The individual differences between a Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW) and a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) are arguably small; the education and licensing requirements are what really separate the two positions. In general terms, LGSWs and LMSWs are licensed social workers often specializing in psychotherapy and counseling. The variance in education required to become licensed as an LGSW and LMSW is not the only difference between the two careers.
Not just anybody can become a Licensed Graduate or Licensed Master Social Worker. LGSWs and LMSWs must meet certain educational qualifications before attempting to obtain a license. LGSWs must possess a Baccalaureate Degree in Social Work from a program or university accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. LMSWs must possess a Master’s Degree in Social Work from a program or university accredited by the Council on Social Work. LGSWs are often recent college graduates looking to start a career as a social worker, while LMSWs are often experienced professionals with many years in the field.
The “L” in LGSW and LMSW stands for “Licensed.” Before becoming either, you must obtain a state-certified license. Testing is performed by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). Each state has its own set of prerequisites you must meet before taking a licensing examination. For instance, New York requires that LMSW candidates be 21 years of age or older, meet the moral standards of the state department and complete coursework and/or training in the identification and reporting of a child abuse case provided by the state. LGSW candidates need to meet educational requirements along with state-mandated work experience. For instance, the state of Michigan requires LGSW candidates to have at least 4,000 hours of field experience occurred over a period of less than two years.
The licensing procedure is regulated by the Association of Social Work Boards. Each state is regulated differently, so the licensing of LGSWs and LMSWs may or may not be regulated by the ASWB depending on the state in which you are attempting to obtain a license. Alabama, Maryland, Minnesota and West Virginia are the only states regulated by the ASWB in regards to LGSW licensing; the District of Columbia is also regulated. The list of states regulated by the ASWB in regards to LMSW licensing is larger: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Texas.
Across the scale, licensed master social workers have higher salaries than licensed graduate social workers. According to PayScale.com, male LGSWs earn, on the average, between $35,401 and $53,068; women earn between $35,481 and $49,235. Male LMSWs earn, on the average, between $40,392 and $61,309; women earn between $37,528 and $52,103.