Human Services Guide

LCSW Certification & Licensure

Becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) requires that you attain certification or licensure granted by a state or provisional licensing board. Becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) will require the fulfillment of a variety of benchmarks that differ depending on the state in which you are trying to become certified or licensed.

In most cases, the state licensing board will require that you meet certain educational thresholds. Some states allow social workers with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) or in rare cases an Associate of Social Work, to have limited licensure and allowed social work practice. The vast majority of states require that you have a minimum of a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree before you can attain certification or licensure as a LCSW. Your degree must also be from an accredited institution. State and provisional licensing boards have sole discretion on what educational institutions are acceptably accredited. Most state’s social work licensing boards will recognize schools that have Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accreditation as being acceptable. Other states may have differing standards on additional acceptable institutions of higher learning.

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It is important to keep in mind that generally speaking, most states have no formal reciprocity standards for LCSW certification and licensure. That is, being certified or attaining licensure as a LCSW in one state will not be recognized as meeting the standards for certification or licensure in another state even if they have nearly identical standards. In most cases, you will need to reapply with the local social work licensing board and meet the requirements to attain licensure or certification as a LCSW.

Virtually every state will require that you have passed an Association on Social Work Boards (ASWB) examination. The level of exam required will vary from state to state and depend on the level of licensure you are attempting to attain. It is important to carefully study the rules and regulations of each state’s social work licensing board to understand which level of licensure or certification is best for you.

Also keep in mind that different states have different titles for Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW), not all states use the title LCSW. Some states have a few different levels of licensure or certification and other states have only one level of licensure. For most states, the title of Licensed Clinical Social Worker is recognized as an advanced form of licensure or certification allowing great latitude in your social work practice and requires a MSW or higher degree and the passing of the ASWB Clinical Level exam.

You will want to take the time to familiarize yourself with the step-by-step licensure or certification process for any state you are considering working in as a LCSW. You will also want to take the time to learn the specific rules and regulations of each state’s board as to the scope and specifics of what practices are allowed under what level of licensure or certification. You can learn more about each state’s requirements, step-by-step licensure and certification instructions and find a direct link to that state’s social work licensing board by going to our home page and clicking on the state you are considering working in as a LCSW.