Hawaii Social Work Licensing Requirements

One of two states not geographically connected to the other 48, Hawaii has a modest population of around 1.5 million people. Social workers in the state were paid an average of $54,615 in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1 In fact, Honolulu is among the top-paying metropolitan areas for those social workers classified as “all other,” paying an average annual salary of $73,400 in 2014.2 The licensing board responsible for carrying out the social work laws and granting licensure to applicants is the Professional & Vocational Licensing sector of Hawaii’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (the “Department”).

How to Become a Social Worker in Hawaii

Educational Paths

In Hawaii, prospective social workers must hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) in order to be eligible for licensure. In fact, anyone calling themselves a “social worker” or using the term “S.W.” in the state of Hawaii must have completed the licensure process according to law. While you do need a BSW to start your career in social work, a master’s degree in social work (BSW) accredited by the CSWE is required for higher levels of licensure in the state, including clinical-level social work.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

In Hawaii, there are currently three bachelor’s programs that have been accredited by the CSWE; Brigham Young University, Hawaii Pacific University, and the University of Hawaii at Manoa all offer BSW programs for those seeking licensure in the state. While all programs will offer a similar curriculum, BSW programs typically focus on teaching core social work concepts, including human behavior, social welfare, and research methods, among other subjects. BSW programs typically take four years to complete, and graduates will be prepared for entry-level social work jobs requiring a licensed bachelor social worker or to continue on to graduate education, either pursuing an MSW or a doctorate in social work (DSW).

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Two MSW programs are currently accredited by the CSWE in Hawaii: those programs at Hawaii Pacific University and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. MSW programs typically take two years to complete for students with a bachelor’s degree in another subject. BSW graduates, however, may be eligible for “advanced standing,” allowing them to complete an MSW program on a fast-track, taking as little as one year. MSW programs prepare students for advanced generalist social work, teaching them about diverse populations, multi-cultural settings, and social and economic justice. Students will learn about assessment, intervention, evaluation, and follow-up. Graduates of MSW programs will be prepared to become a licensed social worker or a licensed clinical social worker in Hawaii.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Hawaii

Hawaii offers three levels of licensure: the licensed bachelor social worker (LBSW), the licensed social worker (LSW), and the licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). Each license type has distintive education, testing by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), and application requirements. The LCSW requires experience as well. Continue reading below to find out more about each licensure type and the pathways to get there.

Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW)

The LBSW is considered the entry-level of licensure in the state. To become a licensed bachelor social worker in Hawaii, you must be at least 18 years old and have a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program. Once you have met the educational requirement, you will complete the following steps:

1. Submit the application to the Department.

The first step to becoming an LBSW is to complete the application to the Department. Your application must include the application fee of $60 and official transcripts must be sent directly to the Department from your school.

2. Take and pass the ASWB bachelors exam.

Once the Department receives your application, they will send you an eligibility letter along with the ASWB Candidate Handbook, serving as approval to sit for the examination. The eligibility letter will be valid for one year, during which time you can study for, register for, and take the ASWB bachelor’s level exam. As of December 2015, the exam fee was $230.

3. Receive your LBSW license from the Department.

Once you have passed the ASWB exam and fulfilled all licensing requirements, the Department will notify you of any licensure fees due, and you will be sent your LBSW license in the mail and be licensed to practice as a social worker in Hawaii.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

To become an LSW in Hawaii, you must first have your MSW from a CSWE-accredited school or a doctoral degree in a social work program accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), since the CSWE does not accredit doctoral programs. Once the educational requirement has been met, you must:

1. Complete your application for licensure.

Along with your completed application, you will need to submit the non-refundable application fee of $60 and have your school send official transcripts to the Department.

2. Take and pass the ASWB masters exam.

The next step to licensure is to take and pass the ASWB masters, advanced generalist, or clinical exam. After the Department has reviewed your application and its contents, they will send you a letter of eligibility authorizing you to take the exam, which is good for a period of two years. The fee for the master’s level exam is $230 and the fee for the advanced generalist and clinical exams is $260 (as of December 2015).

3. Receive your LSW license.

Once you have passed the ASWB exam, the Department will notify you of any fees due, and then you will be licensed to practice as an LSW in Hawaii.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

To become a licensed clinical social worker requires a minimum of an accredited master’s degree or a doctoral degree in social work. It also requires some social work practice experience. Continue reading to find out how to become an LCSW.

1. Submit your application to the Department.

The first step for becoming an LCSW is to complete your application to the Department. Along with your application, you will need to submit the $60 application fee and have your MSW or DSW program send official transcripts to the Department for review.

2. Accumulate the required experience.

LCSW candidates must acquire a minimum of 3,000 hours of post-master’s clinical social work experience under supervision within a time period of two to five years. The clinical social work must include:

  • At least 2,000 hours of assessment, clinical diagnosis, and psychotherapy
  • No more than a maximum of 900 hours of client-centered advocacy, consultation, and evaluation
  • At least 100 hours of direct face-to-face supervision

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

The next step is to register for and take the ASWB advanced level examination, either the advanced generalist exam or the clinical exam. The price for the exam, as of December 2015, is $260.

4. Receive your LCSW license from the Department.

After you have accumulated the necessary experience and passed the exam, the Department will notify you of any fees due, and you will become licensed to practice clinical-level social work in the state of Hawaii.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Hawaii

Reciprocity in the state of Hawaii is permissible if the licensing requirements are found to be comparable by the director. The director may also choose to permit a passing ASWB score for licensure by endorsement.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Social work licenses must be renewed every three years before June 30. Continuing education (CE) is required of all licensees: 15 credit hours of CE with at least three hours being in ethics. Note that CE requirements are set to change starting July 1, 2016. At this time, a minimum of 45 hours will be required, and new licensees will not be required to submit CE hours during the first renewal period. All CE hours records are required to be kept by each licensee and may be subject to a random audit by the director.

Hawaii Social Work Jobs and Salary Information

Though there are only 3,200 social workers in the state of Hawaii, they were paid an average annual salary of $54,615, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1 Most of the social workers in the state were employed as child, family, and school social workers (1,460) and the highest paid social workers were in the subcategory of “other.”1 In fact, the “other” social workers in Honolulu are among the highest paid in any metro-area in the US.2

Projections Central indicates that social workers are expected to grow within the next few years, with an average of 14.725% growth projected through 2022 among all four subcategories of social workers in the state.3 The highest growth rate is expected in the subfield of healthcare social workers, at 25.6% growth through 2022, followed by mental health and substance abuse social workers, expected to grow at 19.7% through 2022.3

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers1,460$47,840
Healthcare Social Workers840$55,530
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers610$48,100
Social Workers, All Other290$66,990

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.1

Social Work Associations in Hawaii

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Do I need experience to become licensed as a social worker in Hawaii?

Answer: You do not need experience if you are preparing to become an LBSW or an LSW. However, to become an LCSW, you do need experience. Read more details above to find out about the experience required to work as a clinical social worker.

Question: How often do I need to renew my social work license in Hawaii?

Answer: License renewal is required trienially in the state. Along with your renewal, you must fulfill a continuing education requirement to keep your license.

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Hawaii: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_hi.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Social Workers, All Other: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211029.htm
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http:/www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm