Hawaii licenses social workers at three levels and has a well-defined scope of practice for each. Licensed Baccalaureate Social Workers (LBSWs) must work in agency settings. They can carry out service plans and perform duties like referral, case management, community organization, and program administration. Master’s trained Licensed Social Workers (LSWs) can have additional responsibilities like consultation, research, psychosocial assessment, and treatment. Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs) who have completed a period of supervised work, can do clinical diagnosis and psychotherapy. They are allowed to go into independent practice.
Each license level has its own test, which a candidate registers for through the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB).
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The first step to LBSW is to get a bachelor’s degree from a social work program that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) or one that is equivalent. After the degree has been conferred, the prospective social worker should have official transcripts sent to the State of Hawaii Professional and Vocational Licensing. The National Association of Social Workers – Hawaii notes that recent graduates of the University of Hawaii can speed up the process by applying before they have the final transcript in hand; they should include a note that their name appears on a list compiled by the university. The application must be sent with a $60 nonrefundable application fee. Click here to download the application. Total fees depend on the part of the triennial renewal cycle in which the applicant applies.
Candidates who are approved may contact the ASWB to schedule an exam. The exam is administered throughout the year on Oahu. The eligibility letter confers a one-year testing window.
Two years is the length of time that the board holds a license before deeming it abandoned. A candidate who does not fulfill requirements within two years but intends to do so will need to stay in communication with the board.
Prospective social workers should enroll in a master’s program that is CSWE-accredited or equivalent or in a doctoral program that has appropriate regional accreditation. Candidates have some choice with regard to post-degree testing. They may pass the ASWB exam at the master’s level or go for a higher level exam – like the clinical exam which will ultimately be required for the independent license. NASW – Hawaii reports $230 as the current testing fee.
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.
In order to get LCSW status, social workers must complete 3,000 hours of supervised experience over a two to five year period. At least 2,000 of these hours must be in clinical diagnosis, psychotherapy, and assessment. Advocacy, consultation, and evaluation may account for no more than 900 of the credited hours.
Qualifying professional certifications can be accepted en lieu of evidence of 3,000 supervision hours. One option is the NASW Diplomate in Clinical Social Work.
Candidates need clinical supervision from a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has at least 4,500 hours of post-master experience. The candidate must receive a total of 100 hours of face-to-face supervision. Up to 40 may take place in a small group (with up to six supervisees). The remaining supervision hours must be individual. At the end of the supervision period, the clinical supervisor will fill out a verification form and have it notarized.
At this stage, candidates will take the ASWB clinical exam if they have not done so already.
Candidates who have taken ASWB exams in other jurisdictions may arrange to have their scores sent to Hawaii. Endorsement licenses may be granted to out-of-state social workers who have met examination requirements.
Statutes and rules about social work licensing and practice can be found in Chapter 467E. The Hawaii chapter of NASW is an additional resource for information about the licensing process.
Licenses are renewed triennially.
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 Hawaii.