Social Work License Requirements in Hawaii

Social work professionals in Hawaii help with prevention, intervention, and treatment of a variety of issues for clients in communities across the state. Before entering this field, students need to earn a social work license after meeting a series of educational and professional requirements. Aspiring social workers in Hawaii can obtain an LBSW, an LSW, or an LCSW. It is also possible to transfer an out-of-state social work license by following the reciprocity guidelines. This allows social workers who’ve obtained licensure in other states to practice in Hawaii. Continuing education is also required for current social workers to qualify for license renewal.

Social Work Licensure Requirements in Hawaii

To pursue a social work career in Hawaii, aspiring social workers need to obtain one of three licenses: a Licensed Bachelor of Social Work (LBSW), a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) or a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Applicants need either a bachelor’s, master’s or a doctoral degree in social work to apply for these social work licenses. Different examinations are also required for each level of licensing.

Social work degree programs allow students to choose focus areas to tailor their studies to their area of interest. Focus areas also allow students to concentrate on the groups of people that they wish to serve. Common concentrations include children and families, mental health, and gerontology. Aspiring social workers can typically expect both classroom and fieldwork practicums as part of their degree programs. Students will gain experience with social work practice, history, policies, research, and field education, receiving a holistic education to give them a broad understanding of the field. As students progress into the more advanced social work licenses, they must complete a certain number of hours of work experience under the direct supervision of a social worker.

Licensed Bachelor of Social Work

To receive an LBSW license, applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree in social work from a program that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Graduates need to have an official transcript from the school sent to the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA). They will then need to pass the bachelor’s national exam from the ASWB. Year-round electronic testing is available in Oahu, Maui and Hilo. Results must be sent directly from the ASWB to the DCCA. Once applicants pass the exam, an application must be submitted to earn a social work license. The fee depends on which year in the renewal cycle the application is submitted. Those who apply in the first year of the three year cycle, known as a triennium will pay $281. Those applying in the second year will pay $222. Finally, those applying in the third year will pay $163. These fees cover the application, license, payment to the compliance resolution fund and renewal.

Licensed Social Worker

The first option for earning an LSW is to obtain an MSW from a program that is accredited by the CSWE. The second option is to hold a doctoral degree in social work from a program accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Regardless of which education path students choose, they must pass the intermediate, advanced or clinical national exam from the ASWB. The master's exam is available year-round in Oahu and results should be sent directly from the testing agency to the DCCA. Once prospective students are ready to apply, they can fill out and submit the two-page form along with their application fee. If applying in the first year of the triennium, the fee is $374; in the second year, it’s $300; in the third year, it’s $226.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Similar to the LSW license, the LCSW license requires applicants to earn either an MSW or a doctoral degree in social work from a program accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Applicants must then pass the ASWB’s clinical level national examination. Testing is available in Oahu throughout the year and results must be sent to the DCCA directly from the ASWB. Applicants also need to complete at least 3,000 hours of supervised postgraduate clinical social work. This should be in an agency setting and must be accomplished in no less than two years and no more than five years.

Alternatively, applicants could meet this requirement by earning a qualified clinical social worker (QCSW) or diplomate in clinical social work (DCSW) issued by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). Another option is to receive a board-certified diplomate (BCD) credential issued by the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work (ABE). After Hawaii’s social work requirements are met, applicants must submit the two-page application as well as a fee. If it’s the first year in the triennium, the fee is $478; if it’s the second year, the fee is $388; and if it’s the third year, the fee is $298.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Hawaii

Hawaii does not have reciprocity agreements in place with other states. Instead, they require applicants to submit documentation proving that they have met the same requirements as required by Hawaii’s DCCA. Social workers from out of state that are seeking LBSW or LSW licensure will need to submit an application form, a copy of their transcripts from an accredited program, and verification that they have passed the ASWB exam. Those seeking LCSW licensure will need to submit an application, a copy of their transcripts from an accredited program, verification that they have passed the ASWB exam, and documentation that shows they have completed 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience.

The same application fees apply for each type of license and vary depending on when in the renewal cycle the application is submitted. Once an application is approved, the applicant can begin working in Hawaii as a social worker.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Social work license renewal happens in three-year increments in the state of Hawaii. All LBSWs, LSWs and LCSWs must complete 45 hours of continuing education within this three-year period. Three hours must be devoted to ethics. The current licensing triennium for Hawaii social work is from 7/1/2016 through 6/30/2019. Qualifying coursework must be approved by the NASW or the ASWB.