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Ohio Social Work Licensing Requirements

By SocialWorkGuide.org Staff

Ohio boasts a population of over 11.75 million and is the nation’s seventh-largest state. To become a licensed social worker in Ohio, you must follow specific educational paths and guidelines. Continue reading to understand the process and necessary steps for becoming a licensed social worker (LSW) in Ohio.

The Ohio Counselor, Social Worker, and Marriage and Family Therapist Board regulates the licensing standards for social workers and the standards for practice in the state. See below for the steps to become a social worker in Ohio based on board regulations.

In This Article

How to Become a Social Worker in Ohio

Educational Paths

Professionals in Ohio need a license to practice. Individuals can explore many paths to become a licensed social worker. To choose the best path, learners should consider the time commitment involved and the types of jobs available in Ohio with each degree. The more advanced degrees usually correspond to higher levels of licensure and higher-paying jobs with more opportunities.

Associate of Social Work (ASW)

The lowest level of education required to enter the social work field in Ohio is an associate degree. Individuals need an associate degree to become licensed as a social work assistant (SWA) in the state. Social service technology programs award an associate in applied science. Programs typically take around two years to complete and cover an overview of the social work field, including subjects in aging, addiction, poverty, helping skills, and workplace competencies.

Graduates can pursue jobs as social service assistants or SWAs, performing duties, such as assessment, referral, screening, case management and outreach, record keeping, and prevention services.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

A versatile degree, a BSW enables individuals to apply for licensure as an SWA or LSW. Graduates of a school accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) meet the qualifications to become an LSW in Ohio. BSW programs give students an overview of the social work field and prepare graduates to continue their education.

BSW programs typically cover general subjects in statistics; biological sciences; English social work history; policy, human behavior, social work practice theory, and research. BSW programs also usually include field practicum experiences. Fieldwork may occur in child welfare agencies, hospitals, mental health centers, and juvenile courts.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

The MSW is another approach to licensure in Ohio. Entrance into an MSW program typically requires a bachelor's degree, either in social work or another field. 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. Individuals with an MSW generally enjoy higher earning potential compared to professionals with a BSW. An MSW also allows individuals to supervise other social workers and teach at accredited universities.

In Ohio, individuals need an MSW to earn the licensed independent social worker (LISW) or a licensed independent social worker supervisor (LISW-S) license. While enrolled in a CSWE-accredited MSW program, students can register as a social work trainee, which makes them eligible to get fieldwork placement as a student at social work agencies that require this designation.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Ohio

In Ohio, you cannot practice as a social worker without a state license. Ohio offers four main levels of licensure to social workers: SWA, LSW, LISW, and LISW-S. Aspiring social workers should research each level's duties to better understand each type of licensure. Keep reading to review the steps for obtaining each type of social work license in Ohio.

Registered Social Work Assistant (SWA)

Individuals with an associate or higher in social services technology from an accredited program are eligible to become licensed as an SWA in Ohio. SWAs are not authorized to engage in the practice of social work and must work under the direct supervision of a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker. SWAs may provide assessments and referrals, screenings, crisis intervention and resolution, case management, advocacy, and visual observation.

To meet the SWA's educational requirements, applicants need a social service technology degree from a program of at least two years. This program must include 30 credits in social work skills, theory, and systems; a social service practicum; and 14 credits in related courses, such as psychology, sociology, or economics. Individuals must have earned at least a "C-" in all courses. To apply for this license, follow the steps below.

  • 1. Complete the SWA application.

    You can apply and pay the $63.50 application fee through the board's online portal.

  • 2. View the board's laws and rules video.

    After applying, you can watch the board's online laws and rules video to review the legal and ethical standards of working under the SWA license.

  • 3. Submit official transcripts.

    The next step is asking your academic institution to submit your official transcript to the board showing your degree. Your transcript must reflect that your degree has already been conferred.

  • 4. Complete the required background checks.

    You must complete background checks for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The board provides background check instructions for both in-state and out-of-state applicants.

  • 5. Receive your SWA license from the board.

    Once you satisfy these steps, the board grants your SWA license. Note that you cannot begin practicing under this license until you receive notification that it has been issued.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

With a minimum of a BSW from an accredited program, you may apply to become an LSW in Ohio. An LSW license allows you to practice social work under the supervision of an independent social worker or otherwise qualified supervisor. To apply for an LSW license, follow the steps below.

  • 1. Complete the LSW application online.

    You may apply through the online licensure portal in your program's final semester. However, you must graduate before receiving your license. You must provide a copy of your driver's license and your transcripts to receive permission to take the licensing exam. As of March 2020, the LSW application costs $83.50.

  • 2. Take and pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) licensing exam.

    Once the board reviews your application, you will receive permission to take the ASWB licensing exam. The test you take depends on your social work degree or your current program. If you hold a bachelor's degree or you are in the final semester of a bachelor's program, you will take the ASWB bachelor’s exam. If you hold a master's degree or you are in the final semester of a master's program, you will take the ASWB master's exam. As of March 2020, these exams cost $230.

  • 3. View the board's laws and rules video.

    At any point during the application process, you can watch the board's laws and rules video online. The video reviews the legal and ethical standards relevant to practicing as an LSW in Ohio and is a requirement for licensure.

  • 4. Complete the required background checks.

    Before becoming licensed, you must pass the BCI and FBI background checks. The board provides instructions for the background checks for both in-state and out-of-state applicants.

  • 5. Submit official transcripts to the board.

    The next step in the licensure process is asking your school to submit an official transcript to the board. You can submit transcripts any time after you complete your LSW application. However, your transcript must reflect that your degree has already been awarded. If you meet all other licensure requirements but you are waiting for your degree to be conferred, you can apply for a temporary LSW license. This requires that your school submit documentation of your standing in the program and your predicted degree date.

  • 6. Receive LSW license from the board.

    After the board has received materials documenting the completion of your degree, the ASWB licensing exam, and the background checks, you are eligible to receive your license. The board will notify you when it has issued your LSW license.

Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW)

In Ohio, an LISW license allows you to provide social work services without supervision. To begin the process of LISW licensure, you must hold an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program and an LSW license. Read on for the steps to earn an LISW license.

  • 1. Obtain at least two years of experience under your LSW license.

    After receiving your MSW, you must complete at least two full years (3,000 hours) of supervised employment experience as an LSW. You cannot apply more than 1,500 hours per calendar year toward this requirement. While gaining this work experience, you must be supervised by an LISW-S and must receive a total of 150 hours of supervision during the two years. Once you complete your two years of supervised work, your supervisors can submit the Professional Employment Reference to document that you have completed this requirement.

  • 2. Complete the LISW application online.

    After gaining two years of work experience, you may complete the LISW application through the online portal. As of March 2020, the application costs $103.50. You must provide a copy of your driver's license and your degree and indicate whether you plan to take the ASWB clinical or advanced generalist exam for licensure.

  • 3. Pass the ASWB clinical or advanced generalist exam.

    LISW applicants can select one of two ASWB licensure exams: the clinical or the advanced generalist exam. Both cost $260 as of March 2020. Both exams impose a four-hour time limit and contain 170 multiple-choice questions.

  • 4. View the board's laws and rules video.

    The next step is watching the laws and rules video online. The video reviews the ethical and legal standards to which you will be held during your practice as an LISW.

  • 5. Submit official transcripts to the Ohio board.

    If the board does not already possess an official copy of your MSW transcript, you must request it from your school. Transcripts must be sent directly to the board from your school by mail or email.

  • 6. Complete the required background checks.

    Before becoming licensed, you must pass the BCI and FBI background checks. Because these background checks are only valid for one year, the ones you completed for your LSW license are not applicable and you must repeat them for this application.

  • 7. Receive LISW license from the board.

    After you have completed the steps above and the board has received all required documentation, the board will issue your LISW license. You cannot practice independently until your license has been granted, even if you satisfy all requirements.

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

If you hold an LISW license, you can apply for a supervision designation, which allows you to supervise LSWs. You need at least one year of experience as an LISW before applying, and there is no fee required to receive this designation. To become an LISW-S, follow the steps below.

  • 1. Complete required training in supervision.

    Before applying to become an LISW-S, you must receive training in supervision. You can fulfill this requirement through nine hours of continuing education (CE) credits in supervision or a master's-level course in social work supervision at an accredited school. You must complete this training after you receive your LISW license. Any prior training does not count toward the LISW-S designation.

  • 2. Submit an LISW-S application.

    Once you complete your supervision training, you can request supervision designation through the online portal. Locate the "options" button associated with your current LISW license and select "apply for an endorsement."

  • 3. Receive supervision designation.

    After the board reviews your application, you will receive notification that your license has been granted. After that, you may begin supervising LSWs.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Ohio

The board maintains no formal reciprocity agreements with other states. You must submit an application as a new licensee. However, you can apply past ASWB exam scores and supervised experience to Ohio social work license applications. The board provides guidelines for applicants with out-of-state licenses.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

All licensed social workers in Ohio must renew their licenses every two years. To be eligible for renewal, you must complete 30 CE hours pre-approved by the board during each two-year renewal period. Three of these hours must cover topics related to ethics. Individuals with an LISW-S license must also complete three CE hours in supervision. The National Association of Social Workers: Ohio Chapter provides a list of CE opportunities online and throughout the state.

Ohio Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

In 2018, Ohio had 26,250 social workers, with the largest number (10,090) working in the area of child, family, and school social work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Social workers in Ohio earned an average hourly wage of $23.35 in 2018.

According to Projections Central, the number of social workers employed in Ohio is expected to increase by 12.8% between 2016 and 2026, including 1,200 projected job openings for both child, family, and school social workers and healthcare social workers. Additionally, the greatest increase is projected in the area of child, family, and school social work with the number of positions in this field projected to increase by 17.1% between 2016 and 2026.

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 10,090 $45,030
Healthcare Social Workers 7,120 $52,910
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 6,030 $44,840
Social Workers, All Other 3,010 $51,490

Source: BLS

Social Work Associations in Ohio

  • National Association of Social Workers NASW's Ohio chapter advocates for the social work profession, provides CE opportunities, and works on issues of workplace safety, compensation, and education debt relief.
  • Ohio School Social Work Association OSSWA advocates for the professional development of school social workers and the effective delivery of school social work services. The group builds relationships and collaborates with other stakeholders at the local, regional, and national levels, and provides networking and CE opportunities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I begin practicing independently once I become registered as an LISW?

Yes, once you complete the process outlined above to become an LISW in Ohio, you may practice without supervision.

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

Yes, as long as you have worked for more than two total years and accrued the hours while you held an LSW license.

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

Supervisors must be an LISW-S. They need one year of experience as an LISW and must have received training in supervision.

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

Ohio social workers need a minimum of a BSW or an MSW from an accredited college or university whose curriculum meets the standards of the Ohio board.