In clinical social work, credentials determine the scope of professional capability. Graduates of Florida State University’s online Master of Social Work program earn an accredited, clinically-focused degree which allows them to pursue licensure in their home state. The path to becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) is state-specific, and some states have a more rigorous process than others. This article explores the role of an LCSW and discusses steps towards LCSW licensure for the state of Pennsylvania.
What Can an LCSW Licensee Do?
The LCSW designation broadens a social worker's clinical practice in several ways including adding weight to what a social worker can do, expanding on potential workplace settings, and allows for a wider reach of clients served as some insurances (such as Medicare and Medicaid) only reimburse for services performed by an LCSW.
Licensure can open an array of specialized career opportunities across the field of mental health including family therapy, marriage counseling, substance abuse counseling, medical social work, and school social work. These positions come with a bright career outlook.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS), for example, forecasts a 23% increase in jobs for both marriage and family therapists, as well as substance abuse counselors by 2026. This faster than average growth in both roles accounts for nearly 70,000 new positions. The overall social work field is anticipating 16% growth until 2026.
A Closer Look at the LCSW Process
The first step to achieving LCSW status is to graduate with your MSW from an accredited program. After your degree, you can submit an application to the state of Pennsylvania to earn the Licensed Social Worker/Licensed Graduate Social Worker credential (LSW). The LSW license is attained first, and necessary for you to pursue supervised clinical hours following graduation.
LSW applicants in Pennsylvania must ensure that they have completed (or are within a semester of graduating) from a program that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). CSWE accreditation is essential because it guarantees the program encompasses the crucial curricular components to prepare graduates for the field.
After submitting the LSW application, you can then sit for the Association of Social Workers Board (ASWB) Master’s level exam, which assesses key social work concepts. Costs associated with the exam include a $25 application fee and $230 testing fee.
A passing score is considered more than 70% of the roughly 150 exam questions answered correctly. Once you pass the ASWB exam, you will receive your LSW license from the Board. Then, you can start acquiring supervision hours towards your LCSW.
What Supervision Hours are Required for LCSW?
LCSW candidates need to meet a minimum of 3,000 supervised field experience hours within a clinical setting. These experience hours must be completed between the span of two to six years. Pennsylvania also requires that at least 150 hours are under the direct supervision of an LCSW social work practitioner.
Hours must be logged in a setting that is in line with the candidate’s training and primarily consists of face-to-face work in the fields of assessment, psychotherapy, family therapy, group therapy, or other consultation formats. After your hours are completed, you will be eligible to sit for the ASWB Clinical exam.
How do I apply for my LCSW license?
The ASWB Clinical level exam is similar to the Master’s level exam but offers a more studied array of questions to assess an LCSW candidate’s preparation. The 2019 Clinical exam costs $260 for each registration (with a separate application fee of $25). Retaking the exam is possible if you fail; however, you must wait three months between exams and some states do limit how many times you can take the test.
After passing ASWB Clinical exam, your scores are submitted with other materials including application forms, two official recommendations, and an experience verification statement from your supervisor. These documents are sent for review by the Pennsylvania State Social Work Board and evaluated.
Once you have met these requirements and your LCSW license is approved, it will remain valid for two years. Renewals are possible if you complete the necessary continuing education requirements.
Making a Difference
The LCSW credentialing process is rigorous and rewarding. It broadens social workers’ ability to serve clients in the mental health field and is coupled with a promising job outlook. Florida State offers a robust MSW curriculum that educates and challenges students to practice social work in the clinical setting.
The online MSW program offers flexible options for working students who have a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work or another field. Students nationwide are supported by faculty and staff as they prepare for the LCSW process closer to graduation.