Washington has a licensing process for social workers at the master’s/doctoral level. Full licensure is based on education, examination, and supervised experience.
There are two licenses available to professionals who have met a supervised experience requirement at some level: Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW) and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). The LICSW is an independent license. It carries higher requirements. The licensing unit notes that the LASW is designed for professionals who practice in organized settings like agencies, hospitals, and schools. (A LASW may eventually become an LICSW, but he or she would need to re-apply.)
Additionally, Washington State regulates graduates who have not yet met all requirements at the LICSW or LASW level. Credentials include Licensed Social Worker Associate-Independent Clinical and Licensed Social Worker Associate-Advanced.
Foundations for Independent Clinical Practice: Becoming an LICSW
The foundation for licensure at the Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (or Licensed Social Worker Associate-Independent Clinical) level is a social work degree at the master’s (Master’s in Social Work programs in Washington state)or doctoral level; the program is to hold accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
Additionally, the social worker will need four hours of training in HIV/AIDS. This is a minor requirement that can be met in any of multiple ways.
A person who has met educational requirements can apply for an associate credential; this will authorize clinical practice under supervision.
In order to achieve the Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker credential, the individual will need to accrue 4,000 hours of post-graduate practice under supervision. The experience will include at least 1,000 hours that are supervised by an LICSW.
Fully 130 hours will be spent under direct supervision. Of these 70 must be with an LICSW; the licensing agency can credit both individual and group supervision hours. Up to 60 hours may be with another professional who has credentials on a par with the LICSW; these hours must be individual. Psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, mental health counselors, and marriage and family therapists are all potentially qualified to act as supervisors. Supervisors must meet standards delineated in the supervisor verification form; this is included in the application packet. The supervisee may credit up to 60 hours of distance supervision.
In order to be licensed at the LICSW level, a candidate must pass the clinical examination administered by the Association of Social Work Boards. The examination is computer-delivered. The licensing agency reviews prerequisite qualifications before granting examination approval.
Become an LASW in Washington State
The Licensed Advanced Social Worker and Licensed Social Worker Associate-Independent Clinical are also dependent on conferral of a CSWE-accredited degree at the graduate level.
The prospective LASW will work under supervision for at least 3,200 hours. Of these, at least 800 are to be direct client contact. The supervisee will need 90 hours of direct supervision. At least 50 of the supervision hours are to be spent with an LASW or LICSW. The remaining 40 hours may be in individual supervision with another equally qualified professional. The supervisee may be credited for up to 40 hours of distance supervision.
In order to be licensed at the LASW level, a candidate must pass the ASWB advanced generalist examination.
The Application Process
Application forms and supplemental materials can be downloaded from the website of the Department of Health (https://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/SocialWorker/ApplicationsandForms). Prospective social workers and social worker associates can now apply online (https://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/SocialWorker/ApplyOnline).
The applicant will need to request an official transcript from his or her program.
There is a $116 application fee and $100 initial license fee. The applicant will attest to having read pertinent laws and rules. He or she will answer questions about background/ professional fitness. ‘Yes’ responses will require explication There are two addresses in the application packet: one for the initial documentation and fee, another for documents that may be sent separately.
Supervisor verification forms are due at the independent level.
Examination approval is granted after application. Approved candidates will schedule their own examinations. They will receive instructions.
Some applicants will be required to have fingerprint-based criminal background checks. This stipulation may be placed based on having had out-of-state residency or having criminal history in Washington State.
Washington social workers have continuing education requirement.
Out-of-State Social Workers
Applicants must note all states where they have been licensed and all states where they have applied. Official verification is required from states of licensure, past and present.
Certain certifications issued by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) or the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work (ABECSW) can be accepted as verification of having met requirements for education and examination; candidates will still need to past the required examination if they have not done so. The following are accepted:
- Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work
- Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW)
- Qualified Clinical Social Work (QCSW)
Social workers who have passed the requisite exam can have their examination scores verified by the ASWB or by the licensing agency in another state of licensure.
The best information source is the Washington State Department of Health (https://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/SocialWorker).
The licensing unit can be reached at 360-236-4700. Applicants can subscribe to get email alerts.
Statutes and regulations are available online (https://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/SocialWorker/Laws). There are occasional changes.