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Ohio Social Work Licensing Requirements

Nearly 25,000 social workers have found employment in the state of Ohio, the nation’s seventh-largest state.1, 2 Ohio is home to about 282 people per square mile equating to a population of more than 11.5 million.3 To become a licensed social worker in Ohio, you must follow specific educational paths and guidelines. Continue reading below to understand the process and necessary steps for becoming a licensed social worker, or LSW, in the state of Ohio.

The Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board (CSWMFT or the Board) regulates the licensing standards for social workers and the standards for practice in the state. Outlined below, you will find the steps required to become a social worker in Ohio based on Board regulations.

How to Become a Social Worker in Ohio

Educational Paths

There are many paths for becoming a licensed social worker in the state of Ohio, and it is one of the states which requires a license to practice in the field. To decide which educational path is right for you, consider the time commitment involved and the types of jobs that will be available to you in Ohio with each degree. The more advanced degree programs usually correspond to a higher level of licensure and a higher-paying job with more opportunities.

Associate of Social Work (ASW)

The lowest level of education required to enter the field of social work in Ohio is an associate degree. An associate degree is required to become a social work assistant (SWA) in the state. Social service technology degrees award an Associate in Applied Science, typically take around two years to complete, and cover an overview of the social work field, including subjects such as aging, addiction, poverty, helping skills, and workplace competencies. Graduates of social service technology programs will be prepared to become a social service assistant or a social work assistant in the state of Ohio. Duties as a social work assistant may include assessment, referral, screening, case management and outreach, record keeping, and prevention services.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

A bachelor’s in social work (BSW) is a versatile degree. It can allow an individual to apply to become a social work assistant (SWA) or a licensed social worker (LSW) in the state of Ohio. Attendees of a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited school will meet the qualifications to become an LSW in Ohio. BSW programs give students an overview of the field of social work, and either prepare them to continue their education with a master’s program in social work or to become an LSW in the state of Ohio. BSW programs typically cover general subjects like statistics, biological sciences, and English, social work history and policy, human behavior, social work practice theory, and research. In addition to coursework, BSW programs will also usually include field practicum experiences so that students can get a feel for working in the field. Fieldwork may occur in settings such as child welfare agencies, hospitals, mental health centers, and juvenile courts.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Another approach to licensure in Ohio is to obtain a master’s in social work (MSW). Entrance into an MSW program typically requires a bachelor’s degree, either in social work or another field of study. Students entering MSW programs with a BSW may qualify for advanced standing, allowing them to complete the MSW in one year as opposed to the two that it usually takes. An MSW can prepare you to be an LSW in Ohio. LSWs with an MSW generally have higher earning potential when compared to someone who holds only a BSW. An MSW also allows a person to be able to supervise other social workers and teach at accredited universities. In Ohio, you must possess an MSW to become a licensed independent social worker (LISW) or a licensed independent social worker supervisor (LISW-S), and be enrolled in one to become a social worker trainee (SW-T). While enrolled in a CSWE-accredited MSW program, students can apply to become a social worker trainee. Social work trainees will be eligible to get fieldwork placement as a student at some social work agencies that require this designation.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Ohio

In the state of Ohio, you cannot practice as a social worker without a state license. If you would like to become a social worker in the state, you will have to get your Ohio social work license. The state offers four main levels of licensure to Ohio social workers, a registered social work assistant (SWA), a licensed social worker (LSW), social work trainee (SW-T), and a licensed independent social worker (LISW), and an LISW with supervisor designation (LISW-S). You should learn as much as you can about each level’s duties so that you can understand which type of licensure you want to pursue. Detailed below is the process for obtaining each type of social work license in Ohio.

Registered Social Work Assistant (SWA)

If you have an associate’s degree in social services technology from an accredited program, you are eligible to become a social work assistant (SWA) in the state of Ohio. Note that a social work assistant is not authorized to engage in the practice of social work and must work under the direct supervision of a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, or someone with a similar position. SWAs may provide assessments and referrals, screenings, crisis intervention and resolution, case management, advocacy, and visual observation.

To meet the educational requirements for a social work assistant in Ohio, applicants must possess at minimum a social service technology degree, which is an associate degree from a two-year program including:

  • 30 credit hours or 45 quarter credit hours in social work skills, theory, and systems, including a social service practicum AND
  • 14 credit hours or 21 (quarter) credit hours in related courses including economics, psychology, and sociology
  • A minimum grade of a “C-” in all coursework

1. Complete the SWA application.

Applicants must submit an application to the Ohio social work Board for a certificate of registration as a social work assistant. You can apply online or with a paper version. As of September 2015, the application fee was $40 and is good for two years.

2. Take and pass the Board’s laws & rules exam.

Once the application has been submitted, the applicant must register for the CSWMFT’s online Laws and Rules exam. As of September 2015, the fee for the laws and rules exam was $10.

3. Submit official transcripts to the Board.

You must request that your academic institution mail, email, or fax an official transcript to the social work Board, showing the degree you were awarded.

4. Complete the required background checks.

Additionally, each applicant is required to pass the BCI and FBI background check.

5. Receive SWA license from the Board.

Once these steps are satisfied, you will become registered with the state of Ohio as a certified social work assistant, with an approval letter in the mail.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

With a minimum of a BSW from an accredited program, you may apply to become an LSW in the state of Ohio. No hours of experience is required to become an LSW in Ohio.

1. Complete the LSW application online.

Licensure candidates must complete the LSW application online and pay the $60 application fee (as of September 2015).

2. Submit the Request for exam pre-approval form.

Next, applicants must complete the exam pre-approval form via fax or email, along with a copy of your driver’s license and either a letter of good standing from your school (if in the last term of your program) or a copy of your degree or transcripts (if graduated from your program).

3. Take and pass the ASWB bachelors exam.

Once approved by the state, the candidate must register to take the bachelor’s level ASWB exam and pay the required fees. As of September 2015, the bachelors exam fee was $230. All applicants are required to register for the four-hour exam through ASWB. After receiving confirmation from ASWB, candidates can schedule their exam online or by phone.

The ASWB exam has 170-multiple choice questions, 150 of which will be scored. Candidates must answer between 94 and 107 questions correctly to pass the exam. Only after 90 days can a candidate retake the exam if he or she failed; candidates will have to re-register to take the exam again and pay the associated fees. If a candidate fails the exam four times, he or she will be required to submit a remediation study plan to the State of Ohio Social Work Board that includes taking six additional credit hours of undergraduate or graduate coursework.

4. Take and pass the Board’s laws & rules exam.

After passing the ASWB exam, you must register for the CSWMFT’s online laws and rules exam. As of September 2015, the fee for the laws and rules exam was $10.

5. Submit official transcripts to the Board.

The Ohio Counselor and Social Work Board prefers that your school submit your official transcripts via email, but they can also be sent via mail or fax.

6. Complete the required background checks.

Before becoming licensed, each applicant is required to pass the BCI and FBI background checks.

7. Receive LSW license from the Board.

Once you fulfill the above-stated requirements, you become an LSW in the state of Ohio and will receive a wall certificate and an LSW approval letter in the mail.

Social Work Trainee (SW-T)

Once you are enrolled in a CSWE-accredited MSW program, you can apply to become a social work trainee. Social work trainees will be eligible to get fieldwork placement as a student at some social work agencies that require this designation. According to Ohio law, only those who are not already LSWs will be eligible for this designation.

1. Complete the SW-T application online.

If you would like to be a social worker trainee, you should first complete the SW-T application online. There is no fee for the application, but you will be responsible for the criminal and background check fees.

2. Submit proof of enrollment in an MSW program.

You will need to provide the Board with proof of enrollment in a CSWE-approved master’s program in social work and that you are currently enrolled in a field education course. This can be satisfied by sending a copy of the school’s course schedule or a letter from the professor or department head confirming your enrollment.

3. Receive SW-T status from the Board

Once these steps are completed, you will have SW-T status and should be able to find work to fulfill your field work requirements.

Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW)

Licensed independent social workers (LISWs) must prove that they have an advanced degree in social work, a minimum of a master’s degree, along with experience, in order to be licensed for independent practice.

1. Obtain at least two years of experience.

After receiving their MSW, candidates must complete at least two full years of supervised employment experience where they have worked as an LSW for a salary for a minimum of 3,000 hours. An LISW candidate can apply no more than 1,500 hours per year towards his or her required work experience for licensure. Candidates must have one hour of supervision for every 20 hours worked by an LISW Supervisor (LISW-S), totaling 150 hours of supervised work.

2. Complete the LISW application online.

LISW candidates must complete the LISW application online and pay the $75 application fee (as of September 2015).

3. Take and pass the ASWB clinical or advanced generalist exam.

If you took the ASWB bachelors exam to become an LSW in Ohio, you will have to submit the request for exam pre-approval form along with a copy of your driver’s license and either a letter of good standing from your school or a copy of your degree or transcripts. The two exams consist of 170 questions, of which only 150 will be scored, and correctly answer between 62% and 71%.

4. Take and pass the Board’s laws & rules exam.

After the passing the Clinical or Advanced Generalist ASWB Exam, applicants must register for the Ohio Laws and Rules exam. As of September 2015, the fee for the Laws and Rules Exam was $10. Once payment is made the candidate may take the Laws and Rules exam online.

5. Submit official transcripts to the Ohio Board.

Email, mail, or fax your official transcripts to the social work Board, showing the degree earned. Email is the preferred method of delivery.

6. Complete the required background checks.

Before becoming licensed, each applicant is required to pass the BCI and FBI background checks.

7. Submit the professional employment reference form to the Board.

Lastly, every LISW candidate must have their training supervisor submit the professional employment reference form which confirms that the candidate has completed the required work experience under licensed supervision.

8. Receive LISW license from the Board

Upon completion of these seven steps required by the Ohio Board, individuals will become LISWs in the state of Ohio and will receive a wall certificate and an LISW approval letter in the mail.

Licensed Independent Social Worker with Supervisor Designation (LISW-S)

To become an LISW with the supervisor designation, candidates must wait until they have one year of experience as an LISW and then submit an application* to the Board. Hopeful LISW supervisors must also:

  • Submit at least nine hours of continuing education credits (in social work) between the date the social work Board received the prospective LISW’s application and the date the LISW is applying to receive the supervisor designation OR
  • Have completed an accredited master’s level supervision course within the past three years

*No fee is required to become an LISW-S.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Ohio

According to the Ohio Board, the state has no licensing reciprocity agreements with any other state. LSWs and LISWs wishing to transfer their license from or to Ohio must pay a $25 fee* and submit a verification form proving that they are licensed or registered in another state.

*As of September 2015

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

All licensed social workers must renew their licenses every two years. To be eligible for renewal, LSWs and LCSWs have to earn 30 hours of continuing education during any two-year time period. The The National Association of Social Workers (NASW): Ohio Chapter provides a listing of continuing education opportunities online and throughout the state.

Ohio Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

Ohio employs 24,750 social workers, with the largest number being employed in the area of child, family, and school social workers (with 9,920 employed).1 The state is the fourth largest employer of social workers in the US. Social workers in Ohio earned an average hourly wage of $22.72 in 2014.1

According to Projections Central, by the year 2022, the number of social workers employed in Ohio will increase by 16.2%, which equates to about 950 job openings per year.3 The greatest increase is expected in the area of healthcare, with social workers in that field projected to increase by 23.1% through 2022, followed closely by mental health and substance abuse social workers, which are expected to increase by 20.3%.3

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 9,920 $42,280
Healthcare Social Workers 6,420 $51,320
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 5,320 $39,830
Social Workers, All Other 1,020 $59,940

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.2

Social Work Associations in Ohio

  • The National Association of Social Workers (NASW): Ohio Chapter – The Ohio chapter of the NASW, the largest chapter in the world, advocates for the social work profession, provides continuing education opportunities and works on issues of workplace safety, compensation, and education debt relief.
  • Northern Ohio Clinical Social Work Society (NOCSWS) – Provides a professional community for licensed clinical social workers, professional development opportunities, and continuing education opportunities.
  • Ohio School Social Work Association (OSSWA) – Advocates for the professional development of school social workers and the effective delivery of school social work services, builds relationships and collaborates with other stakeholders at the local, regional, and national levels, and provides networking and continuing education opportunities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can I begin practicing independently once I become registered as an Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW)?

Answer: Yes, once you complete the process outlined above to become a Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) in Ohio, you are eligible to practice without any supervision.

Question: For the 3,000 hours of work experience required, can I count experience I gained years ago?

Answer: Yes, as long as you have worked for over two total years.

Question: What kinds of qualifications are required of the person supervising my experience?

Answer: Supervisors must be an LISW-S, have one year of experience as a licensed independent social worker (LISW), and they must have either nine credit hours of continuing education training in supervision, or have completed a master’s level supervision course from an accredited college or university within the past three years.

Question: What kind of degree do I need to practice social work in Ohio?

Answer: To practice social work in Ohio social workers need a minimum of bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) or a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from an accredited college or university whose curriculum meets the standards of the Ohio Board of social work.

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Ohio: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_oh.htm#21-0000
2. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Ohio: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/39
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http:/www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm