The Washington State Department of Health regulates the social work profession – and sets the standards high. Only professionals with education at the master’s level are eligible for licensing.
There are two license types: Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW) and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). LICSW is the higher license. A person with this credential can diagnose and treat mental conditions. The LICSW is authorized to practice independently. This level of licensing is generally required to receive third party payment for mental health services.
The LASW is a nonclinical license, designed for professionals who practice in agencies or other institutions. An LASW can move up to LICSW status. An LASW can carry out various social work duties, including case management, community organization, administration of biopsychosocial assessments, and counseling. However, the LASW can conduct psychotherapy only under supervision, and is not authorized for private practice.
Both LASW and LICSW carry a supervised practicing requirement. While working to meet this requirement, a practitioner is credentialed as a Licensed Social Worker Associate Advanced or Licensed Social Worker Associate Independent Clinical. These credentials can be renewed at most six times.
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A candidate working toward LASW (nonclinical) licensing needs a degree from a CSWE-accredited graduate program. Later, the candidate must apply for associate status. Four hours of training in HIV/ AIDS is required.
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.
A prospective LASW must complete 3,200 hours of supervised practice. This must include at least 800 hours of direct client contact. During this time, the candidate must have 90 supervision hours. 50 supervision hours must be by an LASW or LICSW who has met DOH experience requirements; group or individual supervision is permitted. Up to 40 hours may be individual supervision with another qualified mental health professional.
A maximum of 40 supervision hours may be earned using distance means.
After completing these requirements, LASW candidates must pass the advanced generalist examination, offered by the Association of Social Work Boards. Approved candidates may schedule exams at their convenience.
A prospective LICSW must complete a CSWE-accredited graduate program. Later the LICSW candidate will seek associate licensing and complete 4,000 hours of supervised practice. This must include at least 1,000 hours of direct client contact. The direct supervision requirement is 130 hours. At least 70 hours must be under the auspices of a qualified LICSW. A list of approved supervisors can be found on the site of the Washington Society for Clinical Social Workers.
Up to 60 of the total supervision hours may be carried out at a distance.
The required examination at the LICSW level is the ASWB clinical examination.
Applications are available on the DOH website (Click Here to access the application forms and additional materials).
An advanced associate pays a $35 application fee while an independent clinical associate pays $51. At the advanced and independent levels, applicants pay a $116 application fee and $100 licensing fee. Examination fees are separate and must be paid to the ASWB.
Like candidates across the nation, those in Washington apply to their state board for permission to take the exam.
If a candidate has already taken the required exam in another jurisdiction, the candidate should have the scores sent straight to the Washington licensing agency. If the candidate has been licensed elsewhere, he or she will need a verification form.
Social workers from other jurisdictions can have the licensing process expedited if they are moving to Washington because their spouse or domestic partner has received a military transfer.
Licenses are renewed every year. Associates must attest to having completed 36 hours of continuing education when they apply for professional licensure. LASWs and LICSWs must complete 36 hours of continuing education every two years.
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 Washington.