South Carolina licenses bachelor’s and master’s level social workers. Licensed Baccalaureate Social Workers (LBSWs) are generalists who work in organized settings. Social workers who hold master’s degrees also begin their practice in organized settings. The first license they will be eligible for is Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW). They can eventually achieve eligibility for private practice in either of two areas: advanced practice or clinical social work. A Licensed Independent Social Worker-Advanced Practice (LISW-AP) may work in areas such as administration or policy development. Mediation, advocacy, and expert testimony are among the services that may be provided. LISW-APs may carry out nonclinical assessment.
The Licensed Independent Social Worker – Clinical Social Worker (LISW-CP) scope of practice includes psychotherapy, counseling, case management, and assessment and diagnosis of mental disorder. The role could also include services such as advocacy or expert testimony.
Social Work Educational Standards
Social workers begin their journey toward licensure by enrolling in social work degree programs that are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Bachelor’s programs qualify a person for the lowest level of licensing. The higher licenses can be earned on the basis of master’s (Master’s of Social Work programs in South Carolina) or doctoral education.
Graduate social work programs can have very different areas of emphasis. South Carolina sets minimum requirements for coursework in the practice area sought; requirements are based on academic contact hours. A prospective LISW-AP must have at least 90 hours of organizational and community-oriented advanced practice coursework. A prospective LISW-CP must have at least 45 hours of coursework in each of two content areas: psychopathology and psycho-diagnosis.
Prospective LISWs also have an ethics coursework requirement. They meet this requirement at a later stage, while completing their supervised practice. The minimum requirement is 15 contact hours of academic coursework or 20 contact hours of continuing education. Board-sponsored courses are also acceptable.
The prospective independent social worker will work under approved supervision for two to four years, until such time as he or she has accrued 3,000 qualifying experience hours. The individual will need to have a supervision contract in place. It is to be approved before the beginning of the supervision period. The supervisor will be an independent social worker who has at least a few years of experience at the LISW level and is credentialed to work as a supervisor. The South Carolina Board maintains a list of approved supervisors (https://verify.llronline.com/LicLookup/SW/LSWAP.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1).
The supervisee will have at least 100 hours of face-to-state supervision. Up to half may take place in a group setting, provided standards are met.
The supervisor will document supervision topics. He or she will evaluate the candidate in the supervision report and will make a recommendation for licensure, noting the areas of practice where the candidate is qualified for independent practice.
In some cases, it will be necessary to amend a supervision contract or initiate a new one along the way.
All licenses are by examination. The examinations are those of the Association of Social Work Boards. The prospective licensee will take the exam that corresponds to the license sought. Individuals who are in the final semester of a bachelor’s or master’s social work program can be approved to take the exam on the basis of documentation provided by the dean.
Social workers who seek the independent credential will take a second exam after other requirements have been met. A prospective LISW-AP will take the Advanced Generalist Examination; a prospective LISW-CP will take the Clinical Examination.
The Application Process
Candidates apply before examination. Application materials can be found on the Board website (http://www.llr.state.sc.us/POL/SocialWorkers/index.asp?file=pub.htm). An online application process is now available; the applicant will also download some forms.
Applicants must read relevant state code; their signatures on the application affirm that they have read and understood.
Applicants who answer “yes” to potentially disqualifying background questions will provide documentation, and, if requested, appear before the Board.
The Board will require official transcripts. Individuals applying at the independent level will attach these to the coursework form provided. An applicant who is approved to test before program completion will submit his or her final transcript when it becomes available.
An applicant who has held licensing in other states will need to provide verification from each.
There is a $45 application fee.
The applicant will make copies of his or her social security card and driver’s license or other official ID.
If all other documentation is in place, the candidate will be approved for examination. He or she will register with the ASWB. The ASWB has provided candidate guides (www.aswb.org ). Examination entails a higher fee: $230 at the bachelor or master level, $260 at the independent level. Examinations are by appointment. They are scheduled at Pearson VUE testing centers.
A candidate who has already taken the required examination may request a score report from the ASWB at 800-225-6880.
License application status can be checked online (http://llronline.com/index.asp?file=Application_Status_Instructions.html).
License renewal is biennial.
Information is available from the South Carolina Board of Social Work Examiners (http://www.llr.state.sc.us/POL/SocialWorkers/). The Board can be reached by phone at 803-896-4664 or by email at ‘Contact.SocialWork at llr.sc.gov’. Applicants are asked to review the licensing information available on the website (http://www.llr.state.sc.us/POL/SocialWorkers/index.asp?file=pub.htm) before contacting the Board.