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Ohio Social Work Licensing Requirements

Over 27,000 social workers have found employment in the state of Ohio, which boasts a population of over 11.5 million and is the nation’s seventh-largest state.1, 2 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) regulates the licensing standards for social workers and the standards for practice in the state. 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 to 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 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 field of social work in Ohio is an associate’s degree. An associate’s degree is required to become licensed as 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 social service assistants or social work assistants in the state of Ohio. Duties in these positions 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 for licensure as 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 prepare graduates to continue their education with a master’s program in social work and become LSWs in the state of Ohio. BSW programs typically cover general subjects like statistics, biological sciences, and English as well as 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. Individuals with an MSW generally have higher earning potential when compared to someone who holds only a BSW. An MSW also allows a person to supervise other social workers and teach at accredited universities. In Ohio, you must possess an MSW to earn the Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) or a Licensed Independent Social Worker Supervisor (LISW-S). licenses. While enrolled in a CSWE-accredited MSW program, students can apply to register as a Social Work Trainee (SWT), 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 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: Social Work Assistant (SWA), Licensed Social Worker (LSW), Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW), and LISW with Supervision 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 are the steps for obtaining each type of social work license in Ohio.

Registered Social Work Assistant (SWA)

If you have an associate’s or any higher degree in social services technology from an accredited program, you are eligible to be licensed as a Social Work Assistant (SWA) in the state of Ohio. Note that an SWA 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 license in Ohio, applicants must possess a social service technology degree (an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree) from a program of at least two years. This program must include 30 credit hours in social work skills, theory, and systems; a social service practicum; and 14 credit hours in related courses (e.g., psychology, sociology, economics). In addition, to receive an SWA license, you must have earned at least a C- in all courses. To apply for this license, follow the steps below.

1. Complete the SWA application.

The first step is to submit an SWA application through the online portal on the Board’s website. As of December 2018, the application fee is $63.50.

2. View the Board’s Laws & Rules video.

Once the application has been submitted, the applicant must watch the Board’s online Laws and Rules video. The purpose of this video is to review the legal and ethical standards you are expected to adhere to while working under your SWA license.

3. Submit official transcripts to the Board.

You must request that your academic institution mail, email, or fax an official transcript to the Board showing the degree you were awarded. Note that your transcript must reflect that your degree has already been conferred.

4. Complete the required background checks.

Each applicant for an SWA license is required to submit to two 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 these steps are satisfied, the Board will grant your Social Work Assistant license. Note that you cannot begin practicing under this license until you have been notified that it has been issued.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

With a minimum of a BSW from an accredited program, you may apply to become a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) in the state of Ohio. An LSW license allows an individual 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.

The first step in the LSW licensure process is to submit an application through the online licensure portal. You can submit this application while you are in the final semester of your program, but you must graduate before you will be eligible to receive your license. As part of the LSW application, you will be asked to provide a copy of your driver’s license and your transcripts so that you can be granted permission to take the licensing exam (see Step 2). As of December 2018, the fee for the LSW application is $83.50.

2. Take and pass the ASWB licensing exam.

Once your application has been reviewed by the Board, you will receive permission to take the ASWB licensing exam. The test you take is dependent on the social work degree you earned (or the program you are currently enrolled in). If you hold a bachelor’s degree or are in the final semester of a bachelor’s degree program, you will take the ASWB Bachelor’s exam. If you hold a master’s degree or are in the final semester of a master’s degree program, you will take the ASWB Master’s exam. As of December 2018, the fee for both of these exams is $230.

3. View the Board’s Laws & Rules video.

At any point during the application process, you can watch the Board’s Laws and Rules video online. This will review 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, each applicant is required to pass 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 to have your school submit an official transcript to the Board. You can have this transcript sent at any time after you complete your LSW application. However, this transcript must reflect that your degree has already been awarded in order for you to receive your LSW license. If you meet all of the other requirements for licensure (including all academic requirements) but are waiting for your degree to be conferred, you can apply for a temporary LSW license. This will require that your school submit documentation of your standing in the program and when they expect your degree to be awarded.

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 will be eligible to receive your license. The Board will notify you when they have issued your LSW license.

Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW)

In Ohio, a Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) license allows an individual to provide social work services without supervision. To begin the process of LISW licensure, you must hold an MSW from a CWSE-accredited program and an LSW license. Below are the steps for earning 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 towards 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 have completed your two years of supervised work, your supervisors will need to submit the Professional Employment Reference to document that you have completed this requirement.

2. Complete the LISW application online.

After you have completed your two years of work experience, the next step is to complete the LISW application through the online portal. As of December 2018, the fee for this application is $103.50. For this application, you will be asked to 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 (see Step 3).

3. Pass the ASWB Clinical or Advanced Generalist exam.

The Ohio Board allows LISW applicants to select one of two ASWB licensure exams to take. You can choose to register for either the Clinical or the Advanced Generalist exam, both of which carry a fee of $260 as of December 2018. Both exams have a four-hour time limit and consist of 170 multiple-choice questions.

4. View the Board’s Laws & Rules video.

After the passing the Clinical or Advanced Generalist ASWB Exam, applicants must view the Ohio Laws and Rules video online. This video will review 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 have an official copy of your MSW transcript, you must request it from your school. Note that the transcript must be sent directly to the Board from your school, and can be mailed or emailed.

6. Complete the required background checks.

Before becoming licensed, each applicant is required to 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 will not be applicable and you will need to repeat them for this application.

7. Receive LISW license from the Board

After you have completed all of the steps above and the Board has received all required documentation, your LISW license will be issued. You cannot begin practicing independently until your license has been granted, even if you have met all of the requirements.

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

If you hold an LISW license, you can apply for a Supervision Designation, which will allow you to supervise LSWs. You must have 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 submitting an application to become an LISW-S, you must receive training in supervision. You can fulfill this requirement through nine hours of continuing education credits in supervision or a master’s-level course in social work supervision at an accredited school. This training must be completed after you receive your LISW license; any training prior to that cannot be applied to the LISW-S designation.

2. Submit an LISW-S application.

After you have completed the supervision training, you can request Supervision Designation through the online portal. To do this, find the “Options” button associated with your current LISW license and select “apply for an endorsement.”

3. Receive Supervision Designation.

After the Board has reviewed your application for the LISW-S designation, they will notify you when it has been granted. After that, you are eligible to begin supervising LSWs.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Ohio

The Board has no formal reciprocity agreements with other states and you will need to 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 has guidelines for applicants with out-of-state licenses that may be helpful if you are in this situation.

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 hours of continuing education activities that are pre-approved by the Board during each two-year renewal period. Three of these hours must be in topics related to ethics, and individuals holding an LISW-S license must also complete three hours of continuing education in supervision. 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

There are 27,240 social workers employed in Ohio, with the largest number (9,810) employed in the area of healthcare social work.1 Social workers in Ohio earned an average hourly wage of $22.21 in 2017.1

According to Projections Central, the number of social workers employed in Ohio is expected to increase by 16% between 2016 and 2026, which equates to about 445 new job openings each year during this time period.3 The greatest increase is expected in the area of child, family, and school social work with the number of positions in this field projected to increase by 17.1% through 2026.3

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers9,180$43,180
Healthcare Social Workers9,810$54,170
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers4,830$42,940
Social Workers, All Other3,420$48,680

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2

Social Work Associations in Ohio

  • The National Association of Social Workers (NASW): Ohio Chapter: The Ohio chapter of the NASW advocates for the social work profession, provides continuing education 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, 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 and the hours were accrued while you held an LSW license.

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

Answer: Supervisors must be an LISW-S. This requires that they have one year of experience as a licensed independent social worker (LISW) and have received training in supervision.

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.

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Ohio: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_oh.htm
2. US Census Bureau State Population Totals and Components of Change, 2010-2017: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/oh
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http:/www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm