Washington State Department of Health (DOH), Social Worker Credentialing manages the following licenses:
Licensed Social Work Associate Advanced (LSWAA) – You need to have this license if you want to become an LASW. The LSWAA allows you to gain the supervised experience required for the LASW license.
Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW) – This level of licensure allows you to do things like serve as an advanced administrator in agencies and institutions. LASWs typically work as part of a care team in a health care setting providing social work treatment. Duties can include:
- Assessments for biopsychosocial and emotional issues
- Case management and consultation
- Advocacy and community organization
- Providing psychotherapy under the supervision of an LICSW or other mental health professional
Licensed Social Work Associate Independent Clinical (LSWAIC) – You’ll need to earn this license if you want to become an LICSW. The LSWAIC allows you to gain the supervised experience needed to become an LICSW.
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) – This level of licensure allows you to provide psychotherapeutic treatment and practice independently. This can include treating and diagnosing mental and emotional disorders, and working with populations like couples, families, individuals, organizations, and groups.
Steps Towards Licensure
To be eligible for social work licensure at any level from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), you’ll need to:
- Earn a master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) from a school that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), or a doctoral degree in Social Work. When you apply for licensure you must provide official transcripts from your school.
- Complete a fingerprint background check.
- Complete four hours of AIDS education; this can be self-study. You’ll attest you’ve completed this on your application for licensure.
- Read the Uniform Disciplinary Act: part 1, part 2. You’ll attest to completing this in your application for licensure.
Additionally, to qualify for licensure as an LASW or LICSW you’ll need to fulfill a post-MSW supervised experience requirement, which then qualifies you to sit for an exam you must pass, which is sponsored by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB).
However if you hold any of the following professional qualifications you automatically meet the education and supervised experience requirements, and are qualified to sit for your ASWB exam:
- American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work’s (ABECSW) Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work
- National Association of Social Workers’ Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW) or Qualified Clinical Social Work (QCSW)
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Licensed Social Work Associate Advanced (LSWAA)
- Earn at least an MSW degree.
- Apply with the DOH to become an LSWAA; $35 application fee. You can apply online, or by mail with this form. The application includes an Approved Supervisor Verification form that will officially establish who your supervisor will be once you start practicing. Make sure your supervisor is approved by the DOH and has filled out this form.
- The DOH will issue your LSWAA license.
- Now you can fulfill the supervised experience requirement to become an LASW: 3,200 hours of supervised experience, including 800 hours of direct contact, and 90 hours of individual/group experience, all over at least two years after you’ve earned your MSW degree. Keep track of this on the Verification of Social Worker Supervised Postgraduate Experience form.
- Once you’ve fulfilled the supervised experience requirement you’ll be ready to apply for LASW licensure.
LSWAA licenses must be renewed every year, and cannot be renewed more than six times. You can renew online and there is a $25 renewal fee. To be eligible for renewal you must complete 18 hours of continuing education, including in ethics and law.
Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW)
- Be an LSWAA who has fulfilled your supervised experience requirement.
- Apply for the LASW license with the DOH; $216 application and licensing fee. You can apply online or by mail with this form. Include the forms related to your supervised experience as an LSWAA. Once your application is approved the DOH will give you clearance to take the ASWB Advanced Generalist exam.
- Register with the ASWB for its Advanced Generalist exam. Once you pass it the DOH will issue your LASW license.
LASWs expire each year on your birthday. Every two years you need to earn 36 hours of approved continuing education, including in the subjects of ethics and suicide prevention. You can renew online and the renewal fee is $116.
Licensed Social Work Associate Independent Clinical (LSWAIC)
- Earn at least an MSW degree.
- Apply with the DOH to become an LSWAIC; $51 application fee. You can apply online, or by mail with this form. The application includes an Approved Supervisor Verification form that will officially establish who your supervisor will be once you start practicing. Make sure your supervisor is approved by the DOH and has filled out this form.
- The DOH will issue your LSWAIC license.
- Now you can fulfill the supervised experience requirement to become an LICSW: 4,000 hours of supervised experience, including 1,000 hours of direct contact, and 130 hours of individual/group supervision, all over at least three years after you’ve earned your MSW degree. Keep track of this on the Verification of Social Worker Supervised Postgraduate Experience form.
- Once you’ve fulfilled the supervised experience requirement you’ll be ready to apply for LICSW licensure.
LSWAIC licenses must be renewed every year, and cannot be renewed more than six times. You can renew online and there is a $41 renewal fee. To be eligible for renewal you must complete 18 hours of continuing education, including in ethics and law.
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)
- Be an LSWAIC who has fulfilled your supervised experience requirements.
- Apply for the LICSW license with the DOH; $216 application and licensing fee. You can apply online or by mail with this form. Include the forms related to your supervised experience as an LSWAIC. Once your application is approved the DOH will give you clearance to take the ASWB Clinical exam.
- Register with the ASWB for its Clinical exam. Once you pass it the DOH will issue your LICSW license.
LICSWs expire each year on your birthday. Every two years you need to earn 36 hours of approved continuing education, including in the subjects of ethics and suicide prevention. You can renew online and the renewal fee is $116.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Social Worker in Washington?
After you’ve graduated from high school you can start working under supervision as a social worker in as soon as six years, while it takes a minimum of nine years for the most advanced license. The time you need to invest in education and experience depends on which type of license you’re pursuing:
- LSWAA – Six years
- LASW – Eight years
- LSWAI – Six years
- CLICSW – Nine years
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Social Work Degrees in Washington
Washington is home to 11 social work degree programs that are approved by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), in addition to doctoral programs in Social Work that will also qualify you for licensure. You can find qualifying programs offered both online and on-campus.
Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW)
BSW programs are good stepping stones towards applying for an MSW program. There are seven CSWE-accredited BSW programs in Washington, all of which include a field education segment that’s at least 400 hours in length. BSW programs are typically comprised of 120 semester credits or 180 quarter credits, and take four years to complete.
Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW)
Washington State law for social workers sets the minimum educational qualification for all levels of licensure as an MSW degree from a program that’s CSWE-accredited. There are four such programs in Washington, including at least one with an option for online completion. MSW programs typically total at least 30 semester credits or 45 quarter credits, and can take about two years to complete. Holding CSWE accreditation means they include a field education segment that’s at least 900 hours. This is a great opportunity to witness your didactic knowledge being put into practice.
Doctoral Degree in Social Work
While the CSWE doesn’t accredit programs at the doctoral level, the Washington State Department of Health still recognizes programs at this level as fulfilling the requirements for all types of social work licenses. These typically come in two forms: a PhD in Social Work which can be more research-oriented, and a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) that can be more clinically focused.
Washington may grant social work licenses for LASWs and LICSWs based on reciprocity. It does this by examining the out-of-state scope of practice for social work and comparing it to Washington’s to determine if there are substantial equivalents. Currently reciprocity is granted for LICSWs from all states except Nevada. When you apply through the traditional process detailed above for your license category, you’ll need to include this form ($25 fee) that verifies your out-of-state license. Have the ASWB send your qualifying exam scores to the DOH.
If you’ve been a fully licensed out-of-state social worker for at least five years you don’t need to fulfill Washington’s supervised experience requirements. If you’ve been licensed out-of-state for less than five years then you must have your out-of-state supervisors complete Washington’s forms required for proof of completion of your supervised work experience.
You can apply for a probationary license, valid for one year and renewable for only one additional year, that allows you to work while your reciprocity application is being assessed. To be eligible for the probationary license you must meet all of these conditions:
- Be a licensed social work in another state
- Find a job with a Washington State public or private agency that provides mental health services for substance abuse or mental disorders
- Your employer must receive public funding
Social Work Salaries in Washington
The US Department of Labor reports the following average annual salaries for social work career groups in Washington, as of 2020. It also notes that Washington offers the third-highest average salary for post-secondary social work teachers of all states in the nation.
- Social and Community Service Manager – $72,100
- Healthcare Social Worker – $62,990
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker – $56,260
- Child, Family, and School Social Worker – $55,030
- Social Work Teachers, Post-secondary – $86,510
- Social Worker, All Other – $73,160
Social Work Resources in Washington
You can find additional information regarding network, professional development, continuing education, and careers with organization like:
Washington State Society for Clinical Social Work – This organization represents professionals hailing from family service agencies, mental health clinics, private practice, medical clinics, and hospitals. It’s been advancing this niche of social work since its founding in 1973.
Washington Association of School Social Workers – Following trauma faced by Washington children in the years after World War Two, this organization can trace its roots back to 1947 when teachers and principals asked for help to address students’ social and emotional problems. Today this organization is proud to advance a career track shared by approximately 300 professionals across the state.
Washington State Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-WA) – With over 2,300 chapter members, this is one of the largest organizations of its kind in the state, an affiliate of the even larger national NASW organization. Members enjoy access to career information and some of the most up-to-date information about this profession out there.
Career Opportunities in Washington
Some of the largest employers of social workers in Washington include:
Washington State Department of Social and Health Services – Serving more than two million of the state’s most vulnerable populations, this is the state-level agency responsible for providing a range of indispensable services through local partnerships and programs of its own. It addresses issues relating to addiction, mental health, families and children, women’s health, and the elderly, among others.
Seattle Public Schools – Last year more than 47,000 students walked through the doors of one of this districts 113 schools to gain an education that’s second to none. As the biggest public school district in Washington, camaraderie is never far for the school social workers who call this organization home.
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Spokane County Regional Behavioral Health – Part of Spokane County Community Services, Housing, and Community Development, this government agency is dedicated to helping those in need to overcome substance abuse issues and mental health illnesses to live more independent and healthier lives.
MultiCare Health System – Headquartered in Tacoma with 11 clinics, medical centers, and hospitals throughout the state, this not-for-profit network recently opened a chain of urgent care centers. In addition to healthcare, Pierce County locations in Puyallup and Tacoma offer treatment for substance use disorders.
Harborview Medical Center – A crown jewel in UW Medicine’s fleet, this hospital is the best and only level one trauma and burn center for both adults and children in the state. It stands out nationally and regionally for its level of care, with emergency patients flown in from surrounding states from as far away as Alaska. Opened in 1877, the hospital currently has 413 beds.
Rainier Springs – Offering treatment for mental health and substance abuse issues, this Vancouver-based organization has both outpatient and inpatient programs. Its facilities include a basketball court, exercise fitness room, and a cafeteria.
Yakima School District – As the forth-largest public school district in Eastern Washington and 20th-largest in the state, YSD is also the second-largest Latino-majority district in Washington. Helping nearly 16,000 students prepare for their futures every year, 983 certified staff work with 901 support staff and 108 National Board Certified teachers to make this district shine.
Northwest Youth Services – Based in Bellingham and serving Skagit and Whatcom Counties, NYS is a non-profit that strives to help homeless youths aged 13-24. Services are tailored to helping clients find work, housing, getting mental health treatment, gain access to education programs, and deal with LGBTQ issues.