The LCSW License Guide for Aspiring Social Workers

You love helping people, lending a hand whenever possible, and believing in others and their unique abilities. When you think about the career you want to pursue, you know you want to do something to make the planet a better place for everyone.

That’s why you’re passionate about becoming a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). Once you get your LCSW license, there are dozens of meaningful and fulfilling careers to choose from that can contribute to a more loving and healthy world for people of all backgrounds.

To get licensed, you’ll need to complete required online and offline coursework and training and take licensing exams.

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What Is Clinical Social Work?

A specialty practice area of social work, clinical social work entails preventing, assessing, diagnosing and treating mental illness and emotional or other behavioral disturbances.

What Does an LCSW Do?

A licensed social worker provides services to individuals, groups and families with mental illness and emotional and behavioral needs.

They can work in hospitals, community mental health centers, private practices and agencies, and they consider people part of a community affected by their environments. Additionally, they may oversee cases and ensure patients receive proper treatment.

Depending on their role, they may also need to prepare court reports, coordinate with teams on client concerns, conduct medication reviews, and testify at or attend hearings. They may field calls, take notes, bill clients, make appointments with clients and do other administrative tasks.

How Do You Become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker?

To become an LCSW, you should have your Master of Social Work (MSW) degree through an accredited online or traditional school and pass social worker licensure exams in your state. You will likely also need clinical training.

Coursework may include topics like child abuse assessment, partner and spousal abuse, long-term care, alcoholism, addiction and aging. The number of clinical hours and courses you need to complete vary by state.

Since you’re doing clinical training after you graduate, you should be able to work a paid, full-time job and earn your required hours at the same time. Sometimes, employers will pay for your course costs while you’re getting your LCSW license.

What Is LCSW Certification and Licensure?

LCSW certification and licensure will allow you to work as a licensed social worker in your state. Certification and licensure requirements are completed after you finish your master’s degree and required clinical hours. They include the Association of Social Work Boards’ (ASWB) test and a state-specific test.

Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)

The Association of Social Work Boards is the sole nonprofit organization that regulates social work. It comprises social work regulatory boards and colleges in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands and the 10 Canadian provinces. The ASWB owns and retains the social work licensing tests that evaluate a social worker’s competence and ability to practice safely and ethically.

LCSW State Licensing Requirements

Each state has its own LCSW license requirements, each exam is composed of four main categories: content areas, competencies, knowledge, skills, and abilities statements. If you move out of state, you may need to retake your exam. You may also need to give your new state your transcripts and other documents you used to get your current license.

How to Become an LCSW

Becoming an LCSW may seem complicated. While it does take two to four years until you’re ready to practice without supervision, if you’re passionate about being a licensed social worker, you will be able to navigate all the steps. Below are common steps you can take to become an LCSW, keep in mind that requirements vary by state.

Steps to Becoming an LCSW

  1. Earn your bachelor’s degree—it doesn’t have to be related to social work.
  2. Apply to an accredited school where you can earn your Master ofSocial Work (MSW) degree, and note all the admissions requirements (GPA, grades, standardized test scores, prerequisites, recommendations, etc.).
  3. Complete required coursework.
  4. Do at least the minimum required hours of supervised clinical training in the field.
  5. Prepare for your state and ASWB exams by studying and working out a time to take the tests.
  6. Take your state and ASWB exams.
  7. Earn your license to start practicing.
  8. Find a job in the field and stay up to date on your education.
  9. If you move to another state, meet that state’s requirements.

The 5 Categories of Social Work Licensure Examinations

The ASWB administers five categories for social work licensure exams. They include:

  • Associate
  • Bachelor’s
  • Master’s
  • Advanced Generalist
  • Clinical

If you have disabilities or English is not your first language, you can request special accommodations and arrangements to suit your needs for taking the test.

ASWB Clinical Exam

The ASWB licensing exams for LCSWs are administered all over North America multiple times per year, and contain questions pertaining to social and economic justice, intervention processes, and human behavior and development. The test has 170 multiple choice questions and there is an exam fee of $230 to $260, depending on level of exam. It is graded pass/fail, and your scores will be sent to a regulatory board. If you fail the test, you can retake it after 90 days.

Digital Resources for Becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker

For more information on how to get your LCSW license and become a licensed clinical social worker, here are some helpful digital resources:

Start Your LCSW License Training Now

Congratulations on your decision to fulfill your career goals and become a licensed social worker. Now, you are ready to look into coursework and online LCSW master’s programs that will fit your already busy schedule.

Sponsored

Jumpstart Your Career in Social Work, Explore Online MSW Programs:

Earn your MSW online from Fordham University

  • Pursue the degree on a full-time or part-time track.
  • Traditional and advanced standing online MSW options are available.

* Consult your Admissions Counselor for information about Full-time cohort availability surrounding COVID-19.

Discover Fordham University

Earn your MSW online from The University of Denver

  • No GRE Required
  • Complete in as few as 18 months
Discover Program

Last Updated August 2020