Become a Social Worker in Iowa

Start your social work career with the iconic Field of Dreams, the prehistoric formations of Effigy Mounds National Monument and a statewide network of over 4,300 social workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). 

This guide for how to become a social worker in Iowa explains educational requirements, how to get licensed, social work organizations to join and more. Once you complete the steps to become a social worker in Iowa, you can embark on a meaningful, fulfilling career helping others in the Hawkeye State.

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.

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 a Iowa Social Worker

Before becoming a social worker in Iowa, you must earn a bachelor’s degree in social work and obtain a social work license depending on what career path you choose. Iowa offers three types of social work licenses, and there may be additional requirements such as a background check and clinical supervision based on your goals. Below are the steps on how to obtain each type of license in Iowa, which was retrieved and summarized from the Iowa Board of Social Work.

1. Earn a CSWE-accredited social work degree

To become a licensed social worker in Iowa, you will have to complete a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) or Master of Social Work (MSW) program accredited by the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE). You can pursue these degrees in Iowa through various formats, including full time, part time and online.

2. Fulfill your social work supervised experience requirement, and pass your national/state exams

Iowa has three levels of social workers according to the state’s licensing board, with increasing requirements:

Licensed bachelor social worker (LBSW): A person with an accredited bachelor’s degree in social work who has passed the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) bachelor’s exam. 

Licensed master social worker (LMSW): A person with an accredited master’s degree in social work who has passed the ASWB master’s exam. 

Licensed independent social worker (LISW): A person with an accredited master’s or doctoral degree in social work who has passed the ASWB clinical exam. Those looking to attain this license must have also earned 110 hours of supervised social work experience.

3. Get licensed

Once you’ve completed your hours and experience, you may apply to become a licensed social worker in Iowa.

Learn more on how to become a social worker.

Social Work Degree Programs in Iowa

There are 17 accredited BSW and MSW degree programs in Iowa. A bachelor’s degree in social work online or on-campus or on campus allows you to enter an advanced standing MSW program, which can be completed in about one year. A BSW also prepares students for entry-level social work positions. There are 13 accredited BSW programs in Iowa.

In order to obtain higher level licenses in Iowa, however, a minimum of an MSW is required. Some individuals further their education and experience in social work by pursuing a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) degree.

Master of Social Work (MSW) Programs in Iowa

MSW programs in Iowa teach students advanced social work theories and practical knowledge. MSW programs may include coursework on topics such as human development, social work policy and intervention. There are four fully accredited MSW programs in Iowa.

Online MSW Programs in Iowa

There are four online MSW programs in Iowa that are fully accredited. Online MSW programs offer the same curriculum and coursework that traditional on-campus Iowa programs do. Students are taught by the same professors and complete fieldwork as part of the program.

Social Work Licenses in Iowa

Iowa has three types of licenses for social workers: licensed bachelor social worker (LBSW), licensed master social worker (LMSW) and licensed independent social worker (LISW). While you may practice entry-level social work under the title of “social worker” with a bachelor’s degree, the Iowa Board requires an MSW or DSW to practice more specialized social work. All information below on LBSW, LMSW and LISW credentials was retrieved from the Iowa Board of Social Work.

Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW) in Iowa

Becoming an LBSW allows you to perform standard assessments and interventions under board-approved supervision.

  • Education Requirement: Bachelor of Social Work degree
  • Field Requirements: None
  • Exams: ASWB bachelor’s exam
  • License Renewal: 27 hours of professional development in continuing education

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) in Iowa

Becoming an LMSW allows you to practice standard assessments, diagnosis, treatment planning and other high-level interventions.

  • Education Requirement: Master or Doctorate of Social Work degree
  • Field Requirements: None
  • Exams: ASWB master’s exam
  • License Renewal: 27 hours of professional development in continuing education

Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) in Iowa

Becoming an LISW allows you to provide independent clinical services to clients in the state of Iowa.

  • Education Requirement: Master or Doctorate of Social Work degree
  • Field Requirements: 110 hours of supervised clinical social work
  • Exams: ASWB clinical exam
  • License Renewal: 27 hours of professional development in continuing education

Social Work Salaries in Iowa

Iowa Social Work CareerNumber of Social Workers in IowaAverage Mean Social Worker Salary
Child, Family and School Social Workers
2,020
$50,380
Healthcare Social Workers
1,140
$57,840
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
750
$55,220
Social Workers, All Other
440
$61,090

Information on the above social work salaries in Iowa was retrieved from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Iowa in May 2022.

Iowa Social Work Scholarships

There are statewide scholarships and programs in place to assist those just starting on their path to social work. While each state has different offerings, below are some grants and loans to help you become an LBSW, LMSW or LISW in the state of Iowa.

Iowa Social Work Organizations

There are countless local and national associations and organizations with goals to promote, develop and protect the practice of social work and social workers. Better social work means better solutions for welfare, child welfare, elderly welfare, healthcare reform and other issues affecting the disadvantaged populations in Iowa and beyond.

  • National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Iowa Chapter: The Iowa Chapter works to advance the quality of social work practice, improve the knowledge required for such practice and promote professional development to improve practice. The chapter continues to advocate on behalf of the profession but also strives to assure ethical practice in Iowa. 
  • Iowa School Social Workers’ Association: The Iowa School Social Workers’ Association promotes effective, evidence-based services to students, families and schools through relevant professional development and legislative advocacy.
  • Long Term Care Social Workers of Iowa: This statewide organization promotes the professional status of social work in long term care facilities. Its goals are to promote resident advocacy, enhance professionalism and ethical practice, offer educational opportunity, share social work skills, and inform legislation and regulation affecting long term care.

Iowa Social Work FAQ

Does Iowa offer social work license reciprocity?

Iowa allows out-of-state licensure. Applicants must have an equivalent social work license in another state, meet the educational prerequisites for the equivalent Iowa social work license, provide their official ASWB exam scores and pay a license fee on the Iowa Board of Social Work site.

What are the social work continuing education (CEWhat are the social work continuing education requirements in Iowa?

Social workers must renew their license every two years. Additionally, social workers must earn 27 hours of continuing education. LISWs must earn three hours of continuing education in supervision, if they are providing supervision. To renew, complete the online renewal form and pay the associated fee.

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

Search for your social work license at the Iowa Board of Social Work site search. The site’s options will allow you to search for your name and find your license number, license status and details surrounding your professional information.

Last updated in May 2022.