Social Work License Requirements in District of Columbia

In Washington, D.C., social workers work with different communities to provide important services in areas such as mental health, family counseling, and schools. The level of D.C. social work one can practice is determined by the level of education and licensure a person receives. All social work licensure in the state is governed by the D.C. Board of Social Work, and four types of licensure are available to applicants, including supervised and unsupervised practice. A bachelor’s degree is the minimum level of education an applicant must have to pursue a social work license in Washington, D.C.

Social Work Licensure Requirements in District of Columbia

To acquire a social work license in Washington, D.C., applicants should choose which level of education to pursue. The degree students complete will dictate what level of licensure they can obtain, and whether they will be able to practice without supervision. All degrees must be completed at schools that are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

A Bachelor’s degree will allow one to practice social work as a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) or a Licensed Social Work Associate (LSWA), under the supervision of a Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW).Completing a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree is the first step toward being able to practice social work independently in Washington, D.C. An MSW will allow applicants to pursue work as a Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW), a LISW, or a LICSW.

All applicants are required to pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam at the appropriate level for the license they are seeking, and applicants hoping to pursue independent practice will also be required to complete a minimum amount of supervised experience hours.

Licensed Social Work Associate

LSWAs are entry-level practitioners of social work in D.C. All LSWAs must be supervised by either a LISW or LICSW while practicing. The first step to securing this level of social work license in Washington, D.C., is to submit an application to the D.C. Board of Social Work. The application must be accompanied by a copy of a government-issued photo identification, three character references — two of which much be completed by working professionals — an official transcript from the school where they received their BSW, two copies of a recent photo and an application fee.

Once their application is approved, applicants need to take the ASWB Bachelors Exam and score at least a 75. Exam scores will automatically be sent to the board upon completion of the exam.

LSWAs are not required to complete experience hours, so once their application has been submitted and their scores have been transferred, their complete application will be reviewed by the Board of Social Work. If the applicant meets all requirements, the LSWA credential will be awarded, and they will then be eligible to practice supervised social work at a general level in Washington, D.C.

Licensed Graduate Social Worker

Candidates pursuing a LGSW credential in Washington, D.C., will need to complete at least a master’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited school. Candidates who have a doctoral degree in social work are also eligible to apply for this level of social work license. LGSWs need to be supervised by either a LISW or a LCSW. They can practice all general social work and can also practice clinical social work as long as it is under the supervision of a LICSW.

Applicants must submit the New License Application form to the D.C. Board of Social Work, for which there is an application fee. All applicants will need to include three character references in their application, as well as proof of identity and school transcripts. Once their application is approved, they will be eligible to sit for the ASWB Masters Exam and score at least a 75. Exam scores will automatically be sent to the board upon completion of the exam.

There are no required experience hours to become an LGSW, meaning the license will be issued to the applicant once the board reviews and approves the application.

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker

The LICSW credential is the highest level of social work license one can pursue in Washington, D.C. Those who achieve this level of social work license can practice a wide range of social work services for varying populations, without any level of supervision. The first step to becoming a LICSW is obtaining an MSW degree from a CSWE-accredited school or a Doctor of Social Work degree.

Next, the applicant needs to accrue 3,000 hours of postcollegiate work experience at a social work program that has been approved by the CSWE. Of the 3,000 hours, 100 must be supervised by a LISW, and 100 must be supervised by a LICSW. All hours must be completed in no less than two years and no more than four years. Upon completion, candidates will need their supervisors to fill out evaluation and completion forms to verify their experience.

The third step in becoming a LICSW in Washington, D.C., is to apply for the social work license. Applicants will need to fill out the New License Application form and submit it to the D.C. Board of Social Work along with an application fee. All applicants are also required to submit three character references, proof of identity, and school transcripts. LICSW candidates will submit their experience evaluation forms from their supervisors at this time as well.

Once the application is approved by the board, candidates will be eligible to sit for the ASWB Clinical Exam. In order to pass, applicants must score at least a 75. Exam scores will automatically be sent to the board upon completion of the exam.

Once their license is issued, LICSWs can practice unsupervised, full-service social work in Washington, D.C., as well as oversee LSWAs, LGSWs and LISWs who are providing clinical services.

Social Work License Reciprocity in District of Columbia

Washington, D.C. does not have formal reciprocity with any other state. However, if applicants want to pursue a social work license in Washington, D.C., have previously practiced in another state, and are currently in good standing as a licensed social worker, they are encouraged to apply by endorsement. As with other candidates, they will need to complete the New License Application form and provide the required documentation, including verification of and a copy of their current social work license and passing scores from the appropriate level of the ASWB exam. They will also be required to pay the application fee.

If the board determines the applicant meets the criteria, they will award the appropriate level of social work license, and the candidate will be able to practice social work in Washington, D.C.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

All social work licenses in Washington, D.C. expire on July 31 of every odd year. In order to be eligible for license renewal, all candidates must complete 40 hours of approved continuing education credits. The credits can be a mix of distance learning, independent study, seminars, workshops and accredited college courses. Of the 40 hours, six must be completed in the category of ethics, which are in-person. It is also required that candidates complete two hours of LGBTQ courses. While candidates are allowed to take continuing education courses online, they must not complete more than 12 hours of requirements virtually. Applications for license renewal can be completed online.