Social Work Licensure in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania there are three levels of Social Work licensure. This page describes licensure at the Masters level, Licensed Social Worker, LSW, which can be obtained upon completion of the MSW, and Licensed Clinical Social Worker, LCSW, which requires advanced practice and supervision (described below). The Licensed Bachelor Social Worker, LBSW, legislation has been passed but regulations have not been developed as of September 2015.

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker in PA

  1. Visit http://www.dos.pa.gov/social and at the top menu, click “Professional Licensing.” Then click the dropdown option “Licensing Services – Apply for a license.” Complete the registration form on that page. The applicant must be in their final semester or hold a Masters or Doctorate program in social work or social welfare from a school accredited by CSWE in order to be eligible for licensure as an LSW.
  2. If the applicant is in his/her final semester, the dean or department chair from the CSWE-accredited school must complete the Verification of Social Work Education for Applicants Enrolled in Their Final Semester form. This form must be sent in an official sealed school envelope from the CSWE-accredited school to the Board. (Once graduated, an official transcript showing a Master’s degree must be sent from the CSWE-accredited school to the Board in an official sealed school envelope before your application will go under review from the Board.
  3. Transcripts from the CSWE-accredited school must be requested and sent from the school to the Board in an official sealed school envelope.
  4. After receiving notification of approval from the PA Board of Social Workers, the applicant should go to www.aswb.org to register for an exam at the location and time of the applicant’s choosing.
  5. Preparing for the exam:
    • On the ASWB website, an applicant can find many study tools for helpful preparation for the exam. In addition, there are online prep courses and sample online exams.
    • There are NASW-PA one-day prep courses offered as well for a fee. *Students may want to consider becoming a member of NASW and then taking the prep course, because it is cheaper than taking the prep course as a nonmember.*
    • There is also the option to order a hard copy study guide. However, if the student registers for the one-day prep course, the manual is included.
    • For more information, visit http://www.nasw-pa.org/?page=licensureprep or https://www.aswb.org/products/.
  6. After the applicant passes the ASWB Master’s exam, the test results will be sent to the PA State Board of Social Workers. In Pennsylvania, you must earn a 70% on the LSW exam in order to pass.
  7. The PA Board of Social Workers will verify the graduation from a CSWE-accredited MSW program and the passing of the ASWB Master’s exam. Then a license will be issued at the LSW level.
  8. If the applicant does not pass, ASWB requires a 90 day wait period before retaking the exam. If the applicant’s application is on file for more than 6 months, an application needs to be resubmitted in order to gain eligibility.

How to Become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in PA

  1. An LSW desiring a clinical license in PA must obtain 3,000 hours of clinical work and have a minimum of two years of employment. Supervision by a LCSW is required for 1,500 hours. For every 40 hours worked, there must be two hours of supervision documented. The other 1,500 hours may be supervised by a licensed mental health professional. For more details, go to www.dos.state.pa.us/social.
  2. Once the clinical hours are completed, the LSW must fill out the "Application for a License by Examination to Practice Clinical Social Work" from the website and follow directions for documentation of supervised, clinical work experience, post LSW.
  3. After being contacted by the PA Board of Social Workers, the applicant can register for the Clinical Examination at www.aswb.org/.
  4. Preparing for the exam:
    • On the ASWB website, an applicant can find many study tools for helpful preparation for the exam. In addition, there are online prep courses and sample online exams.
    • There are NASW-PA one-day prep courses offered as well for a fee.
    • There is also the option to order a hard copy study guide. However, if the student registers for the one-day prep course, the manual is included.
    • For more information, visit http://www.nasw-pa.org/?page=licensureprep or https://www.aswb.org/products/.

Note: Provisional licenses are good for two years and can be issued up to three times. The provisional social worker must surrender his license, however, if he discontinues master's level studies in social work.

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