How to Become A Social Worker in Virginia

Virginia Social Work Licensing Requirements

Social workers fulfill many different levels of care and service in our society. At their highest level, they function as fully trained and expert mental health professionals. They can also be found running social services programs, acting as vocational counselors and even helping the homeless. In Virginia, there are four levels of social work regulated by the State Board:

Licensed Social Worker
Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work


Three years, full-time
supervised experience. A
minimum of 3,000 post-
degree hours (Bachelor’s
ASWB National Bachelor Social
Work Examination
Licensed Clinical Social
Master’s Degree in Social Work


Three years, full-time
supervised experience. A
minimum of 3,000 post-
degree hours.
ASWB National Clinical Social
Work Examination

Learn more about social work degrees in Virginia

ASW and RSW Status in Virginia

Of the four levels listed above, only the latter two are considered licensure by the state. ASW and RSW status are awarded after registering your academic credentials (at least a bachelor’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited institution) with the state at a fee of $10, and allow you to work at a basic level of duties as you pursue further licensure.

LSW Requirements in Virginia

Holding the status of Licensed Social Worker allows you to carry out various tasks and duties as a social worker, from case management to community organization and activities such as vocational counseling. You cannot conduct psychotherapy as an LSW unless under direct supervision of a mental health professional.

  1. Education Requirements: In order to apply for this level of licensure, you must hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from a college or university accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Many, however, choose to obtain a master’s degree before pursuing licensure, as there are fewer requirements for master’s-level candidates.
  2. Work Requirements: Bachelor’s level candidates are required to obtain at least 3,000 hours of post-graduate work experience under the supervision of an LSW or LCSW. This training should deal with case management and providing support services to at-need populations, and should take place over the course of three years. For every 40 hours you work, one of them must be in face-to-face time with your supervisor. The state board must approve this supervision before it can begin.Master’s level candidates can waive this post-graduate work experience requirement.
  3. Exam Requirements: In order to gain LSW status, you must pass the national bachelor’s level exam offered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). This is the case whether your degree is a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
  4. Application Package: Following the completion of your training and exam, you must submit an online application package to the state board, which will include:
    • Academic Transcripts
    • ASWB exam results
    • Proof and documentation of post-graduate training
    • Criminal background check

LCSW Requirements in Virginia

The LCSW is the highest level of licensure in the state. It allows the social worker to function as a clinical mental healthcare practitioner, providing mental health diagnosis, counseling, therapy and treatment to those with psychological or emotional disorders as well as functioning as high-level administrators or consultants in independent practice.

  1. Education Requirements: In order to pursue an LCSW in Virginia, you must acquire at least a Master’s degree from a school that is accredited by the CSWE. During your education, you must have a clinical focus and include at least 12 credit hours each of practice theory and explanatory theory as well as three credits of psychopathology and practice. In addition, you must have coursework that addresses issues of diversity, culture, at-risk populations and social justice, as well as a 600-hour clinical field placement practicum.
  2. Prior Licensing: It is not required to hold an LSW before becoming an LCSW in Virginia, though the experience you gain as an LSW can be helpful in pursuing higher licensure.
  3. Work Requirements: Following your graduation, you will need to obtain 3,000 hours of practical experience under the supervision of an LCSW approved by the state board. This experience can be completed from two to three years after graduation and includes 100 hours of direct face-to-face supervision. Some supervision can occur in a group setting.
  4. Exam Requirements: In order to obtain an LCSW, you must register for and successfully complete the ASWB clinical level examination.
  5. Application Package: When you have completed your supervision and clinical exam, you will submit an application package online at the state board website. This application will include:
    • Academic Transcripts
    • ASWB exam results
    • Proof and documentation of post-graduate training
    • Criminal background check 

The Importance of CSWE Accreditation

In order to obtain any level of registration or licensure as a social worker in Virginia, your education absolutely must come from a school or program that is accredited by the Council of Social Work Education, or CSWE. This organization oversees all social work education, ensuring that it is up to current standards and is of the highest quality. Without such certification, your education may not be viewed as valid for employment as a social worker.

Persons without a CSWE-accredited degree could potentially apply with their respective state board for an exemption. However, the majority of exemptions are typically granted to individuals already licensed to practice other related disciplines like medicine or psychology.

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Additional Resources for Social Workers in Virginia: