Social Work License Requirements in West Virginia

Social workers in the state of West Virginia interact with a variety of communities to provide critical social services to various populations. Those who obtain their social work license provide direct counseling and support to vulnerable children and families and help connect people with the available resources that they may need. West Virginia social work professionals can work in many different areas including public health, mental health, family and child services, and addiction. Social workers may find themselves in a variety of settings including hospitals, outpatient centers, schools, municipal buildings, and private homes. When working toward obtaining a social work license in West Virginia, there are four different levels of certification: Licensed Social Worker (LSW), Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW), Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW) and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW).

Social Work Licensure Requirements in West Virginia

At a minimum, those seeking to practice West Virginia social work must hold a Bachelor of Social Work from a college or university accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and pass the national Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam. Depending on the level of licensure an applicant is pursuing, a Master of Social Work and higher-level exams are required. Both degrees require students to explore topics like human behavior, social environments, social welfare policy and research.

Many degrees will also require fieldwork and internships. Each level of social work license allows a different type of practice. The Licensed Social Worker credential allows a social worker to provide general, nonclinical services like case management, advocacy, and program administration. Licensed Graduate Social Workers can practice general social work, teach bachelor’s and master’s students and provide clinical services while being supervised. Licensed Certified Social Workers can provide advanced nonclinical social work services as well as clinical social work under supervision. Finally, Licensed Independent Clinical Social Workers are the only social workers in West Virginia who can perform the independent practice of clinical social work.

Licensed Social Worker

The Licensed Social Worker, or LSW, credential is the entry-level social work license that can be earned in the state of West Virginia. To obtain this license, applicants must hold a Bachelor of Social Work from a CSWE-accredited program and must request pre-approval from the West Virginia Board of Social Work to sit for the ASWB Bachelors Exam. There is a fee associated with exam registration, and the exam is designed to test the applicant's knowledge of general social work practice. The ASWB will then transfer test scores to the Board for review.

Once scores have been received by the Board, applicants will request an application form to complete their licensure application. The Board will review the materials and determine eligibility. Eligible applicants will receive an official application form in the mail. Applications must include proof of an earned BSW and an application fee. Once the application is approved, the Board will issue the LSW license, allowing the practice of general West Virginia social work.

Licensed Graduate Social Worker

To earn the Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW) credential in West Virginia, applicants must hold a Master of Social Work from a CSWE-accredited program. Applicants will then need to request pre-approval from the West Virginia Board of Social Work to sit for the ASWB Masters Exam. There is a fee associated with exam registration, and the exam is designed to test the applicant's knowledge on social work practice, policy, and methodology. The ASWB will then transfer test scores to the Board for review. If applicants already hold an LSW credential, they must fill out a License Upgrade Application to obtain a more advanced social work license which requires an additional fee. Those applicants without a West Virginia social work license will need to apply for a regular license by requesting an application from the West Virginia Board for Social Work.

The Board will review the materials and determine eligibility. Eligible applicants will receive an official application form in the mail. Applications must include proof of an earned MSW and an application fee. Once the application is approved, the Board will issue the LGSW license, allowing the practice of general West Virginia social work.

Licensed Certified Social Worker

The first step in earning a Licensed Certified Social Worker, or LCSW, credential is to complete a Master of Social Work from a CSWE-accredited program. To obtain this licensure, applicants must complete two years of post-graduate, full-time social work experience. This can be earned as an LGSW or other social work experience completed after obtaining a master’s degree. Applicants who are working part-time must complete at least 3,000 hours of work experience. Once the experience requirement is complete, applicants will then need to request pre-approval from the West Virginia Board of Social Work to sit for the ASWB Generalist Exam. There is a fee associated with exam registration, and the exam is designed to test the applicant's knowledge of advanced social work practice. The ASWB will then transfer test scores to the Board for review.

If applicants already hold an LSW or LGSW credential, they will fill out a License Upgrade Application to obtain a more advanced social work license which requires an additional fee. Those applicants without a West Virginia social work license will need to apply for a regular license by requesting an application form the West Virginia Board for Social Work.

The Board will review the materials and determine eligibility. Eligible applicants will receive an official application form in the mail. Applications must include proof of an earned MSW, proof of the completion of accrued hours and an application fee. Once the application is approved, the Board will issue the LCSW license.

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker

The first step in earning a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, or LICSW, credential is to complete a Master of Social Work degree from a CSWE-accredited program. Applicants must have completed a clinical field placement during their graduate studies or post-graduate clinical training that is deemed equivalent by the West Virginia Board of Social Work. They also must have completed a graduate course in either psychopathology or abnormal psychology. To obtain this licensure, applicants must complete two years of post-graduate, full-time social work experience supervised by a qualified Clinical Licensed Social Worker. Once the experience requirement is complete, applicants must then request pre-approval from the West Virginia Board of Social Work to sit for the ASWB Clinical Exam. The ASWB will then transfer test scores to the Board for review.

If applicants already hold a West Virginia Social Work credential, they will fill out a License Upgrade Application to obtain a more advanced social work license which requires an additional fee. Those applicants without a West Virginia social work license will need to apply for a regular license by requesting an application form the West Virginia Board for Social Work.

The Board will review all of the materials and determine eligibility. Eligible applicants will receive an official application form in the mail. Applications must include proof of an earned MSW, proof of the completion of accrued hours and an application fee. Once the application is approved, the Board will issue the LICSW license.

Social Work License Reciprocity in West Virginia

While West Virginia does not have formal reciprocity with any other state, working social workers who are licensed in another state can apply for a West Virginia social work license by providing the necessary requirements to the West Virginia Board of Social Work for review. Applicants who have already passed the ASWB exam do not need to retake it but will need their test scores verified in order for them to count toward their social work license application in West Virginia. Out-of-state applicants will need to request an application form from the Board. There is a flat fee for all levels of licensure.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

West Virginia social work licenses must be renewed every two years. Licensees will be notified prior to the expiration of their license. Notifications are sent 90 to 120 days prior, but it is the licensee's responsibility to contact the Board if they do not receive renewal instructions. In order to renew a social work license, social workers must complete 40 hours of continuing education every two years, with 20 of those hours in Category I programs and the remaining 20 in Category II self-directed activities. Once hours are submitted, applicants can submit a social work license renewal form to the Board, and there is a fee associated with renewal.