Virginia currently issues two levels of social work credential: Licensed Social Worker and Licensed Clinical Social Worker. The state mandates licensing unless one is working in an exempt setting.
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Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Virginia
The LSW license is available to graduates of bachelor’s and master’s social work programs (MSW Programs in Virginia). Programs at either level are to be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) if located within the United States. International degrees can be accepted if they are determined to be equivalent by the CSWE Foreign Equivalency Determination Service.
Master’s graduates can achieve licensure very soon after graduation. A prospective LSW who holds only a Bachelor of Social Work, though, will need 3,000 hours of post-baccalaureate experience in the areas of supportive services and case management.
The post-BSW supervision period will last two to four years. (A brief extension may be granted in extenuating circumstances.) The first step will be to register supervision. This step is mandatory if supervision is to take place in Virginia. The supervisee will need supervision at a rate of at least one hour per 40 hours worked. (The Board can accept ratios of up to four hours of supervision per 40 hours of work.
The expected examination is the bachelor’s level examination administered by the Association of Social Work Boards; this same exam is accepted for both bachelor’s and master’s level graduates. The examination step takes place after application. A post-BSW supervisee can test before completing supervision requirements by submitting his or her LSW application online (http://www.dhp.virginia.gov/social/social_faq.htm).
The licensing agency accepts experience accrued in paid and volunteer settings, so long as all requirements are met.
Becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker
The LCSW is a graduate level clinical license. Generally speaking, the Clinical Social Worker credential requires graduation from a CSWE-accredited social work program and a clinical concentration (Clinical Master’s in Social Work Programs). Foreign degrees can be accepted if found equivalent by the CSWE.
If the CSWE-accredited program did not have a clinical concentration, the individual can pursue clinical coursework through a CSWE-accredited program as a separate step.
Among the requirements for a clinical concentration is a 600-hour clinical practicum. However, Virginia permits graduates whose sole deficiency is in practicum hours to make up the deficit by completing additional supervised practice beyond what is usually required at the post-master level.
In all cases, the prospective LCSW will need at least 3,000 hours of post-master supervised practice. The post-master supervision period will include at least 1,380 hours of face-to-face client contact.
It is generally expected that the supervisor will be an LCSW, though other qualified supervisors may be considered if there are extenuating circumstances. The Board recommends that prospective LCSWs contact a professional association if they are having difficulty locating a supervisor (https://www.dhp.virginia.gov/social/social_faq.htm). Supervisees will need to register their supervision before beginning.
Up to half of the required supervision may take place in a group setting. The supervisor and supervisee will maintain supervision logs.
Changes in supervision require Board approval.
The candidate will need to pass the ASWB Clinical Examination.
The social worker will continue under supervision until he or she has passed the examination (unless working in an exempt setting).
The licensing agency notes that out-of-state supervision may qualify, but it is unable to make a determination about whether a particular supervisory experience meets standards until after application.
The Application Process
Applicants are asked to read regulations before submitting their applications.
The application process is online. The Board has provided a handbook with step-by-step instructions (https://www.dhp.virginia.gov/social/social_forms.htm). Applicants can print needed forms from within the online process.
The Board will require a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB).
Applicants are to submit official transcripts. Depending on circumstances, these may be submitted at the time of registration of supervision or at the time of license application.
It costs $50 to register supervision. Application processing is $115 at the LSW level, $165 at the LCSW level.
Applicants can use the online checklist to monitor receipt of necessary documents.
The Board will approve qualified candidates to test. They will then be able to register with the ASWB. The licensing exam is computer-based and can be scheduled at any participating testing center (either in Virginia or another jurisdiction). Candidates at the LSW level should be prepared to pay $230; those at the LCSW level, $260. ASWB examination scores are sent directly to the Board.
Virginia places some limits on retakes. A candidate who fails a single time, though, can expect to retest without facing mandates beyond those imposed by the ASWB.
Licenses are renewed annually.
Out-of-State Social Workers
Virginia has an endorsement process for clinical social workers who hold active licensing in other jurisdictions. They will need to demonstrate that they hold a license of comparable type. The Board will also seek verification of other health or mental health licenses that they may hold. The endorsement applicant is expected to provide evidence of 1) supervised practice as required under Virginia administrative code or 2) two years of recent active practice. The social worker will also be expected to show that he or she has passed the required exam. If this requirement has not been met, the applicant may be approved to test through the ASWB.
Information is available from the Virginia Board of Social Work (https://www.dhp.virginia.gov/social/).
Regulations are revised periodically. There were revisions in February of 2018.
The Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers is an additional resource (https://netforum.avectra.com/eweb/StartPage.aspx?Site=naswva&WebCode=HomePage).