How to Become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker
While these are common steps for how to become an LCSW, it is important to research your state’s requirements.
1. Earn a Master’s Degree in Social Work
The first step for how to become a social worker is a degree. You can either complete a traditional Master of Social Work (MSW) program or an advanced standing MSW program to fulfill the licensed social worker education requirements. An advanced standing MSW will require you to have a Bachelor of Social Work. Typically, a traditional MSW will require you to have completed a bachelor’s degree program in any subject before enrolling. Many states also accept or encourage a doctorate in social work (DSW). Either way, confirm your program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. This accreditation ensures the program follows standards and competencies necessary for post-graduation work and clinical licensure in your state.
2. Complete Additional Coursework
After you earn your master’s degree, you must complete additional coursework if you want to become a licensed clinical social worker. Required courses may discuss law or professional ethics. Though required coursework varies by state, several organizations, including the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), can be resources for completing additional coursework.
3. Complete Additional Hours of Supervised Clinical Experience
How to become a licensed social worker requires completing hours of post-MSW supervised clinical work. Completing these hours provides you with valuable clinical experience related to assessment, treatment, advocacy, research and psychotherapy counseling. You’ll learn how to guide in-person therapy sessions for individuals and groups. The number of supervised clinical hours (and other specifics) vary per state.
4. Pass the Required Licensing Exams
Each state has an independent licensing board that is responsible for regulating clinical social work within its borders and determines the licensure requirements. It’s essential that you check with your state board to ensure you have completed all prerequisites before registering for your social work licensing exam, which is done through the ASWB.
The ASWB currently requires a $230 fee for the master’s exam and a $260 fee for the advanced generalist or clinical exam. Note that these fees are independent from any fees required by your state licensing board.
5. Apply for LCSW Licensing in Your State
If you’re wondering how to become a social worker, you must learn the requirements outlined by your state licensing board. Though licensure application requirements vary, most states require that you meet clinical experience expectations, complete social worker education requirements, pass the ASWB exam, complete additional coursework and submit an application fee. State-specific social work licensing requirements are addressed in the next section.
6. Continued Learning and Clinical Licensure Renewal
The number of CE units required to renew an LCSW license varies by state, as does the number of units permitted from online sources. In addition to continued education units, states generally require a license renewal fee. Check your state board to confirm continued education and license renewal requirements.