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Virginia Social Work Licensing Requirements

By SocialWorkGuide.org Staff

With a population of over 8.5 million and a social work labor force of nearly 18,000, Virginia offers many options for finding employment in social work. Aspiring professionals interested in pursuing a career in the field should carefully review the various paths for licensure. Continue reading to learn more about the educational paths social workers in Virginia must take and the types of licenses available to social workers.

The Virginia Board of Social Work regulates and sets standards for licensed social workers in Virginia. The overview below provides information on how to become a social worker based on the Virginia Board regulations.

In This Article

How to Become a Social Worker in Virginia

Educational Paths

Virginia offers two social work licenses: licensed social worker (LSW) and licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). To become an LSW, individuals must possess either a bachelor's or master's degree in social work from a school accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Although individuals holding a master's degree in social work can apply for an LSW license immediately after graduating, individuals with a bachelor's degree must complete supervised post-degree experience to become eligible for licensure. To become an LCSW in Virginia, an individual must hold a master's degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program and complete a certain amount of supervised work before becoming licensed.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

In Virginia, 17 colleges and universities offer bachelor's in social work (BSW) programs accredited by the CSWE. Social work majors usually enroll in courses related to policies of the social work profession, diversity and social problems, human growth and development, and understanding human behavior. Most CSWE-accredited schools require a practicum that allows students to gain hands-on experience working with social work agencies. After receiving a BSW, a prospective licensee may practice as an entry-level social worker under the supervision of a licensed social worker while earning the supervised hours required to become a bachelor's-level LSW in Virginia.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Master's-level licensure applicants in Virginia must hold a master's degree in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited program. Four universities in Virginia offer CSWE-accredited MSW programs. Many schools offer accelerated "advanced standing" MSW programs for students with a completed undergraduate degree in social work. This designation allows students with BSWs to complete their coursework in one year instead of the standard two years. MSW candidates develop a deeper understanding of the profession and enjoy more opportunities to gain experience than BSW-level graduates. Additionally, those who hold an MSW may earn a higher salary than those who hold a BSW, and are more likely to work in supervisory positions.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Virginia

The Virginia Board of Social Work grants LSW and LCSW licenses. In Virginia, a social worker can become a bachelor's-level LSW, a master's-level LSW, or an LCSW. Each of these involves a different set of steps to become licensed. Read on to learn more about becoming an LSW or LCSW in Virginia.

Bachelor's-level Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

To become licensed as a bachelor's-level LSW by the Virginia Board of Social Work, candidates must earn a bachelor's in social work from a CSWE-accredited school. The following steps outline how to obtain a social work license in Virginia if you hold a BSW.

  • 1. Apply for supervision approval.

    Individuals hoping to become an LSW must complete a certain amount of supervised experience before becoming licensed (see Step 2). Before you can begin accruing hours to meet this requirement, however, you must register your supervision with the board. To do this, submit a registration of supervision form to the board. In addition to providing information about your education and training, you must get this form signed by your licensed social worker. The fee for this application is $50 (as of June 2020), and you must also request that your school send an official transcript from your BSW to the board. You cannot begin earning any of your supervised hours before this form receives board approval.

  • 2. Obtain 3,000 hours of supervised social work experience.

    Licensure candidates who hold a BSW must complete at least 3,000 hours of post-degree supervised experience before they become eligible for an LSW. You must complete this experience in no less than two years, but cannot take more than four years unless you gain permission from the board. During this time, you must receive at least 100 hours of face-to-face supervision from a licensed social worker (LSW or LCSW). If you work under a licensed bachelor's-level social worker, keep in mind that they must have held their license for at least three years before they qualify as eligible to supervise. For every 40 hours of work experience, you must receive at least one (but no more than four) hours of supervision.

  • 3. Submit an application to the board.

    The next step to LSW licensure requires an online LSW application submitted through the Virginia Department of Health Professions. As of June 2020, the LSW application fee is $115. Note that you can submit this application while completing your supervised work experience if you would like to request permission to take the licensing exam (see Step 4) before earning all your hours. However, the board will not consider your application complete until they receive the verification of casework management and supportive services form from your supervisor documenting your successful completion of all 3,000 hours.

  • 4. Take the ASWB Bachelor's exam.

    All bachelor's-level LSW candidates must pass the ASWB bachelor's exam. After the board processes your LSW application, they grant you permission to register for the test, which costs $230 (as of June 2020). The test has a time limit of four hours and comprises 170 multiple-choice questions about bachelor's-level social work. Your score will be reported to the board within about two weeks of your test date.

  • 5. Receive your LSW license from the board.

    The board will issue your LSW license after they receive a complete application (including verification of your supervised experience) and documentation of a passing score on the ASWB bachelor's exam. The board will mail you a paper copy of your license within 30 days of issuing it. After the board grants your license, you can begin providing non-clinical social work services in Virginia.

Master's-Level Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

To become licensed as a master's-level LSW, candidates must possess a master's degree from a CSWE-accredited program. Unlike bachelor's-level candidates, master's-level LSW applicants do not need to complete any supervised hours before becoming licensed. To obtain an LSW license after completing an MSW, follow the steps below.

  • 1. Submit an application to the board.

    If you have completed a CSWE-accredited MSW, you can take the first step toward an LSW license in Virginia by submitting an online LSW application through the Virginia Department of Health Professions. As of June 2020, the fee for this application is $115. You must also request that your school mail an official copy of your MSW transcript to the board.

  • 2. Take the ASWB bachelor's exam.

    Once you receive board approval, you must register to take the ASWB bachelor's exam. As of June 2020, the fee for this test is $230. The ASWB bachelor's exam is a four-hour multiple-choice test with 170 questions. The board receives your scores approximately two weeks after your test date.

  • 3. Receive your LSW license from the board.

    After the board approves your LSW application and receives documentation from the ASWB of your passing score on the licensing exam, you can receive your license. You may begin practicing as an LSW in Virginia after the board notifies you that they have issued your license. The board mails a physical copy within 30 days after granting your license.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

LCSWs in Virginia may provide clinical social work services; therefore, the requirements for an LCSW license differ from those for an LSW license. LCSW applicants must hold a clinically-oriented MSW from a CSWE-accredited program that includes a 600-hour clinical practicum. After you earn a qualifying MSW, follow the steps below for LCSW licensure.

  • 1. Apply for supervision approval.

    All LCSW applicants must complete a certain amount of supervised post-degree experience before becoming licensed (see Step 2). However, you cannot begin accruing these hours until the board approves your proposed supervisor and work setting. To do this, submit an online application to register your LCSW supervision through the Virginia Department of Health Professions. As of June 2020, the fee for this application is $50. The board will notify you when they have approved your application.

  • 2. Earn 3,000 hours of supervised clinical social work experience.

    After the board approves your supervisor and work setting, you can begin earning the supervised clinical social work hours required for LCSW licensure. You must accrue at least 3,000 hours in no less than two years and no more than four. At least 1,380 of these hours must involve delivering in-person clinical services to clients. While completing your hours, you must receive at least 100 hours of supervision (and a minimum of one hour for every 40 hours of work) from an LCSW with at least two years of post-licensure experience and supervisory training. Throughout your supervised experience, you and your supervisor must keep a log tracking all your hours.

  • 3. Submit an LCSW application to the board.

    After you complete your supervised experience, you may take the next step toward licensure by submitting an LCSW application to the Virginia Department of Health Professions. As of June 2020, the fee for this application is $165. Your supervisor must also complete the verification of clinical supervision form to document your successful completion of the supervised hours. Since the board keeps a copy of your transcript from your previous application for supervision approval, you should not need to submit it again.

  • 4. Take the ASWB clinical exam.

    After the board approves your LCSW application, they will grant permission for you to register for the ASWB clinical exam, which costs $260 (as of June 2020). This is a 170-question, multiple-choice test, and the board receives your scores within about two weeks of your test date.

  • 5. Receive your LCSW license.

    After the board receives documentation that you have completed all requirements for licensure, they issue your LCSW license, and you can begin practicing in Virginia. They also mail you a paper copy of your license within 30 days.

Social Work Licensure by Endorsement in Virginia

Virginia maintains no formal reciprocity agreements with other states, but the board allows licensure by endorsement. When applying for licensure by endorsement, LSWs and LCSWs use their exam scores and experience gained in another state to obtain their social work license in Virginia. In order to qualify for a license by endorsement, candidates must possess an active social work license in another state and meet the Virginia Board's educational and training requirements for LSW or LCSW licensure.

To apply for licensure by endorsement, complete the online application for the level of licensure you seek. This application includes a checklist of supporting documentation you must provide, including verification of your current license and previous ASWB exam scores.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

LSWs and LCSWs must renew their licenses every two years. To maintain eligibility for renewal, LCSWs must complete 30 hours of continuing education (CE), while LSWs must complete 15 CE hours. For both LSW and LCSW licenses, at least two hours must be in social work ethics, regulations, or laws. The board allows licensees to earn hours from two different categories of activities (see below). As of June 2020, LSW renewal fees are $65, and LCSW renewal fees are $90.

Category I Hours

Category I hours are "formally organized learning activities" offered by an approved sponsor or agency. Any Category I activities applied towards CE requirements must be documented through an official letter from the sponsor or agency verifying the activity. LCSWs must complete at least 20 Category I hours and LSWs must complete at least 10 Category I hours every renewal period. Note that you can complete all your required CE hours through Category I activities if you choose.

Category II Hours

The board defines Category II hours as individual or "self-study" hours. These may include the publication of an article by an LSW or LCSW, attending staffing events, group study, viewing videos and listening to recordings, and reading professional articles or books. There is no supervision or sponsorship requirement for Category II hours. LSWs may claim a maximum of five Category II hours, while LCSWs may claim a maximum of 10 hours during each renewal period.

The Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers offers resources to help LSWs and LCSWs find continuing education opportunities.

Virginia Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

In 2019, Virginia employed 17,860 social workers. Across all fields of social work in Virginia, the median salary in 2019 was $58,760 per year. Approximately half (9,270) of all social workers in Virginia held employment in child, family, and school social work, making it the largest field of employment for social workers in the state.

Projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that between 2018 and 2028, the total number of social workers employed in Virginia will increase. Overall job growth for child, family, and school social workers totals a projected 23.3% from 2018-28. Projected job growth for healthcare social workers in Virginia outpaces the other categories, with an expected increase of 24.9% between 2018 and 2028.

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 9,270 $52,800
Healthcare Social Workers 3,410 $57,640
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 4,540 $52,980
Social Workers, All Other 640 $71,600

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2019.

Social Work Associations in Virginia

National Association of Social Workers, Virginia Chapter

NASWVA offers information about regional chapters within the state, upcoming conferences, and continuing education opportunities.

Virginia Society for Clinical Social Work

VSCSW provides information and education for Virginia's clinical social workers through professional development opportunities, advocacy for the field, and member connections.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I begin practicing independently once I become registered as an Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)?

Yes, once you complete the process outlined above to become an LCSW in Virginia, supervision is no longer required, and you may practice independently in the state.

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

Yes, as long the experience received approval from the Virginia Board of Social Work before you earned the hours, and you completed it within a period of 2-4 years.

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

Supervisors for bachelor's-level LSW applicants must possess an LSW or LCSW. If the supervisor is a bachelor's-level LSW, they must also hold three years of post-licensure work experience. Supervisors for LCSW applicants must hold an active LCSW license and at least two years of post-licensure work experience.

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

Social workers need a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) or a master's degree in social work (MSW) from a school accredited by the Council on Social Work Education to practice social work in Virginia.