Become a Social Worker in Illinois

There were 15,780 child, family and school social workers in Illinois as of May 2020, making Illinois have the fifth-highest employment level of child, family and school social workers in the country according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). 

This career guide for how to become a social worker in Illinois explains educational requirements, licensure, Illinois-based social work organizations to join and more. Once you complete the steps to become an Illinois social worker, you can embark on a meaningful, fulfilling career helping others.

Sponsored Online Social Work Programs

Howard University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

The online Master of Social Work program from Howard University School of Social Work prepares students for advanced direct or macro practice in culturally diverse communities. Two concentrations available: Direct Practice and Community, Administration, and Policy Practice. No GRE. Complete in as few as 12 months.

University of Denver

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

The University of Denver’s Online MSW Program is delivered by its top-ranked school of social work and offers two programs. Students can earn their degree in as few as 12 months for the Online Advanced-Standing MSW or 27 months for the Online MSW.

Fordham University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

Fordham’s skills-based, online MSW program integrates advanced relevant social work competencies, preparing students to serve individuals and communities while moving the profession forward. This program includes advanced standing and traditional MSW options.

Simmons University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

Aspiring direct practitioners can earn their MSW online from Simmons University in as few as 12 months. GRE scores are not required, and the program offers full-time, part-time, accelerated, and advanced standing tracks.

University of Southern California

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

The MSW@USC is the online Master of Social Work from top-ranked USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. USC offers virtual and in-person field education, and students focus on adults, youth or social change.

Syracuse University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

Syracuse University’s online Master of Social Work program does not require GRE scores to apply and is focused on preparing social workers who embrace technology as an important part of the future of the profession. Traditional and Advanced Standing tracks are available. 

Baylor University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

Complete the Master of Social Work online program at Baylor University in as few as 12 months. Serve populations in Texas and around the world while ethically integrating faith and social work practice. No GRE required.

Case Western Reserve University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

In as few as a year and a half, you can prepare for social work leadership by earning your Master of Social Work online from Case Western Reserve University’s school of social work.

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Common steps to Become an Illinois Social Worker

Wondering how to become a social worker in Illinois? Education, field experience and licensure can help you achieve your goals to become a social worker in this state. Follow these steps to become a licensed social worker in Illinois and advance your career. Information below was summarized and retrieved from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) Social Work.

Information below was retrieved May 2022 and is only meant to be a high-level overview. Requirements may change, always check with the state licensing board for complete and up to date information.

H3 – 1. Earn a CSWE-Accredited Social Work Degree

To become a licensed social worker in Illinois, you will have to complete a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)-accredited Master of Social Work (MSW) or Doctor of Social Work (DSW) program. Both licenses offered in Illinois require either an MSW or a DSW degree: Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Licensed Social Worker.

2. Complete Post-Graduate Field Hours

Master of Social Work programs will include field experience, but you’ll need to meet certain experience requirements for social work licensure in Illinois. For those looking to become a Licensed Social Worker (LSW), three years of field experience are required before pursuing the exam. Those who wish to be Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) will need to complete up to 3,000 hours. 

3. Get Licensed

Once you’ve completed the necessary education and experience, you may go on to attain licensure in Illinois through the IDFPR. There, you must complete one of their licensure application forms and await approval from the IDFPR to take the exam. 

Learn more about how to become a social worker.

Social Work Degree Programs in Illinois

There are over 30 accredited social work degree programs based in Illinois, many with flexible learning options tailored to best fit your needs. 

For those looking to begin their social work career in Illinois with a bachelor’s degree, there are 18 degree programs accredited by the CSWE, two of which have options of being completed fully online. A bachelor’s degree in social work can enable a student to enter an advanced standing program in an MSW program, allowing an accelerated learning format. A BSW also prepares students for entry-level social work positions, such as group home workers or mental health assistants.

Depending on one’s level of field experience outside of their degree program, an MSW may be required for licensure. There are currently 16 accredited MSW programs in Illinois.

Some social workers pursue a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) degree, which may open pathways to leadership roles and social work research.

Learn more about social work programs:

Master of Social Work (MSW) Programs in Illinois

MSW programs in Illinois teach students advanced social work theories and practical knowledge. The programs include coursework on topics such as social work policy, intervention, and social work practice for poverty, oppression and trauma, and they offer specialization options in gerontology, forensics, and children, youth, and family practice. The following are all fully CSWE-accredited MSW programs in Illinois:

Online MSW Programs in Illinois

Online MSW programs offer the same curriculum and coursework that traditional on-campus Illinois programs do. Below are a few online MSW programs in Illinois that are CSWE-accredited.

Learn more about MSW programs:

Social Work Licenses in Illinois

In Illinois, there are two types of social work licensure options: Licensed Social Worker (LSW) and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). These social work licenses are issued by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR).

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in Illinois

  • Education requirements: Completion of a CSWE-accredited MSW or DSW program is required prior to examination. 
  • Field requirements: For applicants with a master’s degree, 3,000 hours of supervised clinical professional experience. For applicants with a doctorate in social work, 2,000 hours.
  • Exam: Association of Social Work Boards clinical examination
  • License renewal: Each 24-month period.

Learn more about online clinical MSW programs.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW) in Illinois

  • Education requirements: Approved Master of Social Work (MSW) or Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)
  • Field requirements: For applicants with a Bachelor of Social Work, three years of supervised professional experience
  • Exam: Association of Social Work Boards master’s examination
  • License renewal: Each 24-month period.

Social Work Salaries for Illinois

Illinois Social Work CareersNumber of Social Workers in IllinoisAnnual Mean Social Work Salary
Child, family and school social workers
17,580
$55,930
Healthcare social workers
4,820
$59,090
Mental health and substance abuse social workers
1,940
$52,560
Social workers, all other
1,240
$66,490
Social work teachers, postsecondary
610
$62,650

Information on the above social work salaries in Illinois was retrieved from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates – Illinois in May 2022.

Learn more about social work salaries.

Illinois Social Work Scholarships

If you’re interested in going to social work school in Illinois, there are social work scholarships that can help you pay for school. Be sure to check with your preferred university for other financial aid options available.

There are a variety of state-level and local social work scholarships available in Illinois, including: 

Illinois Social Work Organizations

Social workers in Illinois can connect with a variety of social work organizations that provide networking opportunities, news and research about social work in Illinois, and job listings. Your university may also offer social work organizations for students.

FAQ

Does Illinois have social work reciprocity?

Illinois does have licensure by endorsement, which allows social workers to apply for a license in Illinois based on their active license in another state, as per the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

What are the social work continuing education (CE) requirements in Illinois?

The social work CE requirements in Illinois include 30 hours of continuing education during the 24-month pre-renewal period after the first renewal, according to the IDFPR—Continuing Education. At least three hours must include content related to ethical practice, and another three hours must include content related to cultural competence. No CE is required for the first renewal.

Learn more about continuing education for social workers.

What is the best way to look up my social work license in Illinois?

Social work license verification in Illinois can be obtained through the IDFPR—License Lookup. Users must enter their license type, status, number, legal business name, “doing business as” name, first name, last name, city, state, county and zip code.

Last updated May 2022.