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West Virginia Social Work License Requirements

West Virginia is home to 1.8 million people and the median household income in the state is $44,061.1 The average social work salary in the state is $47,548 and the number of social work positions is expected to rise in the coming years, making West Virginia a good state to consider as a location for a social work career.1,2,3 To practice social work in West Virginia, you must hold a license from the state’s Board of Social Work. Continue reading to learn more about the licenses offered by the Board, the education and training requirements for each, and salary information for social workers in West Virginia.

How to Become a Social Worker in West Virginia

Educational Paths

West Virginia social work licenses have specific education prerequisites. To become licensed in the state, you must have at least a bachelor’s of social work (BSW) from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Higher levels of licensure require a master’s in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited program. To understand the differences between these two degrees, see the sections below.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a CSWE-accredited program is one of the two degrees that will allow you to obtain a social work license in West Virginia. West Virginia is home to seven CSWE-accredited BSW programs as of February 2019. BSW programs expose students to professional social work practice through classroom experience and fieldwork. Typically, students will take courses in human behavior and the social environment, social welfare policy, research, social work practice, and field education. In West Virginia, students with a BSW may apply for the Licensed Social Worker (LSW) credential.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

A master’s in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited program will allow you to apply for the other three social work licenses offered by the Board: Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW), Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW), and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). As of February 2019, there is one CSWE-accredited MSW program in West Virginia, although a CSWE-accredited MSW from any state can be used for licensure. Accredited programs share a core curriculum that incorporates both advanced coursework and fieldwork experience, though programs may have different specialty areas or elective coursework options. Most MSW programs offer “advanced standing” to students who hold a BSW, allowing them to complete the graduate program in half the time it normally takes (one year instead of two years).

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in West Virginia

The Board offers four levels of social work licensure: Licensed Social Worker (LSW), Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW), Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW), and Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). For all levels of licensure, the Board offers the option of a temporary permit, which allows an individual to practice for up to six months while they prepare to take the licensure exam. Finally, the Board may issue a provisional license to individuals with bachelor’s degrees in fields other than social work. See the Board’s website for more information about temporary and provisional permits or continue reading below to learn more about the four permanent types of social work licensure in West Virginia.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

The entry-level social work license in West Virginia is the Licensed Social Worker (LSW) credential. This license allows a social worker to provide general, non-clinical services such as case management, social advocacy, and program administration and development. To become an LSW, you must have a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program. After meeting the educational requirement, you must complete the following steps to earn your license.

1. Pass the ASWB Bachelor’s exam.

All aspiring LSWs in West Virginia must take the ASWB Bachelor’s exam to become licensed. Before you can register, you will need to contact the Board for pre-approval. The Bachelor’s exam fee is $230 as of February 2019. The test questions are designed to test your knowledge of general social work practice. After you have taken the exam, the ASWB will transfer your score to the Board within about two weeks.

2. Complete the LSW application.

After you have passed the ASWB Bachelor’s exam, the next step in the LSW licensure process is to request an LSW application from the Board using the Application Request Form. If the Board reviews this form and determines you are a candidate for licensure, they will send an application form to you. Complete the application and return it to the Board with the required $100 fee (as of February 2019).

3. Receive your LSW license.

Once you have satisfied the requirements described above, the Board will issue your LSW license. This will enable you to practice general social work in West Virginia.

Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)

To become licensed as a Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW), you must hold an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program. LGSWs in West Virginia can practice general social work, teach bachelor’s and master’s students, and provide clinical services under supervision. Once you have satisfied the educational requirement for an LGSW license, you can move to the next steps in the licensure process, which are described below.

1. Pass the ASWB Master’s exam.

To become an LGSW in West Virginia, you must pass the ASWB Master’s exam. You will need to contact the Board for pre-approval before you can register for the test. The exam, which costs $230 as of February 2019, tests the candidate’s knowledge of social work practice, policy, and methodology. The exam consists of 170 questions but only 150 are scored. Your results will be transferred to the Board shortly after your test date.

2. Complete the LGSW application.

If you do not already hold an LSW license, you will need to request an LGSW application using the Board’s Application Request Form. After the Board sends the application form to you, complete it and return it with the $100 application fee (as of February 2019). If you hold an LSW license, you must instead submit the License Application Upgrade form to the Board, which requires a fee of $55 (as of February 2019).

3. Receive your LGSW license.

After the Board determines that you have met the requirements described above, they will issue your LGSW license. At this point, you can practice general social work without supervision and can provide clinical services under supervision.

Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW)

Because you must have completed at least two years of social work practice before becoming credentialed as a Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW) in West Virginia, this license signals a higher level of experience than the LGSW to potential employers. LCSWs are able to provide advanced non-clinical social work services as well as practice clinical social work under supervision. To earn an LCSW license, you must have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program. The steps below provide more information on becoming an LCSW after you hold a qualifying MSW.

1. Complete the required supervised experience.

To become an LCSW, you must complete two years of full-time employment (or 3,000 hours if working less than full-time) of post-graduate social work experience. This can be earned through regular employment as a social worker (such as under an LGSW license) or other social work experience gained after you completed your master’s degree.

2. Pass the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam.

After you have accrued enough social work experience for the LCSW license, you can contact the Board and request approval to take the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam, which is required for LCSW licensure. The exam consists of 170 questions, 150 of which are scored, and tests knowledge of advanced social work practice. The exam costs $260 as of February 2019.

3. Complete the LCSW application.

After you have passed the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam, the next step is to complete an LCSW application. If this is your first West Virginia social work license, request an LCSW application from the Board by completing the Application Request Form. Once you receive the application from the Board, complete it and return it to them with the $100 fee (as of February 2019). If you hold an active LSW or LGSW license, you can submit a License Upgrade Application with the $55 application fee (as of February 2019).

4. Receive your LCSW license.

After you have completed the steps described above, the Board will issue your LCSW license.

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)

The Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) credential is the only West Virginia social work license that allows for the independent practice of clinical social work. For this license, you must have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program and your training must have included coursework in psychopathology or abnormal psychology as well as clinical fieldwork experience. After meeting these requirements, you can obtain an LICSW license by completing the following steps.

1. Gain the required experience.

Aspiring LICSWs must have two years of full-time (or 3,000 hours of part-time) supervised social work experience. While earning these hours, you must receive at least 100 hours of supervision from a licensed clinical social worker. If you are completing this experience in West Virginia under an LGSW or LCSW license, you must have a supervision contract filed with the Board before beginning to accrue any hours. You can contact the Board to request any forms required to file this contract.

2. Pass the ASWB Clinical exam.

LCSW candidates must pass the ASWB Clinical exam to become licensed. The exam costs $260 as of February 2019 and consists of 170 questions. Before you can register for the Clinical exam, you must contact the Board and request pre-approval.

3. Complete the LICSW application.

After completing the steps above, you can submit an LICSW application to the Board. If you do not already hold a West Virginia social work license, you must complete the Application Request Form. The Board will send you an application, which you must return to them with the $100 application fee (as of February 2019). This application will require that your clinical supervisor(s) provide verification of your supervised experience.

If you already hold a West Virginia social work license, you should instead complete the License Upgrade Form and return it to the Board with the $55 fee (as of February 2019). You will still need to provide verification of your supervised hours before you are eligible to receive your LICSW license.

4. Receive your LICSW license.

After the Board receives your full application, evidence of a passing ASWB Clinical exam score, and verification of your supervised experience, they will issue your LICSW license. Once you receive this license, you can provide a full range of non-clinical and clinical social work services without supervision in West Virginia.

Social Work License Reciprocity in West Virginia

West Virginia does not have formal reciprocity with any other state. The Board will issue social work licenses to out-of-state applicants provided they meet the education and experience requirements for the level of licensure they are seeking. If you have already passed the required exam, you will not need to repeat it but must provide verification of past ASWB test scores. Out-of-state candidates interested in a West Virginia social work license should review the application page and contact the Board to request an application form. The application fee for all levels of licensure is $100 as of February 2019.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

In West Virginia, social work licenses must be renewed every two years and social workers must complete 40 continuing education (CE) hours during that time period. At least 20 of these hours must be from organized CE programs, termed “Category I” by the Board. Up to 20 hours can be from self-study (“Category II”) activities. Of the required Category I hours, at least two must be on the mental health of veterans and their family members and one must be related to ethics. You can read more about CE requirements and see a list of approved providers on the Board’s continuing education page. As of February 2019, the fee to renew a social work license was $85.

West Virginia Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

As of May 2017, 2,030 social workers were employed in West Virginia and their average annual salary was $47,547.2 There is considerable variability in income across the subfields of social work in West Virginia, with average salaries ranging from $31,660 (mental health and substance abuse social workers) to $71,380 (“all other” social workers).2 Projections indicate that the number of social work jobs in West Virginia will increase by 13.7% between 2016 and 2026, or about 340 new social work positions created during that time period.3 The highest increases are expected in the subfields of mental health and substance abuse social work and healthcare social work, both with projected growth of 16.7%.3 With a strong average social work salary and projections suggesting that more social work positions will be created in coming years, West Virginia is a good state to consider for a social work career.1,2,3

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers960$37,460
Healthcare Social Workers690$49,690
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers130$31,660
Social Workers, All Other250$71,380

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2

Social Work Associations in West Virginia

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can I begin practicing independently once I become registered as a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)?

Answer: Yes, once you meet the requirements for an LICSW and receive a license from the Board, you may begin practicing clinical and non-clinical social work independently.

Question: For the two years or 3,000 hours of supervised experience required to become an LICSW, can I count experience I gained years ago?

Answer: Maybe. If you are completing your supervised experience in West Virginia, you must have a supervision contract filed with the Board. When this contract expires, you must either apply for LICSW licensure or request an extension from the Board. If you completed hours many years ago without a supervision contract, contact the Board to ask if these can be used for a current LICSW application.

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

Answer: Supervisors must be LICSWs (or the equivalent in another state) who are currently licensed in the state in which you are completing your supervised experience.

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

Answer: To practice social work in West Virginia, you will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). To practice advanced or clinical social work, you must hold a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited program.

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