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West Virginia Social Work License Requirements

West Virginia is home to 1.8 million people and they earn a median household income of $41,043.1 Social work is a growing field in the state; if you are interested in becoming a social worker, you must be licensed. The West Virginia Board of Social Work administers the social work licenses and permits in the state. Continue reading to understand the licenses offered by the West Virginia Board and the requirements for each license.

How to Become a Social Worker in West Virginia

Educational Paths

Social workers in West Virginia must be licensed and must meet specific educational requirements. In West Virginia, you must have a bachelor’s of social work from a school accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) or a master’s in social work from a CSWE school. To understand the differences between the two degrees, read the details below.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)-accredited school is a requirement to practice social work in West Virginia. 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 to become licensed social workers (LSWs).

Master of Social Work (MSW)

A master’s in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited school is a requirement for all of the other social work licenses offered by the West Virginia Social Work Board. CSWE programs will have a similar core curriculum but each college will have a focus area and may offer specific electives. Most MSW programs offer “advanced standing” for students who hold a BSW, allowing them to complete the graduate program in half the time it normally takes (one year versus two years). With an MSW, you will have the terminal degree for social work in West Virginia, meaning you will have the highest level of education necessary to perform all social work jobs in the state.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in West Virginia

The West Virginia Board of Social Work offers four levels of social work licenses. Level A – licensed social work, Level B – licensed graduate social worker, Level C – certified social worker, and Level D – licensed independent clinical social worker. The Board also administers temporary permits and provisional licenses. Continue reading below to learn more about the requirements for the various levels of licensure in West Virginia.

Level A – Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

The entry-level social work license in West Virginia is the Level A license. To become a Level A – licensed social worker (LSW), you must have a bachelor’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited college or university. After meeting the education requirement, you must:

1. Take and pass the ASWB bachelors exam.

All licensed social workers in West Virginia must take an Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam prior to submitting an application. LSW candidates must register for and take the ASWB bachelor’s level exam. The $230* exam is designed to test the candidate’s knowledge of general social work practice. Candidates must correctly answer between 96 and 105 of the exam’s 170 questions to pass. If an applicant fails, he or she may retake the exam after 90 days up to three times per 12 months.

*As of December 2015.

2. Complete the application.

The West Virginia Candidates Board of Social Workers does not provide social work applications online. Instead, applicants interested in becoming a Level A social worker must submit the social work license application request form. After reviewing your request form, the Board will send you an application provided you meet the licensure criteria. The fee for an LSW license is $100 (as of December 2015).

LSW candidates are eligible for a temporary permit to practice social work. This permit is issued for six months and allows social workers to practice while waiting to pass the ASWB exam. There is no formal application to apply for a temporary permit, but you must meet the education requirement for an LSW or be in the final semester of your BSW program. As of December 2015, the fee for a temporary permit was $75. There is no formal application for a temporary permit; to apply for a temporary permit, submit your information to the West Virginia Board of Social Work.

3. Receive your LSW.

There is no experience requirement for LSW licensure. Once you have satisfied the above requirements, you will become a licensed LSW in West Virginia and can practice general social work under supervision.

Level B – Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)

To become licensed as a Level B – graduate social worker, you must possess an MSW from a CSWE-accredited college or university. LGSWs in West Virginia can practice general social work, provide clinical or psychotherapeutic services (under supervision), and teach social work theory and methodology to social work students. Once you have satisfied the education requirement for an LGSW, you can move to the next step in the licensure process.

1. Take and pass the ASWB masters exam.

To become a licensed LGSW in West Virginia, you must take and pass the ASWB bachelor’s level exam. The $230* exam will test the candidate’s knowledge of social work practice, policy, and methodology. The test consists of 170 questions but only 150 of the questions will be scored. Candidates must answer between 96 and 105 questions correctly in order to pass. Applicants may take the ASWB exam four times; if they fail to pass, they must request to the Board in writing more time to take the exam. LGSW candidates should visit the ASWB website for practice tests, study guides and other tips for passing the exam.

*As of December 2015.

2. Complete the application.

Applicants will have to request the social work license application request form to apply for licensure. The form will ask for verification of your education and ASWB scores to discern if you are an eligible candidate. As of December 2015, the application fee was $100.

LGSW candidates are eligible for a temporary permit to practice social work. This permit is issued for six months and allows social workers to practice while waiting to sit the ASWB exam. There is no formal application to apply for a temporary permit, but you must meet the education requirement for an LGSW or be in the final semester of your MSW program. The temporary social work license is non-renewable. As of December 2015, the fee for a temporary permit was $75.

If you hold an active LSW license, you can submit a license upgrade application in lieu of a full LGSW application to the West Virginia Board. With the upgrade form, you must provide a copy of the passing score report showing that you passed the ASWB master’s level exam and the $55 application fee (as of December 2015).

3. Receive your LGSW license.

There is no experience requirement for LGSW licensure. Once you gain approval from the Board, you will become a licensed graduate social worker in West Virginia.

Level C – Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW)

Holding an LCSW shows employers and clients that you are an experienced social worker and may lead to higher lifetime earnings. Level C – certified social workers must have a master’s degree in social work from a college or university accredited by CSWE. LCSWs must have two years of work experience, supervision of the experience does not have to be documented for the purpose of licensure. To gain this certification, follow the steps listed below:

1. Take and pass the ASWB advanced generalist exam.

To become a licensed LCSW in West Virginia, you must take and pass the ASWB advanced generalist exam. The $260* exam will test the candidate’s knowledge of advanced social work practice. The test consists of 170 questions and candidates must answer between 96 and 105 questions correctly in order to pass. Applicants may take the ASWB exam up to four times; if the candidate does not pass after the fourth attempt, he or she must request additional time to take the exam from the Board.

*As of December 2015.

2. Complete the application.

Applicants will have to request the social work license application request form to apply for licensure. The form will ask for your highest level of education completed and ASWB scores. As of December 2015, the application fee was $100.

If you hold an active LSW or LGSW license, you can submit a license upgrade applicationinstead of submitting a full LCSW application. With the upgrade form, you must provide a copy of the passing score report showing that you passed the ASWB advanced generalist exam and the $55 application fee (as of December 2015).

LCSW candidates are eligible for a temporary permit to practice social work. This permit is issued for six months and allows social workers to practice while waiting to sit the ASWB exam. There is no formal application to apply for a temporary permit, but you must meet the education requirement for an LCSW. The temporary social work license is non-renewable. As of December 2015, the fee for a temporary permit was $75.

3. Receive your LCSW license.

After you meet the requirements stated above, you will become a licensed certified social worker and can practice social work in West Virginia.

Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)

To practice clinical social work independently, you will need to obtain your independent clinical social worker license (LICSW). For this license, you must have an MSW or doctorate in social work from a school accredited by the CSWE. As a part of your coursework, you must have
taken and passed a psychopathology or abnormal psychology graduate course in addition to completing graduate-level clinical fieldwork placement or post master’s clinical training that is Board approved. After meeting those educational requirements, you must:

1. Gain the required experience.

LICSWs must have two years of full-time experience or 3,000 hours of part-time, supervised social work experience. During this work experience, 100 hours must be supervision by a licensed clinical social worker, 60 of which must be face-to-face. After satisfying the experience requirement, you can move to the next step to becoming licensed.

2. Take and pass the ASWB clinical exam.

LCSW candidates must take and pass the ASWB clinical-level exam. The clinical exam costs $260* and consists of 170 questions. Candidates must answer between 96 and 105 questions correctly to pass and they must pass in a maximum of four attempts. If a candidate is unable to pass the ASWB exam after four attempts, he or she must petition the West Virginia Board for additional time to pass the test.

*As of December 2015.

3. Complete the application.

LICSW candidates must submit an application request form to the West Virginia Social Work Board for licensure. As a part of the application request form, candidates must verify their education level and attach a copy of their ASWB clinical exam scores. As of December 2015, the application fee was $100.

Social workers must submit a complete LISCW application in order to receive the license; you cannot upgrade to an LICSW license.

4. Receive your LICSW.

After completing the steps to licensure, you will become a licensed independent social worker and may practice clinical social work without supervision.

Social Work License Reciprocity in West Virginia

West Virginia does not have formal reciprocity with any other state. The West Virginia Board provides social work licenses to out-of-state applicants provided they meet the qualifications (i.e. they have passed the appropriate exam, have the minimum education requirement, and have the required experience) for the license in which they are applying. Out-of-state candidates should review the application page and submit the application request form to apply for licensure in West Virginia.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

In West Virginia, social work licenses must be renewed every two years and must acquire 40 continuing education (CE) hours during that time period. Social workers must have at least 20 hours of category I CE hours which are Board approved courses and workshops. Up to 20 CE hours may be category II hours– this includes self-directed study or presentation and workshop/presentation preparation hours. As of December 2015, the fee to renew a social work license was $65.

West Virginia Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

In 2014, a little over 3,000 social workers were employed in West Virginia and the average annual salary for social workers was $41,040.2 Average salaries for social workers range from $27,980 to $59,760.2 Projections show that social work jobs in West Virginia will increase by 15.7%, leading to about 140 annual openings.3 The largest gains are projected for mental health and substance abuse social workers (23%).3 Considering the annual earnings and the projected job openings for social workers, West Virginia would make a great state to start a career.

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers1,630$32,780
Healthcare Social Workers700$43,640
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers450$27,980
Social Workers, All Other270$59,760

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.2

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 gain approval by the Board, you may begin practicing clinical and nonclinical social work independently.

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

Answer: Yes. As long as the social work experience was completed after obtaining your MSW, it will count towards an LICSW.

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

Answer: Supervisors must be LCSWs who are currently licensed in West Virginia.

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 either a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) or a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited school. To practice independently, you need a master’s degree in social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

References:
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, West Virginia: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/54
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 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