Massachusetts licenses social workers at four levels. The highest levels, Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) and Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW), are for individuals with master’s degrees in social work. The LISW is granted to LCSWs who have documented post-degree supervised experience.
Licensed Social Workers (LSWs) and Licensed Social Worker Associates (LSWAs) have varying amounts of education. A bachelor’s degree is not a requirement, but one will progress to the LSW level more quickly if one has one.
Social workers at each level must pass an Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) examination. Pre-approval is required.
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The quickest route to an LSW is a bachelor’s degree in social work. Candidates who have one may begin the application process immediately after graduation. The required ASWB exam is the bachelor’s level one.
Candidates may progress to LSW with as little as a high school education. However, it will take ten years of experience working under the supervision of a BSW or MSW. Candidates who have some college education but do not have a social work bachelor’s will need between two and eight years of experience (depending on how many years of college they have completed).
Any candidate who is using work experience as part of the qualification for LSW must document that they have had at least one hour of individual supervision for every 35 hours worked.
Candidates who are not yet eligible for an LSW license may qualify for an LSWA. A bachelor’s in any field is acceptable as the educational prerequisite; an associate degree (or 60 semester hours) in a human service field is also accepted. Candidates without a degree do become eligible after a training period. (It should be noted that some individuals performing social work services for governmental agencies are exempt from licensing mandates.) The required exam at the LSWA level is the ASWB associate level exam.
Candidates seeking higher level licenses should complete CSWE-accredited graduate programs. Afterward, they should take the master level examination and apply for the LCSW license. (The LCSW must be earned before the LISW.)
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 master level social worker must work under supervision for at least two years and accrue 3,500 hours of work experience. During this time, they must receive 100 hours of clinical supervision from a social worker who possesses the highest level of licensing. This translates to one hour of supervision per 35 hours of work.
After the social worker has completed the requisite experience, they can apply to take the clinical level exam. This is the last step in the process.
All applicants must submit notarized applications, relevant transcripts, and references Click here to download the application. Particular references are expected at certain levels. At the LCSW level, a candidate should have a supervisory reference from someone who oversaw her fieldwork. At the LISW level, a candidate is expected to have a supervisory reference from an LISW.
The Association of Social Work Boards processes Massachusetts applications. Candidates may opt to carry out the application process in one of two ways. They may supply all supporting documentation to the ASWB or they may opt to have the ASWB request supporting documents on their behalf; if they choose the latter method, the ASWB will keep a record of their documentation in the ASWB Social Work Registry. The advantage to this is that it can simplify later applications. Candidates who choose to use the registry still need to fill out a waiver for each of their references.
The application fee for a candidate who is not using the registry and not applying by reciprocity is $173. For a first time applicant who wishes to be included in the registry, the fee is $203. Examination and licensure fees are required at a later stage. All licenses are renewed biennially.
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 Massachusetts.