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How do I get a Social Worker License?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are many ways to answer the question of how to get a social worker license, and one of these is that some people may not require one. Depending upon where people live and what level of social work they wish to practice, licensure may not be necessary. It would be virtually impossible to describe all the ways in which each different area determines what social worker license, if any, is needed. For most people, the best method to determine how to figure out how to get a license is to check with government agencies first.

In the US, determination of social worker license is made at the state level, for instance. Different states have different rules and some rules don’t vary that much from state to state. Those seeking a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) designation usually have to meet similar requirements.

These include having an MSW or master’s in social work, and having completed a certain number of practicum hours, about 3000, while also having successfully passed examinations. Once these requirements are fulfilled, which, again, are determined by the state, people can get their LCSW. This usually gives them the right to practice as therapists, though if they move from one area to another, they could need to register in a different region, especially in a different state.

There may be other kinds of the social worker license that might be required to perform some types of work. For instance a person working toward an LCSW, who has not yet completed all practicum work, is sometimes able to get a temporary license that allows them to practice and complete practicum work. Those who have an MSW, and aren’t interested in performing therapy might still need a social worker license too. Some states have a degree of licensure called the LM or licensed master social worker, which entitles people to fill many high level social work positions in a state.

Someone might earn a social worker license with a bachelor’s degree in social work. Occasionally, the title for this is simply LS or licensed social worker. This again, might require a variety of things like passing tests, passing background checks, and being able to provide proof of a degree or experience. In rare circumstances a person without a degree may gain some form of licensure too, if they work in a capacity as social worker for a variety of agencies.

It can get confusing looking at all the social worker license possibilities, given that they are different in each locale and the possibilities for working without a license in different regions is hard to predict. Instead of guessing, people are best off consulting regional agencies that might perform licensing. If people are still in school another good resource is the school of social work. Most of these remain current on what is required for licensing and what the various licenses entitle a social worker to do.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By Heavanet — On Mar 22, 2014

@ocelot60- I have a friend that got her bachelor's degree in social work and is a licensed social worker now. She has a good job as a case worker for a social service organization, and has plans to continue her education and eventually become an independent counselor.

My friend would not be able to do any of this without a license to practice social work. I suspect that in areas where licensing is not required, the available jobs in the field are very low-level and do not pay very well.

By Ocelot60 — On Mar 21, 2014

Though some areas may not require a license as a social worker to be employed in the field, you must get a license to be recognized as a social worker by the National Association of Social Workers, or NASW. This is the most reputable organization for social workers, and it is vital to meet certain NASW requirements to be take seriously in the field.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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