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Human Services Guide

About The Social Work License

Social work licensure is a requirement by each state and must be met to attain a state license. This usually involves a social work licensing exam and an educational background from a Council on Social Work Education accredited school. Social work in the form of counseling is a field that requires regulation due to the potential for abuse within the frame work of a mental health practice. This is critical as the potential for harm to mental health clients is especially high due to their vulnerability within the patient counselor dynamic. Social Work licensure is therefore a very important piece of regulation both at the individual, professional and societal level.

By requiring a license, states (find your state here) can insure that certain professional benchmarks are met and maintained. This aids the counseling social worker by increasing their social acceptance as a vital field. It is also of great benefit to the public at large by making sure that appropriate counseling is given and standards maintained. Some laws are based on protecting the title of social worker itself. States with those laws will require social work licensure of everyone using the title Social Worker. Other states have laws geared towards protecting a practice. Those states recognize the unique skills and knowledge base of Social Workers. The license is then meant to recognize specifically Social Workers as opposed to people who have similar skills and techniques but different training. Generally speaking, practice protection laws are considered to be stronger than title protection laws. In most cases, practice protection laws have more complex requirements to attain the related license.

Those reasons are just some of the ways that social work licensure works to legitimize social work in the field of mental health counseling. This is important both for the field of social work broadly speaking, but also that of the individual worker or organization who makes use of federally funded grant systems for financing. By demanding a certain level of excellence in the form of social work licensure it is easier to justify the use of federal funds for various projects. Many important community oriented projects, or those that help at risk communities are funded largely or entirely by state or federal funds. As you can see, social work licensure is a hugely beneficial regulatory practice for the field of social work.

How do you get a Social Work License?

  • Find Social Work Licensing Requirements In Your State Here
  • Social work license requirements vary on a state by state basis. There are also usually different licenses required for different degrees of education and different areas of application. While there is variation amongst the states, most states require the taking of a social work licensure exam and follow up social work license verification. Most states also require a criminal background check during the application process.

    What educational background meets Social Work License Requirements?

    The education level for various Social Work License requirements vary based on the level of licensure one wishes to attain. Some states allow licenses for those holding Bachelor’s degrees in Social Work (BSW). In many cases, states will also require some degree of supervised clinical experience to acquire higher level licensure. Most states require a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree to become a licensed clinical Social Worker. Also the degree must come from an accredited school that the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) has approved of. In most states one must also complete a Social Work Licensure exam and will have ongoing reapplication requirements
    What does a Social Work License allow you to do?

    Becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker creates many opportunities for a Social Worker. Whether one wishes to set up an independent practice as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker specializing in young adult counseling, or becoming part of a Licensed Clinical Social Work organization you will need your Social Work Licensure within your state. Licensed Clinical Social Work is a field that the BLS expects to expand more rapidly than most sectors, so taking your Social Work Licensure exam is a great way to ensure your long term job security. Meeting Social Work License requirements requires one to have a strong educational background so why don’t you get started today by looking at these Council on Social Work Education accredited schools!

    For LCSW Please Click Here For Full Article

    Certified Advanced Practice Social Worker (CAPSW)

    After you have received your Masters of Social Work degree you are eligible to apply for the title of Certified Advanced Practice Social Worker (CAPSW) in certain states. This title is an excellent career path for those who want a career in clinical Social Work. The CAPSW is an advanced level of licensure and offers a great outlook for those who want to bring the lens of Social Work to therapeutic emotional counseling.

    CAPSW Education and Testing Required

    • You will first need to earn your Master of Social Work (MSW) or Doctorate from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited institution of higher learning.
    • You will need to accumulate a few thousand hours of clinical social work experience under the supervision of a board approved supervisor.
    • There is no supervised clinical experience required for this level of licensure.
    • You will need to pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Master’s level exam.

    Certified Independent Practice Social Worker (CIPSW)

    The highest level of licensure for clinical social workers in some states is titled as the Certified Independent Practice Social Worker (CIPSW). This title will allow you to work in a private clinical practice. Opening your own business in the form of a private practice is a big career decision that can reap tremendous profits both in terms of monetary gain and also personal satisfaction. The outlook for those who open their own private practice will depend on the individual’s organization abilities as well as their skills as a clinical social worker.

    CIPSW Education and Testing Required

    • You will first need to earn your Master of Social Work (MSW) or Doctorate from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited institution of higher learning.
    • You will need to accumulate a few thousand hours of clinical social work experience under the supervision of a board approved supervisor. You will need to provide verification of a few years of supervised clinical experience.
    • You will need to pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Clinical or Advanced Generalist Level exam.

    The Independent Social Worker (ISW)

    Once you have your Master of Social Work (MSW) degree you will find a number of licensure titles become available to you. In some states you will find the title of Independent Social Worker (ISW) as a Master’s level of licensure allowing you to practice at a high level in a clinical setting. Social Work as a sector has an excellent outlook in the near term as the BLS projects it to grow at a faster pace than the rest of the economy, making the Independent Social Worker (ISW) a great career title to pursue.

    ISW Education and Testing Required

    • You will first need to earn your Master of Social Work (MSW) or Doctorate from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited institution of higher learning.
    • You will need to accumulate a few thousand hours of clinical social work experience under the supervision of a board approved supervisor.
    • You will need to pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Advanced Generalist Level Examination

    Licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker (LAPSW)

    The pinnacle of social work licensure in some states is known as the Licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker (LAPSW). In order to achieve this title and maximize your career potential you will need to meet a number of challenging requirements. In addition to examinations and degrees requirements, you will also need to have fairly extensive experience in clinical situations under appropriate supervision. Once you have earned this title your outlook for financial well-being will be extremely positive.

    LAPSW Education and Testing Required

    • You must pass a criminal background check
    • You will first need to earn your Master of Social Work (MSW) or Doctorate from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited institution of higher learning.
    • This level of licensure does not have a supervised clinical experience component.
    • You will need to provide verification of 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience.
    • You must have 100 hours of direct face-to-face supervision during these two years.
    • You will need to pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Advanced Generalist or Clinical Level exam.

    Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)

    The Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker or LBSW is the first level of licensure recognized for Social Workers in a number of states.. It is from the initial license that one is able to accumulate the required experience to earn more advanced licensure and is a critical first step for Licensed Social Workers in a few states.

    LBSW Education and Testing Required

    You will need to meet the following requirements to be eligible to apply for the LBSW title:

    • Earn a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited institution of higher learning.
    • Pass the Texas Jurisprudence Examination.
    • Pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Bachelor’s Level Examination.

    Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)

    This level of licensure is usually a mid-level of licensure that becomes available to people once they have earned their Master of Social Work degree. Depending on the state in which this title is offered you may only be required to possess a MSW degree and pass an examination. Other states will require supervised work experience as well.

    LGSW Education and Testing Required

    You must meet the following requirements in order to be eligible for the Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW) title:

    • You will need a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited institution of higher learning.
    • Pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Master’s Level Exam.
    • In some states you are required to have addition supervised work experience under a board approved supervisor. This will vary from state to state, but usually is in the few thousands of hours of supervised experience.
    • To renew your license you will be expected to complete a state specific amount of continuing education credits.

    The Licensed Independent Social Worker – Advanced Practice (LISW-AP)

    The final step in the long journey towards the highest level of social work licensure is known in some states as the Licensed Independent Social Worker – Advanced Practice (LISW-AP). This title represents the culmination of one’s social work career and years of effort. With this title you will be able to own and operate a private practice which will greatly improve your outlook for financial and personal success.

    LISW-AP Education and Testing Required

    • You must pass a criminal background check
    • You will first need to earn your Master of Social Work (MSW) or Doctorate from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited institution of higher learning.
    • This level of licensure does not have a supervised clinical experience component.
    • You will need to provide verification of 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience.
    • You must have 100 hours of direct face-to-face supervision during these two years.
    • You will also need 15 hours of professional ethics courses.
    • You will need to pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Advanced Generalist Level exam.

    The Licensed Master Social Worker – Advanced Practice (LMSW-AP)

    One of the more advanced levels of licensure available in some states is known as the Licensed Master Social Worker – Advanced Practice (LMSW-AP). Often requiring a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree and extensive experience, this title is a great goal for those seeking a career in clinical social work. Once you have your LMSW-AP title your financial outlook will be very solid due to anticipated growth in this sector.

    LMSW-AP Education and Testing Required

    • You must pass a criminal background check
    • You will first need to earn your Master of Social Work (MSW) or Doctorate from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited institution of higher learning.
    • This level of licensure does not have a supervised clinical experience component. You will need to provide verification of two years of supervised clinical experience.
    • You must have 100 hours of direct face-to-face supervision during these two years.
    • You will need to pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Advanced Generalist Level exam.
    • You must pass a state jurisprudence examination.

    Licensed Social Worker – Administration (LSW-ADM)

    If you are interested in acting in a management capacity within the Social Work sphere you will want to obtain the licensure title available in a number of states known as the Licensed Social Worker – Administration (LSW-ADM). This title will allow you to not only operate at the highest level of licensure in terms of counseling; it will also allow you to have the appropriate credentials to oversee a staff of Licensed Social Workers within a clinical setting at the organizational level.

    LSW-ADM Education and Testing Required

    • You must pass a criminal background check
    • You will first need to earn your Master of Social Work (MSW) or Doctorate from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited institution of higher learning.
    • This level of licensure does not have a supervised clinical experience component.
    • You will need to provide verification of 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience in a two year period.
    • You must have 100 hours of direct face-to-face supervision during these two years.
    • You will also need 15 hours of professional ethics courses.
    • You will need to pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Advanced Generalist Level exam.

    Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)

    • Application for licensure - Form A
    • Submit fee ($91.00)
    • Official college transcript verifying BSW from a CSWE accredited program
    • Proof of completion of Jurisprudence Exam
    • Verification of Licensure in Other Jurisdiction - Form II (if previously licensed in another jurisdiction)
    • Examination Security Information Form – Form VII
    • Social Work Employment History Form – Form I
    • Note for current students: Exam approval will be given without a transcript if accompanied with a Dean’s letter from
    • your college or university during your final semester.

    *A license will not be approved until all qualifications have been met and all documentation has been submitted.

    An applicant for licensure may elect to request a temporary license by completing Form C (fee = $30). See board rules related to temporary licensure.

    Temporary licenses will only be issued to applicants with conferred degrees.

    The Licensed Social Work Associate (LSWA)

    In order to begin your career path as a licensed social worker you will need to start with the entry level titles and work your way towards higher levels of licensure. The first level of licensure in a number of states is referred to as the Licensed Social Work Associate (LSWA). The outlook for this job title is very strong due to the BLS projecting that the Social Work sector will grow at a much faster rate than the rest of the economy in the next decade.

    LSWA Education and Testing Required

    There are a number of requirements you will need to meet in order to attain the title of Social Worker Associate (SWA):

    • Depending on the state you must have at least an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from an accredited university.
    • You will need to pass a criminal background check.
    • You will need to provide three professional references.
    • Some states require that you pass an Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Bachelor’s or in another state the Associate’s Level Exam.

    The Licensed Social Work Associate & Advanced (LSWAA)

    One of the titles that is available to those who have their Master of Social Work (MSW) degree or higher is the Licensed Social Work Associate & Advanced (LSWAA). This is an important step to take on your career path as a social worker and will improve your longer term outlook as a Clinical Social Worker.

    LSWAA Education and Testing Required

    • You must pass a criminal background check
    • You will first need to earn your Master of Social Work (MSW) or Doctorate from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited institution of higher learning.
    • This level of licensure does not have a supervised clinical experience component.
    • You will need to provide verification of a few years of supervised clinical experience.
    • You will need to pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Advanced Generalist Level exam.
    • You will need to sign a letter of intent to continue your licensure progress towards higher levels of licensure.

    The Licensed Social Work Associate & Independent Clinical (LSWAIC)

    In order to start your career as a Licensed Social Worker, you will need to move through a number of job titles. Once you have your Master of Social Work (MSW) degree you will be able to apply for the title of The Licensed Social Work Associate & Independent Clinical (LSWAIC) and start accumulating experience for higher levels of licensure. You will greatly improve your outlook in clinical social work by fulfilling these critical steps in your career.

    LSWAIC Education and Testing Required

    • You must pass a criminal background check
    • You will first need to earn your Master of Social Work (MSW) or Doctorate from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited institution of higher learning.
    • This level of licensure does not have a supervised clinical experience component.
    • You must complete a 4 hours AIDS awareness course.
    • You will need to provide verification of a few years of supervised clinical experience.
    • You will need to pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Clinical Level exam.
    • You will need to sign a letter of intent to continue your licensure progress towards higher levels of licensure.

    Licensed Social Work Associate & Independent Clinical (LSWAIC)

    • If you wish to attain the Licensed Social Work Associate & Independent Clinical (LSWAIC) in Washington, you must first get a Master or Doctorate of Social Work degree from a Council on Social Work Education accredited university or college or one in candidacy for accreditation. 
    • You will need to pass a criminal background check. You will need to provide proof of at least 4 hours of AIDS awareness training acceptable to the board. You must also sign a letter of intent to pursue eventual licensure as a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker or Licensed Advanced Social Worker. There is no field experience requirement for this position.
    • Finally, you must pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Clinical Level Exam. To renew your license, you must have successfully completed 36 contact hours of continuing education. Licensed Social Work Associate & Independent Clinical (LSWAIC)

    Social Worker Associate (SWA)

    For those with an Associate’s degree in Social Work one level of licensure available in certain states is the Social Worker Associate (SWA). This position is an excellent level of licensure to begin your career as a Social Worker. The outlook for the SWA is quite good due to demographic shifts and the fact that Social Work as a sector is projected to grow faster than most sectors of the economy.

    SWA Education and Testing Required

    • There are a number of requirements you will need to meet in order to attain the title of Social Worker Associate (SWA):
    • You must have at least an Associate’s degree in Social Work from an accredited university.
    • You will need to pass a criminal background check.
    • Some states require that you have a few thousand hours of supervised work experience in a clinical Social Work setting.
    • Some states require that you pass an Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Bachelor’s Level Exam.

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