Social Work Licensure in South Carolina

Home to one of the nation’s largest populations of social workers, South Carolina provides a convenient path to licensure for aspiring professionals in this discipline. The state offers a simple, straightforward licensing process to graduates of bachelor’s in social work (BSW) or master’s in social work (MSW) programs. South Carolina also provides a convenient process for licensed social workers looking to upgrade their credentials or renew their South Carolina social work licensure.

Nonclinical social workers in South Carolina must hold at least a BSW from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW) certification. The South Carolina Board of Social Work Examiners grants LBSW licensure to candidates who earn a passing score on the bachelor’s-level licensing exam administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), in addition to meeting other requirements. Applicants holding a CSWE-accredited MSW may pursue Licensed Master’s Social Worker (LMSW) status by taking and passing the master’s-level ASWB exam.

LMSWs in South Carolina may apply for the licensed independent social worker clinical practice (LISW-CP) or advanced practice (LISW-AP) designation after completing 3,000 hours of work experience and taking the ASWB’s clinical or advanced generalist exam, respectively. Out-of-state social workers looking to obtain licensure in South Carolina must hold an MSW or DSW from an accredited institution, and submit ASWB scores and a social work licensure verification form with their application to the Board for consideration.

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Types of Social Work Degrees in South Carolina

Students can earn a social work degree in South Carolina at the bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral level. While each program emphasizes field experience to meet the minimum requirements for licensure in the state, these degrees also prepare students for a variety of careers in social work. Depending on whether a student plans to enter the field of social work in an administrative, academic, or clinical role, they may follow a different set of criteria in determining the right fit when choosing a social work degree and ultimately pursuing social work licensure in South Carolina.

Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work

A bachelor’s degree in social work offers students their first chance to gain work experience in the field, as programs at this level require an internship or practicum experience in a social services setting. Graduates with a BSW meet the minimum state educational requirements to pursue LBSW licensure, qualifying them for non-clinical entry-level positions in the field, such as social work case worker, social services assistant, or mental health social work assistant. While the BSW is designed to train students for the ASWB licensing exam and introduce them to the professional requirements of the field, students cannot achieve a license higher than the LBSW in South Carolina without completing an MSW. Accredited BSW programs also prepare graduates to continue on into an MSW program, which can lead to clinical or advanced practice licensure and greater earning potential in South Carolina.

Master’s in Social Work

As the industry’s most common education requirement for professional licensure, an MSW offers graduates the most variety among social work jobs in South Carolina. Like BSW programs, master’s degrees in social work require a combination of academic and field experience, typically including an immersive internship or clinical experience in a social work facility. However, MSW programs also allow students to develop skills in a particular specialty area of social work, such as healthcare, mental health and substance abuse, or child welfare. Graduates with an MSW meet the minimum education requirements for master’s-level nonclinical and clinical social work licensure in South Carolina, preparing them for careers as social work supervisors or school or healthcare social workers.

Doctoral Degree in Social Work

Earning a doctoral social work degree in South Carolina can benefit students aspiring to postsecondary teaching jobs or research in social work, nonprofit management, or government. Graduates with a Ph.D. in social work or a doctor of social work (DSW) degree may pursue the same paths to licensure as MSW-holders, though the field does not offer an additional advanced credential for those with post-graduate education. Most doctoral programs allow students to customize their degree plan to include independent study or research, possibly including field work, and culminating in a thesis or dissertation.

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker in South Carolina

Social work schools in South Carolina prepare graduates for one of four types of professional licensure: LBSW, LMSW, LISW-CP, or LISW-AP. Beginning with LBSW certification, career opportunities and relative earning potential increase for employees at each progressive level of social work licensure in South Carolina. The highest level of licensure attainable for nonclinical social workers is the LISW-AP designation, which requires additional supervised work experience beyond the MSW and a passing score on the ASWB advanced generalist exam. Meanwhile, aspiring clinical social workers may pursue LISW-CP status, which also requires work experience and a passing score on the clinical exam for those who already hold a LMSW license.

Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker

  1. Application: Candidates must submit an application for LBSW licensure to the South Carolina Board of Social Work Examiners, including a $45 application fee. Applicants must send transcripts directly to the Board for consideration with their application.
  2. CSWE-accredited BSW: Applicants must hold a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program, or be in the final semester of a CSWE-accredited BSW, with written approval from the dean of their school’s social work program.
  3. ASWB Bachelor’s-level Exam: Once approved by the Board, LBSW candidates must take the bachelor’s-level ASWB exam. The exam costs $230, and consists of 170 multiple choice questions; students must answer at least 96 questions correctly to earn a passing score. Applicants may retake the test up to three times during the year.

Licensed Master’s Social Worker

  1. Application: Students must submit their application for LMSW licensure to the Board, along with a $45 fee and official transcripts.
  2. CSWE-accredited MSW: Applicants must hold a CSWE-accredited MSW degree. Students in their final semester of an MSW program who wish to take the test before they graduate must provide a letter from their program’s dean to gain permission from the Board to take the test.
  3. ASWB Master’s-level Exam: Once approved by the Board, aspiring LMSWs must earn a passing score on the ASWB master’s-level exam. The exam comprises 170 multiple choice questions, only 150 of which are scored. Students who answer at least 96 questions will pass. The exam costs $230.

Licensed Independent Social Worker – Clinical Practice

  1. Application: A student’s application for LISW-CP licensure must include documentation that applicants have completed 15 credit hours or 20 continuing education hours in professional ethics, and a supervision contract, which demonstrates that candidates have fulfilled all work experience requirements. Candidates must pay a $90 application fee.
  2. Current LMSW licensure: Applicants must hold valid LMSW social work licensure in South Carolina.
  3. Experience: Applicants must complete 3,000 hours of supervised clinical social work experience within 2-4 years of earning their LMSW certification. At least 100 hours must consist of direct contact between applicants and their supervisor, though the Board allows up to 50% of these hours to come from group supervision, provided the group consists of six or fewer participants.
  4. ASWB Clinical Exam: Once the Board approves the application, aspiring LISW-CPs must answer at least 96 questions correctly out of 170 on the ASWB clinical-level exam to earn a passing score. The exam costs $260. In a 12-month period, a student may take the test up to three times.

Licensed Independent Social Worker – Advanced Practice

  1. Application: The LISW-AP licensure applicants must complete 15 credits or 20 continuing education hours in professional ethics and meet work experience requirements, documented by a supervision contract. Candidates must pay a $90 application fee.
  2. Current LMSW licensure: Applicants for LISW-AP licensure must hold a valid LMSW social work license in South Carolina.
  3. Experience: Candidates must have completed 3,000 hours of supervised clinical social work experience, within 2-4 years of receiving LMSW licensure. At least 100 of these hours must consist of direct supervisor contact, which can include up to 50% group supervision, as long as the group consists of six or less members.
  4. ASWB Clinical Exam: Upon Board approval, LISW-AP candidates must take the 170-question ASWB advanced generalist exam. Students who answer at least 96 questions correctly will pass. The exam costs $260.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Licensed Social Worker in South Carolina?

The path to becoming a licensed social worker in South Carolina can take as little as four years, depending on your education and experience, and the type of licensure you seek. Students seeking LBSW licensure may apply immediately upon completion of a four-year BSW degree. Aspiring LMSWs can expect to take two additional years beyond the BSW to earn a master’s degree, and may apply for licensure with no additional experience required. LISW-CP and LISW-AP candidates must meet the state’s most time-consuming criteria on the path to licensure: at least 3,000 supervised work hours, which must be completed within 2-4 years of earning the LMSW credential.

Out of State Licensing Reciprocity in South Carolina

Though South Carolina does not hold a formal reciprocity agreement with other states for social work licensure, the Board considers applications from out-of-state licensed social workers on a case-by-case basis. Unlike the application process for South Carolina residents, applicants must simply submit a social work verification form to validate current social work licensure in another state with their application. Candidates must also hold an MSW or DSW from an accredited program, and submit ASWB test scores and official transcripts directly to the Board for verification. Candidates must pay a total of $50 to apply, including a $45 application fee and a $5 license verification fee.

License Renewal

Social workers in South Carolina must renew their licenses every two years. The licensure renewal process requires at least 40 hours of continuing education from a trained social worker or social work supervisor with a BSW, MSW, or DSW degree. Candidates must complete continuing education hours in an approved method or at a Board-approved state agency. Licensure renewal costs $90. Candidates seeking renewal of their current social work licensure in South Carolina may carry over a maximum of 12 completed continuing education units from one renewal period to the next. Active-duty military men and women in service for at least 30 days may waive one year of continuing education requirements.

Accredited Social Work Programs in South Carolina

Traditional and online social work programs in South Carolina can provide a direct path to licensure in the subdiscipline of your choice. Accredited BSW and MSW programs prepare students through a rigorous curriculum of core social work concepts, relevant issues in contemporary social work in the state, and field experience in the local workforce.

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

As in many professions, a social worker’s job prospects and potential salary are closely aligned with their qualifications and experience. In South Carolina, social workers with a master’s degree or higher and extensive supervised work experience have the greatest potential choice of jobs and increased earnings over the span of their career. Social work programs in South Carolina at the master’s level also prepare students to seek licensure and employment in a specialty area, such as child, family, and school social work, which represents a critical portion of social workers in the state. While South Carolina offers entry-level licensure to BSW holders, the state rewards graduates who hold an advanced degree with commensurate career possibilities and the potential for a higher income than those with only a bachelor’s degree.

  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): LCSWs provide counseling, psychotherapy, and social services, including locating government housing and assisting with job placement services. These professionals often work in clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and mental health facilities. Candidates must hold a CSWE-accredited MSW and a current state license.
  • Social Services Case Manager: Social services case managers work primarily in healthcare settings, but may also work in social services agencies, often managing a variety of projects and human resources at one time. Case managers in social services must hold at least a bachelor’s degree, though some employers prefer a master’s degree. The position requires advanced leadership and communication skills.
  • Child, family, or school social worker: Child, family, and school social workers evaluate home and educational environments for safety and transition children from abusive or unsafe situations into protective services or foster care when necessary. Aspiring professionals in this specialty must hold at least a master’s degree and a current state license. Some employers require a certified advanced children, youth, and family social worker certification.
  • Medical social worker: Social workers specializing in healthcare services provide patients with the holistic support they need, often within a large hospital or treatment facility. Social workers may help their clients navigate health insurance and hospital bills, and locate transportation or meal delivery services after being discharged from a hospital stay. Most employers require a bachelor’s degree, though some prefer a master’s.
  • Hospice social worker: Hospice social workers are responsible for providing palliative care to patients at the end of their life, as well as support to their family and caregivers. These social workers typically work with other healthcare professionals to develop a plan of care for providing comprehensive medical, emotional, and logistical support to each patient. Hospice social workers may help with stressful but necessary tasks, including submitting insurance claims, managing medication schedules, and making funeral arrangements.

Salary Expectations for Social Workers in South Carolina

South Carolina social workers with proper licensure can earn a handsome salary throughout their career. Depending on their specialty or concentration, a licensed social worker in South Carolina may earn an annual income in excess of $55,000. As is the case in any industry, social workers who meet the highest educational requirements and hold the highest levels of licensure typically earn higher salaries than personnel in other positions. LCSWs, holding the field’s highest level of certification, are among the industry’s top earners.

Average Salary for Social Workers in South Carolina

Licensed Clinical Social Worker $58,000
Social Services Case Manager$52,000
Child, Family, or School Social Worker$48,234
Medical Social Worker$51,923
Hospice Social Worker$51,923
Source: PayScale

Professional Organizations for Social Workers in South Carolina

Social workers seeking an edge among competitors in the field may consider the benefits of joining a professional organization. The perks of national and state social work organizations commonly include networking platforms and events, career placement and employment assistance, and access to critical continuing education opportunities. Each organization below offers its own unique services to the local workforce of social workers in South Carolina.

  • South Carolina Board of Social Work Examiners: Housed under the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, the South Carolina Board issues social work licensure in South Carolina. The Board not only helps guide aspiring social workers through the licensure application process, but also enables them to check the status of an existing application, explore continuing education opportunities, and upgrade or renew a social work license.
  • National Association of Social Workers – South Carolina Chapter: South Carolina’s NASW chapter provides local social workers with opportunities to network within the umbrella organization’s national membership. While the organization serves all levels and specialties of social work, the South Carolina chapter focuses on services benefiting the local economy, including work training and job placement.
  • South Carolina Society for Clinical Social Work: This nonprofit organization addresses all facets of clinical social work, including community education, professional networking, and public programs. Whether providing clinical social services in medical, mental health, or children and family specialties in South Carolina, SCSCSW members advocate to advance the profession at the state and federal levels.