Social Worker Qualifications
Table of Contents Several basic tiers of social work careers reflect the level of education and amount of social work training one has received. To become a social worker in any state, you are required to have at least a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions. More advanced practitioners need higher levels of education and professional licensure.
Social work licensure requirements vary widely by state, so be sure to read about your state's requirements.
What is Social Work?Social work is a broadly defined profession encompassing many different kinds of professionals who all serve people in need. The International Federation of Social Workers calls social work “an interrelated system of values, theory and practice.” Social workers are unique in the way that they look at many different aspects of a problem, from the individual to the societal, from the psychological to the political. Common ways of serving clients include providing counseling, therapy and education, as well as connecting clients to appropriate public or private resources. Learn More.
Social Work EducationA Bachelor of Social Work is usually the minimum educational requirement for beginning your career as a social worker. Some entry-level positions may also accept candidates with a bachelor's degree in psychology, sociology, or other related fields.
Social Work LicensureThere are several main types of social work licensure, including licensure for social workers with a bachelor's degree, licensure for social workers with a master's degree and licensure for clinical social workers. Within these fields, social workers can also apply for additional credentials and certifications through the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).
- Initial License: States often require first-time social workers to become licensed asbachelor- or associate-level social workers, often referred to as Licensed Baccalaureate Social Workers (LBSW). Upon receiving this type of licensure, social workers in most states will be required to work under the supervision of an approved Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).
- Master License: Social workers holding an initial license and a graduate degree in social work may become licensed as master- or graduate-level social workers, often referred to as Licensed Master Social Workers (LMSW). This type of licensure often requires both field experience and the successful completion of a standardized exam.
- Clinical License: A clinical license is a full professional license to practice social work. Social workers holding a current license and a graduate degree in social work may become licensed as a clinical-level social worker, often referred to as Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW). This type of licensure often requires years of professional experience, in addition to the successful completion of a standardized exam.
- License Renewal: All states require licensed social workers to pay annual renewal fees. Several states also require licensed social workers to complete a certain amount of continuing education courses for license renewal.
- Endorsement: There is no existing structure for transferring a social work license from one state to another. States require that you submit information such as your transcripts and background information, and apply directly for licensure within that state. Test scores are usually transferable from one location to another.
Professional social workers are generally considered those who hold a professional degree in social work. In a number of countries and jurisdictions, registration or licensure of people working as social workers is required and there are mandated qualifications. In other places, the professional association sets academic and experiential...