Social Work License Requirements in Pennsylvania

A social work license in Pennsylvania allows professionals to treat and support members of their community. The Pennsylvania Board offers two routes to become a social worker; candidates can pursue a Licensed Master of Social Work credential, or a Licensed Clinical Social Worker credential. Pennsylvania social work practitioners can find opportunities in schools, hospitals, or with community programs.

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

Social Work Licensure Requirements in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Board of Social Work requires a minimum of a master’s degree to apply for licensure. Students pursuing a masters in social work are required to take classes focused on psychology, and welfare through a National Association of Social Workers-approved college. Once they have completed their degree and taken the board exams, students will be able to officially apply for a license to practice social worker.

Students wishing to become a Licensed Master of Social Work or LMSW are able to perform higher-level tasks, including services like helping patients enter rehab programs or obtain a job. A Licensed Clinical Social Worker, on the other hand, is able to diagnose and treat their patients through therapy. They practice in a clinical setting, like hospitals or treatment facilities. An LSCW is able to operate their own practice, while an LMSW is not. While both licenses require at least a master’s degree, the LSCW requires an additional 3,000 clinical hours.

Licensed Master of Social Work

The LMSW track requires the master’s or doctoral degree in social work. Once students have completed their degree, their next step is to take the Association of Social Work Boards exam. Exam scores are then sent to the Pennsylvania Board who will determine if the student achieved a passing grade. Once students have graduated and passed their board exam, they must apply for a Pennsylvania social work license. Applications are available from the State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Pennsylvania social workers must obtain an LCSW in order to practice clinical social work. In order to qualify for this license, candidates must hold either a master’s or a doctorate degree in social welfare or social work. Degrees must come from a Council on Social Work Education accredited institution. Prospective clinical social workers must also pass the master’s level exam which is offered by the Association of Social Work Boards. Applicants must then complete 3,000 supervised hours of clinical experience; half of which must consist of practice in at least one of the following areas: assessment, psychotherapy, other psychosocial-therapeutic interventions, consultation, family therapy, or group therapy. Clinical hours must be completed within two to six years after completing a degree, with a maximum of 1,800 hours per year.

Once an applicant has met all of the requirements, they may apply for their LCSW through the State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors. A complete application must be mailed, and include the required fee, and two letters of recommendation.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Pennsylvania

Professionals wishing to practice social work in Pennsylvania who are already certified in another state can obtain permission to practice through the following steps. Incoming professionals must meet Pennsylvania requirements, including either a masters or doctorate degree in social welfare or social work. Their degree must be from a school approved by the Council on Social Work Education. If the graduate is from a foreign school, they must submit their foreign credentials, and credentials should be comparable to those earned with a master’s degree in the United States. Pennsylvania social work licenses all require passage of the state board exam, as well as proof of a valid social work license from another state, including a letter from that state’s licensing authority validating the authenticity.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

A social work license in Pennsylvania requires biennial renewal. Licenses must be renewed no later than the final day of the month in which a license was renewed during the previous cycle. The LMSW or clinical license can be renewed by completing a biennial renewal form, which should be received in the mail. Completed forms are to be returned via mail with the accompanying fee enclosed. Continued education is encouraged by the state of Pennsylvania, however, courses must be approved by the board and offered from an accepted institution.