MSW: Master of Social Work

West Chester University

West Chester Campus

Reynolds Hall
West Chester University
West Chester, PA 19383
Phone: 610-436-2664

PASSHE Center City

701 Market Street, Concourse Level
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: 267-386-3015




Steps to Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in PA

(Note: Other states may have their own procedures. Check that state's social work licensing board website.)

Qualifications to take the ASWB Master's Examination

  1. First go to the website of the PA State Board of Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapists and Professional Counselors and print out the: "APPLICATION FOR A LICENSE TO PRACTICE SOCIAL WORK" form.
  2. To be eligible for the ASWB Master's examination, the applicant must be in the final semester or hold a Master's Degree or a Doctoral Degree in social work or social welfare from a school accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
  3. If the applicant is in his/her final semester, have the CSWE-accredited school dean or registrar or department chair complete the section: Verification of Social Work Education for Applicants Enrolled in Their Final Semester. The form must be sent directly from the educational institution to the Board in an official sealed school envelope. **In order for a license to be issued, after graduation, an official transcript showing a Master's degree in social work or social welfare must be sent directly from the educational institution to the Board in an official sealed school envelope.**
  4. For an applicant that has graduated and received a Master's degree, request an official transcript showing a Master's degree in social work or social welfare to be sent directly from the educational institution to the Board.
  5. The applicant will then receive notification from the PA Board of Social Workers that their application to take the examination has been approved. The applicant can then go to the Association of Social Work Boards website to register for the exam at a place and time that is convenient to them. There are hundreds of testing sites across the country. All states (except California) and all U.S. territories accept the ASWB Master's Level Exam as evidence of competence to be licensed at the first level of licensure (in PA: LSW or Licensed Social Worker).
  6. Preparing for the exam:
    1. The ASWB website, at which you register for the exam, has a number of study tools to help prepare you for the exam. You can enroll in an online preparatory course and even take a sample online exam. You can also order a hard copy study guide.
    2. You can also take a day long preparatory course from the National Association of Social Workers, Pennsylvania Chapter. You can find information about when and where licensure prep courses are being offered by going to: www.nasw-pa.org. There is a fee for the course.
    3. There are also other preparatory courses offered online or in person via other, commercial organizations. The WCU, MSW Program does not vouch for the quality of these other programs.

Qualifications to then receive a licence to practice Social Work at the LSW level in PA

  1. Once you have taken and passed the ASWB Master's Exam, have ASWB send your test score to the PA State Board of Social Workers (or whatever state board you wish to be licensed by).
  2. Once the state board has verified that you have graduated from a CSWE-accredited MSW Program and have passed the ASWB Master's Level Exam, you will be issued a license at the LSW level.

Qualifications to practice Social Work at the Clinical (LCSW) level in PA

  1. An LSW wishing to become licensed at the clinical level in Pennsylvania must be employed for a minimum of two years and 3,000 hours of clinical work. For every 40 hours worked, 2 hours of supervision must be documented by a qualified professional. Half of the hours worked (1500) must be supervised by a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). Half of the hours (1500) may be supervised by a licensed, clinical psychologist or psychiatrist or other qualified, mental health professional. For detailed guidelines as to the number of hours, types of work activities that qualify, and required qualifications of the supervisor, the applicant is advised to go to the website of the PA State Board of Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapists and Professional Counselors.
  2. Once the supervised work experience is accomplished, the LSW must then secure the form, "Application for a License by Examination to Practice Clinical Social Work" from the website and follow directions for documentation of supervised, clinical work experience, post LSW.
  3. The applicant, once receiving word from the PA Board that their materials were received and documented, can then go to the ASWB website to register for the Clinical Examination. There are study guides and preparatory courses for the clinical examination available through ASWB and/or NASW-PA, as well.
  4. Note: many social workers do not go on to get their LCSW level of licensure - particularly if they are serving in the public sector or in macro-social work. If you are in a private or non-profit group practice or in private practice, then you will want to obtain the LCSW for purposes of your fees being reimbursed by insurance companies, Medicaid or Medicare.

Questions? You can contact Dr. Nadine Bean, who currently serves on the PA State Board of Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors at: nbean@wcupa.edu. There are also Frequently Asked Questions on the PA State Board website: www.dos.state.pa.us/social.