The Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Professional and Vocational Licensing (PVL) Board issues three types of social work licenses:
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Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW) – This license allows you to engage in social work activities such as the following under supervision in an agency setting:
- Referral services and information gathering
- Education of individuals, families, and groups
- Implementation of social work service plans
- Casework management, coordination, and intervention
- Administration and organization of social work programs and services
Licensed Social Worker (LSW) – This license allows you to engage in the same scope of practice as an LBSW. Additionally you’re not required to practice under supervision or in an agency setting, and you can engage in activities including:
- Social work resource development and consultation
- Psychosocial assessments and treatments
- Provision of treatment that prevents behavioral disorders
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) – This license allows you to engage in the same scope of practice as an LSW, and additionally practice clinical social work, which includes making clinical diagnoses and providing psychotherapy.
Steps Towards Social Work Licensure in Hawaii
To qualify for any level of licensure from the Hawaii Professional and Vocational Licensing (PVL) Board you need to:
- Graduate from a social work program that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), an equivalent that’s deemed acceptable by the PVL, or earn a doctoral degree in Social Work from a regionally-accredited school; have your school send your official transcripts to the PVL
- Pass the appropriate Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam
- Submit an application for your licensure level to the PVL, including a $60 application fee; you can submit your complete application either by mail or online
Licensed Bachelors Social Worker (LBSW)
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in Social Work.
- Submit an application for LBSW licensure to the PVL. Once the PVL approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the ASWB for its Bachelors exam. Once you pass this the PVL will issue your LBSW license.
Licensed Social Worker (LSW)
Earn at least a master’s degree in Social Work.
Submit an application for LSW licensure to the PVL. Once the PVL approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
Register with the ASWB for its Masters exam. Once you pass this the PVL will issue your LSW license.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
Earn at least a master’s degree in Social Work.
Fulfill the experience-supervision requirement. This means meeting one of the following:
Complete at least 3,000 hours of post-graduate supervised clinical social work experience in an agency setting, including at least 2,000 hours in assessment, psychotherapy, and clinical diagnosis, and at least 100 hours of face-to-face supervised experience. Your 3,000 hours must take place over at least two years. Your supervisor must be an LCSW with at least 4,500 hours of post-master’s clinical social work experience. To verify you’ve completed this have your supervisor fill out this form and include it with your application for licensure.
Hold a QCSW or DCSW credential issued by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). To verify this have the NASW send the PVL an official letter.
Hold a BCD credential issued by the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work (ABE). To verify this have the ABE send the PVL an official letter.
Submit an application for LCSW licensure to the PVL. Once the PVL approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
Register with the ASWB for its Clinical exam. Once you pass this the PVL will issue your LCSW license.
Renewing Your License
All social work licenses issued by the PVL expire every three years and must be renewed before June 30th. The next renewal year is 2022, followed by 2025, and every subsequent three-year period. You can renew online or by requesting a renewal form. To be eligible for renewal you need to complete 45 hours of continuing education during each three-year period, and three of those hours must be in ethics. You’re exempt from continuing education during your first renewal. The renewal fees for each license are:
- LBSW – $177
- LSW – $222
- LCSW – $270
How Long Does it Take to Become a Social Worker in Hawaii?
You can potentially earn an LBSW license and be working as a social worker in Hawaii in just four years beyond high school. That’s how long it usually takes to earn a BSW degree. By investing two more years to earn an MSW you’ll meet the education requirements for the LSW and LCSW licenses. But you’ll still need two more years of supervision to become an LCSW. That brings the total investment for the LCSW license to eight years. You can also substitute being credentialed by a national social work organization for the LCSW supervision, however this process in itself can take years to complete.
Social Work Degrees in Hawaii
If you’re qualifying for your Hawaii social work license with a bachelor’s or master’s degree then it must be from a school that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), or deemed as being equivalent by the PVL. Right now there are five CSWE-accredited programs in Hawaii, including two that are offered online. You can also qualify for licensure with a doctoral degree in Social Work from a regionally-accredited school.
Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW)
Earning a BSW degree from a CSWE-accredited program will qualify you for the LBSW license. Hawaii is currently home to three such programs, one of which is offered online. These typically total at least 120 semester credits and as part of being CSWE-accredited include a field education segment that’s at least 400 hours. A BSW degree is the first natural step towards enrolling in an MSW program that will qualify you for higher levels of licensure.
Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW)
Having an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program fulfills the minimum educational requirement for the LSW and LCSW licenses. Right now there are two such programs available in Hawaii, including one with the option for online learning. These programs typically total at least 30 semester credits. They also include a field education segment that’s at least 900 hours as per CSWE accreditation standards. These can be in the form of practicums and internships, and provide a valuable opportunity to experience social work in action outside of the classroom.
Doctoral Degree in Social Work
The CSWE doesn’t accredit doctoral programs, but US Department of Education-recognized regional accrediting agencies do. Earning a doctoral degree in Social Work from a regionally-accredited school will fulfill the education requirement for the LSW and LCSW licenses. You’ll find these programs are offered as PhD and Doctor of Social Work (DSW) degrees, both of which are qualifying, and both of which signify the highest possible level of education in the field of social work.
You can be eligible for any level of licensure via reciprocity in Hawaii if you have the requisite education, have passed the appropriate exam, and in the case of the LCSW, can meet the experience or credential requirements. Have the ASWB send your official exam scores to the PVL, and request your out-of-state social work board to send the PVL verification of your license. Follow the application process detailed above for your desired license.
Social Work Salary Overviews in Hawaii
In 2020 the US Department of Labor reports the following average salary figures, specifically for Hawaii and several social work career categories:
- Social and Community Service Manager – $71,510
- Healthcare Social Worker – $71,260
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker – $59,330
- Child, Family, and School Social Worker – $57,050
- Social Worker, All Other – $81,520
Social Work Resources in Hawaii
Hawaii Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers – The local branch of the largest social work organization in the nation, membership in the Hawaii Chapter gives you access to school scholarships, networking opportunities, legislative updates, and extra resources to help you strategize the best way for paying back and reducing any outstanding student loans. It sponsors annual conferences that can count towards fulfilling continuing education requirements.
National Alliance on Mental Illness Hawaii – The local chapter of the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization, this branch traces its roots back to its founding in 1991. Its goal is to address the issues faced by those living with mental illnesses, and to help improve the quality of life for both them and their families.
Mental Health America of Hawaii – Through education, service, and advocacy, this organization works towards its goal of promoting mental health awareness. Based in Oahu with a branch office in Maui, MHA Hawaii sponsors youth mental health programs, offers related seminars for adults, and sponsors annual awards for outstanding leaders in this field.
Career Opportunities in Hawaii
Hawaii Behavioral Health Services Administration – Under the umbrella of the state’s Department of Health, this state-level agency oversees vital services and programs that are instrumental in helping some of Hawaii’s most vulnerable. This administration is segmented into four main parts: the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division, the Adult Mental Health Division, the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division, and the Developmental Disabilities Division.
Hawaii Behavioral Health – This agency offers a continuum of services including individual therapy, family therapy, parent training, home services, behavior instructional support and intervention, and more. With five locations on four islands it strives to address the needs of all residents, especially children and families.
Hawaii State Department of Education – Analogous to an entire school district for all of Hawaii, this agency plays a pivotal role for the state’s 185,000 K-12 students who depend on it for a foundational education that will last their lifetimes. It manages 283 public and charter schools as well as Hawaii’s more-than 13,000 teachers.
Mental Health Kokua – This organization traces its roots back to 1973 when it was founded to assist people recovering from mental illness. Today it offers case management, housing, counseling, rehabilitation, and related services to help people overcome their mental difficulties and achieve an optimum recovery with reintegration into the community.
The Queen’s Medical Center – The largest private non-profit hospital in Hawaii, this healthcare system’s namesake hospital hosts 575 acute care beds and counts over 2,260 physicians and nurses on staff. Queen’s Hospital is the leading medical center for referrals in the entire Pacific Basin and since its founding in 1859 has established many partnerships with local organizations.
Hina Mauka – Using the best evidence-based practices known to professionals, this organization has been helping people overcome their addictions for more than 50 years. It gives top priority to women who are pregnant and provides day services, outpatient programs, psychiatric services, family care, and case management. It also has a branch of services that are tailored to youth and teen clients.
Hawaii Pacific Health – This organization hosts a network of clinics, physicians’ centers, and hospitals. It traces its roots back to 2001 with the merger of four hospitals, and today is the largest private healthcare organization in the state. Its range of treatment options include those offered from the Kapiolani Behavioral Health Service, which provides outpatient care for clients including children and mothers.