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North Carolina issues five licenses and certifications: some voluntary, some mandatory. One is a relatively short-term license for social workers who are working toward licensure for clinical practice. The minimum education level for state credentialing is the bachelor’s degree; most licenses and certifications require a master’s degree.
Professionals are restricted in the titles they can use if they are not state credentialed, even if the duties they perform are not themselves subject to mandatory licensing.
Non-Clinical Credentials: CSW, CMSW, and CSWM
The foundation for certification as a Certified Social Worker (CSW) is a bachelor’s degree from a program that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The candidate will need to take the Bachelors examination through the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB).
The CMSW is a non-clinical license for social workers at the master’s level. The foundation is a graduate degree from a CSWE-accredited program. The Board can accept the ASWB Masters examination or the ACSW certification examination.The Certified Social Worker Manager credential is a specialty credential that requires supervised practice. Social workers who have degrees as low as the bachelor’s level can eventually attain this distinction.
A prospective CSWM will need to accrue 3,000 supervised practice hours over a period of two to six years. The qualifying experience will take place in an administrative setting. The supervisee will need to accrue at least 100 supervision hours; as many as half the required supervision hours may take place in a group setting. The CSWM candidate will need to take the ASWB Advanced Generalist examination.
The Board cautions that none of these credentials authorize clinical practice. However, a master’s level social worker may choose to hold two credentials (a license and a state certification).
Clinical Credentials: LCSW and LCSWA
Licensure at the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) level is also dependent on earning a graduate degree from an accredited program (Master’s in Social Work programs in North Carolina). After graduation, the social worker will work under clinical supervision and Board regulation.
The social worker will be regulated as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker Associate (LCSWA) while meeting post-master practice requirements. He or she will need to accrue 3,000 hours. The post-master supervision period will last two to six years. The LCSWA will need 100 hours of supervision by an LCSW — one hour for every 30 hours of experience. Up to 25 hours of group supervision can be credited.
The Board has provided a list of LCSWs who are willing to act as clinical supervisors (http://www.ncswboard.org/page/lcsw-supervisor-roster.html).
The Board recognizes that needs can be much more immediate. Among the other requirements for licensure at the associate level: to have a plan in place for emergency consultation.
The LCSWA will need to pass the clinical exam in the first two years in order to renew. A person who does not do so may re-apply. However, he or she will not be able to credit the hours accrued during the first licensing period.
Social workers who hold the LCSWA are subject to periodic evaluation. They will prepare a case narrative during each review period. LCSWAs who are employed in more than one setting will be responsible for more than one case narrative.
The Social Work License Examination Process
Approved candidates arrange for examination through the ASWB.
Board approval is granted for one examination attempt, but candidates can apply for additional permissions.
The North Carolina Board charges a $40 fee. This is in addition to the cost of the exam, which is currently $260. The ASWB, moreover, mandates a 90-day wait period. The North Carolina Board notes that candidates can submit waiver requests of the 90-day wait period if their score was very close to passing and passing is crucial to maintaining employment.
The Application Process
An individual who is seeking clinical licensure will apply for the first time at the LCSWA level. He or she must meet documentation requirements along the way. LCSW candidates submit a short form application after all requirements have been met. The forms that will be needed at different stages are available for download from the LCSWA section of the Board website.
The Board requires references. Professional reference forms are included in the application.Transcripts must be official. Current policy calls for them to be submitted with the application in sealed envelopes.
The application fee is $115 at all levels.
The applicant will provide a notarized signature.
Credential holders are to have 40 hours of continuing education during each two-year renewal period, whatever the level of licensure.Out-of-State Social Workers
Social workers who are currently licensed in good status in other jurisdictions can apply for comity. Comity is licensure or certification that is granted on the basis of substantial equivalency. Applicants who seek comity are directed to provide a copy of the regulations under which they were licensed. If the applicant is unable to supply a copy of the regulations that were in effect at the time, the license verification document may provide the needed document.
The North Carolina Board will still seek test scores and transcripts. Applicants seeking exam verification may contact the ASWB at 800-225-6880.
The Board notes that a social worker must have a current license equivalent to the one sought in order to receive credit for past supervision (http://www.ncswboard.org/page/general-information1.html). Social workers who apply for comity at the LCSWA level are directed to submit for consideration only those supervised practice hours that they accrued in the prior four year period.
A licensed social worker who otherwise meets requirements but has not taken the examination required in North Carolina may be approved to do so.
Information is available from the North Carolina Social Work Certification and Licensure Board (http://www.ncswboard.org). Individuals are invited to contact the Board at ‘lswboard at asheboro.com’ if they cannot find all the information they need on the website.