Social Work License Requirements in Ohio

Social workers in the state of Ohio may perform a variety of services both with and without supervision. There are three licenses which designate the duties a social worker is eligible to perform: Licensed Social Worker (LSW), Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) and Supervisor Designation (LISW with Supervisor, or LISW-S). The scope of practice for a social worker may include intervention planning, counseling and patient evaluation, and social psychotherapy under supervision. Anyone with a bachelor’s degree in the specific field of social work is qualified to apply for a social worker position.

Check out our lists of the best BSW programs and best MSW programs in Ohio.

Social Work Licensure Requirements in Ohio

All aspiring social workers must hold either a bachelor’s, master’s, or alternate post-graduate degree in social work. Ohio recognizes programs that have been accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) at the bachelor’s level. At the master’s level, applicants must complete a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Applicants may begin applying for social work positions when they reach the last semester of their social work program. The process for license application differs depending upon the license. Bachelor’s applicants apply for an LSW, while those with a Masters or higher level education can apply for a LISW or LISW-S. It is important to note that an LSW is unable to work independently, or as part of private practice, unless they operate under direct supervision from a licensed psychiatrist, clinical counselor or independent therapist.

Licensed Social Worker

Once aspiring social workers have completed a bachelor’s or postgraduate social work program they are eligible to apply for licensure in Ohio. To begin this process, they must first apply to take the LSW examination. Ohio maintains an online portal where candidates are encouraged to create a user ID and password for a personalized account that tracks the status of an application. The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) designates that bachelor’s level candidates sit for the Bachelors Exam, and a master’s level candidates sit for the Masters Exam. Applicants must be granted approval to take the exam, pay a fee, and take the test at a Pearson Testing Center. The board receives and reviews scores on the Wednesday following testing dates.

While candidates await exam results, they are encouraged to complete the BCI and FBI background checks required by the state. This can be completed at any time during the licensing process. Applicants must also forward school transcripts to the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker, and Marriage & Family Therapist Board.

Licensed Independent Social Worker

Before aspiring social workers can receive their LISW, they must hold a Master of Social Work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited institution and earn LSW licensure. Once those requirements are met, candidates are eligible to meet the post-LSW/MSW work-hour requirement for Independent licensure. A minimum of 3,000 hours must be completed within two years. These work hours must include a minimum of 150 hours with a training supervisor.

Designated Supervisor

To become a LISW-S, candidates must complete one year of post-licensure practice as a LISW (in Ohio or another state) and a minimum of nine hours in continuing education credits. Continuing education credits must focus specifically on master’s level social work with an emphasis on supervisory skills. This requirement must be completed within three years, and duties must be performed face-to-face. Additionally, candidates must maintain a master’s level of coursework in social work supervision each renewal cycle. Once all requirements are met, social workers may apply for an endorsement online through the state licensing board.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Ohio

Generally, Ohio is welcoming of social workers that have been licensed or have practiced from out of state. The process begins by determining the applicant’s level of social work. Then, the applicant must pay the application fee and complete the process to acquire the state licensing board's endorsement. The candidate must also forward any transcripts and ASWB exam scores to avoid retaking exams.

Applicants can complete the BCI and FBI background check at any point before or after they arrive in the state. An email informs candidates of where and how to log on to the online portal and to check on any missing documents. Students may need to contact their previous state for supervisory records as requested. Applicants should be prepared with this documentation to expedite the review and approval process.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Ohio’s license renewal requirements must be met within a two-year period. Requirements include a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education, where at least three of the 30 hours must be focused on ethics. Ohio recognizes some training conducted by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), its Ohio Chapter, and training from the ASWB. Because requirements vary based on the type of license being renewed, candidates should look to the Ohio licensing board to determine eligibility requirements, and upload continuing education credits in advance to avoid an audit that may extend the renewal process. Additionally, there are fees associated with license renewal, and fee amounts vary based on the level of the license being renewed.

Renewal is conducted online through the state portal, and notices are sent to licensees 90, 60 and 30 days before expiration.