Ohio issues two social worker licenses, Licensed Social Worker (LSW) and Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW). The Board also issues an Ohio Social Worker Assistant credential. The state has defined a scope of practice for each credential.
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The difference between the two social worker licenses is in the level of autonomy. Social workers with either license may work in any of various social work arenas. Ohio distinguishes between scope of practice and individual competency.
LSW and LISW credentials are both dependent on completion of a social work degree and successful performance on a licensing examination. The LISW also requires work experience under training supervision. Social workers typically hold the LSW while working toward LISW licensure. However; the LSW can also be a permanent license for those who are not LISW-eligible.
Requirements are a little stricter for independent status at multiple stages along the way, beginning with education However, many students will meet educational standards for the two licenses simultaneously.
Some individuals will hold a trainee registration en route to licensure. Registration is not mandatory at the student level, but some agencies seek the credential when placing interns.
Educational Standards for Licensure as a Social Worker
The LSW license is dependent on earning a social work degree at the bachelor’s level or higher. Degrees at the master’s level are to hold programmatic accreditation through the Council on Social Work Education, or CSWE. Candidacy status is also acceptable; this designates programs that are working toward accreditation (Master’s of Social Work programs in Ohio). Degrees at the bachelor’s or doctoral level can be accepted if the housing institution holds appropriate regional accreditation. State code delineates expected coursework requirements (for example, six semester hours each in human behavior and development, social welfare and policy, and social work practice). The student will have a practicum or field experience that focuses on intervention. Programs with CSWE are considered license-qualifying.
In order to achieve the LISW, the student must, in most cases, earn a master’s degree through a program that is accredited or in candidacy. The Board can review the education of internationally educated candidates for equivalency.
Supervision Requirements for Licensure as an Independent Social Worker
In order to be licensed at the LISW level, a social worker will need at least two years of supervised work experience. The total requirement will be at least 3,000 hours; the Ohio Board will credit no more than 1,500 hours a year.
An LISW will provide training supervision. In order to achieve the independent license, the social worker will need at least 150 total supervision hours. The supervisee will need to retain documentation. Social workers can find sample supervision logs on the Board website (https://cswmft.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/cswmft/for-professionals/resources-for-professionals/social-work-supervision).
An individual who is working in Ohio must, in almost all cases, hold LSW status in order to accrue hours for the LISW; this is the case even when the person is working in a setting that is exempt from licensing requirements. A social worker who holds an out-of-state license and is working in a federal agency that is exempt from Ohio licensing requirements may constitute an exception.
The Board notes that in the vast majority of cases, experience accrued in another state can be credited toward Ohio licensure. Prospective LISWs may contact the Board to discuss their individual circumstances.
Achieving Social Work Trainee Status
Social work trainee status can be granted to master’s students who are attending CSWE-accredited programs (and those with candidacy status); this credential can make it easier for them to secure field placements.
The applicant will have a background check. Applicants who have criminal histories will provide official documents as well as explanatory materials; they are expected to demonstrate a level of rehabilitation sufficient for licensure.
Training registration can authorize continuing work at the internship site for a short period of time after the semester ends; it does not, however, authorize work for a different agency.
Achieving Social Work Assistant Status
A person can qualify as a social work assistant with an associate’s degree in social work technology or the equivalent. A person may qualify with a bachelor’s degree in a related field.
Social services technology degrees are defined by their curriculum. The actual degree may be at any level from the associate’s on. The student will need 30 semester hours of core social work/ social services coursework; a social services practicum is to be included. The student will also need 14 semester hours of related coursework (for example, psychology, economics, sociology).
The Association of Social Work Boards administers the licensing examination. Applicants at the LSW level are approved to take the examination that corresponds to their degree level (bachelor’s or master’s). Applicants at the LISW level may take the clinical or advanced generalist examination.
The ASWB can provide detailed information about the differences between the two exams. The clinical exam is designed for social workers who will carry out clinical duties such as psychotherapy; it is accepted as a licensing examination in more states than the advanced generalist exam is. The advanced generalist exam is, as the name implies, generalist; it is appropriate for social workers who carry out various duties, including administrative work.
Successful examination candidates can expect the Board to receive notification relatively soon after examination.
In some cases, a candidate will need to seek re-approval (https://cswmft.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/cswmft/get-licensed/licensed).
In other cases, an applicant will have already taken the required examination. Ohio places time limits on acceptance of examination scores; this is the case for social work applicants who do not hold current licensing.
The Application and Examination Process
The social worker application process is now online.
Prospective LSWs can submit their applications when they are in the final semester of their degree programs.
The Board will need official transcripts.
Ohio requires a background check at all levels. Social workers who have had a background check at the LSW level have one again at the LISW level. Applicants are directed to begin by searching for a WebCheck fingerprinting location. The Board has provided instructions to print and take to the selected site (https://cswmft.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/cswmft/get-licensed/licensing-resources/BCI+and+FBI+Background+Checks). Out-of-state applicants may email the Board for fingerprinting packets.
Qualified applicants will receive examination approval. They will register with the Association of Social Work Boards and schedule at a convenient time and location.
Applicants are asked to watch the state laws and rules video.
Licenses are renewed on a biennial basis.
Ohio social workers are under the jurisdiction of the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & Marriage and Family Therapist Board (http://cswmft.ohio.gov/).
Laws and rules are updated periodically. There were some revisions in 2018.
General inquiries and correspondence can be directed to (614) 466-0912 or ‘cswmft.info at cswb.ohio.gov’.
The Board has a social work mailing list (https://cswmft.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/cswmft/home).