Ending social work licensure

Legislator rips up bill to end licensing for social workers, barbers, other professionals

Damn! I would have been really interested to see how Iowa faired in removing social work licensure requirements.

I think social work licensure is a racket.  It is a system set up to make people pay large sums of money to hold a license that provides minimal title protection, very little consistency across practice, and often privileges a specific definition of social work practice (i.e. clinical practice).

Unlike teachers, lawyers, doctors and nurses, the practice of social work it not a unique set of skills that are held by a specific profession. That is not to say that social workers don’t do great work, but social work does not provide a unique training to practice despite claims or requirements of state legislation, NASW, CSWE, or ASWB. This is evidenced by many other disciplines or majors that are often qualified and hired to provide social services. This includes degrees in psychology, human services, healthcare administration, or other behavioral sciences. See “social services” is the work around the “social work” title protection.

Removing the licensing process would save colleges and universities and social workers some money. In order to be eligible for a licensure, students need to graduate from a CSWE accredited program. This means that colleges and universities that want to offer license eligible social work programs must be accredited by CSWE. Unsurprisingly, CSWE does not publish the cost of accreditation but the process requires colleges and universities to pay a multitude of fees for accreditation including submission and site visit costs. New graduates need to pay initial fees for the ASWB test, background check, and initial license then are sometime required to pay for supervision for the first few years of practice before advancing to a next level of license with another round of testing and fees.

I would love to see some thoughtful conversation about the benefits and limits of licensure and the system that has been created as a result of licensing requirements.  Who is protected by licensure and how? Where is it required for billing and why? How does licensure impact education and practice? Instead, I often see people dig in on how licensure is what makes social work a profession. And I’m just not buying it.


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