Social Work Licensure in West Virginia

Social workers provide support to individuals in need, including at-risk youth and those suffering from behavioral issues or mental illness. As the U.S. healthcare system continues to evolve, social work enjoys astounding growth. This guide contains relevant information about the academic programming, degree costs, job options, and professional development opportunities related to social work.

To legally work and advance as a social worker in West Virginia, you must complete the required college degree, field experience, and exams in order to obtain professional licensure. The state’s Board of Social Work confers four tiers of licensure. The initial, non-clinical license requires a bachelor’s in social work, while the final clinical license necessitates at least a master’s degree and two years of supervised graduate-level or post-degree work experience. The Mountain State does not conduct any form of license reciprocity. Out-of-state professionals do not need to earn a social work degree in West Virginia, but they must provide academic credentials, work experience, and scores on exams appropriate to the level of licensure for which they apply. The West Virginia Board of Social Work charges a $100 application fee for all licenses. Social workers must renew their license every two years, which requires 40 hours of continuing education and a $65 charge.

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Types of Social Work Degrees in West Virginia

Traditional and online social work programs in West Virginia must maintain specialized accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Programs vary depending on the goals of individual colleges and universities.While a bachelor’s in social work focuses on the fundamentals of the field, a master’s in social work focuses on advanced course topics and diverse specializations, including elder care, school social work, and domestic violence counseling. Advanced programs emphasize experiential learning through internship and field training that graduates need in order to apply for social work licensure in West Virginia.

Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work

The Bachelor’s in social work (BSW) trains students in fundamental areas like human behavior, social welfare policy, and foundations of social justice. While an undergraduate curriculum usually entails general study, some BSW programs offer specializations in subcategories like child welfare or clinical social work. In West Virginia, this degree serves as a core requirement to obtaining the first level of professional licensure. According to Payscale, entry-level social workers can expect an average salary of $40,666. For nontraditional learners, an online bachelor’s program may prove a more accessible option.

Master’s in Social Work

To apply for clinical social work licensure in West Virginia, you must obtain a master’s degree. The master’s in social work (MSW) focuses on research and practical skill development through projects, presentations, and practicum experiences. Candidates take courses in topics such as advanced clinical social work, psychopathology, and management practice and theory. Students also enjoy specialization opportunities in areas like substance abuse and social policy and law. An MSW serves as a powerful tool for career advancement. Payscale reports that the average licensed clinical social worker earns approximately $56,563 annually. Distance learners can access fully-accredited online master of social work programs, including options ranked by their affordability.

Doctorate Degree in Social Work

Some professionals choose to pursue a traditional or online doctorate to gain more research and field experience. Students enjoy two options: a doctoral degree in social work (DSW) or a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in social work. The former emphasizes practical skills and caters to social workers who want to become program directors or occupy leadership positions. The latter focuses on theoretical study and social policy and benefits prospective consultants, analysts, and educators. Both options offer exceptional career opportunities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), postsecondary teaching and health services management will grow 15% and 20% through 2026.

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker in West Virginia

After earning a social work degree in West Virginia, graduates must apply for a professional license from the state’s Board of Social Work. Level A – licensed social worker (LSW) allows professionals to perform non-clinical duties, such as program administration and community education and training. Level B – licensed graduate social worker (LGSW) enables professionals to provide supervised general clinical and psychotherapeutic client services. Upon obtaining the Level C – licensed certified social worker (LCSW), professionals under supervision may diagnose and treat certain behavioral and psychological disorders. The final license, Level D – licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW), empowers specialists to perform the full array of clinical tasks, including the diagnosis and treatment of advanced mental illnesses. The application costs $100, and candidates must send forms by fax or postal mail.

Licensed Social Worker

  1. Bachelor’s in Social Work: Students must earn an undergraduate social work degree accredited by the CSWE, which takes approximately four years. The BSW provides fundamental knowledge in fields like psychology, sociology, and political science and law. Graduates prepare for non-clinical careers such as community health advocate and case assistant.
  2. Bachelor’s Exam: Facilitated by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), this exam consists of 170 multiple-choice questions. To pass, exam takers need a score ranging from 93 to 107, depending on the level and version of the exam. Candidates take the test electronically and must complete it within four hours. The bachelor’s exam costs $230.
  3. The LSW License: Prospective LSW holders do not need field work or experience.

Licensed Graduate Social Worker

  1. Master of Social Work: To apply for the LGSW License, candidates need an MSW, which usually takes two years. An MSW prepares graduates for supervised clinical social work through advanced coursework and practicum requirements. Programs also offer specializations in areas like gerontology, substance abuse, and child and family welfare.
  2. Master’s Exam: The exam consists of 170 multiple-choice questions, which test takers answer electronically in four hours. To sit for the exam, candidates must pay $230. The ASWB generates questions by surveying practicing social workers in the U.S. and Canada, creating a framework of applicable skills and knowledge based on job description and education level.
  3. The LGSW License: Prospective LGSW holders need neither work experience nor field experience.

Licensed Certified Social Worker

  1. Master of Social Work: The LCSW requires a master’s degree that is accredited by the CSWE. Graduate programs generally take two years to complete, during which students develop macro- and micro-level skills needed to assess patient conditions and develop treatment plans.
  2. Advanced Generalist Exam: Costing $260, this electronic exam consists of 170 multiple-choice questions. Candidates may take four hours to complete the exam and must score between a 93 and a 107, depending on test level. Topics include, ethics, professional best practices, and human diversity.
  3. Two Years of Experience: To take the above exam, candidates need at least two years of post-masters social work experience. The training should include general non-clinical or clinical tasks completed under the guidance of an experienced social worker in a state-approved work setting.

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Work

  1. Doctoral Degree: Both the DSW and the Ph.D. focus on advanced topics like social policy, research methods and ethics, and therapeutic modalities. Students complete extensive field experience requirements. Doctoral programs can take four to eight years, depending on the student’s situation.
  2. Clinical Exam: This four-hour exam consists of 170 multiple choice questions in areas like mental health and behavioral disorders. The ASWB creates the questions by periodically surveying practicing social workers in Canada and the U.S. The advanced clinical exam costs $260 and candidates take it electronically.
  3. Two Years of Experience: Applicants must verify two years, or 3,000 hours, of graduate-level clinical field placement or post-degree clinical training. The experience should include at least 100 hours of supervision from a qualified LCSW, 60 of which needs to occur face-to-face in an individual or group scenario.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Licensed Social Worker in West Virginia?

West Virginia social work licensure comes in four levels, each with its own application criteria and timeline. Level A licenses require a bachelor’s in social work, and a master of social work is required for level B licensure; neither require experience. Level C necessitates an MSW and at least two years of post-master’s social work experience. To apply for the Level D license, social workers must hold a graduate degree and minimum two years of supervised clinical work experience. All licenses require passing scores on relevant exams. Most professionals take at least eight years to become fully-licensed clinical social workers.

Out-of-State Licensing Reciprocity in West Virginia

West Virginia does not facilitate license reciprocity with any other state, which means social workers who earned their credentials elsewhere must go through the same application process as unlicensed professionals. Out-of-state candidates must hold a degree from a college or university with accreditation from the CSWE and must pass the relevant ASWB exams. If they want to apply for the Level C or D license, they must possess at least two years of supervised field experience. Candidates do not incur any out-of-state fees, paying only the standard costs.

While they go through the full licensure process, social workers can apply for a six-month work permit at any of the four license levels. They must attempt the appropriate ASWB exam before the permit expires. Similarly, out-of-state professionals who pursue an alternative education path to a West Virginia social work license may apply for limited provisional qualifications.

License Renewal

Social workers must renew their license every two years regardless of level, a process that takes up to two weeks and includes a $65 fee. Because the West Virginia Board of Social Work does not facilitate online renewals, professionals must submit a paper form through postal mail or fax. Social workers need to document at least 40 hours of continuing education during the license cycle, 20 of which must focus on contact-based practice.

The state divides the continuing education requirement into two equal categories. Category I: Individually approved providers reflect training social workers receive from state-sponsored programs. These usually include groups supported by the ASWB and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). Category II: Individual professional activities represent a long list of free or low-cost continuing education that social workers pursue, including conference attendance and presentations, volunteer work, and research. Professionals cannot renew temporary work permits.

Accredited Social Work Programs in West Virginia

West Virginia serves as a great place to live, study, and work. The Mountain State boasts not only a relatively low cost of living, but also some of the most affordable college tuition rates in the nation. College Board reports that public universities charge students an annual tuition of approximately $7,000, while private colleges charge around $22,000. Additionally, social work schools in West Virginia generally offer major-specific scholarships and grants as well as discounted tuition for online students.

Completing an in-state program may make it easier to earn licensure in West Virginia. In-state programs will prepare students for West Virginia licensure requirements.

Social workers also enjoy straight-forward state license requirements and an expanding national job market. The BLS reports a 16% growth rate for social workers and health educators through 2026.

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

By earning a social work degree in West Virginia, you open the door to a growing profession dedicated to assisting at-risk individuals and underserved communities. Though they work in diverse settings, including hospitals and community health programs, all social workers must possess cultural awareness and empathy to effectively help different groups of people. Professionals may obtain jobs with a bachelor’s degree or even an associate degree, but they cannot access advanced clinical work or related leadership positions without an MSW. The MSW serves as a core requirement in obtaining the highest level of social work licensure in West Virginia.

  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker: These professionals aid individuals suffering from mental illness and addiction through counseling and by connecting them to services such as 12-step programs. Social workers in this subfield can occupy supporting roles with a bachelor’s degree. For clinical roles they need a master’s degree.
  • Child and Family Social Worker: These professionals help vulnerable children and families in need through direct services like case management, individual diagnosis, and counseling. They also intervene when children face danger by arranging for foster care or adoption. These social workers facilitate access to affordable housing, job placement, and food stamp programs. Most professionals in this space earn a master’s, although a bachelor’s opens up some employment opportunities.
  • Health Educator: Professionals can work as community health advocates with an associate degree, but becoming a health educator requires the research and leadership skills learned in a bachelor’s or master’s program. These specialists promote healthy behavior and disease education within a community through data collection, outreach initiatives, and training programs. They may also provide informal counseling and access to health services.
  • Healthcare Social Worker: Employed primarily in hospitals and related facilities, these social workers help patients understand their health conditions and develop a corresponding plan that improves quality of life. They also connect clients to resources like support groups and specialized counseling. Because healthcare social workers usually perform clinical tasks such as patient diagnosis and treatment, they must earn a master’s degree.
  • Social Services Manager: These professionals coordinate services and programs within a nonprofit or community organization. They also perform administrative tasks like employee training and financial management. Social service managers usually need a master’s degree and substantial work experience.

Salary Expectations for Social Workers in West Virginia

According to BLS, annual pay ranges from $37,460 to $58,340 for social work professionals. Statistics from Payscale support this information, placing the national average salary for social workers at approximately $44,000. However, these amounts do not consider such factors as employer type and location. A school social worker who works at a private institution in a metropolitan area generally enjoys better pay than someone who works at a public school in a rural location. Additionally, salaries vary depending on individual education, work experience, and professional credentials. West Virginia social work licensure consists of four levels, and those who obtain the more advanced licenses tend to earn higher pay.

Average Salary for Social Workers in West Virginia

Child and School Social Worker$37,460
Healthcare Social Worker$49,690
Health Educator$46,550
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker$31,660
Social Services Manager$32,090
Source: BLS

Professional Organizations for Social Workers in West Virginia

In addition to earning social work licensure in West Virginia, professionals may bolster career prospects by joining a professional organization, like the three detailed below. Members usually pay an annual fee, and in return, gain access to significant services and resources. These include academic scholarships, project grants, networking events, and conferences. Furthermore, some professional organizations offer certification courses and exams that enable social workers to gain the credentials crucial to career advancement.

  • National Association of Social Workers – West Virginia Chapter: Founded in 1955, the NASW boasts over 120,000 members, making it the preeminent professional organization in the field. The association provides financial support, job listings, an online library of up-to-date articles and research, and links to community engagement and advocacy initiatives. The West Virginia chapter facilitates member collaboration through local branch meetings and online forums.
  • National Rural Social Work Caucus: The NRSWC dedicates its mission to providing underserved communities with adequate health and social services, including access to child welfare and substance abuse counseling programs. Because a large number of West Virginians live in rural areas, the caucus boasts a strong presence in the state. Members benefit from online journals and continuing education opportunities.
  • West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence: Comprised of 14 licensed domestic violence programs and one state government agency, the WVCADV assists at-risk groups, particularly women and children, through direct services that include safe housing placement and specialized counseling. The coalition also facilitates policy advocacy and community education events. Social workers enjoy training sessions in areas such as working with families, anti-oppression, and general dynamics of domestic violence.