Social Work License Requirements in Washington

Social workers in the state of Washington are given credentials and licenses to work with different groups of people in a variety of communities and settings. Washington social workers have two different options when pursuing social work licensure: clinical social worker or generalist social worker. Both options focus on providing critical social services to communities in need. Social workers in the state of Washington can work a variety of different settings, including schools, hospitals, community centers, municipal buildings and private homes. There are two levels of licensure that applicants can pursue in the state of Washington: Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW) and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW).

Social Work Licensure Requirements in Washington

In order to obtain a social work license in Washington state, applicants must complete a Master of Social Work degree from a program that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). While it is not required by the state, a Bachelor of Social Work degree is often encouraged, as it can shorten the time a student needs to spend completing their MSW. Those who have a doctoral degree in social work are also eligible for licensure. During their course of study, Washington social work students can expect classes to cover topics like addiction, psychology, counseling, community relations, and oppressed populations. Many social work programs also require some professional-setting experience, like an internship or field placement.

Those who receive a Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW) credential can function at the generalist level, providing services as a caseworker or administrator, running community centers, improving existing social services and connecting those in need to resources, like finding a job. The Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) credential allows social workers to provide clinical services, such as mental health counseling, therapy and treating mental or emotional disorders.

Licensed Advanced Social Worker

After an MSW or doctoral degree has been completed from a CSWE-accredited school, applicants seeking their social work license will need to complete supervised work experience. In order to complete the required hours, applicants will need to receive a provisional license called a Licensed Social Worker Associate-Advanced (LSWAA) license. This credential will allow aspiring social workers who have completed the education requirements to work in the Washington social work field under the supervision of an LASW or an LICSW. Applicants can fill out the application for the LSWAA provisional license through the Washington State Department of Health.

Once the LSWAA credential has been approved, applicants will need to complete three years of full-time work experience, totaling a minimum of 3,200 hours. Of those total hours, 800 must involve direct client contact, and 90 must be supervised by an LICSW or LASW who has been licensed for at least two years. Once the post-graduate hours requirement is complete, applicants can begin the process of applying for licensure. The application can be completed online and will need to include proof of supervised hours along with a supervisor’s assessment of the applicant’s skills and capabilities, proof of education and answers to a variety of personal data questions.

Once the application is approved by the Board, students will be able to sit for the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Advanced Generalist exam. Upon passage of the exam, applicants will be awarded their LASW license and can begin practicing social work in Washington state.

Licensed Independent Social Worker

The Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker credential is the highest-level Washington social work license available. Applicants must complete an MSW or doctoral degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited school, then complete a minimum of 4,000 post-graduate hours of supervised work experience over a minimum three-year period. Before completing the hours, applicants will need to receive a provisional Licensed Social Worker Associate-Independent Clinical (LSWAIC) license. The application can be completed online through the Washington State Department of Health website.

One thousand of the required hours must involve direct client contact, and 130 hours must be supervised by an LICSW or an equally-licensed mental health professional. Once the hours requirement is complete, applicants can begin the process of applying for their social work license. The application can be completed online and will need to include proof of supervised hours along with a supervisor’s assessment of the applicant’s skills and capabilities, proof of education and answers to a variety of personal data questions.

Once the application is approved by the Board, students will be able to sit for the ASWB Advanced Clinical exam. Upon passage of the exam, applicants will be awarded their LICSW license and can begin practicing social work independently in Washington state.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Washington

Washington does not have any formal reciprocity for social work licenses with other states. Applicants who hold a social work license in another state and want to be approved for Washington social work will need to submit their application for either the LASW or LICSW licensure along with verification from all states where they previously, or currently hold credentials. Applicants are required to disclose all jurisdictions where they applied for licensure, even if a license was not granted. They will also need to transfer their previous ASWB test scores to Washington state in order to avoid having to take the test again. Applicants who can provide proof of the adequate number of supervised hours and who meet all other requirements of licensure will be granted a Washington state social work license.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

All Washington social work license holders are required to renew their social work license every year, no later than their date of birth. Every two years, LASWs and LICSWs are required to complete 36 hours of continuing education in order to be eligible for license renewal. Six of the 36 hours must be in ethical and legal topics. Every six years, six hours of training on the recognition and management of suicidality is required by all licensed social workers. Those who hold a provisional social work license are also required to complete continuing education, with 18 required hours every year.