After completing your BSW or MSW degree, one of the first career decisions you’ll need to make is what type of licensure to pursue. Getting licensure in the social work field will allow you to expand your scope of practice and do more varied types of social work.
Our guide will introduce you to the three most common social work licenses, the LBSW, LMSW, and LCSW, including common requirements for each license and how to decide if it’s right for you. Specific licenses, licensure requirements, and scope of practice will vary based on your state, so make sure you also check the specific social work guidelines for the state where you intend to practice.
Licensed Bachelor of Social Work (LBSW)
What it is: Some states offer the LBSW license as an initial level of licensure for social workers. In the majority of states that offer it, this is a generalist degree that allows social workers to practice in some or all non-clinical settings. In some states, this license is mandatory for Bachelor’s Degree level social workers to practice, and in a few it’s an important initial requirement on the way to the Master’s Degree levels of licensure.
How to get one: The first step toward LBSW licensure is to obtain your Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW) degree from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). After getting the degree you will need to pass your state’s LBSW exam. In some states, you can take the exam as soon as you graduate, while in others you’ll first need to obtain supervised experience from a licensed social worker first.
Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW)
What is is: States most commonly offer the LMSW license as a generalist license for social workers who do not plan to pursue clinical work. In some states, this is the only Master’s level licensure, while others also offer the LCSW clinical license. States that don’t offer the LCSW can also allow LMSWs to practice clinical work, often requiring additional exams, supervision, or coursework to do so.
How to get one: Initially, you’ll need a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) degree from a CSWE accredited program. In most states, you can take the LMSW generalist exam as soon as you’ve graduated. The license is granted if you obtain a passing score. However, if after obtaining the LMSW you plan to take your state’s further advanced general or clinical concentration exams, you’ll usually need to complete additional hours of work and clinical supervision.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
What is is: States allow social workers to practice clinical work, such as therapy, but usually they must obtain a clinical license first. In the majority of states, this is the LCSW license, and it allows recipients to practice unsupervised clinical work in settings ranging from private practice to agencies. They also have the option to become a clinical supervisor, supervising provisionally licensed social workers toward their LCSW licenses.
How to get one: You’ll need to obtain your MSW degree from a CSWE accredited program. The vast majority of states require you to obtain clinical practice in the field supervised by a LCSW or other licensed clinician before sitting for the LCSW exam. In some states you must also obtain the LBSW or LMSW license first. Typically, you’ll need to obtain a passing score on the LCSW exam after completing your hours, however a few states require also passing an additional exam.
In every social work licensure path, you’ll need to pass the appropriate exam to obtain it. At AATBS, we want to help you succeed in your chosen career, so we have study materials and groups for every social work licensure exam in your state. To learn more about the social work exam requirements and how we can help, feel free to get in touch with any questions you have.