• Certifications and Licenses
  • LCSW (NASW) - Licensed Clinical Social Worker

    • $230
    • Renewal varies


    In Person


    Licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) provide support and services to their communities by helping people in nonprofit agencies, hospitals, schools, and in their homes. The resources and support they provide change not only the lives of the people they’re helping but the community as a whole. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts this field will grow by 13 percent over the next several years, and the need is only likely to continue to grow.

    About This License

    Every state has its own requirements for becoming a licensed clinical social worker, but many of them overlap. If you are considering becoming a licensed clinical social worker, check with your state licensing board to see what is required where you live. 

    All social workers need a master of social work (MSW) degree for licensure. Depending on the college or university, some MSW programs may require a bachelor of social work (BSW) first, but this is not always the case. Getting the required education usually takes about six years, but some online programs may be quicker, and some bachelor's degrees may qualify for advanced standing. 

    After graduating, candidates must complete clinical hours in a supervised setting to be qualified for a license. Again, the specifics of these requirements vary by state. Most states require 3,000 hours of supervised clinical practice, though some require two to three years of work experience and may have certain time frames when clinical hours must be accrued.

    To become an LCSW, you must also pass the national licensing exam from the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). Candidates must meet all state requirements to sit for the exam. It contains 170 multiple-choice questions, 20 of which are unscored pretest questions. The exam takes four hours to complete and is administered by Pearson VUE, and costs $230.


    Obtaining this License

    Before registering for the exam, apply for your state license. Your state board will verify if you are eligible to sit for the exam. Qualifications will vary depending on the state, and there is likely to be an additional application or licensing fee. 

    You will have to answer questions about your education and other experience when applying for the exam. Once you register, ASWB will send you an Authorization to Test via email within two business days. This authorization is valid for up to one year and is only good for one examination. 

    Because the ASWB contracts with Pearson VUE for the exam, the exam times and dates are somewhat flexible. There are no set times and dates, and because there are testing centers all over the country, you should have no trouble scheduling an exam. That said, it’s a good idea to schedule as far ahead of time as possible to ensure you get a time, date, and testing center that works for you. 

    You can schedule an appointment online or over the phone, and you will receive an email confirmation of your testing appointment from Pearson VUE within 24 hours. If you do not, contact Pearson VUE right away and ask them to resend it.

    Renewing this License

    Licensing renewal is done through the state, and the requirements vary between states. Nearly every state requires some continuing education, though you should check with your state board to determine how many hours you need and what activities are accepted. Most states require between 30 and 48 continuing education hours every two to three years.

    Every state will also determine when the licenses it issues expire. For example, in many states, a social worker’s license expires on a specific date in odd years.

    Other Resources

    Some social work programs offer specializations, such as children and families, medical social work, or school social work. There are also other certifications you can explore once you are a practicing licensed clinical social worker, including: 

    The ASWB offers an online handbook that contains all the information you need to know about the exam. It also has an e-book available for $15 to help you prepare and an online practice test for $85. 

    Frequently asked questions

    Can I retake the exam if I do not pass?

    If you fail the exam, you will receive information about your performance to help you better prepare for next time. You must wait 90 days to retake the exam, and some states have limits on how many times you can retake it. You have to reregister and pay the full examination fee again to retest.

    How much do social workers make?

    The average salary of a social worker in the United States is $66,997, though this varies widely depending on the type of facility you work in and whether you have any certifications or advanced degrees.