Social Work License Requirements in Virginia

Social workers in the state of Virginia offer services to people in variety of settings. Virginia social workers operate social service programs, connect communities in need of local resources, function as fully-trained mental health professionals, and work to improve existing social work programs. Those with a social work license in Virginia might find themselves working in schools, hospitals, community centers, municipal buildings and private homes.

There are four levels of social work regulated by the Virginia Board of Social Work, but only two require licensure: the Licensed Social Worker (LSW) credential, which can be obtained by those who hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree; and the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) credential for those with an advanced degree. Associate Social Worker and Registered Social Worker credentials are also available in Virginia, but these credentials are not considered licenses.

Social Work Licensure Requirements in Virginia

The minimum amount of education required to pursue a social work license in Virginia is a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) from a college or university that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). This degree enables a student to apply for the LSW license at the bachelor's level. An applicant with a Master of Social Work (MSW) can also obtain an LSW credential, or apply for the LCSW license if additional requirements and qualifications are met. All licensure applicants must pass a national exam administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). Social work students take classes that cover topics like addiction, psychology, counseling, community relations, and oppressed populations. They also gain required hours of professional experience through internships or field placement. In Virginia, the LSW credential allows social workers to practice as case managers and community organizers, as well as administer other nonclinical social services.

The LCSW credential allows social workers to independently practice the full scale of services in the state of Virginia, including clinical services like mental health diagnosis, counseling, therapy and treatment of psychological or emotional disorders. Those holding the LCSW license can also function as high-level administrators or consultants.

Bachelor's Level Licensed Social Worker

The first step to obtaining an LSW credential at the bachelor's level is to graduate from a CSWE-accredited BSW program. Once the degree has been earned, applicants must apply for a provisional license in order to work and gain experience in casework management and supportive services. The provisional credential will be given by the Virginia Board of Social Work after students prove they have completed all academic requirements and have the approval of a licensed supervisor at a practice location. Supervisors must hold an active LSW certification at the master's level or an LSW at the bachelor’s level for at least three years. Active LCSWs are also acceptable supervisors.

Once the application is approved, Virginia social work applicants can begin earning their supervised hours, which can be either on a volunteer or paid basis. Applicants are required to complete a minimum of 3,000 supervised hours, 100 of which must be face-to-face supervision. Supervision must be completed within two to four years. Once the hour requirements are complete, students must submit an LSW application to the state, which includes proof of completed supervised hours, along with a registration fee. Once the application is approved by the Board, applicants may sit for the ASWB Bachelors Exam, for which there is another registration fee. If applicants receive acceptable scores, they will be notified by the Board and issued their LSW social work license.

Master-Level Licensed Social Worker

The process for applying for the LSW license at the master's level is similar to the bachelor-level credential, but students are not required to complete supervised work hours. The first step is to graduate from a CSWE-accredited Master of Social Work program. Once the degree has been completed, students can fill out their LSW application through the Virginia Board of Social Work. They must include proof of their completed MSW degree, demographic information, answers to licensure questions, any previous licensure history and a registration fee. Once their application has been approved by the Board, Virginia social work applicants will sit for the ASWB Masters Exam, for which there is another registration fee. The exam will test the applicant’s knowledge of social work at the master's level.

If the applicant receives acceptable scores, they will be notified by the Board and issued their LSW social work license. Licensed social workers are eligible to begin practicing as soon as they are notified of their licensure, and they will receive a license in the mail within 30 days.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

In order to obtain an LCSW license and practice Virginia social work independently and autonomously, students must first earn a Master of Social Work from a CSWE-accredited program. The degree program must include a clinical course of study, meaning graduate coursework that includes specialized advanced courses and a 600-hour clinical practicum that focuses on diagnostic, prevention and treatment services. Once the degree has been completed, applicants must apply for a provisional license in order to gain post-graduate, clinical social work experience. The provisional credential will be granted after students can prove they have completed all academic requirements and have the approval of a licensed supervisor at a practice location. Supervisors must hold an active LCSW with at least two years of post-licensure clinical social work experience, as well as have professional training in supervision.

Once the application is approved, Virginia social work applicants can begin earning their supervised hours, which can be either on a volunteer or paid basis. Applicants are required to complete a minimum of 3,000 supervised hours of clinical social work experience, 100 of which must be face-to-face supervision. Supervision must be completed within two to four consecutive years. Once the hour requirements are complete, students can fill out their LCSW application. Upon receiving Board approval, applicants may sit for the ASWB Clinical Exam. If applicants receive acceptable scores, they will be notified by the Board and issued their LCSW social work license.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Virginia

The Virginia Board of Social Work allows licensure by endorsement for applicants who are already licensed social workers in other states and who want to begin practicing in the state of Virginia. When applying to practice Virginia social work, out-of-state applicants can use their ASWB exam scores and experience gained in another state to qualify for licensure. Candidates must have an active social work license in another state and meet the Virginia Board’s educational and training requirements for LSW or LCSW licensure. The application for a license by endorsement can be completed online and must include proof of licensure in another jurisdiction, acceptable ASWB test scores at the appropriate level, completed supervised hours and proof of the required level of education.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Those who hold a social work license in Virginia must renew their LSW and LCSW credentials every two years. Virginia social work licensure requires that in order for candidates to be eligible for license renewal, LCSWs have to complete 30 hours of continuing education and LSWs have to complete 15 hours. For both levels of licensure, at least two hours must be in the area of social work ethics, regulations or laws. Hours can be completed from two categories of continuing education — one being formally-organized learning activities and the other being self-study hours. There are fees associated with renewing both licenses, and fee amounts vary dependent on which licence is being renewed.