In Pennsylvania, a master's degree is the standard for social work practice. Social workers may be granted a provisional license with a bachelor's -- provided they enroll in master's programs and further their social work education.
Social workers who have completed master's degrees are known as Licensed Social Workers (LSWs). Those who have completed a post-master clinical social work practice requirement are known as Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs).
Use of the title licensed social worker depends on having a state issued license.
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Licensure requires either a doctoral degree or a master's degree that has been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. If the program has candidacy status with the ASWB (a status granted to new programs) a graduate cannot be licensed until accreditation is granted. Foreign programs may be accepted if deemed equivalent.
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.
Licensure as an LSW also requires a passing score on the ASWB master's level exam. A candidate must apply to the Pennsylvania State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors for permission to test. This may be done during the final semester of the master’s program. At the LSW level, the application fee is $25. The fee for testing is steeper: $230. It is paid to the ASWB once permission has been granted. A candidate then schedules his own exam at his convenience.
In order to move up to an LCSW license, the LSW will need to complete 3,000 hours of work experience that meets Board requirements. He will not be able to do so in less than two years. At least half of the credited hours must be spent in particular duties: assessment, consultation, therapy, and other psychosocial-therapeutic interventions. All hours must be in a setting that is appropriate for the delivery of clinical social work services.
In order to count the experience, a social worker must put in at least 15 hours a week for six months or 30 hours a week for three. A maximum of 1,800 hours can be credited per year. The minimum is 500 hours – a social worker is allowed a total of six years to meet the requirements for the clinical license. Every 40 hours of supervised experience should include two hours of meetings with a clinical supervisor (or, when necessary) with another delegated individual. LSWs can consult the site of the Pennsylvania Society for Clinical Social Work to find potential supervisors who may offer supervision/consultation at low cost (as well as other resources that may help them keep track of progress toward requirements).
After completing experience requirements, the social worker will need to take a clinical exam, again administered through the ASWB.
At the LCSW level, the application fee is $45.
The provisional social work license requires a CSWE-accredited bachelor's degree and three years of supervised work experience. It also requires a passing score on the ASWB bachelor's exam. The application fee is just $25, but candidates can expect to pay a $230 examination fee to the ASWB if they have not passed the exam in another municipality.
While working as a provisional licensee, a practitioner must be under the supervision of a licensed social worker.
Provisional licenses are good for two years and can be issued up to three times. The provisional social worker must surrender his license, however, if he discontinues master's level studies in social work.
Candidates can download applications for licensure from the Board site.
LSW and LCSW licenses are renewed biennially. Social workers need to obtain 30 clock of continuing education.
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 Pennsylvania.