Iowa Board of Social Work - FAQs

License Application

How can I apply for a license?

See "Apply, Renew, and Reactivate" listed on the left.

If I am not approved for licensure in Iowa, will I receive my application fee back?

No, application fees are non-refundable.

Name & Address Changes

How can I make an address and/or name change?

Any time there is an address and/or name change, it is up to you to let the board office know within 30 days of the change. Complete the "Name & Address Change" form available on this site.

Duplicate Certificate or Wallet Card

How can I get a duplicate license?

You can request a duplicate license and/or wallet card by accessing the Board’s online services webpage at: Use your @iowaID account and password to sign in. If you forgot your password, click on Forgot Password link located at the top of the Sign In page. Once logged in to your account, click on the [Online Services] link located at the bottom left of the My Licenses page. Select the Online Service of either Request Certificate or Request Wallet Card. Provide Reason for Request. Do not upload any attachments on the following screen. Complete the process by following the prompts on the screen. Once payment has been made, the document(s) will be mailed the following business day. The fee is $20.00 per request.

Or complete the "Application for Duplicate License" and mail it along with the correct fee.

Continuing Education

Where can I find information about continuing education?

See the "Continuing Education" page on this site for specific information regarding your continuing education.


Can I get my supervision hours working in a school or hospice?

The physical location of where practice is occurring is not an issue, the issue is what level of practice is occurring. The practice must include the following:

280.6(2) Content of supervised professional practice. The supervisor shall ensure that the period of supervised professional practice includes the following:

      a.   Psychosocial assessments, including evaluation of symptoms and behaviors and the effects of the environment on behavior;

      b.   Diagnostic practice using the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association;

      c.   Treatment, including the establishment of treatment goals, psychosocial therapy, and differential treatment planning;

      d.   Practice management skills;

      e.   Skills required for continued competence;

      f.    Training on ethical standards and legal and regulatory requirements; and

      g.   Development of professional identity.


You can renew your license up to 60 days before your current license expires.

Renewal notifications will be emailed to your email address on file with the board at 60, 50, 40 and 30 days prior to the license expiration date. If you have not renewed your license 20 days prior to the license expiration date, a postcard will be mailed to your mailing address on file.

See the "Renewal" page listed on the left for more information.

Can I use the extra continuing education hours that I earned from my previous renewal for the present renewal?

The only time this is allowed is for your second renewal.

For those newly licensed, continuing education is not required for the first license renewal. Any continuing education hours obtained anytime from the initial licensing date may be used for the second license renewal. After the second renewal, licensees are required to complete the full number of required continuing education hours within each compliance period. For more information see "Continuing Education" page on this website.

When does my license expire?

You can find the license expiration date on your most recent wallet card.

What is the license renewal fee?

See Chapter 5 under “Laws and Rules” listed on the left.

What are the required courses for mandatory reporters of child and adult abuse?

License Reactivation

How can I reactivate my license?

See the "Reactivation" page on this website for more information.

List of Licensees

You can download a list of licensees at any time.  Select the tutorial below for step by step instructions.

Exporting a List of LicenseesPDF

Licensure in other States

What are the requirements for licensure in another state?

You will need to contact the board in that state and find out the requirements. Our verification fee for verifying your license to another state is $20.00. Include a money order or cashier's check for that amount along with your written request. Make check payable to your specific board (e.g., Iowa Board of Athletic Training).

License Verification

How do I verify a license for a licensed professional?

Go to and select License Search. Insert your name or license number. Select your profession from the dropdown list. You may print a copy of your licensure status by selecting Print.

Disclaimer: The Bureau is responsible for maintaining all of the information on the website, including licensure information and public disciplinary action. The information provided on the website is the same information provided through verbal and mail verification, and is true and complete to the best of our knowledge.

The professional boards require primary source verification of credentials prior to issuing a license in this state. The Bureau believes this site is appropriate for verification information, but is not responsible for determining appropriateness of information compared to standards of any given organization or program.

Inactive License

How do I put my license on hold?

It is not necessary to place your license on hold. If you do not renew your license by 30 days after the license expiration date, it will automatically be placed on inactive status.


How can I file a complaint?

See the "Complaints" page listed on the left for more information about how to file a complaint.

Are you concerned you are being scammed?

Each year, the Iowa Bureau is contacted by licensees who report that they have received suspicious letters, emails and calls from individuals claiming to be from the Bureau. Across the country, state licensees fall prey to scams targeting licensees in an attempt to access personal and financial information. While the Bureau will continue to prioritize responding to these inquiries quickly, the following information can help each licensee protect their information and recognize these scams.

  1. The Board rarely takes “immediate” action.
    • Board investigation takes time. The collection of information, preparation of investigative reports and deliberation by the Bureau generally takes months. If you are the subject of an investigation, a Bureau investigator will usually reach out to you concerning the allegations against you before the Bureau deliberates on whether to impose disciplinary action. Additionally, you can always contact the Bureau to confirm whether you are under investigation.
    • While the Bureau is empowered to take emergency action against a licensee who poses an immediate threat to the health or safety of Iowans, such circumstances are exceedingly rare. If the Bureau ever were to enter an emergency suspension of your license, such suspension would be issued in the form of a public order by the Bureau listing the allegations against you. You would further be entitled to a hearing before the Bureau as soon as practicable, and will receive further communication from the Bureau and the Attorney General’s Office.
  2. We will never threaten your licensure in exchange for payment or information.
    • Be suspicious of any communication asking for immediate payment of a fee or bond. The Bureau only collects money from licensees in two instances: During the licensure and renewal process and upon entry of a final order of the Bureau following a contested case proceeding or settlement wherein the Bureau has ordered you to pay a civil penalty. Neither of those circumstances will occur without prior communication with the Bureau.
  3. Confirm that the provided contact information is accurate.
    • All contact information for the Bureau can be found on the Bureau’s website. Bureau staff email addresses end in “” and emails from the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services ends in “” When responding to communication from the Bureau, verify that the phone number and email address matches that on the Bureau’s website.
  4. When in Doubt: Contact Us!
    • If you ever have a concern that a Bureau communication may not be legitimate, or you fear that you are being targeted by a scammer, reach out to us. Contact the Bureau’s general number and email address:
    • Phone: 515-281-0254

LBSW, LMSW and LISW Practice

QUESTION ONE: Iowa law provides that master and independent level social workers may provide psychosocial therapy services. Bachelor level social workers may not provide therapy, but they may provide counseling services. How does the Board distinguish counseling from therapy?

ANSWER: Counseling is a method to assist clients in learning how to solve problems and make decisions about personal, health, social, educational, vocational, financial, and other interpersonal concerns. Counseling is an educational process which involves “giving advice, delineating alternatives, helping articulate goals, and providing needed information.” Social Work Dictionary (4th ed. 1999). Psychosocial therapy is a specialized, formal interaction between a social worker and a client in which a therapeutic relationship is established to assist the client in  overcoming or abating specific emotional, mental, or social problems and achieving specific goals for well being. Therapy is a planned, structured program based on a diagnosis and is directed to accomplish measurable goals and objectives specified in the client’s individual treatment plan.

QUESTION TWO: Can an LBSW provide bachelor level social work services (assessment, intervention, counseling) as a solo private practitioner?

ANSWER: Yes. An LBSW may provide bachelor level social work services as a selfemployed solo private practitioner. However, an LBSW who provides master level services, including therapy, in any setting may be subject to disciplinary action by the Board of Social Work Examiners for practicing outside the scope of the license.

QUESTION THREE: Can an LMSW provide master level social work services (diagnosis, psychosocial therapy, and treatment) as a solo private practitioner or as a member of a partnership?

ANSWER: No. A social worker must be licensed as an LISW in order to provide master level social work services as a solo private practitioner. Hence, a social worker who is self employed providing master level social work services must be licensed as an LISW. An LMSW who practices as a solo private practitioner may be subject to disciplinary action by the Board of Social Work Examiners for practicing outside the scope of the license.

QUESTION FOUR: Can an LMSW provide master level social work services diagnosis, psychosocial therapy, and treatment) in a group private practice?

ANSWER: Yes, provided that the LMSW does not have ongoing control of the clinical, financial, administrative, or professional arrangements between the LMSW and the client/patients of the LMSW. Hence, an LMSW who provides master level social work services in a group practice must have his or her clinical practice supervised1 and must not exercise control over the financial, administrative, or professional arrangements between the LMSW and his or her clients/patients. An LMSW who practices in a group practice without clinical supervision, or who exercises control over the financial, administrative, or professional arrangements of the practice may be subject to disciplinary action by the Board of Social Work Examiners for practicing outside the scope of the license.

The LMSW License in Iowa and Private Practice

Licensure of Social Workers is governed by Iowa Code Chapter 154C. The LMSW is licensed to provide various psychosocial services in Iowa under the supervision of an independently licensed Social Worker, Marriage and Family Therapist, or Mental Health Counselor (LISW, LMFT, or LMHC). Only LISWs are licensed to practice in a private practice, which is defined as “social work practice conducted only by an independent social worker who is either self-employed or a member of a partnership or of a group practice providing diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional disorders or conditions.”

Changes in Iowa law relating to insurance billing may have caused some confusion around the limitations of LMSWs. The Iowa Board of Social Work’s enabling Act (Iowa Code Chapter 154C) and administrative rules are not concerned with insurance billing, insurance contracts, or the administration of the business practices of organizations/agencies. The Iowa Board of Social Work regulates the practice of licensees (LBSWs, LMSWs, and LISWs).

An LMSW is authorized to perform the practice of a master social worker under the supervision of an independently licensed mental health provider. An LMSW’s practice must always be subject to the supervisory oversight of an independently licensed mental health provider. An LMSW is not authorized to be self-employed to perform the practice of master social workers.

It is the responsibility of both the LMSW and the LISW supervisor to ensure that the LMSW is in compliance with Iowa laws and rules governing the practice of social work.


Can a LMSW open a private practice?

No, a LMSW may not open or operate their own business outside the oversight of an independently licensed mental health provider.

Can a LMSW work within a group or private practice as a 1099 worker?

The Iowa Board of Social Work’s rules do not reference the tax status of a Social Worker. A LMSW must practice under supervision. A private practice, partnership, or group practice can provide clinical supervision and take responsibility for the practice of the LMSW at the practice.

Can a LMSW contract or credential with health insurance companies?

Insurance company contracting is not regulated by the Iowa Board of Social Work; please consult with each health insurance company to determine their contracting requirements.

Can a LMSW employ other Social Workers?

A LMSW cannot provide supervision to other LMSWs. A LMSW may provide what is often referred to as clinical consultation to other social workers, but this consultation cannot substitute for the supervision provided by an independently licensed mental health provider and cannot be used to satisfy the requirements for the supervised clinical experience required to become a LISW.

Licensure timelines and requirements for the LMSW in Iowa

It is often the case in Iowa that an individual completes their Master of Social Work educational program and awaits receipt of the license. The Bureau of Professional Licensure generally has a 5 day turn around to issue a license once all documents have been received by the Bureau from the applicant, ASWB, and the School of Social Work, unless the applicant has negative history requiring further review. A LMSW is considered licensed when a license number has been assigned, which may be available online prior to receipt of a physical license certificate.

In Iowa a MSW must be licensed to engage in the following Social Worker practices:

  • Psychosocial assessment, diagnosis, and treatment
  • Psychosocial histories
  • Problem identification and evaluation of symptoms and behavior
  • Assessment of psychosocial and behavioral strengths and weaknesses
  • Effects of the environment on behavior
  • Psychosocial therapy with individuals, couples, families, and groups
  • Establishment of treatment goals and monitoring progress
  • Differential treatment planning
  • Interdisciplinary consultation and collaboration

It is a violation of Iowa Code Chapter 154C for an individual holding a Master of Social Work or a Master of Arts in Social Work degree to practice social work in Iowa as described above for any period of time without a license.

Once licensed, LMSWs must practice under the supervision of an independently licensed mental health provider who assumes ultimate responsibility for the clinical care of the client, which could include an independently licensed Social Worker, Marriage and Family Therapist, Mental Health Counselor, Psychologist, Psychiatrist, or Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.

The responsibilities of a Supervisor include:

  • Development and submission of the supervision plan with the LMSW
  • Completion of a supervision report at the conclusion of supervised clinical experience
  • To exercise appropriate supervision 282.2(3)a
  • Setting clear, appropriate, and culturally sensitive boundaries 282.2(3)c
  • Ensuring the licensee [supervisor] does not “employ, assign, or supervise an individual in the performance of services that require a license if the individual has not received a license to perform the services or if the individual has a suspended, revoked, lapsed, or inactive license” (282.2(3)f) regardless of funding mechanisms for the work performed.

Specifically, Board rule 282.2(3)“f” states that a licensee shall not employ, assign, or supervise an individual in the performances of services that require a license if the individual has not received a license to perform the services. A supervisor may be disciplined by the Board for failure to comply with the Board’s rules or for negligent supervision. These rules should be considered when assigning work to an unlicensed individual with a MSW degree, and when developing caseloads or workloads for supervisees.


Iowa HHS Bureau of Professional Licensure
321 E. 12th St.
Des Moines, IA 50319
Phone: (515) 281-0254
Fax: (515) 281-3121

Online Licensure Services:


Office Hours:
8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding state holidays