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South Carolina Social Work License Requirements

South Carolina is home to over 4.8 million people.1 The state employs over 6,000 social workers and has the fifth highest number of jobs for healthcare social workers in non-metropolitan areas in the country.2 If a career in social work interests you and you want to practice in South Carolina, you must understand the rules and requirements for social workers in the state. The South Carolina Board of Social Work Examiners administers social work licenses in the state. Continuing reading to understand the specific requirements of licenses for social workers in South Carolina.

How to Become a Social Worker in South Carolina

Educational Paths

Aspiring social workers must possess at minimum a bachelor’s degree in social work to become licensed in South Carolina. To practice independently, you will have to have a master’s degree in social work (MSW). Generally, a higher level of education will lead to higher lifetime earnings and increased job opportunities. The text below provides detail on the educational paths for social workers in South Carolina.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

In South Carolina, you must possess at a minimum a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a school accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Seven colleges and universities in the state have CSWE-accredited BSW programs. BSW programs get students ready for professional social work practice by providing classroom education and field practice. After receiving a BSW, you will be eligible to apply to become a licensed baccalaureate social worker. Some jobs for bachelor’s-level social workers include case manager, child welfare social worker, and residential counselor.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

To become eligible for master’s-level and independent licenses offered by the South Carolina Board, you must obtain a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited school. Only two schools have CSWE-accredited MSW programs, but you may obtain an MSW anywhere in the US as long as the program is accredited by the CSWE. Most MSW programs offer students who hold a BSW “advanced standing” which allows students to complete the MSW program in one year as opposed to the two years it generally takes. All CSWE-accredited social work graduate programs will follow similar curricula that combine classroom learning with field education; each school may offer different areas of focus, electives, and field education placement opportunities. For social workers who desire to work in the field (rather than perform research or teach at the university level), a master’s degree is considered a terminal degree. Once you earn an MSW, you will have the highest level of education necessary to perform all social work jobs in South Carolina. Jobs for master’s-level social workers include school social worker, social work supervisor, and medical social worker.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in South Carolina

Four social worker licenses are administered by the South Carolina Board of Examiners: the baccalaureate social work license (LBSW), the master social work license (LMSW), the independent level license – clinical practice (LISW-CP), and the independent level license – advance practice (LISW-AP). All social work licenses except the baccalaureate-level require an MSW from a CSWE-accredited school. If you wish to practice social work independently, you will need to fulfill the requirements listed for either independent level license – clinical practice or independent level license – advanced practice. Keep reading for specific information on each of the four licenses offered by the South Carolina Board.

Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)

Individuals who hold a BSW from a CSWE-accredited school may apply to become an LBSW in South Carolina. The application process for becoming an LBSW is fairly simple. To apply, you must complete the application and provide the $45 fee*. Applicants must request that their college or university submit an official transcript to the South Carolina Board.

After completing their application and gaining approval from the Board, candidates must register for and take the ASWB bachelor’s-level exam. The $230* exam is a 170 question, multiple-choice exam and is usually completed in four hours. Candidates must correctly answer between 96 and 105 questions to pass. Candidates may take the exam up to three times during a 12-month period. Students are encouraged to prepare for the exam by joining study groups and taking practice tests. The South Carolina Board allows students to take the ASWB exam prior to graduation if they are in their final semester of a BSW program and have written approval from the dean of social work.

Once you have passed the bachelor’s-level exam and have completed the process for licensure, you will become a licensed baccalaureate social worker in South Carolina and may practice social work under supervision. There is no experience requirement for LBSWs.

*As of November 2015.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

The other licensure option in South Carolina that does not require documented or supervised experience is the LMSW license. The process for becoming an LMSW is very similar to the process to become an LBSW; however, the LMSW requires a higher level of education. LMSW candidates must earn an MSW from a CSWE-accredited school prior to applying for licensure. Applicants with the required education may then apply to the South Carolina Board of Examiners by completing the application, submitting the $45 fee (as of November 2015), and requesting an official transcript to accompany the application.

The South Carolina Board will mail you a letter indicating that your application has been approved, at which point you can register for the ASWB master’s-level exam. The exam is a 170-question test but only 150 questions will be scored. Examinees must answer between 96 and 105 questions correctly in order to receive a passing score. Candidates may retake the test a maximum of three times a year. As of November 2015, the master’s-level exam fee was $230.

MSW students may take the exam the during their final semester provided they can furnish a letter from the dean of social work confirming their educational status. After your application is approved and you pass the master’s-level exam, you will become a licensed master social worker in South Carolina and can practice social work under supervision.

Licensed Independent Social Worker – Clinical Practice (LISW-CP)

One of the licenses that allows social workers to practice independently is the independent level license – clinical practice. LISW-CPs must hold an MSW or doctorate in social work (DSW) from a CSWE-accredited school along with a current LMSW. Candidates will have to supply an official transcript proving that they meet the minimum education requirements and received 45 credit hours of psychopathology and psychodiagnostics. After meeting the education requirements, LISW-CP candidates can move to the next step in the licensure process.

1. Complete the application.

Before obtaining any experience, individuals hoping to become LISW-CPs must apply for licensure to the South Carolina Board. As a part of the application process, candidates must provide the following documents to the Board:

  • An official transcript (sent directly from the applicant’s college or university) including the required coursework form
  • Supervision contract*
  • $90 in fees including a $45 application fee and $45 supervision application fee (as of November 2015)
  • Documentation showing the applicant has completed 15 credit hours or 20 continuing education hours in professional ethics

*Supervisors must submit the report of supervised experience form at the end of the supervision period.

2. Gain the required experience.

LISW-CP candidates must obtain 3,000 hours of social work experience under clinical supervision. This experience must have occurred within two to four years of the candidate receiving an LMSW license. 100 hours of experience must have been direct meetings between the candidate and the supervisor. 50% of LISW-CP supervision may be group supervision with the group consisting of six supervisees or less.

LISW-CP supervisors must hold a license as LISW-CPs or LISW-APs and should possess at least 4,500 hours of clinical or advanced practice in no less than three years. Supervisors must be approved by the South Carolina Board.

3. Take and pass the ASWB clinical exam.

After your application is approved by the South Carolina Board, you may register for and take the ASWB clinical-level exam. The exam is designed to test the candidate’s knowledge of social work and clinical practice. The exam is 170 questions and requires between 96 and 105 correct answers to pass. Candidates may take the exam up to three times during a 12-month period. LISW-CP candidates cannot test for the clinical exam without approval from the Board. As of November 2015, the clinical ASWB exam was $260.

4. Receive your LISW.

After completing the steps above and passing the clinical ASWB exam, you will become a licensed LISW-CP in South Carolina. With this designation, you can practice clinical and nonclinical social work independently, or without supervision.

Licensed Independent Social Worker – Advanced Practice (LISW-AP)

Only one other license in South Carolina allows a social worker to practice independently—the LISW advanced practice (LISW-AP) license. LISW-AP candidates must have an MSW or doctorate in social work from a CSWE-accredited school and must possess an LMSW. The steps below outline the process for becoming an LISW-AP in South Carolina.

1. Complete the application.

LISW-AP candidates must apply to the South Carolina Board prior to selecting a supervisor and completing their work experience. Candidates must complete the application and submit the appropriate documents:

  • An official transcript (sent directly from the applicant’s college or university) including the required coursework form
  • A supervision contract* detailing the supervisor’s experience and place of employment
  • $90 in fees including a $45 application fee and $45 supervision application fee (as of November 2015)
  • Documentation showing the applicant has completed 15 credit hours or 20 continuing education hours in professional ethics

*Upon completion of supervision and work experience, supervisors must submit the report of supervised experience form to the Board.

2. Gain the required experience.

Candidates must obtain 3,000 hours of social work experience under advanced supervision in order to become licensed LISW-AP. This experience must have occurred within two to four years after the candidate received his or her LMSW license. 100 hours of experience must be one-on-one meetings between the candidate and the supervisor. Half of all LISW-AP supervision may be group supervision but the group must have no more than six candidates for licensure.

LISW-AP supervisors must be an LISW-CP or LISW-AP and should possess at least 4,500 hours of clinical or advanced practice which they have acquired in a minimum of three years. All supervisors must be approved by the South Carolina Board.

3. Take and pass the ASWB advanced generalist exam.

After your application is approved by the South Carolina Board, you may register for and take the ASWB advanced generalist exam. The $260* exam consists of 170 questions; candidates must correctly answer between 96 and 105 questions to pass. Candidates may take the exam up to three times during a 12-month period. LISW-AP candidates cannot test for the advanced generalist exam without approval from the Board.

4. Receive your LISW-AP.

After completing the steps above and passing the ASWB exam, you will become a licensed LISW-AP by the South Carolina Board of Examiners. LISW-APs may practice non-clinical work independently but must practice clinical social work under supervision.

*As of November 2015.

Social Work License Reciprocity in South Carolina

South Carolina does not have any formal reciprocity with any other state; however, the Board does accept applications from out-of-state social workers. Social workers who were licensed in another state must apply for a license and submit the social work verification form with their application. Social workers will have to pay the $45 application fee* and a $5 license verification fee* and they must have their ASWB scores and an official transcript sent to the South Carolina Board. The education requirements are slightly different for out-of-state social workers who practiced independently and now wish to become licensed in South Carolina. These applicants can have an MSW or DSW from a CSWE-accredited school or a regionally accredited institution.

*As of November 2015.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

The South Carolina Board of Social Work Examiners requires that social workers renew their license every two years. In order to renew, social workers must have 40 clock hours of continuing education (CE) provided by a trained social worker with a BSW, MSW, or DSW. Licensed social workers may carry over 12 hours of CE to the next renewal period. Review the South Carolina CE guidelines for more detail on the types of training allowed for CE credit and Board approved state agencies and organizations that provide CE hours. Men and women in the military on active duty for 30 days or more may have one year of CE requirements waived by the Board. As of November 2015, the fee to renew all social worker licenses in South Carolina was $90.

South Carolina Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

Over 6,600 social workers are employed in the state of South Carolina; these totals do not include social workers employed in mental health and substance abuse, since that data is not available.2 The salary for social workers in the state ranges from $31,230 to $48,670.2 The outlook for social workers in South Carolina is promising as jobs are projected to increase by 12.9% between now and 2022; the largest increase will be in healthcare social workers (28.5%).3 Based on the salaries and the number of job opportunities projected, South Carolina would make a great place for a career in social work.

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 3,770 $33,720
Healthcare Social Workers 2,120 $46,120
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers N/A* 31,230
Social Workers, All Other 710 $48,670

*Estimates for mental health and substance abuse social workers were not released.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.2

Social Work Associations in South Carolina

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can I begin practicing independently once I become registered as a Licensed Independent Social Worker – Clinical Practice (LISW-CP)?

Answer: Yes, once you meet the requirements for an LISW-CP and gain approval by the Board, you may begin practicing independently.

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

Answer: Yes. As long as your social work experience was acquired no less than two years after you received your LMSW and was completed within four years, that experience can count toward licensure as an LISW-CP or LISW-AP. If you are applying to become an LISW-CP, your experience must be in clinical social work.

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

Answer: Supervisors must be an LISW-CP or LISW-AP and should possess at least 4,500 hours of clinical or advanced practice that they acquired in three years or more. All supervisors must be approved by the South Carolina Board.

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

Answer: Social workers need a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) or a master’s degree in social work (MSW) to practice social work in the state. To practice independently in South Carolina, you need a master’s degree in social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

References:
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, South Carolina: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045216/45
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, South Carolina: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_sc.htm
5. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm