What Does an LGSW Do?

Written by Ann Feeney
Last Updated: May 2023

You can become a licensed graduate social worker (LGSW) after earning your master of social work (MSW) degree in Minnesota, Washington D.C., and West Virginia. MSW graduates who pass the American Board of Social Work (ASWB) masters exam can apply for this license.

If you want to start a social work career in any of those three states, this guide explains how to earn an LGSW license.

What Does an LGSW Do?

An LGSW can provide general social work services for clients. LGSWs may perform clinical social work under the supervision of a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). The scope of practice varies by state, so be sure to check with your state’s board of social work.

Typical LGSW responsibilities may include intaking clients, referring them to resources, monitoring changes in a client’s functioning and well-being, and advocating for their clients and communities

LGSWs may work in a school, medical facility, independent practice, hospice, senior living setting, prison or other areas of the justice system. As an LGSW gains experience, they can work with increasing independence over time.

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Steps to Become an LGSW

Social worker licensing requirements vary by state, but the general steps to become an LGSW are:

  • Earn a Bachelor’s Degree: The first step in becoming an LGSW is to earn a bachelor’s degree. Most MSW programs accept students with a relevant undergraduate degree or coursework like psychology or sociology. For most students, a bachelor’s degree takes four years to complete.
  • Earn a Master’s in Social Work: If you have a bachelor of social work (BSW), you may be eligible for advanced standing in an MSW program, allowing you to graduate in approximately one year of full-time study. If you have a bachelor’s degree in another field, an MSW typically takes two years.
  • Pass ASWB Masters Exam: The ASWB masters examination consists of multiple choice questions on human development, assessment, intervention planning, and professional ethics. The fee is $230.
  • Apply for LGSW Licensure: The specifics vary by state, but in general, you must provide proof of an MSW degree, provide references, pass a background check, pay an application fee, and arrange for your exam scores to be sent to the licensing board.

LGSW Education

It typically takes 5-6 years of college education to complete the educational requirements for an LGSW license. Students with a BSW can complete an MSW in approximately one year, while those with another undergraduate major generally take two years.

BSW Degree

During a BSW program, students learn about the theory and practice of social work in the classroom and in real-world settings. This degree may let you enroll in an MSW with advanced standing, which means you can finish a master’s degree in approximately one year.

The BSW curriculum includes introductory and advanced courses on human and social well-being, social work assessments and interventions, working with different populations, and how societies function.

  • Admission Requirements: High school diploma, GED certificates, or associate in social work (ASW) degree. GPA requirements vary by program, but are typically 2.5 or higher.
  • Program Curriculum: Courses on designing, delivering, and measuring the impact of social work interventions, background on social work systems and human development, and functioning in society
  • Time to Complete: Typically four years for a high school graduate, two years for an ASW
  • Skills Learned: Social work theories and how to assess clients and deliver social services

MSW Degree

An MSW degree builds on the undergraduate curriculum and adds mental health assessment, counseling for mental health conditions, and social work administration and leadership. During fieldwork, students perform social work functions under professional supervision and gain experience in different settings and disciplines. You need an MSW to earn an LGSW license.

  • Admission Requirements: An undergraduate degree, generally a minimum GPA of 3.0, references from professors or work supervisors
  • Program Curriculum: Advanced topics in social work, including clinical assessment and mental health counseling
  • Time to Complete: Approximately one year for students with a BSW, two years for students with another undergraduate degree
  • Skills Learned: Advanced assessment and delivery of interventions, including mental health assessment and counseling, and social agency administration and leadership

LGSW Licensure and Certification

Each state has their own application and licensure requirements and recommended timelines. Be sure to check with your state social work board for specific requirements. All states require you to complete a background check. To renew your license, you must complete professional continuing education, which also varies by state.

Once you are a LGSW, you can earn additional certifications from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). These certifications are optional, but some social worker positions may require or strongly prefer them.

Certificate options for MSWs include substance misuse, case management, gerontology, and more. Requirements vary by certificate but generally include experience and continuing education on that topic and passing an examination.

Working as an LGSW

Preparing for a career in social work begins in your MSW or BSW program. You can gain experience and start building a network with classmates and field placement supervisors.

According to Payscale, the average LGSW salary is $52,000 as of April 2023. However, your salary will vary based on location and local demand and costs.

Like all jobs, social work careers have pros and cons and highs and lows. For example, a school or family social worker must be able to cope psychologically with child abuse and its effects, but can also see their interventions lead to a better future for a child.

Hospice social workers must deal with client illness and death, but can find satisfaction in easing a client through end-of-life care and supporting their loved ones. Substance misuse social workers may find it frustrating if a client relapses, but satisfying once the client passes recovery milestones.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between an LGSW and LMSW?

Generally, an LGSW is the equivalent of an LMSW. Minnesota, Washington D.C., and West Virginia use this terminology rather than LMSW.

In what states can you become an LGSW?

Minnesota, Washington D.C., and West Virginia all issue LGSW licenses. The specific processes and requirements vary by state.

Can you become an LGSW if you are a licensed social worker in another state?

Currently, social workers do not have license reciprocity across states. But, Minnesota, Washington D.C., and West Virginia allow for licensure by endorsement. If your license from another state meets or exceeds LGSW requirements, contact the state board to apply for a license by endorsement.

What is the fastest way to become an LGSW?

The fastest way to become an LGSW is to earn a BSW degree and then enter an MSW program that offers advanced standing and accelerated timelines for students with a BSW. Most accelerated programs take approximately one year. You can begin the LGSW application process while you’re still a student, but your license will not be official until you pass the ASWB masters exam.