Pathway to Social Work Licensure

The purpose of licensing and certification in social work is to assist the public through identification of standards for the safe, professional practice of social work. Each jurisdiction defines by law what is required for each level of social work licensure.

When social work was developing as a profession, licensure was not established in all states in the United States. Credentialing for the field of social work grew out of the need to regulate practice and provide social workers with a means to identify their level of expertise. Now all 50 states regulate licensure. However, many social workers still take advantage of the NASW credentials as a means of professional identification. To learn more about credentialing, see the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) website.

Whatever state you decide to work in as a social worker, you may want to obtain licensure, as it identifies your level of education and social work experience for the public. The application process often involves submitting an application, school transcripts, passing a state background check and passing an exam. The Association of Social Work Boards produces the required licensure examinations for all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and Manitoba.

Licensure and Credentialing

The Master of Social Work (MSW) program at USC is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), and designed to help meet the eligibility requirements for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) and Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) examination to obtain licensure. The MSW program provides a pathway to licensure, but does not satisfy all requirements for licensure upon completion of the program.

Requirements for licensure, including levels of licensure, vary by state and students should review the USC Licensure and Certifications site for state-specific MSW course requirements and restrictions. Students interested in pursuing licensure should also contact the licensing board for the state in which they hope to become licensed to determine specific requirements for licensure, including any requirements that are beyond the scope of the MSW program.

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