Steps to Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Pennsylvania
Note: Other states may have their own procedures. Check the website for each state's licensing board.
Qualifying to take the ASWB Master's Examination
- Go to the website of the Pennsylvania State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors. Print the Social Worker – Application for Examination/Licensure. To be eligible for the ASWB Master's examination, an applicant must be in the final semester or hold a master's or doctoral degree in social work or social welfare from a school accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.
- If you are in your final semester, the University's dean, registrar or Graduate Social Work Department chair must complete the section called "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.
- If you have graduated and received a master's degree, request an official transcript showing a master's degree in social work to be sent directly from West Chester University to the Board.
- The State Board will notify you that your application to take the examination has been approved. You 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 you. 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 Pennsylvania this is the LSW or Licensed Social Worker level.
- The ASWB website, at which you register for the exam, has a number of study tools to help prepare you for it. You can enroll in an online preparatory course, order a hard-copy study guide and even take a sample online exam.
- The National Association of Social Workers-Pennsylvania Chapter also offers day-long exam preparatory courses, for a fee. You can find information about when and where licensure prep courses are being offered on the NASW-PA website.
- There are also preparatory courses offered online or in person via other, commercial organizations. The West Chester University MSW Program does not vouch for the quality of these other programs.
Qualifying to practice at the LSW level in Pennsylvania
- Once you have passed the ASWB Master's Exam, have the ASWB send your test score to the Pennsylvania State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors, or the board in the state by which you wish to be licensed.
- 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.
Qualifying to practice at the clinical (LCSW) level in Pennsylvania
- An LSW wishing to become licensed at the clinical level in Pennsylvania must be employed for a minimum of two years and complete 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 (1,500) must be supervised by a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). The other half 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, go to the website of the Pennsylvania State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors.
- Once the supervised work experience is accomplished, 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.
- Once you receive word from the State Board that your were received and documented, you 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 NASW-PA, as well.
- Note that 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, and Medicare.