In West Virginia, as in most other states, there are multiple levels of social work licensing. Practice at the highest levels is dependent on holding a graduate social work degree and attaining additional post-graduate practice.
A person can be licensed as a social worker at a lower level on the basis of a degree in social work or a degree in a related field. Individuals with degrees in fields other than social work are credentialed first at the provisional level; they must then meet additional requirements. Provisional licensing has been designed so that social work positions in shortage areas can be filled. This form of licensing is less common around the nation. However, not all states are as strict in their requirements for licensing.
Social workers must, in all cases, demonstrate that they have good character and merit public trust.
Meeting Education and Supervision Requirements for Practice at the Graduate Level
West Virginia has two advanced licenses with two different scopes of practice: Certified Social Worker and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker. Both require education and supervised practice. The Licensed Graduate Social Worker credential allows the graduate to hold employment as a social worker and go through the supervision process.
A master’s program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education is the foundation for licensure as an LGSW, CSW, or LICSW (Master’s in Social Work programs in WV). If the individual will be meeting requirements for LICSW, the program must include a clinically oriented concentration (Clinical Social Work Master’s programs). The individual will need a qualifying graduate or post-graduate field experience.
The prospective CSW or LISW will need two full-time years of supervised practice (or at least 3,000 part-time hours).
A clinical supervisor will provide the supervisee with at least 100 hours of supervision over the course of the experience period. Most sessions will be face to face, with the supervisor and supervisee present together in the same place. Some supervisory sessions may be carried out through electronic means, provided confidentiality is maintained.
Clinical Social Worker
While Licensed Graduate Social Worker is the license designed for post-graduate supervised clinical practice, individuals may opt to accrue hours while licensed as CSWs, provided that they adhere to all legal mandates. A CSW can carry out clinical social work only if he or she has met basic education and training requirements for LICSW and is pursuing the license under supervision.
Meeting Requirements for Practice at the Baccalaureate Level
A prospective Licensed Social Worker becomes eligible for full licensure by completing a baccalaureate degree from a CSWE-accredited program. He or she will also need to make application and demonstrate good character. A licensing examination will be administered as part of the application process.
The Provisional license, designed for employment in critical shortage areas, can be obtained by individuals with four-year degrees in related fields such as counseling, psychology, sociology, or criminal justice. Individuals who will be employed by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources have even less restrictive degree requirements. DHHR employers can hire someone with a degree in an unrelated field — though it is expected that DHHR, too, will at least attempt to fill positions with social workers.
The licensing agency requires documentation when a provisional social worker makes a significant change such as job title or county office.
A provisionally licensed social worker may achieve full licensure as a social worker after four years of continuous employment. However, there are additional educational requirements. A West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources employee may meet the requirement by completing the DHHR’s own training program. Generally, though, a provisional licensee can expect to complete 12 credit hours of post-baccalaureate core coursework from a CSWE-accredited program. State code also notes that enrollment in a CSWE-accredited program at the bachelor’s or master’s level constitutes an exception to the usual core coursework requirement.
A provisional licensee will be subject to renewal along the way to meeting his or her experience requirements. The provisional licensee will have a continuing education requirement.
The clinical supervisor will report to the licensing agency each year whether the provisional license holder is performing satisfactorily.
State code mandates that a performance audit of the provisional license application process be carried out by July of 2020.
The Application Process
Prospective West Virginia social workers can request application materials from the West Virginia Board of Social Work. A request form is available online (http://www.wvsocialworkboard.org/Licensure/Forms/Applications.aspx). Email requests may be directed to ‘admin at wvsocialworkboard.org’.
The social worker will need three references.
Candidates receive examination permission after application. An individual who is nearing graduation from a bachelor’s or master’s level social work program can receive a temporary credential that authorizes examination. However, the person will not actually receive a license until educational requirements have been met and documentation provided.
West Virginia also has a temporary credential available to individuals who have met the educational requirements for regular licensing but have not yet sat for the examination. They will need to test by the expiration date indicated on the permit.
The fee for initial application for a regular license is $100. Upgrade is $55.
The candidate will also pay a fee to the Association of Social Work Boards for examination. Candidate handbooks and registration information can be found on the ASWB website (https://www.aswb.org/). A candidate who has been issued an ATT will schedule a computerized testing session at an authorized center; this may be in West Virginia or another state.
The temporary credential carries an additional fee.
West Virginia social workers are regulated by the West Virginia Board of Social Work (http://www.wvsocialworkboard.org).
Laws and rules (http://www.wvsocialworkboard.org/LawsRules.aspx) change periodically.