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South Carolina Social Work License Requirements

South Carolina is home to over 5 million people, and 8,120 are employed in the field of social work.1 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, which are overseen by the South Carolina Board of Social Work Examiners. Continue reading to learn more about the different social work licenses in South Carolina, educational prerequisites, and social work salaries.

How to Become a Social Worker in South Carolina

Educational Paths

Aspiring social workers must possess at least a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) to become licensed in South Carolina. To practice independently, you will need to have to have a master’s degree in social work (MSW). Generally, a higher level of education will lead to higher salaries and more job opportunities. The sections below provide more detail on the educational paths for aspiring social workers in South Carolina.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

In South Carolina, a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) will allow you to apply for the Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW) license. This degree must be from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Seven colleges and universities in South Carolina have CSWE-accredited BSW programs. BSW programs prepare students for professional social work practice by providing classroom education and field practice. Some jobs for LBSWs 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 in South Carolina 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 instead of the two years it generally takes. All CSWE-accredited MSW 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. 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 issued by the South Carolina Board of Examiners: the Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW), the Licensed Masters Social Worker (LMSW), the Licensed Independent Social Worker-Clinical Practice (LISW-CP), and the Licensed Independent Social Worker-Advanced Practice (LISW-AP). Keep reading for more information about the requirements and process for applying for each of these credentials.

Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)

Individuals who hold a BSW from a CSWE-accredited school may apply to become LBSWs in South Carolina. The LBSW license allows a social worker to practice generalist, non-clinical social work within an organization and under supervision (in other words, not privately or independently). The following are the steps required to obtain an LBSW license in South Carolina.

1. Submit an LBSW application to the Board.

To initiate the licensure process, complete the Application for Licensure in Social Work and mail it to the Board or complete the application through the Online Applications site. As of February 2019, you must pay a $45 fee when you submit your application. You will also need to have your program mail an official transcript of your BSW to the Board. You can submit the LBSW application when you are in the final semester of your BSW program but will need to include a letter from your program with your expected graduation date in lieu of your transcript.

2. Pass the ASWB Bachelor’s exam.

After the Board receives your application, they will notify you that you are eligible to take the ASWB Bachelor’s exam. The exam contains 170 multiple-choice questions and (as of February 2019) costs $230. Your score will be sent to the Board within about two weeks of your test date.

3. Receive your LBSW license from the Board.

If you submitted your original application before completing your degree, you must have an official transcript sent to the Board for your application to be considered complete. Once the Board has received all of your supporting materials and you have passed the ASWB Bachelor’s exam, your LBSW license will be issued. After you receive your LBSW license, you can practice generalist, non-clinical social work under a Board-approved supervisor.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

In South Carolina, you can apply to become an LMSW once you have earned an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program. Like an LBSW, an LMSW is required to work under supervision once licensed. However, they are able to engage in more advanced social work practice and can practice clinical social work. The steps below outline the process of earning an LMSW license in South Carolina.

1. Submit an LMSW application to the Board.

The first step towards becoming an LMSW is to submit an application. You can mail the Application for Licensure in Social Work to the Board or complete it on the Online Applications portal. During this step, you must also request that your school send a copy of your MSW transcript to the Board, and you will need to pay an application fee of $45 (as of February 2019). You can submit your application while you are in the final semester of your MSW program but will need to include a letter from your program with your expected graduation date since you will not be able to send the Board a final transcript yet.

2. Pass the ASWB Master’s exam.

After you submit your application, the Board will review it and notify you when they have given you permission to register for the ASWB Master’s exam. As of February 2019, this exam costs $230. It contains 170 multiple-choice questions about the master’s-level practice of social work. Scores are transferred to the Board within about two weeks of your test date.

3. Receive your LMSW license.

If you submitted your LMSW application before finishing your degree, you will need to have your school send a final, official transcript to the Board to complete your application. After the Board has received all of your application materials and documentation that you have successfully passed the ASWB exam they will issue your license. This will allow you to begin practicing as a social worker under a Board-approved supervisor.

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

One of the two South Carolina social work licenses that allows social workers to practice independently is the LISW-CP. This license enables a social worker to independently provide clinical services such as diagnosis and therapy; however, they must be supervised for any non-clinical social work practice. To become an LISW-CP, you must hold an MSW or doctorate in social work (DSW) from a CSWE-accredited school. Additionally, you must have completed 45 hours of training in both psychopathology and psychodiagnostics. If you are completing the required supervised experience for an LISW-CP license in South Carolina (see Step 2 below), you will need to hold an LMSW license before beginning the steps to licensure that are described in the following section.

1. Complete the LISW-CP application.

You will need to begin the LISW-CP licensure process by completing the Board’s Application for Licensure in Social Work and mailing it in; this can also be filled out online on the Online Applications portal. As of February 2019, this application requires a fee of $45 upon submission. With your application, you must also include a completed Supervision Contract form identifying the individual you plan to work under for your supervised hours. Finally, request that your school send a copy of your transcript to the Board; it will need to clearly document that you have completed 45 hours of training in both psychological diagnosis and psychopathology.

2. Gain the required experience.

After you have submitted your application, the Board will notify you when they have approved your supervision plan. Once this happens, you can begin earning the 3,000 required hours of supervised clinical social work experience needed for LISW-CP licensure. This experience must be completed in no less than two and no more than four years and must include at least 100 hours of direct supervision. Anyone who supervises you during this time must be an LISW-CP (or the equivalent in your state) with at least 4,500 hours of post-licensure work experience and 45 hours of training in supervision. When you have finished the 3,000 supervised work hours, your supervisor(s) must complete the Report of Supervised Experience form and return it to the Board. While you are earning your supervised hours, you will also need to complete 20 continuing education hours (or 15 academic credit hours) in professional ethics.

3. Pass the ASWB Clinical exam.

After the Board reviews your initial application and approves your supervision plan, they will also give you permission to take the ASWB Cinical exam. The exam is designed to test the candidate’s knowledge of clinical social work practice and contains 170 questions. As of February 2019, the ASWB Clinical exam costs $260.

4. Receive your LISW-CP license.

After you complete the steps above, the Board will issue your LISW-CP license. With this license, you can independently practice clinical social work in South Carolina. Note that if you want to practice non-clinical social work, you must do so under the supervision of an LISW-AP.

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

The other license that allows a social worker to practice independently in South Carolina is the LISW-AP license. One issued, this allows a social worker to provide a full range of non-clinical social work services without supervision. However, LISW-APs must be supervised if they want to practice clinical social work. LISW-AP candidates must hold a CSWE-accredited MSW or a doctoral degree in social work; they must also document that this training included at least 90 academic credit hours in the practice of advanced social work. As with the LISW-CP license, aspiring LISW-AP candidates must complete a certain amount of supervised experience, which requires an LMSW license if it is completed in South Carolina. The steps below outline the process for becoming an LISW-AP in South Carolina.

1. Complete the application.

LISW-AP candidates must first apply to the Board. For this, you can complete the Application for Licensure in Social Work and mail it in or fill it out out online on the Online Applications portal. Request that your school send a copy of your transcript to the Board. You will also need to include the Supervision Contract form and pay a fee of $45 (as of February 2019).

2. Gain the required experience.

The Board will notify you when they have reviewed your application and approved your supervision plan. After that, you can begin acquiring the required 3,000 hours of supervised advanced social work practice. Your supervisor(s) must be an LISW-AP (or equivalent in your state) with 4,500 hours of post-licensure work experience and 45 hours of training in supervision. During this period of supervised work, you will need to receive at least 100 hours of face-to-face supervision and complete 20 hours of continuing education (or 15 academic hours) in professional ethics. You must complete these hours in no less than two and no more than four years. When you are finished, your supervisor(s) will need to document your work on the Report of Supervised Experience form.

3. Pass the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam.

After your application is approved by the Board, you may register for and take the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam. The $260 exam (as of February 2019) consists of 170 questions, though only 150 are scored. The content of the exam is focused on the advanced practice of non-clinical social work.

4. Receive your LISW-AP license.

After completing the steps above, the Board will issue your LISW-AP license. With this, you may practice non-clinical work independently in South Carolina but must practice clinical social work under supervision.

Social Work License Reciprocity in South Carolina

South Carolina does not have any formal license reciprocity with any other state; however, the Board does accept applications from out-of-state social workers. To apply for licensure in South Carolina, complete the steps listed above for the level of licensure that is equivalent to the license you currently hold. You will not need to repeat any requirements you have already met, such as the licensure exam or supervised experience. However, you will need to provide documentation of past ASWB exam scores and verification that your current license is in good standing. All South Carolina social work applications cost $45 as of February 2019.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

The Board requires that social workers renew their license every two years. In order to renew, social workers must complete 40 hours of continuing education (CE). At least 20 of these hours must be provided by a trained social worker with a BSW, MSW, or DSW; up to 20 hours can come from other sources. See the Board’s continuing education page for more information about CE requirements and approved providers. As of February 2019, the fee to renew all social worker licenses in South Carolina is $90.

South Carolina Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

Over 8,100 social workers are employed in the state of South Carolina according to May 2017 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.2 The average salary for all types of social workers in the state is $44,000.2 The outlook for social workers in South Carolina is promising, as jobs are projected to increase by 12.2% between 2016 and 2026; the largest expected increase is for the field of healthcare social work (22.3%).3 Based on the salaries and the number of job opportunities projected, South Carolina can be a great place for a career in social work.

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 2,460 $39,110
Healthcare Social Workers 1,930 $55,490
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 1,050 $36,210
Social Workers, All Other 2,500 $45,190

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2

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?

Answer: Yes, once you meet the requirements for an LISW-CP or LISW-AP license and it is issued by the Board, you may begin practicing independently within your area of expertise (either clinical social work or advanced general social work).

Question: For the 3,000 hours of work experience required for an LISW-CP or LISW-AP license, can I count experience I gained years ago?

Answer: Yes. As long as your social work experience was acquired in no less than two and no more than four years, it can be counted. If you complete this experience in South Carolina, you will also need to hold an LMSW license while you complete these hours.

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 under this license over a period of no less than three years. They also need to have completed at least 45 hours of training in supervision. All supervisors must be approved by the South Carolina Board before they can begin supervising.

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 qualify for a license 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 (CSWE).

References:
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, South Carolina: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/sc
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, South Carolina: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_sc.htm
3. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm