Illinois Social Work License | LSW, LCSW

Learn About Requirements for the LSW and LCSW Licenses in Colorado

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The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) issues two social work credentials:

Licensed Social Worker (LSW) – This license allows you to practice social work with individuals, groups, and communities in the fields of:

  • Social casework
  • Social work research
  • Social group work
  • Social work education
  • Community organization
  • Social welfare administration

You can engage in clinical social work with casework and group work only, and this must be as an employee and not independently. As an LSW you must always work under the order of a licensed mental health professional.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) – This license allows you to engage in all aspects of social work afforded to LSWs, plus you have the option to work independently and provide all types of clinical social work services in all types of social work fields.

Steps Towards Social Work Licensure in Illinois

When it comes to earning the requisite education for these licenses, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in Social Work (BSW and MSW) must be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Doctoral programs in Social Work must be accredited by an agency that’s recognized by the US Department of Education.

Qualifying exams for LSW and LCSW eligibility must be sponsored by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) or its foreign equivalent.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

Application process:

    1. Earn a BSW or MSW. If you’ve only earned a BSW then you must also complete three years of professional supervised experience.
    2. Submit a completed Application for Licensure to the IDFPR. This includes:

      Form ED: Certification of Education – Have the school where you completed your social work education fill this out and then return it to you.

      Form VE-SW: Verification of Employment/Experience – For applicants qualifying with a BSW.

      $50 application fee.
    3. Upon acceptance of your application, the IDFPR will notify the ASWB that you’re eligible to take its Masters exam.
    4. Register with the ASWB for its Masters exam.
    5. Once the IDFPR is notified that you’ve passed your exam it will issue your license, which you can access online and print.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

Application process:

    1. Complete one of the following education and supervised experience requirements:
    2. An MSW degree plus 3,000 hours of supervised clinical professional experience.

      A doctoral degree in Social Work plus 2,000 hours of supervised clinical professional experience.

    3. Submit a completed Application for Licensure to the IDFPR. This includes:
    4. Form ED: Certification of Education – Have the school where you completed your social work education fill this out and then return it to you.

      Form VE-SW: Verification of Employment/Experience – This is completed by your supervisor to verify your supervised clinical professional experience.

      $50 application fee.
    5. Upon acceptance of your application, the IDFPR will notify the ASWB that you’re eligible to take its Clinical exam.
    6. Register with the ASWB for its Clinical exam.
    7. Once the IDFPR is notified that you’ve passed your exam it will issue your license, which you can access online and print.

LSW and LCSW Renewal

Licenses expire on November 30th of odd-numbered years. You can renew your license in the preceding month. You’ll need to complete 30 hours of continuing education each renewal period, and the renewal fee is $60.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Social Worker in Illinois?

The soonest you can become an LSW is in six years by earning a BSW degree in four years followed by an MSW in two years. If you invest about two years beyond that –eight years in total– you can become an LCSW.

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Social Work Degrees in Illinois

Illinois is home to 35 BSW and MSW degree programs that are accredited by the CSWE, plus additional doctoral programs in Social Work. You’ll find a range of mediums they’re offered in, from fully online to a hybrid of online and on-campus courses, to fully on-campus.

    Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW)

    Right now there are 18 CSWE-accredited BSW programs in Illinois, including at least two that are offered online. These take approximately four years to complete and total 120 semester credits. Each also includes at least 400 hours of field education in the local community.

    Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW)

    Currently there are 17 CSWE-accredited MSW programs in Illinois, including at least three that are offered online. You can expect to invest at least two years completing an MSW program, and they typically total at least 30 semester credits. As part of their CSWE accreditation, MSW programs include a field education segment totaling at least 900 hours where you can gain an advanced understanding of social work practice prior to starting a career of you own.

    Doctoral Degree in Social Work

    While the CSWE doesn’t accredit social work programs at the doctoral level, you can still find many quality Doctor of Social Work (DSW) and PhD in Social Work programs throughout the state. The time it takes to graduate from one of these programs varies, with PhD programs tending to take the longest as they can be more research-oriented. DSW programs are often geared more towards clinical practice. However there is plenty of overlap between DSW and PhD programs.


If you’re a licensed LSW or LCSW in another state you can apply for licensure in Illinois through endorsement. Submit an application to the IDFPR along with a $200 application fee. Make sure to fill out all the relevant parts of the application, including:

  • Part IV: Record of Licensure Information
  • Part V: Record of Examination
  • Form CT: Certification by Licensing Agency/Board – to be completed by your out-of-state licensing agency

How Much do Social Workers Earn in Illinois?

There are many career trajectories within the field of social work. Here are examples of the average annual salaries for some of those, reported for Illinois in 2020 by the US Department of Labor:

  • Social and Community Service Manager – $73,250
  • Healthcare Social Worker – $55,250
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker – $54,900
  • Child, Family, and School Social Worker – $55,390
  • Social Work Teachers, Post-secondary – $63,110
  • Social Worker, All Other – $65,830

Illinois Social Work Organizations and Resources

The following organizations offer additional information about social work careers, networking opportunities, licensing, and legislative issues in Illinois:

Illinois Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-IL) – With over 5,000 local members throughout the state, this agency is a prime source of information on the latest news in the field, including everything from legislative developments to information about continuing education.

Illinois Society for Clinical Social Work (ISCSW) – This agency uses professional development, advocacy, political action, and research to advance its goal of promoting the needs of social workers in direct practice settings. Among other achievements it has succeeded in amending legislation like the Mental Health and Disabilities Act and the Juvenile Court Act.

Illinois Association of School Social Workers (IASSW) – This organization focuses on enhancing the professional development of social workers in this field, with the ultimate goal of improving the education and qualify of life for children in Illinois. It’s a great source for relevant continuing education.

Career Opportunities in Illinois

Some of the largest employers of social workers in Illinois include:

Illinois Department of Human Services – As the main state agency for health and human services throughout Illinois, this department sponsors its own initiatives and programs as well as working with local partner organizations across the state. It addresses issues including substance abuse, violence and abuse prevention, developmental disabilities, and youth services.

Chicago Public Schools – The third-largest school district in the nation, CPS educates around 355,000 students every year. It’s comprised of 642 schools, including 92 high schools and 421 elementary schools. A total of 36,983 staff members serve as the backbone that keeps this district operational.

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SwedishAmerican Health System – Headquartered in Rockford, this system provides access to a network of healthcare facilities including primary care clinics, a home healthcare agency, wellness and education programs, a major acute care hospital, the region’s largest cancer center, and the region’s only heart hospital.

Memorial Behavioral Health – Springfield’s preeminent agency for behavioral health, MBH has seven branches throughout the wider region. It offers services for a range of clientele including those with developmental and intellectual disabilities, adults, and youths. Treatment options include walk-ins, crises services, and a residential program.

Chicago Department of Public Health – A major initiative from CDPH is its Healthy Chicago 2.0 collaborative program that seeks to maximize the health and well-being of all Chicago residents by addressing issues like substance abuse and promoting wellness for mothers and infants. CDPH also runs five community mental health centers.

Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery – Based in Peoria and a part of UnityPoint Health, this agency specializes in providing counseling and treatment for many kinds of addiction, including prescription drugs, illegal drugs, and alcohol, as well as behavioral addictions to things like gambling and video games.

Champaign Unit 4 School District – This district employs more than 1,900 staff members who serve over 10,000 students every year from 19 different schools. It’s proud of the fact that 55 percent of its staff hold master’s degrees in their fields, and that high school juniors routinely score above state and national averages on the SAT.