In Virginia, a person may work as a social worker with either a baccalaureate or graduate degree. There are two levels of social work licensure: Licensed Social Worker (LSW) and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).
LCSW is the higher license. LCSWs have master’s degrees and post-master experience. They are mental health practitioners who may diagnose and treat mental conditions.
In recent years, some of the licensing requirements have grown more stringent.
Out-of-state licensees may apply by reciprocity if they have met similar examination and experience requirements. Those who have not passed the required examination may be licensed post-examination.
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Prospective social workers need to enroll in programs that have CSWE accreditation or (if located outside the U.S.) are equivalent to CSWE-accredited ones.
The LSW license is awarded to graduates of both bachelor's and master's programs. However, bachelor's graduates have an additional requirement. They need to accrue 3,000 hours of supervised experience before they are eligible. Master's graduates are eligible for this level of licensing without experience. (With the right type of experience, they can move up to a higher license.)
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.
Post-baccalaureate experience for LSW should consist of providing case management and supportive services. The trainee's supervisor may be an LSW or LCSW. If education is at the baccalaureate level, the trainee must have three years of post-licensure experience. The supervisor will take professional responsibility for the trainee; this includes reviewing the service plans.
The trainee will need at least one hour of face to face supervision for every forty hours worked; The trainee may credit up to four. The trainee will seek Board approval before beginning the supervised experience.
LSW status depends on passing the ASWB bachelor's level exam. (This is true whatever the educational level of the applicant.)
An individual interested in clinical practice should enroll in an accredited graduate program that has a clinical focus and that meets Virginia’s specific coursework requirements. If a candidate’s social work program does not include the necessary clinical courses and practical experience, the candidate will need to make these deficiencies up later. There should be advanced coursework in the following topics: social environment and human behavior, social justice, psychopathology, diversity, clinical practice, and research. There should be a 600-hour clinical field experience. (If a social work graduate does not have the required practicum, they will need to do 600 hours of supervised experience beyond that which is normally required for licensure.)
The graduate will need to work under supervision for a period of two to four years. During this time, the LCSW candidate will accrue 3,000 hours of relevant experience. The supervisor must be an LCSW who meets experience requirements set by the Board. A minimum of 100 hours of direct supervision will be required. The Virginia Board now allows some supervision to take place in a group setting.
Before beginning, the candidate must register who will be overseeing the supervision requirement.
The LCSW candidate will need to take the ASWB clinical exam before a license can be issued.
It costs $25 to register supervision.
Candidates must get permission to take the licensing exam. It will be necessary to submit an application. Bachelor’s graduates have the option of submitting their LSW applications before completing the supervised practice requirement. Approval grants a two year window in which the exam can be taken.
Virginia now has an online application system. The fee is $165.00 at the LCSW level, $115 at the LSW level. Links to online applications, as well supplementary forms, can be found on the site of the Virginia Board of Social Work.
Licenses are renewed biannually. There is a continuing education requirement. LCSWs must do 30 contacts hours, LSWs, 15.
The Virginia chapter of the National Association of Social Workers is a resource when it comes to understanding licensing changes.
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 Virginia.