Licensure FAQs

Do I need to get licensed? 

Social workers are not required to be licensed. Many social work jobs, however, do require initial licensure (LSW/LMSW) especially in medical, school, and mental health settings. Some mental health positions require clinical licensure (LCSW).

Which license should I get? 

Licensure rules vary by state. Almost all states have initial Master’s-level licensure (LSW, LMSW) and clinical licensure (LCSW). In most states, you will need an initial license first and then approximately 3,000 hours to qualify to take the clinical exam which takes about 2 years working full-time. The LCSW is similar to the LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor). It can be helpful to look on job sites such as Indeed to see what kinds of jobs require licensure.

Who issues social work licenses? 

Licensure is issued by the state you live and/or practice in. Each state has regulations about whether you can work there with a license from another state.

When can I apply for initial licensure?

You can apply for initial licensure as early as your last semester of the MSW Program, immediately after graduation or at any time after graduating – there is no time limit.

How do I apply for initial licensure? 

Go to your state’s licensing board, and follow the steps outlined. You will need to apply, get background check, take the exam and request that WCU send a copy of your transcript. The process is detailed and sometimes complicated, so take your time reading all the steps!

When should I take the LSW exam? 

The earliest you can take the exam in PA and NJ is during your last semester of the MSW Program. Many students wait until after graduation to study and take the exam.

What is the exam like? 

Once your application is accepted, you will get a notification that you are approved to take the standardized ASWB exam. It is the same exam that all MSW graduates in the United States take. You get information about how to schedule at a testing center through PSI where you have 4 hours to complete 170 multiple-choice questions. A 70% is passing, and you will get your unofficial test result as soon as you are done.

How should I prepare for the exam? 

Study! There are several options:

How do I start the licensure process? 

  1. APPLY for a license with the board in your state. This requires:
    • Criminal background check (FBI clearance or a history from every state you’ve lived in for the past 10 years)
    • Child abuse training; three hours of certified CEU course
    • Self-Query Databank Report
    • Education Verification only if you are taking the exam in your last semester before you graduate (you can download this form once you have created an account)
      • This form is available online through your licensing portal. We cannot send it to you.
      • Fill out the top part of the form.
      • Submit the form to Stacey Raker by email no earlier than the start of your last semester. She will send it to the Registrar’s Office and they forward it to the licensing board. This takes several weeks; please be patient and respectful in your communication.
    • Pay license application fee
    • Receive email approval to register for the exam

2.      REGISTER and pay for the exam with the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB).

    • Receive “Authorization to Test”
    • Request nonstandard testing arrangements if you have needs that prevent you from taking your exam under standard testing conditions or if you have a disability or other health condition.

3.      SCHEDULE your testing appointment with PSI

    • Schedule your testing appointment (You must have your ASWB “Authorization to Test” email to schedule your testing appointment)

4.      ORDER transcript from WCU for $7

    • The WCU Registrar sends your transcript directly to the licensing board.
      • Transcripts are sent once your graduation is verified which can take several weeks. The Licensing Board may not receive it until June if you graduate in May. Please be patient.  
    • The Department cannot do this step for you.

Clinical Supervision

Professional social workers are supervised in several different ways. Clinical supervision is a process in whichClincial Supervision social workers grow in their competence by building a relationship with a supervisor, who serves as a sort of mentor. It is sometimes called "educational supervision."

Social workers who plan to pursue clinical licensure need to complete a specific amount of clinical supervision. Each state has a required number of hours of clinical supervision that a social worker needs to apply for clinical licensure; this number varies among states.

Clinical supervision might happen one-on-one, or it may take place in a small group. While supervisors document the time they spend on supervision, social workers should keep track of their supervision time as well.

Some employers provide clinical supervision to social workers who don't yet have clinical licensure. However, some settings don't provide enough supervision for social workers to accumulate the necessary hours for clinical licensure, others provide no clinical supervision at all. In these cases, a social worker can hire a clinical supervisor. Here are some online directories of clinical supervisors:

Job Sites

Check out and follow our JOB BOARD to receive emails when new jobs are posted.

The growing demand for social workers across the United States presents numerous opportunities for MSW graduates who have advanced social work skills. West Chester University's Twardowski Career Development Center is available to assist students with career planning, resume development, interview preparation and job searching. The Center posts job opportunities through the Ram Career Network.

We know job searching isn't easy so we compiled a list of external job sites that might help you find your next opportunity!

Local Sources

National Sources

Professional Associations

Professional associations exist for many fields within social work. Many professional associations maintain their own job boards, and some offer student memberships.

Getting involved in these organizations is an excellent way to meet practitioners in your area of interest. Joining a state or regional chapter gives you these opportunities closer to home. WCU's Graduate Student Association may reimburse your expenses for attending or presenting at a professional conference.