Social Worker Licensing Requirements and Examinations Overview

By Peterson's Staff updated on Thursday, November 07, 2013

Even after you graduate with your master's degree in social work, all states require that you take the necessary steps to gain licensure in the field. Taking the time to get your license is an important part of the journey toward your future career. Below we have outlined some steps to help you along with the process.

Types of Licenses

Since each state has particular regulations determining what their standard licensing requirements and types of licenses are, it is important to check with your local state board to find out the specifics. In general, many states offer variations of the following license types to those with a degree in social work:

  • Licensed Social Worker (LSW)
  • Clinical Social Worker (CSW)
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)

Licensing Requirements and Taking the Exam

Again, your local state board will have the specifics on what exam you need to take, so please check their requirements before you proceed with scheduling and studying for an exam. The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) can also be a great resource to you. In the meantime, we have provided a short checklist to inform you what steps you should take to complete the overall process.

  1. Complete the supervised experience requirements of your state.
  2. Find out which licensing best represents your academic credentials and professional experience.
  3. Fill out an application for licensure and wait to be contacted by your state board.
  4. Schedule an appointment to take the licensing examination.
  5. Study for the appropriate licensing exam.
  6. Take the exam, wait for the results, and anticipate receiving your issued license.

Continuing Education Requirements

Like every other licensed professional, social workers are required to take classes, seminars, and attend conferences from accredited schools, health institutions, and other associations in order to keep current with new practices in the field,. While every state has different rules detailing what constitutes approved continuing education, keep in mind that you will have to dedicate anywhere from 12 to 50 hours annually depending on your state's regulations. Whether or not your license is able to be renewed is based on the presumption that all renewal requirements are completed.

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