Become a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)

Written by Nalea J. Ko
Last Updated: June 2023

A master’s degree in social work serves as the minimum standard for a social work license, unless you live in one of 19 states that offer a licensed baccalaureate social worker (LBSW), an entry-level license. LBSWs are bachelor’s degree-holders with a limited general scope of practice.

An LBSW license offers a starting point in social work if you want to spend less time in college. Keep reading to find out how to become an LBSW, where they work, and average salaries.

What Is a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)?

A licensed baccalaureate social worker is the quickest route to social work licensure in select states. You only need a bachelor’s in social work (BSW) to become an LBSW. However, not every state offers this first-level license.

LBSWs generally work under the supervision of a licensed master social worker or a licensed clinical social worker. States may allow LBSWs to work without supervision after a probationary period.

Graduate-level social workers can treat patients in clinical settings, but LBSWs operate as generalists, providing advocacy, access to community resources, and case management. Clients may include terminally ill patients or at-risk children and families.

You can use your experience as an LBSW to later earn a master of social work (MSW).

Key Responsibilities of a LBSW

  • Personal Histories and Assessments: Provide intake for clients and document their histories, social and emotional needs, strengths and barriers, environmental issues, and support systems.
  • Plans of Care: Participate in teams with other medical staff to develop care plans and set goals.
  • Interventions and Crisis Management: Provide crisis management and intervention as needed.
  • Referrals and Education: Maintain a network of social service resources and connections to community-based and medical referrals. Help patients and families understand illnesses and treatments and coordinate follow-up treatment.

Where Do LBSW’s Work?

LBSWs hold a bachelor’s degree in social work, the minimum requirement in 19 states that issue the license.

States in the western region that offer LBSW licenses include Alaska, Hawaii, and Montana. In the southwest Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas offer LBSW licensing, plus Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and North Dakota in the Midwest. Southern states that issue LBSWs include Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania make up the east coast states that recognize LBSWs.

LBSWs work in child and family services, hospitals, medical care clinics, long-term care facilities, and schools.

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Steps to Become a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)

Each state determines what you need to become an LBSW, so be sure to check with your local licensing board. Generally, you can follow the steps below to become an LBSW:

  1. Complete a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) Degree: The first step toward a license is earning a CSWE-accredited bachelor’s in social work degree which takes four years on average when you study full time. During your education, you will complete about 120 credits, including practicum experiences that provide you with face-to-face hours needed for licensure.
  2. Pass the Association of Social Work Board’s (ASWB) Bachelor’s Exam: You need to pass the ASWB’s bachelor’s exam to be eligible for a state license. Some states may require a pre-approval application. The exam costs $230 to register. This computer-based exam comprises 170 questions you can complete over four hours.
  3. Fill Out License Application and Pay the Fees: After you pass the ASWB exam, you need to apply for licensure through your state licensing board. Pay the licensing and application fees and provide common documents, such as certified transcripts, professional references, authorization for a background check, and examination information. Also, you may need to take a jurisprudence exam in some states.
  4. Consider Becoming a Licensed Master Social Worker: A more advanced license leads to more autonomy in social work and a higher salary. To qualify to become an LMSW you need an MSW degree from an accredited school.

How Much Do Licensed Baccalaureate Social Workers (LBSW) Make?

As a licensed baccalaureate social worker, you can make an average annual salary of $51,640, according to Payscale data from March 2023. The top 90% of LBSWs earn an average salary of $71,000. Salaries differ because of experience and educational attainment.

The population you work with determines your salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), healthcare social workers earn a median annual salary of $60,840, while mental health and substance abuse social workers earn a median wage of $49,130 per year.

Additionally, different states offer better compensation. According to the BLS, Rhode Island, Washington, Oklahoma, District of Columbia, and Kansas are the top-paying states for social workers, all other.

Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)

What is required to become an LBSW?

You need at least a bachelor’s in social work degree from a CSWE-accredited school to become an LBSW. You also need to complete the ASWB bachelor’s exam, which covers assessments, intervention with clients and client systems, human development, and professional relationships.

What can you do with an LBSW license?

An LBSW license allows you to work with individuals, groups, and families in hospitals, hospices, government agencies, senior living centers, and schools. You will interview clients to get their personal histories, assess their needs, and problem solve to help them access treatment and social services.

How long does it take to become an LBSW?

It takes at least four years to earn a bachelor’s in social work and become an LBSW. Studying part time will take longer. You may also need to complete contact hours to qualify for a state license.

How much does an LBSW make?

What you make as an entry-level LBSW will differ from your salary after years of experience. According to Payscale, the lowest 10% of LBSWs earn an average of $37,000 a year, while the top 90% can make an average of $71,000 a year.