The West Virginia Board of Social Work (WVBSW) issues the following licenses:
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Provisional License to Practice as a Social Worker – This provisional license is designed for people who’ve earned degrees outside the field of social work who want to transition into this field. It allows you to perform certain social work functions under supervision. These include:
- Client assessments
- Service planning with clients to outline possible intervention strategies, and their implementation
- Palliative and supportive counseling activities
- Education for at-risk populations
- Assistive case management for services and resources
Level A-Licensed Social Worker (LSW) – This is the entry-level license for social work that permits you to engage in basic social work practice. You can engage in the same scope of practice as a provisional licensee, and additionally you can supervise provisional licensees once you’ve gained two years of experience.
Level B-Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW) – This license allows you to engage in the same scope of practice as an LSW, and to additionally:
- Engage in social work teaching to bachelor’s and master’s-level students
- Provide clinical and psychotherapeutic services under supervision to individuals, families, and groups
Level C-Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW) – This license allows you to engage in the same scope of practice as an LGSW, and to additionally:
- Diagnose and provide treatment for emotional and mental disorders, developmental disabilities, and psychological dysfunctions
- Diagnose behavioral health disorders
Level D-Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) – This license allows you to engage in the same scope of practice as an LCSW. You can additionally provide psychotherapy and counseling, as well as consultations and evaluations. You can provide all services independently.
Steps Towards Social Work Licensure in West Virginia
To qualify for licensure at any of the professional levels offered by the West Virginia Board of Social Work (WVBSW) you must:
- Earn a degree from a school that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE); be prepared to have your school send your official transcripts directly to the WVBSW
- Pass an exam sponsored by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)
In the event you need to contact the WVBSW use the following:
- Email address – email@example.com
- Phone – (304) 400-4980
- Fax – (304) 400-4976
- Mailing address – WV Board of Social Work; PO Box 5459; Charleston, WV 25361
- License Application Request Form – these can be submitted by mail, fax, or email
If you’re already licensed in West Virginia and you meet the requirements to upgrade your license to the next level, you can do so by submitting this form and a $55 fee to the WVBSW.
Once you submit your application for licensure to the WVBSW you’ll be granted a six-month non-renewable temporary permit that allows you to practice while you prepare to take and pass the ASWB.
Provisional License to Practice as a Social Worker
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Sociology, Criminal Justice, Counseling, or other related field.
- Send a request to the WVBSW by email, fax, or mail asking for a provisional license application. Include your name, address, phone number, academic major, university name, and date of graduation with your request.
- Once you receive the application fill it out and send it to the WVBSW. When the WVBSW approves it you’ll be issued your Provisional License to Practice as a Social Worker.
- Each year in July you’ll need to send the WVBSW an Annual Compliance Verification that confirms you’re practicing under appropriate supervision and meeting all other requirements deemed necessary by the WVBSW.
Level A-Licensed Social Worker (LSW)
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in Social Work.
- Request an LSW application from the WVBSW using the License Application Request Form. Return the completed application to the WVBSW. Once the WVBSW 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 WVBSW will issue your LSW license.
Level B-Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)
- Earn a master’s degree in Social Work.
- Request an LGSW application from the WVBSW using the License Application Request Form. Return the completed application to the WVBSW. Once the WVBSW 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 WVBSW will issue your LGSW license.
Level C-Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW)
- Earn a master’s degree in Social Work.
- Complete two years of post-master’s social work practice experience.
- Request an LCSW application from the WVBSW using the License Application Request Form. Return the completed application to the WVBSW. Once the WVBSW approves your application it will notify the ASWB that you’re cleared to test.
- Register with the ASWB for its Advanced Generalist exam. Once you pass this the WVBSW will issue your LCSW license.
Level D-Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)
- Earn a master’s or doctoral degree in Social Work. This must include a supervised clinical field placement at the graduate level, or you must complete an equivalent post-master’s clinical training. As a part of, or in addition to, your graduate studies you must complete a graduate course in abnormal psychology, psychopathology, or a course deemed equivalent by the WVBSW.
- Obtain two years of full-time, or 3,000 hours of part-time, supervised post-master’s clinical social work experience. This must include 100 hours of clinical supervision, including 70 hours of face-to-face supervision.
- Request an LICSW application from the WVBSW using the License Application Request Form. Return the completed application to the WVBSW. Once the WVBSW 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 WVBSW will issue your LICSW license.
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Renewing Your Social Work License
All licenses issued by the WVBSW expire every two years. The WVBSW sends out renewal applications to all licensees at least 90 days before your license is set to expire. You can renew your license by completing this and returning it to the WVBSW. In order to renew you must pay the renewal fee and attest to having completed 40 hours of continuing education. If you hold a Provisional License to Practice as a Social Worker you’ll also need to complete 12 hours of WVBSW-approved coursework during each renewal period, unless you’re enrolled in a CSWE-accredited BSW or MSW degree program.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Social Worker in West Virginia?
The amount of time you invest to become licensed as a social worker in West Virginia depends on what level of licensure your goal is. Earning a BSW degree takes around four years. Earning an MSW degree is at least another two-year investment. Combined with the experience requirements for each level of licensure this amounts to at least:
- Four years for LSW and Provisional licenses
- Six years for an LGSW license
- Eight years for the LCSW and LICSW licenses
Social Work Degrees in West Virginia
Qualifying for any license above the Provisional level means earning a degree from a program that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Right now there are 10 such programs, including two that are offered online. While the CSWE currently doesn’t accredit programs at the doctoral level, you can also choose to earn a degree at this highest status to maximize your level of knowledge in this field.
Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW)
Earning a BSW degree from a CSWE-accredited program qualifies you for the LSW license. Right now there are seven such programs offered throughout West Virginia. These include a 400-hour field education segment, and total at least 120 semester credits. A BSW is a natural first step towards earning an MSW degree and qualifying for all remaining levels of licensure in the state.
Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW)
Right now you can find three CSWE-accredited MSW programs in West Virginia, including two that have options for online completion. These automatically include a field education segment that’s at least 900 hours which can include internships, practicums, or other field experiences. Earning an MSW from a CSWE-accredited program fulfills the education requirement for the LGSW and LCSW licenses, and can also fulfill the education requirement for the LICSW license.
Doctoral Degree in Social Work
To be eligible for the LICSW license you must earn a master’s or doctoral degree in Social Work from a program that’s accredited by the CSWE. While doctoral programs are not currently accredited by the CSWE, you can still earn one of these to ensure you’ve gained the highest-possible educational qualifications in this field. You’ll find degrees at this level offered as PhD and Doctor of Social Work (DSW) programs.
You can apply for licensure in West Virginia via reciprocity if you’re licensed at an equivalent level in another state and your state’s licensing requirements were similar to West Virginia’s. Follow the procedure listed above for your license level, and be prepared to arrange for the following to be sent to the WVBSW:
- Your ASWB exam scores from the ASWB
- Official verification of your out-of-state license from your state’s board of social work
Social Work Salaries in West Virginia
In 2020 the US Department of Labor reports the following average annual salaries for different social work careers, specifically in West Virginia:
- Social and Community Service Manager – $59,220
- Healthcare Social Worker – $50,650
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker – $38,760
- Child, Family, and School Social Worker – $41,140
- Social Work Teachers, Post-secondary – $53,450
- Social Worker, All Other – $65,510
Social Work Resources in West Virginia
West Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers – This chapter is the local representation of the largest social work organization in the nation. West Virginia’s chapter is divided into five regional branches, and it hosts committees devoted to the specific issues of diversity, finance, hosting annual conferences, legislative action, continuing education, ethics, and gay, lesbian, and bisexual issues.
Career Opportunities in West Virginia
West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources – Many state residents rely on this state department for life-saving and life-enabling services. It provides help for issues related to injury prevention, children and adult wellness services, newborn and infant services, economic assistance for families, adolescent services, and more.
West Virginia Bureau for Behavioral Health – This state bureau, which is under the auspices of the Department of Health and Human Resources, is responsible for its vital programs and partnerships throughout West Virginia that address issues like intellectual and developmental disabilities, opioid addiction, and providing education that strives to reduce incidents of intoxicated driving. It also facilitates behavioral health programs across the state, and hosts an entire division devoted to tackling alcoholism and drug abuse.
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WVU Medicine – West Virginia University Medicine is proud to include five institutes and 20 hospitals throughout West Virginia and its surrounding areas. The roots of this healthcare provider system stretch back to the 1960s and today it offers an astounding amount of medical services for state residents as the largest employer in West Virginia.
Kanawha County Schools – The largest school district in the state, by the most recent count KCW provides a foundational education for 26,230 students thanks to its dedicated team of 3,657 employees. It does this from a total of 68 schools, divided into 43 elementary, 13 middle, one alternative, and eight high schools.
Harmony Ridge Recovery Center – This nationally-recognized organization provides addiction treatment and recovery options for all types of substances; for everything from prescription drugs to alcohol and illegal substances. It offers sober living facilities, inpatient treatment, hospitalization, and intensive out-patient treatment options.
Cabell County Schools – One of the largest districts in the state, school social workers work within CCS to improve the education and learning environment for all students. That includes boosting this district’s high school graduation rate above its current 89%.
ValleyHealth – With dozens of locations throughout the state and especially in the Huntington area, this organization provides a range of behavioral health services that address issues like autism, grief, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and much more. It’s been serving clients for more than 40 years and is proud of its long tradition of excellence.