How to Become a Social Worker in Washington

Washington Social Work Licensing Requirements

In general, social workers function at two levels in society. The first level is the administrative or generalist social worker, who provides services as a case worker, administrator or provider of social services to at-risk and in-need populations. This can include running community centers, setting up and improving social services, or helping those who need aid in getting jobs or building a better life.

The second level is the clinical social worker, who provides mental health services such as counseling, therapy, diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional disorders. These professionals are fully-credentialed mental health workers. In Washington, there are two levels of licensure regulated by the state board, which reflect these two levels of social work:

LICESNSE TYPEEDUCATION REQUIREMENTSUPERVISED EXPERIENCEEXAM
Licensed Advanced Social
Worker
(LASW)
Master’s Degree in Social
Work 
Three years, full-time
supervised experience.
A minimum of
3,200 post-degree hours.
ASWB National Advanced
Generalist Social Work
Examination
Licensed Independent Clinical
Social Worker
(LICSW)
Master’s Degree in Social

 

Three years, full-time
supervised experience.
A minimum of
4,000 post-degree hours.
ASWB National Clinical Social
Work Examination

Learn more about social work degrees in Washington

LASW Requirements in Washington

Carrying LASW certification in Washington State allows the worker to function at an administrative generalist level. Duties and services that you might perform and provide include case management, administration of social service programs, community organization, vocational counseling and other similar duties.

  1. Education Requirements: Obtaining LASW status requires a minimum of a master’s degree from a university or graduate program that is accredited by the council on social work education (CSWE). After you graduate, you must complete 36 hours of continuing education during your supervised employment period. 6 hours of this CE must be in ethics and law related to the profession. You must also have at least four hours of training in HIV and AIDS issues.
  2. Work Requirements: To apply for an LASW, you must accrue at least 3,200 hours of supervised work experience post-graduation. 800 of these hours must be through direct contact with clients, and 90 hours of direct supervision under the guidance of an LICSW or LASW. 50 of these hours may be in group or one-on-one supervision. The board must approve all supervised activity.
  3. Exam Requirements: Applicants must pass the Advanced Generalist level national examination provided by the American Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB).
  4. Application Package: Finally, you will submit your application package to the state. This application will include the following:
    • Academic transcripts
    • Questionnaire regarding physical and mental health status, substance use, history and criminal background checks, past disciplinary actions, personal liability issues, etc.
    • ASWB exam scores
    • Documentation of supervision

LICSW Requirements in Washington

LICSW status is the highest level of licensure in Washington State. This license allows you to serve as an independent social work practitioner in private practice. You can provide full mental health counseling, assessment, diagnosis and therapy as well as serving as an independent contractor or consultant on social issues. 

  1. Education Requirements: This licensure requires at least a master’s degree from a CSWE-accredited program. In addition, you will complete a minimum of 36 hours of continuing education during your supervision, six of which will be in the area of law and ethics. Four hours of training in HIV/AIDS issues is also requisite.
  2. Prior Licensing: No prior licensing is necessary.
  3. Work Requirements: You must complete 4,000 hours of post-graduate supervised work experience over a period of at least three years. 1,000 of these hours must be in direct contact with clients under the supervision of an LICSW. 130 hours of face-to-face supervision is also required, 70 of which must be with an LICSW and 60 of which can be with a different but qualified and licensed practitioner authorized by the state.
  4. Exam Requirements: Applicants must successfully complete the ASWB national clinical level exam.
  5. Application Package: You will then submit your application package to the state board. This application will include the same elements as that for the LASW:
    • Academic transcripts
    • Questionnaire regarding physical and mental health status, substance use, history and criminal background checks, past disciplinary actions, personal liability issues, etc.
    • ASWB exam scores
    • Documentation of supervision 

The Importance of CSWE Accreditation

Council of Social Work Education accreditation for your education is absolutely vital to obtaining licensure in the state of Washington. This organization represents thousands of groups, institutes of higher learning and individuals, and it oversees all education in the field of social work. It ensures that the skills you receive are in line with current theories and practices, and are of the highest quality. Without this accreditation, you will not only be ineligible for licensure, but you may have difficulty even finding employment in the field. Before starting your social work education, always check to make sure the school you choose carries CSWE accreditation.

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.

Search Accredited Social Work Programs

Additional Resources for Social Workers in Washington: