A State by State Licensure Guide

California Social Work Licensure Requirements

California’s licensed social workers have master’s degrees. Licensure also requires supervised work experience and examination. California has recently begun using the national examination developed by the Association of Social Work Boards.

Earn a Master of Social Work degree online from the top-ranked USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. This CSWE-accredited program features live, online classes and hands-on field experiences near your community. GRE scores are not required to apply, and you can complete your degree in two years or less. Bachelor's degree required. Learn more and request information!

The Simmons College School of Social Work (SocialWork@Simmons) is the nation’s oldest school of social work and is offering an innovative Online Master of Social Work program. You can complete this CSWE-accredited Master's in Social Work program in as little as 15 months. There is no GRE required for acceptance to this program. Request information.

Capella University is now offering an online Master of Social Work that is in CSWE candidacy status. The MSW program helps prepare students to enter the general or clinical practice role (in most states). Capella also offers an online Doctor of Social Work that focuses on in-demand leadership skills and integration of technology. Click Here to contact Capella University about their Master of Social Work program or Doctor of Social Work program.

social worker with student

LCSW Education Requirements in California

In order to become a California Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), one must have a master’s degree from an accredited institution and additional classwork as mandated by the Board of Behavioral Sciences (Click Here to got to the Board of Behavioral Sciences for additional information regarding becoming an LCSW in California).

You may also want to read the article "Master’s Degree in Social Work: Developing Skills and Competencies" if you have any questions about Master's of Social Work programs.

The additional coursework may or may not be included in the degree program:

  • Human Sexuality
  • Spouse/ Partner Abuse
  • Child Abuse Assessment/ Reporting
  • Aging and Long Term Care
  • Chemical Dependency and Alcoholism

It is not necessary to verify the additional coursework until one applies for clinical status. However, an out-of-state applicant will need California law and ethics coursework before associate credentialing.

ASW Requirements in California

After completing a social work master’s, the candidate can register as an associate social worker (Click Here to access the registration packet for an Associate Social Worker). There are a few steps to complete before sending in the application: getting Live Scan fingerprints done, requesting an official transcript that shows the degree conferred, and having a passport photo taken. The Live Scan receipt should be included with the application packet. The application itself is brief, but must be accompanied by a $75 application fee.

The Board will review the application. Processing time is variable (http://www.bbs.ca.gov/app-reg/app_proc_times.shtml). If any information is missing, the applicant must furnish it within one year.

Additional LCSW Requirements in California

Social workers have associate status for at least 104 weeks and until such time as they have completed 3,200 hours of supervised work experience. At least 750 hours must be in psychotherapy and at least 2,000 hours must be in combined diagnosis, assessment, treatment, counseling, and psychotherapy. No more than 1,200 hours of research, evaluation, consultation, and advocacy may be counted. The maximum number of work hours that can be counted in any given week is 40.

At least 1,700 total hours must be under a clinical social worker’s supervision. The remaining hours may be under the supervision of a social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, or marriage and family therapist. Before beginning supervision, the associate’s supervisor must sign a responsibility statement form. Supervisor and supervisee together must sign a supervisory plan. Both documents are to be submitted to the Board.

An associate social worker must meet with a clinical supervisor each week. This can entail one hour of individual or two hours of group supervision. Any time he carries out more than 10 hours of psychotherapy in a given week, an associate social worker is required to have double the usual amount of direct supervision.

An associate supervisor must renew his registration each year. Up to five renewals are allowed. Sometimes an applicant is granted a second registration number. However, the social worker can only count hours earned during a six year period – the period before he applies to the Board for his license.

At the end of the work experience period, the supervisor will fill out a verification form.

The fee for LCSW is currently $100; it may be prorated based on the time remaining in the renewal cycle.

Examination Process (After 2013)

Candidates must first pass a California Law and Ethics exam, then the clinical exam that is administered nationwide by the ASWB. The law and ethics examination must be passed before the ASW can re-register. Beginning in 2017, it must be passed before a second registration number can be issued.

Additional California Social Work Licensure Information

Clinical level social workers must renew their licenses every two years.

Interested individuals may join the BBS email list to stay apprised of any changes in policy.

Professional Association(s)

If you are still in High School, hold a High School Diploma/GED, or hold a bachelor's degree, check out suggested steps to take along the path to become a Social Worker in California.

California Board of Behavioral Sciences

California Society for Clinical Social Work

NASW – California

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