cultural competency (which can be micro targeted for corporate culture, or regional needs based on population) and equity and inclusion, the social worker can help policy makers to ensure that their message will reach the broadest possible audience in the target group and for that audience to understand and accept the shifts in policy. Usually, the messaging itself is more important to customize than the actual policy as how the policy is communicated becomes the key to whether or not it is implemented in an effective manner.

    The research avenue is one that will require the most innovation and critical thinking on the part of the Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW). As you act as the tip of the spear of social work development, being able to design studies that produce relevant data and interpreting that data in a way that becomes actionable for other social workers is your primary role. You will act as the fountainhead for new social work theory that can influence social work and society as a whole for years to come.

    Career Opportunities as an LISW

    There are many different career opportunities for those holding a Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) designation. Perhaps you want to help address the opioid crisis currently ravaging much of the country by introducing effective therapies to help people beat addiction, with LISW licensure you will be able to work in addiction recovery at clinical or supervisory level. If you feel more called to research you can work to develop cutting edge theory for social work that can help other social workers develop revolutionary therapies that will help people throughout the social work field. Other people might want to work to assist governments and large organizations increase their equity and inclusion by acting as a policy creation consultant. Other social workers might wish to pursue a career of direct mental health therapy in a clinical setting, while becoming their own boss and opening their own social work mental health therapy practice. An Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) licensure designation offers a wide variety of career opportunities in the states with this license.


    What is an independent social worker assessment? ›

    They are carried out in a children's centre or in the community. During the assessment, the parent or parents will be asked about their knowledge and understanding of the different areas of parenting, which include: Child care and development. Behavioural management. Independent living skills.

    What is the role of an independent social worker? ›

    Typically self-employed, an Independent Social Worker takes on cases from local authorities or the children's courts, carrying out specialist assessments or providing an expert opinion where one is required. ISWs generally have significant experience and knowledge.

    What are 4 major competencies of a social worker? ›

    • Competency 1: Demonstrate Ethical and Professional Behavior. ...
    • Competency 2: Engage Diversity and Difference in Practice. ...
    • Competency 3: Advance Human Rights and Social, Economic, and Environmental Justice. ...
    • Competency 4: Engage In Practice-Informed Research and Research-Informed Practice.

    What are the entry requirements for a social worker? ›

    To get onto a social work degree course you usually need two or three A levels, along with five GCSEs (grades 4-9/A-C), including English and maths. Or you could have alternative qualifications, including: BTEC, HND or HNC.

    How do I become an independent social worker UK? ›

    To be an Independent Social Worker you first need to be a qualified social worker registered with Social Work England or the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC). But thereafter, it is professional experience which determines suitability for the role.

    How much do independent social workers earn UK? ›

    Broadly speaking, the average salary for a Social Worker is around £30,000 a year.

    What are 3 responsibilities of a social worker? ›

    • Identify people and communities in need of help.
    • Assess clients' needs, situations, strengths, and support networks to determine their goals.
    • Help clients adjust to changes and challenges in their lives, such as illness, divorce, or unemployment.
    8 Sept 2022

    Can you work independently as a social worker? ›

    Clinical social workers may work alone and lack supervisory, consultative, or peer support. In such cases, it is helpful to join a network of clinical social workers who are in private practice or retain a consultant for assistance as needed.

    What are 3 things social workers do? ›

    Social workers help relieve people's suffering, fight for social justice, and improve lives and communities. Most people think of social workers when they think of poverty alleviation and child welfare. Many social workers do that kind of work — and we do much more.

    What are the 5 P's in social work? ›

    (2012). They conceptualized a way to look at clients and their problems, systematically and holistically taking into consideration the (1) Presenting problem, (2) Predisposing factors, (3) Precipitating factors, (4) Perpetuating factors, and (5) Protective factors.

    What are the 3 C's of social work? ›

    The 3C's of mental health in Social Work: competence, confidence and compassion.

    What are the 7 roles of a social worker? ›

    Responsibilities of a Social Worker
    • Assess Your Client. ...
    • Create and Implement A Treatment Plan. ...
    • Secure and Refer Needed Resources. ...
    • Evaluate and Monitor Improvement. ...
    • Serve as a Client's Advocate.

    What qualifications do I need to be a social worker UK? ›

    You can do a degree or postgraduate qualification in social work approved by Social Work England. You can also do a 2-year postgraduate degree in social work, if you have a degree in another subject. You may be eligible for social work bursary.

    What skills must social workers have? ›

    Examples of social work skills
    • Critical thinking and analytical skills.
    • Emotional intelligence and empathy. ...
    • Effective communication.
    • Active listening skills. ...
    • Organizational skills.
    • Time management skills.
    • Cultural competence. ...
    • Professional commitment.

    How can I become a social worker without a degree UK? ›

    You cannot become a social worker without an approved qualification – a BA degree or postgraduate masters in social work. However, you may be able to find a job as a social work assistant without a degree.

    How much does a newly qualified social worker earn UK? ›

    Salary. There are no fixed national salary scales, but salaries for newly qualified social workers are typically between £24,000 and £30,000 depending on the local authority and location. If your first job is within the NHS, you'll typically start on band 6 with a salary between £32,306 to £39,027.

    Do you need qualifications to work in social care? ›

    You don't necessarily need any qualifications or previous work experience to get a job in social care. What's really important is your values and attitude towards working with people who need care and support.

    Are social workers in demand UK? ›

    The social worker turnover rate in adult social services departments was 15.0% in 2021, equivalent to around 2,400 leavers in the previous 12 months. There were around 1,600 vacant social worker jobs in local authorities as at September 2021, which is a rate of 9.5%.

    What is the highest paid social worker UK? ›

    Highest paying cities for Social Workers near United Kingdom
    • Portsmouth. £35.73 per hour. 126 salaries reported.
    • Taunton. £35.12 per hour. 178 salaries reported.
    • Reading. £33.75 per hour. 242 salaries reported.
    • Bolton. £33.20 per hour. 221 salaries reported.
    • £32.95 per hour. 2k salaries reported.
    4 days ago

    What is the highest paid social work job UK? ›

    Experienced Social Workers can often earn up to around £40,000 a year. But team managers and senior specialists can earn well in excess of this amount. For higher salaries, further qualifications or changes in specialism would probably be required.

    Who are the highest paid social workers? ›

    5 Highest-Paying Jobs in Social Work
    • Corporate Social Responsibility Manager – Median Salary: $80,200.
    • Social Policy Analyst – Median Salary: $74,700.
    • Medical Social Worker – Median Salary: $65,300.
    • Child and Family Therapist – Median Salary: $63,000.
    • Human Resources Coordinator/Specialist – Median Salary: $48,300.

    What is the most important role of a social worker? ›

    The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet basic and complex needs of all people, with a particular focus on those who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty.

    What is a social worker summary? ›

    Social workers are professionals who aim to enhance overall well-being and help meet basic and complex needs of communities and people. Social workers work with many different populations and types of people, particularly focusing on those who are vulnerable, oppressed and living in poverty.

    What a social worker Cannot do? ›

    What Social Services Cannot Do. Social services cannot remove your child from your home without an order by the court, your consent, or a Police Protection Order. Additionally, social services cannot decide what will happen to your child or place your child in permanent foster care without a court's decision.

    What is the easiest job in social work? ›

    Most of these jobs are highly flexible as well and can be used as stepping stones to better-paying positions in the field.
    1. Group Home Workers. Some of the most popular entry-level jobs in social work are positions in group homes. ...
    2. Substance Abuse Counselors. ...
    3. Community Social Workers. ...
    4. Healthcare Social Workers. ...
    5. Case Managers.

    How do you take care of yourself as a social worker? ›

    Self Care Tips for Social Workers
    1. Breath focus. ...
    2. Body scan. ...
    3. Guided imagery. ...
    4. Mindfulness meditation. ...
    5. Yoga, tai chi, and qigong. ...
    6. Get Enough Sleep. ...
    7. I start my day off with two lists:
    8. 1) A gratitude list of 3 things I'm grateful for each within myself, my career, and in my personal life.
    12 Sept 2022

    What are the two main types of social workers? ›

    The Role of a Social Worker

    Social work is concerned with helping people overcome the challenges of daily living. The field is divided into two main categories: clinical and direct service.

    What are the biggest issues in social work right now? ›

    Social work continues to be an incredibly challenging profession – with high stress levels in the workplace, excessive caseloads, the challenges of hot-desking, covering for colleagues who are sick and onerous procedures and timescales.”

    What are four practice settings for social workers? ›

    Most social workers specialize in child, family and school social work, health care social work, and mental health and substance abuse social work.

    What do you think are the best qualities of social worker explain your idea 5 points? ›

    Social workers who have a strong ability to empathize will be able to form strong connections because their clients feel they understand them and can relate to the things that are difficult for them. Similar to compassion, empathy is at the very heart of social work and is essential for any effective professional.

    What are the 9 core competencies of social work? ›

    • 9 Core Competencies in Social Work Education. ...

    What are the 10 core competencies of social work? ›

    Page 1
    • Competency 1: Professional Identity.
    • Competency 2: Values & Ethics.
    • Competency 3: Critical Thinking.
    • Competency 4: Diversity & Difference.
    • Competency 5: Social & Economic Justice.
    • Competency 6: Research.
    • Competency 7: Human Behavior & the Social Environment.
    • Competency 8: Social Policy.

    What are social work values UK? ›

    2.1 Be open, honest, reliable and fair. 2.2 Respect and maintain people's dignity and privacy. 2.3 Maintain professional relationships with people and ensure that they understand the role of a social worker in their lives.

    DO YOU need A levels to be a social worker? ›

    What A-Levels Do You Need to Become a Social Worker? A-Levels are important for your progression to University and therefore into your career as a Social Worker. Generally, Universities will have entry requirements for their courses in Social Work which are based only on grades, with no required subjects.

    How many UCAS points do I need for social work? ›

    a minimum of 96 UCAS Tariff points. five GCSEs grade A* to C including English and maths. and two A levels or equivalent at least.

    What is the difference between a sociology degree and a social work degree? ›

    A sociology degree concentrates on the study of behavior within a population. Sociologists use the information culled from such studies to produce theories regarding how a population functions. A social work degree, on the other hand, studies the societal or socioeconomic issues existing within these groups.

    What are three important qualities that social workers need? ›

    Essential Skills and Traits for Social Workers
    • Empathy. Empathy is the ability to identify with and understand another person's experience and point of view. ...
    • Communication. ...
    • Organization. ...
    • Critical thinking. ...
    • Active listening. ...
    • Self-care. ...
    • Cultural competence. ...
    • Patience.

    What you learn about yourself as a social worker? ›

    You will learn how to make a positive impact

    Social Work is all about understanding and striving to improve the lives of people in society. Social Workers listen to people's needs, from young children to people struggling with addictions, and help them to cope and improve their quality of life.

    What two skills are the most important skills for social competence? ›

    Put simply, social competence comprises two essential components: Constructive Conflict skills. Willingness to cooperate.

    Is Social Work hard to study? ›

    Social work is a challenging career in many ways – emotionally, mentally and often physically. The education required to attain this career is easy in some ways but difficult in other ways.

    What can you do with a Social Work degree besides Social Work UK? ›

    It should be noted, countless other jobs are also suitable for Social Work graduates.
    • Social Worker. ...
    • Counsellor. ...
    • Community Development Worker. ...
    • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager. ...
    • Health Administrator. ...
    • Family Support Worker. ...
    • Child Protection Officer. ...
    • Youth Worker.
    11 Jan 2021

    What does a social work assessment involve? ›

    The Social Work Assessment will involve drawing together and analysing available information from a range of sources, including existing records, and involving and obtaining relevant information from professionals in relevant agencies and others in contact with the child and family.

    What does independent assessment mean? ›

    Independent Assessment means a review by a third party of an authorization decision.

    What can I expect from a social services assessment? ›

    What happens in the assessment. Someone from the council such as a social worker or occupational therapist will ask you how you're managing everyday tasks like washing, dressing and cooking. They might ask you to describe how well you do certain things like making a cup of tea and getting out of a chair.

    What are the 5 social work processes? ›

    Engage, assess, intervene, and evaluate

    Professional practice involves the dynamic and interactive processes of engagement, assessment, intervention, and evaluation at multiple levels. Social workers have the knowledge and skills to practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.

    How do I pass a self assessment test? ›

    Here are a few tips to make it go easier:
    1. Answer honestly. Personality tests often include questions that ask for answers on a scale. ...
    2. Avoid too many of the same answers. ...
    3. Study the job description. ...
    4. Consider taking a practice test. ...
    5. Take your time. ...
    6. Expect questions about your honesty and integrity.

    Why independent assessment is important? ›

    Independent assessments encourage a business to refine performance with proper planning and implementation of the review. Existing ERM programs have the potential to become resilient, or at least more effective, at managing uncertainties.

    What is the aim of an independent evaluation? ›

    Independent evaluation helps institutions look "outside the system" to identify issues. Independent evaluation plays an important role to raise issues that other people might not raise.

    What are the 3 R's of assessment? ›

    The 3rs are: i) Replacement (use of non-‐animal over animal methods, whenever possible, to achieve the same scientific aims); (ii) Reduction (using the lowest number of animals necessary to achieve reliable scientific results); (iii) Refinement (use of methods that alleviate or minimise potential pain, suffering or ...

    What are the 5 assessment tools? ›

    Assessment Tools: Introduction
    • Rubrics. For assessing qualitative student work such as essays, projects, reports, or presentations, we recommend the use of rubrics. ...
    • Curriculum Mapping. ...
    • Focus Groups. ...
    • Portfolios. ...
    • Structured Interviews. ...
    • Surveys.

    What is one of the first questions social workers should ask a client? ›

    What Is One of the First Questions Social Workers Should Ask a Client? One of the first social work questions to ask clients is, “How can I help you today?” At the end of a social work client interview, some of the questions social workers ask include: “Is there anything else you'd like to share?”

    How do I prepare for a social services interview? ›

    Before your interview it's important to review relevant legislation and policy, as it's highly likely that you'll be asked at least one question about it. It's also essential that you're up-to-date with current research and debates, as well as the wider happenings of the social work sector.

    How long does social work assessment take? ›

    The focus of the assessment must be on the needs of the child and the maximum. time for completion of any assessment is 45 days. It is an expectation that not all assessments will need this length of time to complete and it is not in the child's interests to have a delay in their assessment.

    What is a Section 47 with social services? ›

    A Section 47 Enquiry might also be referred to as a Child Protection enquiry, a Child Protection Investigation, or an S47. These investigations are carried out to assess if there is the risk of significant harm to a child (or children).


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