Social Work Licensing Exam Requirements

Sep 13, 2019

This article provides information about the social work licensing exam, including different exams for different education levels, and typical clinical work experience requirements. Read on for career statistics and salary information, too.

Essential Information

Passing the social work licensing exam is required to practice as a social worker. The exam, created by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASCW), is available for five different levels: associate's, bachelor's, master's, advanced generalist, and clinical. Each level requires candidates to complete a certain amount of schooling and field work. The exam is offered in all U.S. states except California and the District of Colombia, but all levels are not available in all states.

Required Education Depends upon level; associate's degree for associate's level, bachelor's degree for bachelor's level, etc.
Required Experience Field work or logged internship hours depend upon level
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 11% growth (for social workers)*
Median Salary (2018) $49,470 (for social workers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Requirements for the Social Work Licensing Examination

Because professional regulations vary by state, an aspiring social worker should check rules and regulations where they wish to practice before signing up to take this exam. The exam's five categories are:

  • Associate
  • Bachelors
  • Masters
  • Advanced Generalist
  • Clinical

Associate's Examination

This exam is designed for aspiring social workers who wish to work as associates. Not all jurisdictions require an associate social worker to be licensed. The examination is based on the bachelor's examination, but there is allowance for a lower score due to an absence of formal education.

An associate's degree in social work is needed to sit for this exam; this can be obtained through 2-year community colleges. Coursework would include general biology, health, life style, sociology, social issues and statistics. Some associate's degree programs for social work can be taken online. These programs adequately prepare graduates to pursue a bachelor's degree.

Bachelor's Examination

This exam is for those with a bachelor's degree in social work who have completed an internship but do not have post-graduate clinical experience. Successful completion of the exam allows an examinee to work in entry-level positions in social work. The examination covers such concepts as human development, behaviors, practice assessments, ethics, service delivery and administration.

Master's Examination

Post-graduate clinical experience is not required at the master's level. Intermediate skills are tested; these include knowledge of social and economic justice, supervision, practice evaluation, service delivery, communication skills and developmental behavior. The examination builds on the bachelor's examination.

Advanced Generalist Examination

The advanced generalist examination is designed for a social worker who holds a master's degree in social work and has finished at least two years of supervised clinical work. Based on the master's degree examination, the exam tests advanced skills and knowledge. There are 170 questions on the exam, which consists of 11 parts and is multiple-choice.

Clinical Examination

The clinical examination determines if test-takers have the necessary skills to work in a clinical environment. The examinee must have completed a master's degree in social work and two years of clinical experience. The exam builds further on the advanced generalist exam. Passing this exam may be required in some jurisdictions for licensure. Successful completion of the exam wins the examinee the designation of Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).

Eligibility requirements for the social work licensing exam vary by state. Different exams are available depending upon the candidates level of education and clinical experience.

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