New pathway to become a licensed social worker in Illinois coming in 2024

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) – Aspiring clinical social workers can become licensed in the New Year even if they do not pass their licensure exam the first time.

State Senator Karina Villa (D-West Chicago) sponsored a law that allows potential social workers to complete another 3,000 hours of supervised professional experience under a licensed clinical social worker if they do not pass the exam. The law takes effect on Jan. 1.

Aspiring social workers will still have to complete other requirements, like having a master’s degree and 3,000 hours of clinical supervision before seeking licensure. The exam will also remain as a way to get a social work license.

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The first-time pass rates in Illinois for the social work exam vary heavily by race and ethnicity. White individuals have the highest pass rate at 82.5%, while Asian individuals have a pass rate of 70%. Hispanic individuals pass the exam on the first try 59.6% of the time, and Black individuals have the lowest pass rate at 42.4%.

Additionally, the exam costs $260 for each try, discouraging people from retaking the test.

After viewing the data, Villa said it was clear something needed to change.

“Individuals who have done the necessary work to obtain their licensure should not be barred from doing so because of a biased exam,” Villa said. “An alternative path to licensure is necessary to address the racial disparities that exist within the profession in order to better serve our communities, create a more diverse workforce and mitigate the shortages of behavioral health professionals seen across the state.”

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Villa said as a former school social worker she knows of the cultural and societal challenges certain groups in the field face.

“We must first address these challenges within our profession before we can being to apply that knowledge to our work,” Villa said. “This law is the first of its kind in the nation and I am grateful that Illinois continues to be a pioneer within the social work profession.”

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