Studying for Social Work Licensure
Candidates for social work licensure must meet education and examination requirements. Licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) need at least a master's degree. However, licensed social workers (LSWs) in some states need only a bachelor's degree. Licensure candidates must pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam and a state-specific ethics exam. Candidates must also undergo a criminal background check.
Aspiring LSWs and LCSWs can study independently or take an exam-preparation class. Individuals can access many free and low-cost exam-prep resources online. This guide provides links to study guides and explores the process of obtaining licensure for social workers.
What Is Social Work Licensure?
The social work licensure process ensures that LSWs and LCSWs provide quality service. Master's degree-holders can take ASWB's master's, advanced generalist, and clinical exams. Recent graduates can take the master's exam. The latter two exams require at least two years of supervised work experience.
After submitting an initial license application with their state, candidates sign up for an exam. ASWB exams take place at authorized Pearson VUE testing centers. Questions vary by exam. The master's exam covers human development, assessment and intervention, and professional relationships. Candidates who pass the ASWB exam and state ethics exam submit scores to their state licensure board. Application processing times vary.
LSWs and LCSWs should research their state's social work licensure renewal requirements. California LCSWs must earn 18 continuing education credit hours during their first two-year renewal cycle. Later renewals require 36 credit hours.
Frequently Asked Questions About Social Work Licensure
What's the difference between an LSW and an LCSW?
LSWs work with clients in nonclinical settings and perform more administrative tasks than LCSWs. LCSWs need additional education and training and can provide more client services than LSWs.
What qualifications does a social worker need?
Some entry-level positions require only a bachelor's degree in social work. However, aspiring LCSWs need a master's degree and supervised experience.
Can you get an LSW without a master's?
In many states, LSWs need only a bachelor's degree. These social work licensure candidates must pass an ASWB examination and their state's ethics examination.
What is the highest level of social work licensing?
The LCSW credential is the highest level of social work licensing. LCSWs can work for themselves, while other social workers must work for an employer.
Social Work Licensure Exam
Each social work licensure exam features unique costs and questions. The following section discusses the master's exam. Recent graduates take this exam to enter the social work field and gain the experience necessary to obtain LCSW licensure. Candidates should consult the ASWB website for the latest details.
Like all ASWB exams, the computer-based master's exam lasts four hours. The exam does not pause for breaks, which individuals may request by raising their hand. Test-takers may only use the restroom closest to the testing room. Pearson VUE requires test-takers to carry their photo ID when visiting the restroom.
The master's exam features 170 multiple-choice questions. However, 20 questions spread throughout the exam do not affect the final score. The exam covers many content areas in four social work domains. Questions assess test-takers' knowledge of basic human needs, medical terminology, evidence-based practices, and service delivery methods.
Social work licensure candidates can increase their chance of passing on the first try by studying with the ASWB content outlines guide.
As of March 2022, ASWB charges $230 each for the associate, bachelor's, and master's exams. The advanced generalist and clinical exams cost $260 each. ASWB accepts major credit cards and waives exam fees for specific groups.
Exam-takers first create an ASWB online account. Candidates answer demographic and exam-eligibility questions. Individuals should ensure their photo ID and exam registration form use the same name. After paying, candidates receive an exam authorization form and select their testing location and time.
Test-takers must bring two forms of identification, such as a driver's license or passport. Pearson VUE provides a locker for prohibited items, including cell phones, coats, and jewelry. Test-takers may also leave these items in their car. Pearson VUE allows comfort aids in the testing area, including mobility devices, earplugs, and tissues.
Social Work Practice Exams and Prep
Additional Resources for Social Workers
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