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Maryland has four categories of social worker license. Two are available to those at the entry-level. Degree level will determine which of the two is appropriate: Licensed Bachelor Social Worker or Licensed Graduate Social Worker.
There are also two advanced or independent level credentials: Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW) and Licensed Certified Social Worker-Clinical (LCSW-C). These are for social workers at the master’s level who have completed a work experience period under approved supervision. One is a clinical license. The other is a nonclinical license. The scope of social work practice is wide, encompassing case management, program development, community organization, advocacy, intervention, and counseling, among other roles. The LCSW-C license allows for psychotherapy and diagnosis of mental disorder. (Other social workers with graduate education may carry out these functions, but only under direct supervision.)
Foundational Requirements: Education and Examination
The Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW) and Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW) licenses are dependent on graduation from a program that is 1) accredited or approved by the Council on Social Work Education or 2) is a candidate for accreditation. (See: Master’s of Social Work Programs in Maryland)
Education at this level is also the foundation for higher licensing. A person who is planning on continuing to the LCSW-C level will need significant clinical coursework. Creditable coursework focuses on theories, diagnoses, and practice modalities. An LCSW-C must have twelve units of clinical coursework. Six of the twelve units that will be required for clinical licensure must be included within a master’s program. (See: Clinial Social Work Master’s Programs)
Licensure at any level is dependent on examination. Maryland utilizes examinations developed by the Association of Social Work Boards. Examination permission is granted when the candidate submits a license application.
The ASWB bachelor’s exam is approved for Maryland LBSWs, the ASWB masters exam for LGSWs. The ASWB website includes resources to help candidates know what to expect.
Additional Requirements for Independent Licensing
Both the Licensed Certified Social Worker and Licensed Certified Social Worker-Clinical are dependent on completion of 3,000 hours of supervised practice. In the case of the LCSW-C, 1,500 hours will consist of direct client contact. The supervised practice of a prospective LCSW-C will include forming diagnostic impressions, providing psychotherapy, and treating client conditions. Supervision requirements for the clinical license are in some ways more stringent than those for the LCSW. The prospective LCSW-C will be under the supervision of an LCSW-C while an LCSW may be under the supervision of either an LCSW or LCSW-C. The supervision requirement for the LCSW is 100 hours; for the LCSW-C, it is 144 hours.
Some supervision may be obtained in a small group setting. Currently, 50 is the maximum number of group supervision hours creditable for a prospective LCSW. Prospective LCSWs, with their greater overall supervision requirement, are allowed 72.
Social workers with the requisite experience and training may submit registration forms to become Board-approved. The board website includes a search function to look up licensees who are qualified to provide supervision (https://mdbnc.dhmh.md.gov/BSWEVerification/supervisionZip.aspx).
Supervision is governed by contract. A social worker must be licensed and have an agreement in place before beginning the supervised experience. The website includes a link for a professional designated to answer supervision questions (https://health.maryland.gov/bswe/Pages/Supervision.aspx). Supervision-related paperwork is also available for download.
Social workers can expect to take a second licensing exam before receiving their advanced license. A prospective LCSW will take the ASWB advanced generalist exam. A prospective LCSW-C will take the ASWB clinical exam.
Out-of-state licensees who were licensed by examination apply by endorsement in Maryland.
An additional pathway is open to independent level social workers who were licensed by examination and have been licensed five or more years. They may demonstrate at least five years of active practice over the prior decade.
Out-of-state licensees who have held credentials for less than five years will need to submit documentation of education and supervised experience. The licensing agency will look for evidence that clinical supervisors held social work credentials at a high level.
There are separate application packets for different endorsement categories.
Endorsement application packets outline conditions under which an out-of-state licensee/ Maryland applicant can legally practice pending completion of the application process.
The Application Process
Application materials can be found on the Board website (https://health.maryland.gov/bswe/Pages/Licensing.aspx). Application packets include multiple documents that are to be submitted together. The licensing agency recommends retaining a copy of the application for one’s own records.
Educational requirements are to be verified with an official transcript that shows the date of degree conferral. The licensing agency recommends that new graduates apply in advance of graduation with documentation from the registrar or dean stating they are in their last semester.
International applicants are to have their degrees evaluated by the Council on Social Work Education before seeking licensure. They will include the written determination in their application submissions.
There is a $100 application fee. (A smaller initial licensing fee will be due later.)Maryland requires applicants to have background checks. Maryland residents use Livescan, an electronic fingerprinting process. The application includes a link to Maryland locations. People residing outside the area should make a request for fingerprint cards. They may use the email address found in the application packet. Applicants will want to make sure they have the most current application. Application packets are updated periodically to reflect policy changes.
When an applicant is found eligible for examination, the period of eligibility lasts two years. There is a provision in place to allow candidates to apply for continued eligibility.
The licensing period is normally two years. The initial licensing period will typically be different.
Information is available from the Maryland Board of Social Work Examiners (https://health.maryland.gov/bswe/Pages/default.aspx). Applicant questions can be directed to 410-764-4788 or 1-877-526-2541.