The DC Board of Social Work issues two independent licenses and two licenses that allow for practice under supervision.
The Licensed Social Work Associate (LSWA) license is baccalaureate level -- in DC, this level of education always means working under supervision. Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW) is master's level -- with this level of education, a person must still have supervision until the candidate accrues the required practice hours.
Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) are the independent licenses. LICSW is, as the name implies, a clinical license: signaling a mental health practitioner.
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An individual can be licensed at the associate level with an undergraduate degree from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (or one that has been judged equivalent by the Foreign Equivalency Determination Service).
The student may take the licensing exam as early as their final term. The candidate will need to turn in most application materials at this time in order to be eligible. The required exam is the bachelor's level exam given by the Association of Social Work Boards. Passing the exam gives him or her a head start on the licensing process, though the license won't actually be issued until the candidate submits proof that a degree has been earned.
If a candidate lets 120 days go by – or fails two examination attempts – the candidate will need to reapply.
In order to be licensed at the independent levels, a person will need a CWSE-accredited graduate degree.
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.
If a candidate seeks clinical licensure, the candidate will need to make sure that the educational program includes clinical coursework – this is a new requirement beginning in 2013. A minimum of 12 units are required, at least six of them obtained in an MSW program.
When the prospective social worker is in the final term of the graduate program, or some time afterward, the candidate will apply to the DC Board for permission to take the ASWB master’s examination. When the candidate passes, the candidate can be licensed at the LGSW level.
In order to get the independent licensing, a social worker must complete 3,000 work experience hours under supervision. The supervisee will need at least 100 hours of direct supervision. A graduate social worker who is working toward clinical licensure must be supervised by an LICSW. If the candidate is working toward the nonclinical independent license, the candidate may be supervised by an LISW or LICSW. The LGSW may be supervised by someone who does not work at the same clinical site, but there will be additional requirements.
Depending on specialty, the social worker will take either the clinical or advanced generalist exam to complete requirements for the higher license.
The application package can be found on the DOH site (Click Here for the application forms and additional materials).
Applications should be submitted with a $230 fee. A candidate will need two passport-style photographs and three references. A criminal background check is also required at first application.
A social worker who is licensed in good standing in another jurisdiction, and who met similar requirements to achieve that licensing, is a candidate for licensure by endorsement. If the candidate does not meet endorsement requirements, the licensure by endorsement candidate may still be eligible for licensure by examination.
DC social work licenses must be renewed every other year, on odd years. 40 continuing education hours are required. There are specific requirements in ethics and HIV/AIDS.
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 D.C..